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Apr 26, 2023
Young children often engage in social referencing in ambiguous emotional situations; that is, when they are unsure about how to react following some event. Does social referencing also occur in adults? Students can be asked to design an observational research project to examine social referencing in their peers. Break students down into small groups, and ask them to contemplate whether social referencing occurs in adulthood. Are adults unsure about events? Do adults look to others (most notably authority figures or people with whom they have significant relationships) to gauge how to respond in specific situations? Have the groups design an observational research project to examine this phenomenon in their peers.
After collecting data, groups can report their findings in class. What types of situations evoked social referencing in young adults? What type of people did the adults reference? Were adults more likely to reference friends, authority figures, someone else? Were adults more subtle in the methods that they employed when social referencing? Discussion can involve both the findings and the research methodology (e.g., potential confounds, things that they would do differently, a way to design a laboratory procedure).

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