Experimental Research - Experimental Research If...

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Experimental Research If researchers intend to make cause-and-effect statements, they typically use experimental research, which is usually, but not always, conducted in a laboratory. The laboratory environment allows the experimenter to make controlled observations using the steps of the scientific method. Formulation of the problem. In formulating the problem in a psychological study, the researcher raises a question about behavior or mental processes. Perhaps the investigator wonders whether certain environmental conditions improve or adversely affect motor performance. The investigator might operationally define the environmental condition of interest as “background music” and the motor performance as “typing speed.” Next, the investigator proposes an answer to the research question (“What is the relationship between typing speed and background noise?), an answer called a hypothesis. A hypothesis postulates a relationship between two variables, an independent variable (that which the experimenter manipulates—in this case, the background music) and a dependent variable (that which changes as a consequence of manipulation of the independent variable—in this case, the typing speed). The experimenter hypothesizes that “an increase in loudness of background music will produce a decrease in typing speed.” Design of the study. Once the problem to be investigated has been selected, the experimenter must decide how to conduct the study. Much of the information used in psychology and other sciences has been collected in laboratory situations because they facilitate the use of many controls during data collection. In the background music/typing speed study, for example, all subjects would be taken to a laboratory for testing and would use the same typewriters to take the typing tests. The experimenter would have to decide whether to use two groups of subjects with comparable typing skills and expose one group to a music loudness level different from that used with the other ( a between-subjects design) or sequentially expose the same subjects to music of two loudness levels (a within-subjects design). Each procedure has advantages and disadvantages. (Decisions concerning the procedure to use depend on many factors, which are studied in experimental design courses.) Collection of data. The experimenter collects data (typing speed at different loudness levels) to test the hypothesis according to the selected experimental design. Analysis of data. The data are analyzed by appropriate statistical methods. In this case, mean scores of the two sets of typing speed/loudness level data would be compared to see if differences are significant or could be due to chance. Conclusions drawn from the data. Based on analysis of data, conclusions may be drawn about the hypothesized relationship between the independent and dependent variables. The hypothesis, that “an increase in loudness of background music will produce a decrease in typing speed,” may be supported by the data (the
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