Key Studies for the IA
A list of good studies to replicate for the IB Psychology Internal Assessment.

Travis Dixon Internal Assessment (IB) 15 Comments

The following list of studies and related theories can be a good starting point for conduct your IA.

Remember that actually in the new IB Psych curriculum (first exams May 2019) the theory is actually more important than the study. In fact, you could even conduct the IA successfully without replicating a study but by designing your own experiment that tests a theory. However, it is strongly advised that you replicate an original study, simplify it (if necessary) to two conditions and make sure you understand how the study relates to a theory or model. 

If you have any suggestions for studies, please leave them in the comments. Similarly, if you’re not sure if a study is suitable, pop a question in the comments.

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The Laundry Study

  • Study: The effects of prior knowledge on comprehension and memory by Bransford and Johnson (1972) (Link)
  • Theory: Schema theory
  • Info:  This classic study looked at how giving context and activating prior knowledge can help us understand and remember new information. It is a great study to use on the exams to support schema theory.
  • Tip: The originally studied comprehension and recall – you should choose one DV for your replication.

You can find more studies on pg. 352 of our textbook. Chapter 7 has everything you need in a lesson-by-lesson approach for the IA.

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

  • Study: Handwriting vs. Typing by Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014)(Link)
  • Theory: The encoding hypothesis and/or the external storage hypothesis.
  • Info: This study aimed to see which note taking method was more effective for learning, long hand notes (pen and paper) or using a laptop.
  • Tip: In the original experiment they let participants choose how they took notes. Do not do this for your IA as the student-researchers need to be the ones manipulating the IV.

Mr Dixon’s Top Tip: Don’t do the Stroop effect – it is very difficult to do properly, especially as it requires linking to an original theory. 

The Mozart Effect

  • Study: The Mozart Effect by Rauscher et al. (1993) (Link)
  • Theory: The Mozart Effect
  • Info: This study found that participants who listened to Mozart music actually performed better on cognitive tasks (spatial reasoning tests) than those who didn’t. However, it has failed to be successfully replicated, which has sparked a debate over the existence of the Mozart Effect.
  • Tip: There have been many replications and adaptations of this study, so if you wanted to you could do some research to find another similar study (and if you find a good one, pop a note in the comments).

Memory Test

  • Study: The duration of short-term memory by Peterson and Peterson (1959) (Link)
  • Theory: Multi-store model of memory (Atkinson and Shiffrin)
  • Info: This study tested the duration of short-term memory by having participants remember trigrams whilst counting backwards at varying intervals. They found our short-term memory without rehearsal is about 20 seconds.
  • Tip: Simplify the original experiment to only two conditions to make it easier for the inferential analysis.

Our teacher support pack has everything you need to get top marks in the IA. Download a Free preview from

Google and Memory

  • Study: Google effects on Memory by Sparrow, Liu and Wegner (2011) (Link)
  • Theory: Transactive Memory (Wegner, 1985)
  • Info: This study tested the effects of external storage systems of information (e.g. google) on memory.
  • Tip: The original experiment had multiple conditions – you can simplify it to two conditions (one IV) and one DV.

Loftus and Palmer used to be here. However, I have removed it because I think there are better options available. One problem with Loftus and Palmer is that it’s difficult to explain fully using schema theory and reconstructive memory. It’s not impossible, but it’s much more difficult than other options. Also, in order to best explain reconstructive memory you need the second study (Loftus and Palmer themselves admit this in their paper) about broken glass, but this only gathers nominal data so it’s not ideal for the IA. In short, it’s possible to do this study but I recommend others unless you really, really want to do it.

TV and Working Memory

  • Study: The effects of TV on working memory (Lillard and Peterson, 2011) (Link)
  • Theory: The working memory model
  • Info: This study looked at how different types of TV (SpongeBob vs. Caillou) would affect working memory capacity.
  • Tip: Be sure to think carefully about what this study is saying about working memory.

Fake it til’ you make it

  • Study: Facial expressions and mood by Kleinke et al. (1998) (Link)
  • Theory: The Facial Feedback Hypothesis
  • Info: This study aimed to see if physically mimicking a smile (without any emotion of happiness) can increase someone’s mood. Smiles are forced by holding a pen between the teeth.
  • Tip: One tricky thing with this study is if you use the PANAS scale. You can simplify this measurement to have a change in mood and focus only one positive or negative moods.

Gandhi and the Anchoring Effect

  • Study: Anchoring bias and guessing Gandhi’s age by Kahneman and Tversky (Link to summary)(Link to original)
  • Theory: The dual processing model of thinking and decision making
  • Info: This study aimed to see if we can manipulate people’s thinking by using the anchoring effect. This is when you give someone a random number and it can influence their guess about the value of an unrelated item.
  • Tip: It’s best to try to use the dual processing model of thinking and decision making as the background theory or model to explain the phenomenon of the anchoring effect. However, if this is too difficult, it is also acceptable to use the anchoring effect itself as the background theory/model. (At time of writing, “effects” such as anchoring effect, Mozart effect or the misinformation effect have been acceptable as background theories to the studies replicated for the IA).

Got a suggestion? Pop it in the comments. This list will be continually updated.

Comments 15

  1. Hi Travis,

    This is list is a proper treasure, thank you so much!

    Would it be possible to add the Glanzer and Cunitz study too?

    Thanks in advance!

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      I’m hesitant to add Glanzer and Cunitz to this list because while it can be done and done well, it can also cause some headaches (because it has to be modified in order to be a simple experiment suitable for the IA). There are a few pitfalls students may fall into.

      So instead of adding it here, I’ve just added a section to the bottom of the following post on G&Gs study that explains some tips if kids are doing this for their IA. Hope this helps 🙂


  2. Hi Travis,

    Thanks for your sharing.

    Would it be possible to replicate the framing effect study by Tversky and Kanneman?

    Thank you!

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  3. My students have replicated Allan Paivo “Associative learning/Memory”–concrete and abstract words
    and Tversky & Kahneman “Judgment under uncertainty”– the one on Fame . Students located the studies on Google scholar and after reading them, they presented their plan to the class. Togehter we worked out the IV and DV. We have received a score of 7.
    Another popular study is Solomon Asch “Forming Impressions” (experiment two)

    Very grateful for your suggestions!

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      It can be done. It has been recommended by some examiners to make sure that you have two separate slideshows for the types of questions (e.g. don’t mix up the two conditions in the one slideshow).

  4. Would it be possible to replicate the The “False Consensus Effect” study by Lee Ross, David Greene, and Pamela House (1977)? As it can be done using surveys now at a time where gathering an experimental group wouldn’t be possible.

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