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How useful are experiemnts in sociology?

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Introduction

How useful are experiments in sociology? In this essay I will explore how useful experiments are to sociologists. There are two different types of experiments field experiments and lab experiments which can be useful for sociologists. Both provide some advantages because they can show the relationships between cause and effect. However there are many different problems with both field and lab experiments that include the ethics, sampling, the experimenter and the Hawthorne effect. However they are not very popular as they can draw up many problems when carried out on people. When studying people ethical issues arise, it is hard to find a representative samples, the experimenter and Hawthorne effects also apply. In this essay I will discuss the two main experimental techniques and the advantages and disadvantages of using each giving examples of where sociologists have applied experimental techniques. ...read more.

Middle

He found that the groups who had viewed the violent film, cartoons or television were more violent in play than the group who hadn't viewed any violent activity. This study raises ethical problems because the children may have been affected by seeing the violence that involved a self-righting doll being attacked with mallets. Lab experiments do not reflect what is going on in the real world as they often undertaken in controlled environments. Field experiments are more valid than lab experiments because they are undertaken in the real world. Brown and Gay's experiments to test discrimination have provided some valuable insights. They asked people from different ethnic backgrounds with equal qualifications and experience to apply for jobs. Ninety percent of whites got a positive response compared with only sixty three percent of Asians and Afro Caribbean's. There are similar ethical problems to those of lab experiments and in some cases they can be considered more serious. ...read more.

Conclusion

Positivists claim that their approach is scientific as it uses cause and effect. The interpretivists reject the use of lab experiments but do use field experiments to look at things like the self-fulfilling prophecy. For example Rosenthal and Jacobson studied Pygmalion in the classroom that involved the study of self-fulfilling prophecies. The teachers tested the children's IQ then put the children into sets at random and told the pupils that they were set by ability. Those children the top sets improved their IQ where as the children in the bottom sets made no improvement or their IQ was lower than it was at the start of the test. Overall, experiments have a useful part to play in the study of sociology. Field experiments are more viable and relevant than lab experiments. Sociology uses a variety of research methods and approaches to support its work but experiments can only be a part. If experiments are used it is important to understand the variables and factors which might affect the results as well as the ethics. ...read more.

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