20% of Turkers would stick pins in their children

If it is Friday, it must be the day to report on incredibly bizarre studies. Such as this one reported on in Discover magazine’s blog.

“Across the studies, while around 80% of parents chose zero pins, that leaves roughly 20% of them who did report a desire to insert in at least one pin (in a drawing of a voodoo doll representing their child). Worryingly, in one study, 10% of parents chose to use at least one pin even after being prompted to think about positive behavior from their child.

In one of the studies, parents were asked to explain their choice in an open-ended text box response. Most of the pin-stickers cited punishment as the motive, e.g. “Because the child should have been spanked for bad behavior.” One parent however simply said “Very angry.” Hmm.

All of these results came from online studies (on MTurk). The “doll” was just an image and the “pins” were imaginary.  In study #6. McCarthy et al. examined this question, recruiting 196 parents. In this study, the child’s outline was on a piece of paper and parents were given 10 small round stickers which they could physically stick onto the drawing in order to “harm” it.

These real life results were very similar to the online experiments: 80% of participants used no stickers, while 20% used at least one. Sticker usage was correlated with the parent’s scores on questionnaire measures of aggression, depression, and ‘child abuse potential’. There was no difference between males and females.

McCarthy et al. conclude that the Voodoo Doll Task (VDT) is a valid “proxy for aggressive parenting behaviors.””

Well, I guess I could use this to rationalize that Turkers represent the real world, but I choose not to in this case. This is just odd.

Citation: McCarthy RJ, Crouch JL, Basham AR, Milner JS, & Skowronski JJ (2016). Validating the Voodoo Doll Task as a Proxy for Aggressive Parenting Behavior. Psychology of Violence, 6 (1), 135-144 PMID: 26839734


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