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Psychology comparison

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Psychology comparison

Psychology comparison

The world, today, is exposed to a plethora of information, substantiated or not. Since newspapers and other secondary source material is responsible for relaying information to much of the population it is important to understand and realize the limitations of the medium. Their need to appeal to the general population and their wide dispersal would make them more likely to incorporate entertainment value versus objectively reported facts. Therefore it is imperative to question and compare them with the primary sources they report on. A fairly recent study was done on the effects of Internet use. The researchers report was published as was a secondary article on the findings. By comparing these two the limitations of the secondary source can be exposed and used as an example for other such circumstances.

The secondary-source article comes from the August 30, 1998 edition of the New York Times. Written by Amy Harmon, the report is titled 'Researchers Find Sad Lonely World in Cyberspace.' The article goes on to explain that researchers at Carnegie Mellon University completed a study (later identified as the 'Homenet' study) that examines the social and psychological effects of Internet use in the home. What they found, the report states, is that the initial depression and loneliness of the participants in the study did not increase use on the Internet. However, citing the researchers, the article states; 'Internet use itself appeared to cause a decline in psychological well-being.'

After stating this theoretical finding the article lists the cost of the project ($1.5 million) and the organizations who sponsored it (many being technology companies). The article notes that both these organizations and the research team were 'shocked' by the findings, because the Internet has been viewed by many as having actively social uses. Harmon goes on to compare the Internet to the 'passive' medium of television. She states that with these new findings the suggestion is made that the Internet is no healthier than older forms of mass media. She claims that these findings raise 'troubling questions' about the quality of social interaction on the Internet. The report describes how participants in this study primarily used the social features of the Internet (e-mail and chat rooms). However, the article states, participants; 'reported a decline in interaction with family members and a reduction in their circles of friends that directly corresponds to the amount of time they spent online.'

The article continues on to briefly describe the methods of the research. The sample included 169 participants from the Pittsburgh area. Half were followed through two years of Internet use, the other half was monitored through one year. Refering to the data compiled, Harmon quotes the main researcher Robert Kraut. He calls the data 'statistically significant' and hypothesizes that the shallow relationships built on-line lead to a decline in feelings of connection to other people. The article ends with an interview with two members of a family from the sample who, 'paradoxically', express surprise at the study's findings.

The scientific journal article on which Harmon based her report was published September 1998 in American Psychologist. The article is titled 'Internet Paradox: A Social Technology That Reduces Social Involvement and Psychological Well-Being?' The article begins with an abstract. They examined how the Internet effects 'social involvement and psychological well-being.' What the study found is that despite the Internet's focus on communication; 'greater use of the Internet was associated with declines in participants communication with family members in the household, declines in the size of their social circle, and increases in their depression and loneliness.'

After this brief description of the study, the article begins by describing the trends in social 'disengagement' due to technology that many researchers have discovered over the past 35 years. The Internet could either 'exacerbate or ameliorate these trends' the researchers conclude. Therefore, they have done this study to further explore those issues. With this field trial what they claim to show is that; 'within a diverse sample during their first year or two on-line, participants' Internet use led to their having, on balance, less social engagement and poorer psychological well-being.'

The researchers next include a section on the current debate of the Internet. They discuss the uses of the Internet describing social and asocial functions. They then go on to compare it with television and its entertainment value. Issues of time-displacement and physical inactivity related with television watching is also compared with possible effects of the Internet. They do grant that the Internet is inherently more social than television but emphasize that the relationships created on-line are not the same as traditional relationships. They cite other research in this field that has found positive Internet attributes but claim that this research is 'potentially inaccurate'.

From there they give an in depth report of their own study, the 'Homenet' study. They state that; 'the research described here uses longitudinal data to examine the causal relationship between people's use of the Internet, their social involvement, and certain likely consequences of social involvement.' The sample used in the study consists of 169 people from 73 households from eight diverse neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They carefully monitored this sample for control variables such as demographics, age, gender, race, and introversion and extroversion. Tests were administered before the participants were given access to the Internet to examine their initial social involvement and psychological well-being. A series of follow-up tests were administered at the conclusion of the study. Social involvement was measured by family communication, size of local and distant social network, and social support. Psychological well-being was measured by loneliness, stress, and depression. They carefully monitored for other control variables that could influence these things. Internet usage was automatically monitored watching specifically for the major applications the Internet was used for and finding that e-mail and the World Wide Web consumed most of the participants time.

What they found was that greater use of the Internet was associated with declines in family communication as well as declines in the local and distant social circles. Internet use was also associated with larger increases in loneliness and depression. From these finding the researchers discuss the causal claim. They state that; 'The panel research design gives us substantial leverage in inferring causation, leading us to believe that in this case, correlation does indeed imply causation.' Furthermore, they claim that; 'because initial social involvement and psychological well-being were generally not associated with subsequent use of the Internet, ...

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