Research Methods

The Mythbusters episode that I decided to watch was “Are women Better Than Men at Reading Emotions?” In this short clip, the Mythbusters put this question to the test by taking five different pictures of themselves, showing a different emotion. In these photos, the men and women participants would only see the Mythbuster’s eyes and they would only have a selected amount of time to guess the emotion that each Mythbuster was trying to portray. After the experiment, Mythbusters declared the combined score from all the women was a 10.6 and the combined score from all the men was a 9.6. This was not a significant difference, but it was a big enough difference that they decided that women could read emotions better than men.

Although this was a fun and interesting experiment, there were some questionable methods used to design it. One being that the Mythbuster’s facial expressions in the photos may not be what they would actually express if they felt those emotions. Since there is no specific expression for a certain emotion, the Mythbusters were only showing how an emotion is supposed to look. An emotion is something everyone can feel but it is not something everyone expresses the same way. Also, it can be hard to read an emotion when only looking at an unfocused picture of someone’s eyes. Two pictures were so misleading that no one had actually gotten the expression correct. Instead, everyone had guessed the same answers of what they actually saw. I also noticed that during one point of the experiment, two of the Mythbusters had different scores for one of the participants. This one, simple mistake can damage the total data for the results.

Some ideas to perhaps fix these methods would be to show the Mythbusters different videos, pictures, or stories that would force their true expression to be expressed. This way, they would actually be feeling and showing their own expression of the emotion. They also could have used a professional camera in good lighting instead of an old, dark photo-booth. Then, the photos would be clear, focused, and of exceptional quality. I think since the Mythbusters would now be expressing their actual emotions, it would not be as misleading as before to show pictures of only the eyes. Especially since the camera quality would be much better, so the participants would have a better chance of trying to guess the emotion as well. Lastly, the Mythbusters should pay closer attention to the answers so that there is no confusion on the participant’s score.

The Mythbusters did, however, have some ideal methods to their design. They kept good timing on the participants and noted that women were answering faster than most of the men. They also made sure to have a decent number of participants in order to balance the playing field of men vs. women.


One thought on “Research Methods

  1. Hi Emily!

    I agree, this is a very interesting idea and study.
    I noticed a lot of similar weaknesses that you did as well. The first weakness I noticed was that it was not a double-blind experiment. Participants were seated directly in front of the researchers, whose faces were also depicted on the screen. This kind of exposure between researchers and participants can easily skew the results because of demand characteristics from the participants. Similarly, the researchers were confirming or denying the participant’s guesses as they completed the study, which could also easily change how a participant responds. To solve this, the participants should be in a separate room, and they should not find out the answers until the end.
    I also agree with your analysis of the quality of the pictures, both in terms of the camera and lighting, and the authenticity of the emotions portrayed.
    You are correct in that it seemed the busters did have a decent sample size that included both men and women.

    It was great to read your insights!



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