Example of a field experiment - Piliavin et al, 1969 A victim collapses on the subway

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               FIELD EXPERIMENTS

Meaning: A field experiment means conducting a scientific experiment in naturally occurring environments, rather than in the .


Field experiments are conducted in natural environments with researchers manipulating the variables. Participants are drawn from random samples and divided into treatment and control groups. The findings for each group are compared. 


1. Since people do not know they are participating in an experiment, demand characteristics are avoided – people do not alter their behavior to affect the outcome. So a field experiment has high ecological validity, meaning that the findings can be applied to real world situations.
3. Field experiments are the only practical research method in some scientific disciplines. For example, a population biologist examining an ecosystem could not transport the entire environment into the laboratory.


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1. A field experiment has decreased reliability - the extent to which the experiment would give consistent results if repeated. This is because the researcher cannot control the external environment and must deal with confounding variables – extraneous variables that have an unintended effect on the dependent variable.
2. The cost of field experiments is often high; they tend to be very expensive.
3. The
mortality rate – the rate of participants who drop out of the experiment before it is completed – may be high because they are unaware that an experiment is being conducted.

4. Since participants are unaware of the experiment ...

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