Ninth Edition CoverGraziano & Raulin
Research Methods (9th edition)

Examples of
Within-Subjects Designs
from the Research Literature

Example #1

Odgers, C. L., Caspi, A., Nagin, D. S., Piquero, A. R., Slutski, W. S., Milne, B. J., Dickson, N., Poulton, R., & Moffitt, T. E. (2008). Is it important to prevent early exposure to drugs and alcohol among adolescents? Psychological Science, 19, 1037-1044.


Exposure to illicit drugs and alcohol in early adolescence is associated with poor adult outcomes. Many of those early-exposed adolescents also had histories of conduct problems, and it had long been believed that they were at risk, and thus susceptible to drug and alcohol exposure. It was thought that early exposure to drug and alcohol was not a great risk for those adolescents who did not have early histories of conduct disorders. This study investigates whether early alcohol/drug exposure leads to adult problems only in those “at-risk” adolescents, or whether all early-exposed adolescents are susceptible to the same adult problems. 

This was a large, prospective, longitudinal, within-subjects study of 1,037 participants. Recruited at age 3, they were tested at approximately two-year intervals until age 32.

Three groups of measures were taken: 

  • Childhood conduct problems – measured at ages 7, 9, 11, and 13;
  • Early alcohol/drug exposure – measured at ages 13 and 15;
  • Adult Outcomes – measured at age 32 – poor outcome included early pregnancy, herpes infection, educational failure, criminal convictions, or substance dependency.

The results of the study revealed:

  • Early exposure to alcohol/drugs markedly increases adolescents’ risks for poor adult outcome by 2 or 3 times.
  • Early exposure to alcohol/drugs in both “at risk” adolescents and in those with no prior histories of behavior disorders markedly increased the risks of poor adult outcome.

The researchers concluded that early alcohol/drug exposure places both adolescents with prior conduct problems and with no prior history of conduct problems at significant risk for poor adult outcomes.  They recommend that attempts to control early alcohol and drug exposure should be aimed at all adolescents and not just at those with the prior “at risk” histories. 

Example #2

Heuer, H., Spijkers, W., Kiesswetter, E., & Schmidtke, V. (1998). Effects of sleep loss, time of day, and extended mental work on implicit and explicit learning of sequences. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 4, 139-162.


The effects of sleep deprivation and mental fatigue on tasks that tapped into implicit and explicit learning were investigated using a repeated-measures design. One group of 12 men were tested every four hours for 36 hours, allowed to go home and get a night of sleep, and then returned to the lab for more testing. The data showed that sleep deprivation disrupts implicit learning, but not explicit learning, suggesting that sleep deprived individuals are more likely to have problems with tasks that they do automatically (without conscious awareness) than with tasks that require conscious attention. Mental fatigue induced by 90 minutes of mental work had no effect on either kind of learning.

Example #3

Simion, F., Valenza, E., Umilta, C., & Barba, B. D. (1998). Preferential orienting to faces in newborns: A temporal-nasal asymmetry. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 24, 1399-1405.


In a pair of mixed factorial experiments, newborn infants were presented with stimuli that resembled faces to differing degrees. In the first study, the within-subjects factor was the degree that the stimulus resembled a face and the between-subjects factor was whether the face-like figure was presented to the temporal hemifield (i.e., toward the right if viewed from the right eye only) or the nasal hemifield (i.e., toward the left if viewed from the right eye only). A main effect was found. Newborns preferentially oriented to face-like patterns as opposed to non-face-like patterns. However, this preference interacted with where the stimulus was presented. Newborns showed greatest preference for face-like patterns when they were presented to the temporal hemifield. These findings were consistent with the hypothesis that subcortical mechanisms were generally responsible for preferences for faces in newborns.

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