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Explain why experimentation is not a common tool in sociology.

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Explain why experimentation is not a common tool in sociology. The experimental situation is highly controlled so that the factors, which contaminate the experiment, are eliminated. The method of experimenting is seen by many as the classic method of research and the best way for scientists to test theories and hypotheses. But is experimentation a common tool in sociology? Many have argued that this is not the case, mainly due to the fact that variables are uncontrollable outside of the laboratory. In a laboratory variables can be kept constant, but as a sociologist it is a different story. Experimenting techniques are used more by psychologists. Sociologists are more likely to want to use other methods and many reject experiments and the scientific approach totally. This is because it is hard to apply the experimental method to the study of social phenomena. People act in terms of their definitions of situations; so many sociologists have major doubts about applying experiments to human beings. There are practical problems of using experiments in sociology. Social factors such as class are not very easy to analyse, whereas physical factors are easier. It is known that people do not behave normally in artificial environments, as shown by the Hawthorne experiment. The results of experiments can therefore be harmed if people know they are in the presence of a researcher while being studied. ...read more.


This is because certain variables were impossible to control. For example, if the weather were bad then people would be most likely rushing for cover and be less helpful. Who the actor was asking was another variable which could not have possibly been controlled. The experiment could not have been replicated because there are too many variables that can change such as different people being asked on different days. In 1973 Rosenhan gathered researchers who got themselves admitted into mental hospitals as voluntary patients by claiming to hear voices. They were all admitted for suffering from 'schizophrenia'. However, they acted normally once inside and waited to see how long it took for them to be detected. None were detected or 'cured' and their 'normal' behaviour was seen as further mental illness. They were discharged eventually 'in remissions' but the researchers had found that diagnosis of mental symptoms is less to do with symptoms than how behaviour is interpreted by doctors. Many people would label this experiment ethically wrong. Ethical problems are certainly involved; is it really fair that doctors are the subjects of an experiment unknowingly? And surely it is wrong because perfectly healthy 'patients' take up a doctor's time while ill people get less attention. There are other problems of a practical nature concerned with this experiment, which include the danger of detection. ...read more.


In 1964 Rosenthal and Jacobsen did an experiment where they were testing the hypothesis that poor children perform badly at school because of the expectations of teachers and not because they are part of a disadvantaged group. School teachers administered IQ tests for children and 20% were expected to do exceptionally well in them and they were designed to predict intellectual gains in children. The 20% were chosen at random by teachers. The IQ test was done 3 times over 18 months and the results showed that the children which the teacher chose did in fact get greater results. However, the experiment could be a problem because some children could be bad in exam conditions but clever on the whole. Lots of variables are uncontrollable. The issue about the teachers choosing 20% of children at random is whether or not they treated the undesignated children fairly. Many argue that they did not treat them fairly. The most important problem with this experiment is that it affects a child's future, just for an experiment. The question is; is it worth it? In conclusion, it is clear that there are many problems that come with experimenting in sociology and this is the reason why it is not a common tool. The main problem is the lack of control over variables in experiments but many practical and ethical problems are apparent as well, which all contribute to the fact that experimentation is not common in sociology. ...read more.

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