# Wisconsin card sorting test correlational studies ACTIVITY BRIEF

```advanced applied science: GCE A2 UNITS
&copy; The Nuffield Foundation 2008
ACTIVITY BRIEF
Wisconsin card sorting test
correlational studies
The science at work
Correlational studies are investigations in which scientists attempt to establish associations.
Psychologists and other research scientists frequently wish to test the extent to which one
factor is associated with another. There may be a positive association, where measurements
or scores for one factor increase in line with the values obtained for another factor. Or there
may be a negative association where one increases as the other decreases. Or there may be
only a very weak association or no association at all. For example, is there an association
between how hard you work and the grade that you obtain for Applied Science? Is this a
strong or weak association and is it positive or negative?
By designing their investigations to collect the correct kind of data, it is possible for scientists
to use a statistical test called a correlation coefficient to test the strength of an association.
Scores can lie anywhere between +1 for a perfect positive association, through 0 for no
association at all, to -1 for perfect negative association.
A note of caution: correlation does not prove causality; it only shows the nature of the
association between two variables. If a change in one variable is causing the change in
another, this has to be established by further investigation, or by reference to theory and
evidence from elsewhere. Hard work does not make a good grade certain, as there are other
factors at work. But it does make it more likely!
You will be given a problem to investigate using a correlational study, with the use of a
statistical test to analyse the data.
You will need to calculate correlation coefficients for paired data to assess the extent to
which they show a linear (straight line) relationship. This association may be positive, if both
sets of scores go up at the same rate together, or negative if one goes up as the other goes
down.
You can do an ‘eyeball’ test first, by plotting scatter graphs of one variable against another.
But how do you decide when a set of plots is close enough to a straight line to be confident
that you have shown a linear relationship? The statistical testing will give you a probability
value to measure how confident you can be in deciding whether there is a significant degree
of correlation or not. You can form conclusions based on this and be reasonably sure that
you are correct.
Use Practical sheet: Conducting a correlational study using the WCST
You may find these fact sheets helpful: Fact sheet: Background to statistics; Fact sheet:
Using Excel for descriptive statistics; Fact sheet: Using Excel for inferential statistics. Ask
your teacher if you would like copies.
Wisconsin card sorting test correlational studies: page 1 of 6
advanced applied science: GCE A2 UNITS
&copy; The Nuffield Foundation 2008
PRACTICAL SHEET
Conducting a correlational study using the WCST
Using correlation coefficients
Your teacher will give guidance on choosing an investigation to meet the unit requirements.
You will:

obtain two sets of paired data, i.e. each value in one set will be paired with a definite
value in the other set

analyse these data by using a correlation coefficient.
Make sure that you are clear about the investigation you are going to carry out, so that you
know which scores to use in your analysis.
Meeting requirements for the unit
Your teacher may wish you to carry out and report your work in a particular way to meet the
requirements of this unit. For example, the use of Excel makes calculations simpler and more
likely to be error free, but your specification may require you to carry out your first
calculations and record them by hand. Check what you need to do with your teacher.
Requirements
You will need:

test materials for the version of the WCST that you trialled. Either 64 item card set, four
stimulus cards and a Results sheet for each test with scoring instructions or a computer
with a programme for presenting the test and recording the results.

a quiet area where the participants will not be distracted

you will need a minimum of 5 participants, but more would be better
Note that the larger your sample, the less likely it is that results will be markedly affected by
chance. A small sample may not demonstrate an effect shown by a larger sample.
Health and safety
You should always carry out a risk assessment before you start any practical work. When
using human participants, you should take into account any ethical considerations. In this
case, you should fully advise any participant of what you expect them to do and the purpose
Procedure
Follow the instructions given to you by your teacher. Use one of the following:
Correlational study 1: Testing for redundancy in the WCST
Correlational study 2: Testing the reliability of the WCST
Correlational study 3: Finger length and the WCST
Wisconsin card sorting test correlational studies: page 2 of 6
advanced applied science: GCE A2 UNITS
&copy; The Nuffield Foundation 2008
Correlational study 1: Testing for redundancy in the WCST
Background
Some psychologists believe that there are some redundancies in the scoring of the WCST.
