As you sit hunched over your bowl of cereal, you may find yourself wondering, "Will eating this really help me get better grades?" Put the question to the test in the following psychology experiment.
According to many experts, eating breakfast can have a beneficial influence on school performance. One study found that children who ate a healthy breakfast had higher energy levels and better learning ability than similar students who did not eat breakfast.1 Another study conducted by Harvard researchers found that students who ate breakfast were "…significantly more attentive in the classroom, earned higher grades in math, and had significantly fewer behavioral and emotional problems."2
Conduct your own psychology experiment by examining the impact that breakfast has on academic performance or school behavior. The first step in developing your project is to form a research question that can be used to create a testable hypothesis.
Possible Research Questions:
- Will students who eat breakfast perform better on a math test than students who have not eaten a morning meal?
- Do students who do not eat breakfast before school have a more difficult time staying on task?
- Does the content of the meal have an impact on school performance? For example, does eating a Pop Tart have the same beneficial effects as eating a bowl of oatmeal?
- What effect does eating breakfast have on vocabulary test performance?
- Does eating breakfast provided by the school produce different results than eating a breakfast prepared at home?
Develop a Hypothesis
After you have selected a research question that you would like to investigate, the next step is to create a hypothesis. Your hypothesis is an educated guess about what you expect will happen. For example, you hypothesis might be one of the following:
- Students who eat breakfast will perform better on a math test than student who do not eat.
- Students who do not eat breakfast will spend more time off-task than students who do eat breakfast.
- Students who eat a nutritious breakfast will perform better on an academic test than students who consume unhealthy foods for breakfast.
Choose Participants, Develop Study Materials and Identify Your Key Variables
Talk to your instructor about finding possible participants for your experiment. In some cases, other students in your class may act as participants, or you may be required to post ads looking for subjects. Be sure to get permission from your instructor before advancing any further.
Once you have some participants, create the materials you will use in your study. For example, you may need to create a survey to ask students about their eating habits or a quiz to test students on academic performance.
Finally, identify the key variables in your experiment. These variables will differ depending on the hypothesis you choose to investigate. For example, your independent variable might be "Breakfast Consumption" and your dependent variable might be "Performance on a Math Test."
Collect Data, Analyze and Report on Results
After collecting the data for your experiment, analyze your results. Did the independent variable have an impact on the dependent variable? Were the results significant? Prepare to report and present the results in the manner suggested by your instructor, such as a lab report or other type of psychology paper.
Learn more about How to Conduct a Psychology Experiment
References and Further Reading:
1 Crockett, S., & Sims, L. (1995). Environmental influences on children's eating. Journal of Nutrition Education, 27, 235-245.
2 Kleinman, R. (1998 March). New Harvard research shows school breakfast program may improve children's behavior and performance. KidSource Online. Available at: http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content4/breakfast.html