PSYC Life Span Development Psychology



Empirical Article Assignment 

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*For this assignment, you can download/ copy and paste the reading guide and just type your answers in next to the questions as you go along. 

Reading guide for a Scientific Article:

Article: Piazza, J. R., Stawski, R. S., & Sheffler, J. L. (2018). Age, daily stress processes, and allostatic load: A longitudinal study. Journal of Aging and Health, 089826431878849. doi:10.1177/0898264318788493

  • Read the title of the article and the abstract. The title lets us know what constructs the researchers are focusing on. The abstract gives you a big picture overview of the whole article. 


  1. In the introduction, the authors review previous literature. Notice that the authors mention Strength and Vulnerability Integration (SAVI) theory right at the beginning. Their hypothesis comes out of this theory, so it is important you understand it. Question 1: In your own words, define SAVI theory.
  2. Continue reading the introduction.  In the introduction, the authors discuss research related to daily stressors, allostasis and allostatic load, and the role of age. Notice that they end the introduction with the goal of the current study.  It is critical that you understand the background and rationale leading up to the current study. Question 2: In your own words, explain what daily stressors are and give an example from your own life. Also define allostatic load in your own words.
  3. Spend some time making absolutely sure you understand the purpose of the current study and the researchers’ hypothesis. Question 3: Pretend that you are talking to your parents or adolescent child on the phone, and you want to tell them about this very interesting study you are reading about… restate the hypothesis to them in your words.


  1. Read the Participants and Procedures subsection. Notice that the participants come from the MIDUS. Question 4: Do some research (googling) on the MIDUS study… what is the MIDUS and what is one finding that has come out of the MIDUS that gives us more information about midlife adults?
  • Scan the Measures subsection. Notice the physiological biomarkers that the researchers collected to compute allostatic load scores. We will talk more about how physiology relates to stress in class.


  1. Read the results section and do your best to understand it. Take your time with this. Recall the researchers’ hypothesis. Question 5: In your own words, what did the researchers find? Do the results support their hypothesis?
  2. Carefully examine Figure 1. If there is an Asterix (*) between two bars, it means the difference between those bars is significant (highly unlikely that the difference would be due to sampling error or chance). The Figure graphs the interaction. If researchers find that there is an interaction in their results, it means that there is a difference of differences. So the difference between two groups is different from the difference between other groups. Question 6: Describe the interaction. What exactly is the differences of differences?


  1.    Read the Discussion section to see the scientists’ discussion of whether their data supported their hypothesis and what the implication of their findings are. This section is really the “so what” section. Question 7: So, what are the implications of the researchers’ results? What are some specific ways that we, as a society, can incorporate these findings?  
  2. Question 8: Can you think of some things you can do now to reduce your own allostatic load?
  3. One of the ways in which we can become critical thinkers and consumers of research is by reading research articles and then thinking of further research questions based on the article we just read. Hopefully reading this study has triggered questions for you about stereotype threat and identity. Question 9: What ideas do you have about future directions for this work? In other words, discuss a research question that you have based on this work and design a future study that would address the question
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