Critically Evaluate the Experimental Methods of Research in Psychology
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Jenna Wilkinson Critically Evaluate the Experimental Methods of Research in Psychology There are three main experimental methods of research that are used in psychology. These are laboratory experiments, field experiments and natural experiments. An experiment involves the independent variable (IV) being manipulated by the experimenter or researcher to see what effect it has on the dependent variable (DV) while controlling possible confounding variables. The DV is the measured outcome of the experiment. A variable is anything that can vary or be changed. For example, the IV of the time of day could be manipulated to see what effect it had on the DV of the productivity of workers by testing in two conditions, one in the morning between 8 and 9 am and the other in the evening between 5 and 6 pm on a certain day.
Also, technical equipment can be used to make the experiment more accurate. Another advantage of this method is that it can be easily structured to provide quantitative data. This would be more difficult in a natural environment as the researcher would have very little control over confounding variables. However, laboratory experiments do not provide total control over all variables. Another disadvantage is that the conditions of the laboratory are artificial and lack ecological validity i.e. they do not generalise to the characteristics of a real-life situation. Demand characteristics are also a problem. This is when the participants are aware that they are taking part in an experiment and therefore act in the way they think the researcher would want them to act.
However it is more bias from confounding variables as it is harder to control all areas of the experiment. It is also more difficult to replicate the experiments exactly and to record data accurately. There are also problems because the researcher is not asking the participants for their consent and could be invading their privacy. The experiment would therefore be unethical. The third method of research is natural experiments. In these experiments the independent variable is changed by natural occurrence. Natural experiments have high ecological validity as 'natural' changes occur in natural environments. There is also very little bias from demand characteristics. However, there is no direct manipulation of the independent variable and the researcher has very little control over confounding variables which makes it virtually impossible to replicate an experiment exactly. It is also unethical because the researcher will not have the participants consent as they are unaware that they are being studied.
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