Langer and Rodin Study

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Core studies summary - Langer & Rodin (1976)

Aims and context (Put aims of study & background history):

Aim: To see whether being given greater personal choice & personal responsibility had a positive effect on older people living in a residential home. To see also if being given greater choice in a care home would affect their alertness & activity.

Langer & Rodin aimed to investigate the effects of enhanced personal responsibility and choice in a group of nursing home patients. Specifically if increased control has generalised beneficial effects, which in turn affect physical and mental alertness, activity, sociability and general satisfaction.

Bettleheim’s (1943) description of the ‘Muselmanner’, the walking corpses in the concentration camps notes that many of these prisoners “came to believe the repeated statements of the guards – that there was no hope for them, that they would never leave the camp except as a corpse ... [survival] depended on the ability to arrange to preserve some areas of independent action, to keep control of some important aspects of one’s life despite an environment that seemed overwhelming and total”.

The change from adulthood to old age is often seen as a process of loss, physiologically people change and psychologically. Gould (1972). We don’t know how much of this is due to biology and how much is due to the environment. The ability to keep a sense of personal control in our lives may be influenced a lot by social factors and this can affect physical well being. Studies have shown that more successful ageing, measured by living longer amongst other things, occurs when a person feels a sense of usefulness and purpose. Butler (1967).

Choice is a crucial variable in bringing about a sense of control over our lives. Stotland & Blumenthal (1964) studied the effects of choice on reducing anxiety. They told p’s they were going to take a number of important ability tests. Half the p’s were told they could choose the order they could take the tests in, the other half were told the order was fixed. They found the p’s not given the choice were more anxious, measured by sweating palms.

Corah & Boffa (1970) told p’s there were 2 conditions in the experiment, each of which would be signalled by a different light. In 1 condition they were given a choice to press a button which would allow them to escape a nasty noise and in the other they didn’t have the choice to escape by pressing a button. By being given the choice, the p’s felt they had more control which made them less anxious about the noise.

Langer et al (1975) found similar findings in a hospital and found that if people believe they have control over events they asked for less pain relievers and sedatives (pills to calm you) and showed less anxiety, according to the nurses.

Procedures (What did the Psychologists do to the participants?)

Carried out in large modern nursing home in Connecticut U.S.A.
The home was built on 2 floors; the 2 floors were used for the 2 conditions of the experiment.
Residents were already living there before the study began.
Staff in the home believed the residents on the 2 floors were similar, but in this study they were not matched on any variable.

There was little contact between the residents on the different floors, so neither group would have known they were being treated differently.

Residents on the 4th floor, 39 females and 8 males took part in the experimental condition. The comparison group were made up of 35 females and 9 males. P’s were aged from 65-90 years.
For each condition the Nursing Home Administrator called a meeting for residents in the lounge on each floor. In both conditions he gave a friendly talk where he offered residents a plant, offered a new complaints procedure and told them there would be films screened.

In the experimental group, designed to bring about choice, he told the 4th floor residents they could choose their...
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