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8: Experimental Research

  • Page ID
    20182
  • Experiments are used to determine not only whether there is a meaningful relationship between two variables but also whether the relationship is a causal one that is supported by statistical analysis. For this reason, experiments are one of the most common and useful tools in the psychological researcher’s toolbox. In this chapter, we look at experiments in detail. We will first consider what sets experiments apart from other kinds of studies and why they support causal conclusions while other kinds of studies do not. We then look at two basic ways of designing an experiment—between-subjects designs and within-subjects designs—and discuss their pros and cons. Finally, we consider several important practical issues that arise when conducting experiments.

    • 8.1: Prelude to Experimental Research
      Experiments are one of the most common and useful tools in the psychological researcher’s toolbox. In this chapter, we look at experiments in detail. We will first consider what sets experiments apart from other kinds of studies and why they support causal conclusions while other kinds of studies do not. We then look at two basic ways of designing an experiment—between-subjects designs and within-subjects designs—and discuss their pros and cons.
    • 8.2: Experiment Basics
      An experiment is a type of study designed specifically to answer the question of whether there is a causal relationship between two variables. In other words, whether changes in an independent variable cause a change in a dependent variable. Experiments have two fundamental features. The first is that the researchers manipulate, or systematically vary, the level of the independent variable. The different levels of the independent variable are called conditions.
    • 8.3: Experimental Design
      In this section, we look at some different ways to design an experiment. The primary distinction we will make is between approaches in which each participant experiences one level of the independent variable and approaches in which each participant experiences all levels of the independent variable. The former are called between-subjects experiments and the latter are called within-subjects experiments.
    • 8.4: Experimentation and Validity
      When we read about psychology experiments with a critical view, one question to ask is “is this study valid?” However, that question is not as straightforward as it seems because, in psychology, there are many different kinds of validities. Researchers have focused on four validities to help assess whether an experiment is sound: internal validity, external validity, construct validity, and statistical validity. We will explore each validity in depth.
    • 8.5: Practical Considerations
      The information presented so far in this chapter is enough to design a basic experiment. When it comes time to conduct that experiment, however, several additional practical issues arise. In this section, we consider some of these issues and how to deal with them. Much of this information applies to nonexperimental studies as well as experimental ones.
    • 8.6: Experimental Research (Summary)
      Key Takeaways and Exercises for the chapter on Experimental Research.