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PSY 102 — Psychology in the Modern World

Instructor: Bob Melara

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Fall 2021


Designing a Stress Management Intervention for Students at City College

Dr. Nishanthi is worried about the long-term mental health impact of COVID on City College students. She knows that almost 1 in 5 students had a family member or friend die of COVID during the peak of the epidemic in NYC. Many City College students complain of lingering bouts of depression and anxiety since the epidemic began. Dr. Nishanthi believes that the epidemic is taking a toll on the mental health and academic performance of City College students. Thus, she wants to implement an intervention that will help students overcome the mental health issues affecting school performance. She decides on a system of stress management, in which trained clinical psychology students hold special weekly sessions to help CCNY students deal with stress. Dr. Nishanthi wants to conduct a research study to evaluate the effectiveness of stress management training for students at City College. She believes that a baseline measure of stress during lockdown is needed, and that safeguards must be put in place to see whether students’ stress changes on its own, without the stress management intervention.

You have been hired as a consultant to submit a research proposal to Dr. Nishanthi, taking all her concerns into consideration. She wants to compare the CCNY students given stress management training to those who aren’t, but she’s worried that without a baseline measure of stress during the height of the pandemic her results will not be valid. Also, she wants to ensure that any changes in stress are due to the training and not to spontaneous remission of stress symptoms. Finally, Dr. Nishanthi believes that both the pandemic and the intervention may affect men and women differently. She wants you to design the study, operationally defining the variables, and controlling for effects of (1) spontaneous changes in stress, (2) binary gender differences, (3) baseline effects of COVID on stress.

Your job is to write a research proposal with 4 headings: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Conclusions. Within each heading, answer each of the following questions. For the Introduction, you will need some background material found in the article: “Experiences, impacts and mental health functioning during a COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown: Data from a diverse New York City sample of college students”, written by Teresa López-Castro, Laura Brandt, Nishanthi J. Anthonipillai, Adriana Espinosa, and Robert Melara, and published in PlosOne on April 7, 2021. It can be found at:

If you wish, some of the same students who were tested in the article can also be used in your proposed study.

1. Introduction.

  1. Describe three effects of the COVID epidemic during the lockdown in NYC on the infection history of CCNY students. (4 pts.)
  2. What were the biggest negative impacts of COVID on CCNY students’ home life and work? Name some positive effects of the lockdown for CCNY students? (4 pts.)

c. Describe some of the gender differences in the impact of COVID on CCNY students’ responses to the EPII and on their mental health functioning. (4 pts.)

d. What is the hypothesis being addressed in the study you are designing? (2 pts.)

2. Method.

This section should outline how you plan to go about doing your research.

  1. (i) Describe the participants. Define the target population? How are participants selected and recruited for the study? Would you sample the target population randomly? Why or why not? (6 pts.)

(ii) How do you plan to address Dr. Nishanthi’s concerns about assessing the baseline effects of COVID on stress? How many groups will you test? How many individuals will you test in each group? Would you use random assignment of participants to groups? Why or why not? (6 pts)

  1. (i) Describe the details of the stress management intervention used in the experimental group. What intervention (if any) would you give to the control participants? How would you address Dr. Nishanthi’s concern about spontaneous changes in stress? (6 pts.)
    (ii) How do you plan to control for the following three variables: (1) gender differences, (2) differences in infection history between groups, and (3) differences in depression between groups. (6 pts.)

(iii) Name two other variables that you would need to control in this study and describe how you would do that. (4 pts.)

  1. How would you operationally define the dependent variable? Dr. Nishanthi believes that stress management training will also help students’ academic performance. Describe how you might assess the effects of stress management on academic performance. (7 pts.)
  2. What are the independent variables? Name all of the control variables. (3 pts.)

3. Results

Below is a reproduction from an earlier version of the textbook (Myers 2006, p. 460). Here, a researcher wishes to compare how well daisies grow in two types of soils: poor soil and fertile soil. She hypothesizes that the average daisy grown in the fertile soil will be taller than the average daisy grown in the poor soil. The difference in average height between the daisies grown in poor soil and those grown in fertile soil is called the “difference between groups.” But even if she finds a big difference between groups it may not be statistically significant. That’s because to be statistically significant the difference between groups needs to be about twice as large (actually 1.96 times as large) as the “variation within group.” If a group of daisies are all raised in the same kind of soil (e.g., poor soil), some of the daisies in that group will grow a bit higher than others. This is the “variation within group.” If the variation within group is as big as the difference between groups then that difference is probably just due to chance.

Is it possible to do this essay? 1

A statistical test helps us decide whether the observed difference between two groups is real or simply due to chance.

  1. Describe how you would perform a statistical test on the experiment you designed for Dr.

Nishanthi. (Note: you don’t actually need to perform any calculations for the purpose of this fun paper). How would you calculate the difference between the experimental and control groups? (2 pts.)

  1. How would you calculate the variation within the experimental and control groups? (4 pts.)
  2. Define statistical significance. What would lead you to conclude that the difference between the experimental and control groups is statistically significant? (Note: refer to the textbook to understand the concept of statistical significance). (4 pts.)

4. Conclusions

Dr. Nishanthi is worried that simply comparing the experimental and control groups will miss the baseline differences and effects of gender. So, after she collects data using your proposed design, she decides to create two graphs to compare results from the two groups (see the two graphs below). Now she seeks your help in understanding what the results of her study mean.

  1. Would Dr. Nishanthi be correct in concluding that stress management training reduces stress in all City College students? Support your position. (4 pts.)
  2. How is it possible that stress seems to increase over time in the control group? (4 pts.)
  3. Give one explanation for why stress management training has different effects on males versus females? (6 pts.)
  4. Give two recommendations for improving Dr. Nishanthi’s study. (4 pts.)
Is it possible to do this essay? 2

A fifth of your grade will be based on the following:

  1. Produces well-reasoned written arguments using evidence to support conclusions (4 pts)
  2. Accuracy in applying fundamental concepts and methods of psychology (4 pts)
  3. Evaluates evidence and arguments critically or analytically (4 pts)
  4. Good mechanics (grammar, punctuation, usage) and style of writing (4 pts)
  5. Competence in quantitative reasoning and analysis of research findings (4 pts)
  • Due by 5:00 pm on WEDNESDAY, November 24th, 2021. Late papers will not be accepted.
  • All papers need to be submitted electronically using the Assignment tool on Blackboard to upload your paper. Click “Assignments” (on Tool Bar) -> Click link to “Fun Paper #3” -> Click “Attach Local File” -> Browse for your file -> Click “Submit.”
  • With the exception of the instructed sentences, the entire paper must be in your own words, in essay format & type written (double spaced) using Microsoft Word in .doc format.
  • Quoted, paraphrased or borrowed sentences or phrases are not allowed. These will be regarded as plagiarism, which will be penalized by a zero on the assignment and a report filed with the Office of the Academic Integrity Official.
  • The paper should not exceed 4 pages.

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