The experimental method involves manipulating one variable to determine if changes in one variable cause changes in another variable. This method relies on controlled methods, random assignment and the manipulation of variables to test a hypothesis.
Types of Experiments
Lab experiments are very common in psychology because they allow experimenters more control over the variables. These experiments can also be easier for other researchers to replicate. The problem, of course, is that what takes place in a lab is not always identical to what takes place in the real world.
Sometimes researchers might opt to conduct their experiments in the field. For example, let's imagine that a social psychologist is interested in researching prosocial behavior. The experimenter might have a person pretend to faint and observe to see how long it takes onlookers to respond. This type of experiment can be a great way to see behavior in action in realistic settings. However, it makes it more difficult for the researchers to control the variables and can introduce confounding variables that might influence the results.
The Experimental Process
Psychologists, like other scientists, utilize the scientific method when conducting an experiment. The scientific method is a set of procedures and principles that guide how scientists develop research questions, collect data, and come to conclusions.
The four basic steps of the process are:
- Forming a Hypothesis
- Designing a Study and Collecting Data
- Analyzing the Data and Reaching Conclusions
- Sharing the Findings
Most psychology students will be expected to use the experimental method at some point. If you want to take a closer look at the process, be sure to check out this step-by-step breakdown of how to conduct a psychology experiment for more information.
More Psychology Definitions: The Psychology Dictionary
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