That is, some scores show a strong correlation and are therefore likely to be measures of the
same effect. When two scores fail to show a correlation, this is useful to clinicians and
researchers because it is evidence that they are measuring the effect of different brain
mechanisms. You can test this for yourself.
Your task is to review the scoring system for the WCST (or your own version) and predict
which scores show significant correlation (i.e. show redundancy) and which scores are
independent measures of aspects of executive control.
Procedure
1
Decide which scores you will use. Make at least one prediction of a correlation and one
prediction of no correlation.
2
Write suitable hypotheses for testing using a coefficient of correlation.
3
Obtain WCST (or equivalent) scores for at least five participants.
4
Plot scatter graphs.
5
Apply an appropriate statistical test to your results.
6
Wisconsin card sorting test correlational studies: page 3 of 6
advanced applied science: GCE A2 UNITS
&copy; The Nuffield Foundation 2008
Correlational study 2: Testing the reliability of the WCST
Background
Does the WCST or your version give consistent results? If a test shows low reliability,
predictions based on the data will not be valid. Clinicians and researchers need to be able to
rely on the tests that they use.
Your task is to conduct a test and retest for each individual and see if the scores show good
correlation. You will need to decide how long to leave between the tests, bearing in mind
that boredom or practice effects may affect the scores if tests are run immediately one after
the other.
Procedure
1
Decide which scores you will use.
2
Write suitable hypotheses for testing using a coefficient of correlation.
3
Obtain at least two sets of WCST scores (or equivalent) for at least five participants.
4
Design your investigation to take into account factors other than test reliability which
may affect your results. You may wish to test for factors affecting scores when two tests
are run back to back.
5
Plot scatter graphs.
6
Apply an appropriate statistical test to your results.
7
results may not be due to the test itself.)
Wisconsin card sorting test correlational studies: page 4 of 6
advanced applied science: GCE A2 UNITS
&copy; The Nuffield Foundation 2008
Correlational study 3: Finger length and the WCST
Background
Development of certain brain areas associated with spatial and mathematical skills is
believed to be linked to exposure to testosterone in the womb. Do any of these areas have a
role to play in performance of the WCST?
Testosterone is also thought to affect the relative lengths of the first (index) finger and third
(ring) finger. Ratios of the measurements of these fingers can be used to estimate the
exposure to the hormone in the womb. Length of first finger is divided by length of third
finger for both hands and an average is obtained. A smaller ratio (longer third finger)
indicates greater prenatal exposure to testosterone and increased ability in spatial and
mathematical tests.
For example, the higher numeracy SAT scores shown by boys have been linked to smaller
digit ratios. Similar higher literacy SAT scores shown by girls have been linked to higher digit
ratios. These are thought to be due to the relatively higher exposures to oestrogen.
Your task is to measure finger lengths of participants who have completed the WCST and
test for correlation of test scores with their first and third finger ratios.
You will need a ruler with mm divisions, or better, callipers for measuring finger lengths.
Procedure
1
You will use the scores for categories completed and perseverance errors as
measurements of executive control. Decide if there are any other scores that you would
like to test for correlation with finger ratios.
2
Write suitable hypotheses for testing using a coefficient of correlation.
3
Obtain the chosen WCST scores (or equivalent) for at least five participants.
4
Measure first and third finger lengths to the nearest mm (or if possible, nearest 0.1 mm),
making sure the results are paired with the WCST scores.
5
Calculate the mean of the digit ratio for both hands: length of first finger/length of third
finger.
6
Plot scatter graphs of WCST scores against mean digit ratios.
7
Apply an appropriate statistical test to your results.
8