Methods of Research in Psychology: Lab experiments, Observations, and Questionnaires

Edited by Jamie (ScienceAid Editor), Taylor (ScienceAid Editor), Sharingknowledge, SarMal

Ad

Lab Experiments

In Psychology, this is one of many methods we use to investigate something. The key things that make it an experiment are that it is usually carried out in a controlled environment which will probably be a laboratory; where key variables are manipulated. The experimental approach is the sort of approach that is used almost exclusively in other sciences like Chemistry.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Variables are a key feature and there are two types that we have. The independent variable is the condition that is manipulated. For example, in the Levels of Processing experiment, this was the depth of processing.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

And then there is the dependent variable = that is what you're measuring. In the levels of processing experiment, this was a recall of words. In the experiment, everything except the independent variable is kept the same, but factors you haven't controlled that could affect your results are called extraneous variables.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Further features of lab experiments are experimental designs, which outlines how you use your participants. The table below goes through some of the different experimental/research designs.

Design Definition Advantages Disadvantages
Repeated Measures The same group of people is used in both the conditions. Same people are used so there are no differences in characteristics between the two. So there are no participant variables.

Uses fewer participants which reduce cost and makes it easier to carry out the experiment.

There are practice effects where participants are already aware of how to do the task. Also, order effects where the order that you do something in could affect the outcome.

These two issues can be remedied by counterbalancing where half the participants do A then B and the other half do B then A.

Independent Samples Different participants are used in each of the conditions. There are no order or practice effects.

Exactly the same materials can be used.

The participant variables are not controlled at all.

Using two groups of people mean that more resources have to be used.

Matched Pairs Two separate groups of people are used, but they are matched up so that on some variables (like sex, age, class) there is someone exactly the same on the other side. No order or practice effects.

Characteristics are controlled.

Complicated to match people up.

Not possible to have two people exactly the same so two groups can't be said to be exactly the same.

Observations

An observation is where a Psychologist will go into a situation and look at how people behave. There are two types: participant and non-participant observations.

In a non-participant observation, the researcher sits outside of the situation and watches. It can either be disclosed where the people being observed know they're being watched or undisclosed. The advantages of this method are that it looks at behavior in a natural setting so people act more realistically. On the downside, there is no control of how people act, so it may not actually reflect how they feel, and informed consent is difficult to get.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Now we come to participant observation this is where the researcher is involved in the situation they are observing; for example, going 'under cover'. The advantages of this method are that normal behavior is seen, and is often the only way of finding out about certain things (like criminal activity for example). Disadvantages are that the researcher may influence what happens, it is only a one off situation and not completely representative, and it uses a lot of resources.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Questionnaires

We are all familiar with questionnaires, but it is a lot more difficult than you think. Again, there are two types of questions:

  1. 1
    Closed
    .
    A question is asked and several options are given. This is good, because it makes questionnaires easier to analyze, but doesn't give details.
    Advertisement
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  2. 2
    Open
    .
    The questions asked to require a written response in the space provided.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Designing questions for a questionnaire are more difficult than it first seems, and there are several things that you have to be careful to avoid. Some of these are outlined in the table below.

Leading Questions This means wording the question so the answerer is manipulated to have the participant respond in a particular way. For example, most people believe global warming is caused by carbon emissions; do you agree?
Ambiguity Questions that could be interpreted in different ways, like: What is your mood?
Complicated This might involve being given a lot of information before the question is asked, phrasing it in a difficult way; or including jargon like scientific terminology that a lot of people won't understand.
Lots of Questions You may want to learn a lot from the questionnaire, but if you have too many questions, the answerer will get fed up and won't respond properly, usually by giving neutral responses.

Questions and Answers

What two requirements of controlled observation have been met in the performance of this experiment?

Wanted to know the meaning of the question in the concept of psychology experiments. Could you please help me?

There are three types of observational studies psychologists use.

  1. 1
    Controlled Observation
    .
    In a Controlled Observation study, the researcher controls the environment in which the subjects are being observed. In a controlled observation, the researcher generally creates an environment, explains the environment to the participants and then observes the participants reactions to the environment created. One of the most famous controlled observational studies was complete by the educational theorist Albert Bandura, The Bobo Doll Study. Bandura wanted to research whether aggression is an innate or a learned behavior. In the study, Bandura creates environments that included aggressive and environments that did not include aggressive behavior, then observed the reaction of the children in each environment. The Standford Prison experiment is also an example of controlled observation.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  2. 2
    Natural Observation
    .
    The subjects are being observed within their own natural environment. Many anthropologists use Natural Observation to conduct their studies. Margaret Mead's famous study into South Pacific cultures is one of the most famous.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  3. 3
    Participant Observation
    .
    This type of study involves the subjects in their own environment but the researcher joins in the natural environment in order to more closely observe and gather information. One of the most famous observational studies was done by Leon Festinger and explained in his 1956 book When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group That Predicted the Destruction of the World. In order to observe and gather as much information as possible, Festinger joined an apocalyptic cult. As a participant in the cult, Festinger was able to gather insider information. Jane Goodall's research on chimpanzees is also considered Participant Observation.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Given that controlled observation studies involve the participation of the researcher in the creation of an environment and then the observation of the participant's interaction with their environments, a limitation of any controlled observation is the Hawthorne effect/demand which states participants may act differently when being observed.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Controlled observations must include an experimental group and a controlled group. The experimental group is exposed to the factor being studied, while the control group is not. In The Bobo Doll experiment, the group exposed to aggressive behavior (the variable being studied) was the experimental group while the group not exposed to aggressive behavior was the control group.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

There are actually three requirements of controlled observational experiments you may be referencing include the following:

  1. 1
    There must be one control group and one experimental group
    .
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  2. 2
    There must be only one variable being studied
    .
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  3. 3
    Participants must be delegated to either the control or the experimental group randomly
    .
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help
    Advertisement

Depending on the experiment referenced in the question, the noted three requirements are necessary for a viable control observational experiment.

Referencing this Article

If you need to reference this article in your work, you can copy-paste the following depending on your required format:

APA (American Psychological Association)
Methods of Research in Psychology: Lab experiments, Observations, and Questionnaires. (2017). In ScienceAid. Retrieved Sep 25, 2017, from https://scienceaid.net/psychology/approaches/methods.html

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

MLA (Modern Language Association) "Methods of Research in Psychology: Lab experiments, Observations, and Questionnaires." ScienceAid, scienceaid.net/psychology/approaches/methods.html Accessed 25 Sep 2017.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Chicago / Turabian ScienceAid.net. "Methods of Research in Psychology: Lab experiments, Observations, and Questionnaires." Accessed Sep 25, 2017. https://scienceaid.net/psychology/approaches/methods.html.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.

Comments

ScienceAid welcomes all comments. If you do not want to be anonymous, register or log in. It is free.

Article Info

Categories : Approaches

Recent edits by: Sharingknowledge, Taylor (ScienceAid Editor), Jamie (ScienceAid Editor)

Share this Article:

Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 2,967 times.

Do you have a question not answered in this article?
Click here to ask one of the writers of this article
x

Thank Our Volunteer Authors.

Would you like to give back to the community by fixing a spelling mistake? Yes | No