Chapter 8 Design a study

8.1 Introduction

It is frequently claimed that Germans basically have no sense of humour (as reported, for example, by The Economist, the BBC and US-based Public Radio International). Your team’s task will be to design a study that investigates this claim. Note that we’re interested in the study design. You don’t have to run the study!7

8.2 Your task

Design a study that investigates the claim that Germans have no sense of humour (you might want to interpret this as “less sense of humour”, as it could be argued that discovering even one laughing German would falsify that claim8).

Please submit your final design as a Word document (with the extension .docx) under the “Quizzes and Assignments” section on Moodle. Your file name must include your tutor’s name. Please submit only one document per team. Please add the names of all those who contributed to the design to the Word document.

The assignment submission link is labelled “Humour study design”. The deadline for submission is Wednesday, 19 October at 5pm. This assignment will not contribute to your overall mark. Formative assignments not submitted by the deadline incur no penalty.

Please note that while the assignment will not contribute to your overall mark, we will award a prize (think certificate and chocolate) to the team that proposes the best design! We will also showcase the best designs. Our evaluation criteria will be:

  • Clarity and quality of explanations, including
    • Variables and constants,
    • Operationalisation and
    • Dealing with potential confounds.
  • You should identify the type of claim and discuss issues of validity (see Chapter 3 in Beth’s book; you can ignore statistical validity).
  • Creativity of approach.
  • Quality of analysis of the research problem (e.g., challenges and potential limitations).
  • Probability of giving interpretable results.

8.3 Meet your team

Please complete this activity in your tutor groups. You can look up your group using this tutor allocation table on Moodle. If you swapped lab classes and are no longer with the rest of your tutor group, please join the smallest tutor group.

Step 1: Join the rest of your team.

Step 2: Make sure you can communicate with each other outside the lab class. You could simply send an email and copy everyone in. Alternatively, you could use Microsoft Teams to create a team for your group (see Appendix E). Or you could set up a WhatsApp group, a Signal group, a Facebook group or use any other suitable tool. Please make sure that everyone in your group does use the tool in question though.

Step 3: Find a day and time to meet up to continue the work on your design. Make sure you have enough time to read Chapters 1 to 3 in Beth’s book before meeting again.

Step 4: Start to work on the design. Take notes to keep track of ideas. You could do this using an online Word document that you can all edit. How to share an online Word document is explained in Appendix F. Ask the lecturer or one of the demonstrators if you have any questions.

8.4 Examples of German humour

For your entertainment, here are two examples from a German TV show specialising in pranks. The channel has 1.4 million subscribers on YouTube and both videos have over three million views, suggesting that at least Germans find them funny. No knowledge of German is required to understand what is going on in the videos. (The videos only work in the HTML version of the HHG, not the PDF.)


8.5 Humour study design results

Demonstrators were randomly allocated to three pairs. Each pair was then randomly allocated 13-14 submissions and was asked to choose the four best submissions among those allocated to them. The resulting 12 submissions made it to the second round. All demonstrators and lecturers independently rated these 12 submissions on a scale from 1 (worst) to 20 (best). The winning submissions were determined by calculating the mean rating.

Here are the first three places with their mean ratings in parentheses:

1st place: Matias Ison’s group (15.6)

2nd place: Ellen Taylor’s group (14.4)

3rd place: Jasper Robinson’s group (14.3)

Again, congratulations to these teams!

In this file, you can find demonstrator feedback comments on all 40 submissions.

In this zip file, you can find Jan’s feedback comments on the submissions that made it to Round 2 (please see Section 20.2 for information on how to unzip a zip file).

  1. However, we’re also not going to stop you from running the study if you would like to.↩︎

  2. Falsifiability is one of key concepts in Karl Popper’s works. Karl Popper was a philosopher of science from Vienna. I consider it one of the curious coincidences in the history of science that Karl Popper and Konrad Lorenz were childhood friends. They took different paths later in life though: In 1937, Karl, of Jewish descent, emigrated to New Zealand. In 1938, Konrad on the other hand became a member of the Nazi Party and was drafted into the Wehrmacht in 1941. But imagine coming to Vienna in the 1930s before the Nazis took over: You could have visited an elderly Sigmund Freud at his home in Berggasse 19 (another coincidence: Karl Popper’s parents were friends with Freud’s sister Rosa). Charlotte and Karl Bühler taught at the University of Vienna—interestingly, Karl Bühler was Karl Popper’s PhD advisor! There was also Kurt Gödel and the Vienna Circle. However, when the Nazis came to power, this centre of intellectual life was destroyed: Popper eventually settled in the UK, Freud emigrated to the UK as well (and died in 1939), and the Bühlers and Gödel emigrated to the US. By the way, in the US, Gödel and Einstein became close friends. Einstein was one of the witnesses at Gödel’s US citizenship exam where—to Einstein’s shock—Gödel started to explain to the judge that he could prove that an inconsistency in the US constitution could allow the US to become a dictatorship. Well, after the Trump presidency and the 2021 Capitol attack, this suddenly seems a lot less absurd↩︎