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Experimental Psychology

What is Experimental Psychology?


Experimental psychology uses human participants and laboratory animals to study a number of topics. These topics include, for example, sensation and perception, cognition, memory, motivation, personality, emotion, development, social psychology, or sub-topics.

What is Experimental Psychology?


Experimental psychology uses human participants and laboratory animals to study a number of topics. These topics include, for example, sensation and perception, cognition, memory, motivation, personality, emotion, development, social psychology, or sub-topics.

Psychologists who deal with experimental psychology often create a hypothesis that they then try to prove or disprove through experimentation.

They use scientific methods to do research and often do 1 research at a time. Some experimental psychologists conduct multiple studies at once, but others dedicate their entire career to answering 1 complex research question.

These psychologists work in different environments. Some are affiliated with a university, others with research centers, government agencies and private companies. The focus of their research is often linked to the setting in which they work.

Why is experimental psychology important?

Students who study psychology often take an experimental psychology course. Think of experimental psychology as methodology rather than an area within psychology. Researchers in many areas of psychology use these methods to investigate an awful lot of things, from child development to social situations.

It is an important part of science because experimental psychology makes findings that play a crucial role in our understanding of the human being and the human mind. By better understanding what motivates and drives a person, psychologists and researchers can improve mental health care and prevent or possibly cure mental health problems and disorders.

Methods of Experimental Psychology

By using empirical research methods it is possible to apply the findings made in the field of experimental psychology to fields such as clinical psychology, educational psychology, sports psychology, forensic psychology and social psychology.

The question, of course, is how exactly researchers investigate the human mind and behavior. It is a challenging task because the mind is very complex.

Experimental psychologists therefore use different research methods. Methods include case studies, experiments, correlation research and making observations.

Experiments and examples

Experiments remain the standard in psychological research. Psychologists can apply this method to determine whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship between different variables.

Basic principles of experimentation in a psychological investigation include:

  • Randomly assign participants to groups
  • Develop hypothesis
  • Measure dependent variables
  • Manipulate independent variables

Example experimental method in psychological research

An example of experimental psychological research could be about whether sleep deprivation affects the performance of a driver in a driving test.

The researcher could then examine several variables that could influence the outcome by varying a participant’s amount of sleep.

All participants then have to take the same exam via a simulator or a track. By reviewing the results, researchers can determine whether changes in the amount of sleep lead to differences in the dependent variable (the performance on the exam).

Case studies

A case study allows a researcher to closely study a group or individual. The researcher collects as much data as possible, observing a person or group in different situations.

Background data is also collected, such as family history, education, social life, etc.

Case studies are often conducted when experimentation is not possible. This is possible, for example, when a person has had a unique experience that cannot be replicated.

Correlation Research

Correlation research is an experimental psychological research method that makes it possible to identify relationships between variables.

Thus, a researcher may notice that as one variable increases, another tends to decrease.

Naturalistic Observations

Naturalistic observation gives researchers the opportunity to observe people in their natural environment. This method can be useful if researchers think that a created (lab) setting has an undesired influence on the behavior of participants.

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