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Describe and evaluate the experiment as a research methodology.

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Introduction

Describe and evaluate the experiment as a research methodology. The experimental method is one of the most common psychological enquiries used by psychologists. In the experiment a theory generates different hypothesis, or predictions, that are tested by collecting data. It is the only method that investigated the concept of 'cause and effect' by manipulating the independent variable (IV) which affects the dependant variable (DV). However, to enable the experiment to work, all other variables have to be controlled; otherwise confounding variables may occur. A controlled experiment can be replicated, which is a great advantage in psychology, to test previous results. Some disadvantages are the ethics concerned, which can make it difficult to perform the experiment properly. To analyze this method properly we have to look at other methods such as natural experiments, naturalistic observation or correlational studies. The experimental method depends on the manipulation of the independent variable while all others are kept constant, to investigate a causal relationship. The hypothesis predicts this, and data is collected to see if the independent variable (the cause) affected the dependant variable (the effect). ...read more.

Middle

However, it is hard to accurately achieve this, since the experiment has to be controlled and confounding variables avoided. For example, in the subway investigation by Piliavin et al, the cause was the appearance of the 'victim' collapsing and the effect was the participant's reaction towards helping the victim. The drunk victim received far less help than the cane victim and demonstrates a causal effect of the appearance towards the behavior Another strength of this method is the ability to replicate a previous experiment. In theory, if the experiment was controlled and had no confounding variables you would be able to repeat it and find the same results. Even though this is extremely hard to do, it is easiest with the experimental. It is much harder to replicate a quasi-experiment for example because the "manipulation of the independent variable is often not in the control of the experimenter" (Eysenck 819). It also does not work in naturalistic experiment because they usually evolve around a naturally-occurring event (for example a natural disaster). So the experimental method proves to be the most suitable out of all other methods for replication. ...read more.

Conclusion

However even laboratory experiments, like the Milgram and the Stanford Prison experiments have been regarded ethically unacceptable (Eysenck 787). In the Milgram experiment the participants were lied to, thinking they were shocking a person up to 450 volts electricity, while it was actually just an actor pretending to feel pain. In the Stanford Prison experiment the participants were mentally, emotionally and physically harmed, even though Zimbardo (who led the experiment) had them sign a consent form and held debriefing sessions. Even though these experiments were debated unethical, they showed us significant insight into human behavior, which could not have been achieved with other methods or hypothesis. Today, psychologists have "become more aware of their social responsibilities towards the individual research participant" (Eysenck 787). Altogether the experimental method relies on a tight control of the variables, and a valid manipulation of the independent variable to investigate the cause and effect, described in the hypothesis. It is difficult to avoid confounding variables that could disrupt the experiment completely and therefore it is also difficult to replicate it accurately. Experimenters also need to follow distinct rules to provide ethically acceptable experiments, which can make it difficult to investigate certain hypothesis. However the experiment is the only method that is closest to providing the most accurate results and is the most commonly among psychologists. ...read more.

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