Control & experimental groups

Here’s the scene. I’m at TEDxUNC and a research study is mentioned where the experimental group outperforms the control group by x amount. Think sociological study where the experimental group gets access to solid early childhood education, parental resources, free day care, etc. They follow the participants for a number of years and find that having access to these resources early on, in particular a solid education, results in HUGE benefits in terms of health, income, happiness, success, etc. Everyone in the audience marvels at the impact this has but what about the control group?! The one whose “terrible outcomes” are being compared to the experimental group? I think it would be interesting to study those people to see what effects there are on those who were in a study where they were singled out as those who “didn’t turn out as well”. Is there a self fulfilling prophecy at play? Moreover, how does it affect you when you find this out? I’ve never been a part of a long term study but I have been a part of some small studies done at UNC. You were required to participate in two as part of Psych 101 but I ended up joining in on four purely because I found it so interesting. Even with those minor studies, I still looked forward to the day when the results were published. For most of the studies, they weren’t about anything overall mind blowing (response time, differentiating between temperatures, etc.) so I wasn’t affected that much by reading the results. But imagine being in a study for YEARS and each year you find out that those in the other “group” are doing better than you… Food for thought.


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