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The Great Parking Debate:
A Research Methods Case Study

by  Jennifer S. Feenstra
Department of Psychology Northwestern College, Orange City, IA

 

The Question

At the end of a long day of shopping, Katelyn and Lisa were walking out to Lisa’s car, ready to go home. Putting their shopping bags in the trunk, Lisa slipped into the driver’s seat while Katelyn took her position as passenger.

Lisa put the key in the ignition and absently said to Katelyn, “Looks like someone’s waiting for our spot.” Lisa started the car. The vehicle waiting for their spot honked.

“That drives me nuts,” Lisa said in response to the horn. “I’m going, I’m going. Be patient,” she muttered under her breath to the driver of the other car. Although she had been about to put the car in reverse and pull out of the spot, she dug into her purse for her lipstick.

“Lisa, that other car is waiting. Why aren’t you leaving?” asked Katelyn.
“I will,” said Lisa. “I can’t put lipstick on while I’m driving. Besides, it’s my spot and I can stay in it as long as I want.” “Now you’re being rude,” Katelyn scolded her friend. “I always try to leave as quickly as I can when another car is waiting.” “You do not,” Lisa responded. “I’ve ridden with you and you make the other person wait.”

Lisa pulled out of the parking spot as Katelyn shot back: “Do not.”

“Do too,” Lisa continued the argument. “Everyone takes longer to leave a parking spot when someone’s waiting. It’s an instinctual thing—we’re defending our territory.”

Katelyn responded with a snort. “Instinct? I don’t think so. People are nicer than that. Except for a few rude people like you,” she said teasingly, “most of us leave faster when someone’s waiting.”

“As a psych major it seems like that’s something you could study,” Lisa responded.
“Maybe I’ll make that my next project for my research methods class,” Katelyn replied. “I’ll let you know what I find out.”

Questions

Help Katelyn find out whether she is right or Lisa is right. 

1. Identify the specific research question(s) implied by their discussion.

2. What hypothesis would your group suggest?

3. What predictions can you make if your hypothesis is correct?

4. How could you test the predictions? In other words, if you were to investigate this issue, how might you do it?

*** respond to two other students’ thoughts***

 Please respond to at least two postings of two of your fellow students. Try to choose students who you have not yet interacted with. In a few sentences, explain why you agree or disagree with them. As you respond, please keep in mind the guidelines for good online communications

Member1

1. The research question would be, do people take a longer or shorter time to leave a parking spot if another car is waiting?

2. My hypothesis would be the time that people take to leave a parking spot is longer than usual if there’s another car waiting.

3. If my hypothesis is correct, I could predict that it’s instinctual to take longer to leave a parking spot when someone is waiting.

4. If I were to investigate the issue, I might use naturalistic observation and stand in the shopping mall’s parking lot for a day to observe shoppers as they leave the parking lot. I will choose to collect data from people who drive alone, so there isn’t any influence from other passengers. I will record their leaving time, from the moment they get into their car until they leave the parking spot. The data collected will be categorized as whether there is a car waiting. I’m curious to see if honking affects the leaving time, so I will also make a note of that. After the data is collected, the leaving times can be compared, and my hypothesis can be tested.


Member 2

1. A possible research question could be: Do drivers feel an obligation to leave a parking spot quicker if there is someone waiting?

2. My hypothesis would be that yes, most people feel a need to leave the spot quicker if someone is waiting for it. 

3. My predictions would be that the driver would feel pressured to leave the spot if someone is obviously waiting for them to leave their spot. I would also think that it could make the driver feel more rushed and this would cause them to leave more immediately than if there was no one waiting behind them. I feel as though there is a greater instinct of being nice when there is no clear benefit or deficit to the person doing the action, so it would be an act of general kindness to the other driver.

4. I would test two groups to best see the impacts of someone waiting on another driver’s parking spot. One group would have no one waiting behind them and another group would have someone waiting behind them immediately as they get into their vehicle. To record the timing, I would record footage of the parking spots I’d be using for the experiment so I can see clearly how long it takes for the parked driver to leave their spot. I would compare the two groups and how long it took the drivers to leave their spots after entering the vehicle.

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