The science of psychology is growing and evolving with each passing day. One of the primary reasons for the field’s consistent growth is the multitude of cleverly designed experiments that help us to better understand human thinking and behavior. Even people who are not very knowledgeable about psychology may have heard about groundbreaking studies such as Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment, Asch’s conformity experiments, or the Milgram experiments on obedience. While it is impossible to conduct a “perfect” study, there are steps you can take to ensure your psychology experiment produces results that are valid, reliable, and accurate.
Psychology experiments use scientific methods to investigate psychological processes in animals and humans. The conclusions drawn from these experiments are based on empirical evidence. If you are not sure how to conduct an effective psychology experiment that uses scientific investigation, you’ve come to the right place. Keep on reading to learn about the seven steps you need to follow closely:
1. Identify a research problem or ask a question – Your question can be related to something you saw or heard that you are genuinely curious about. You may want to do some background research so that you can see what questions about your topic of interest remain unanswered.
2. Form a hypothesis that you can test to answer your question – A hypothesis is essentially an “educated guess” or prediction as to what you think the answer to your research question is. Please note that you should be able to gather evidence to test your hypothesis. If it is impossible for you to collect evidence or data, it is impossible to answer your question using scientific methods.
3. Design the experiment – A scientific experiment is conducted in a controlled setting. Your experiment may randomly assign participants to a treatment group and a control group. The treatment group receives the particular treatment that you are administering in the experiment. The control group receives a placebo in place of the actual treatment. At the end of the study, you will be able to compare results from the treatment group to results from the control group.
4. Conduct the experiment and gather data to test your hypothesis – It is very important that you standardize your methods across all conditions and groups. This will ensure that you obtain accurate results that highlight the effect of the treatment.
5. Analyze the evidence – Use statistical tools and methods in your analysis. This will help you to identify patterns or trends that are statistically significant that you may not be able to see just by looking at the results.
6. Draw your conclusions – Go back to your hypothesis and see whether the data supports it or rejects it.
7. Share your results with other people in the scientific community – If other researchers are able to replicate your findings, it is likely that your experimental methods were sound and your results are accurate. Most researchers share their research findings in a peer-reviewed journal, a book, or a presentation.
When conducting a scientific study, it is crucial that the internal validity of the experiment remains high. Internal validity refers to the degree to which an experiment is free from errors in its internal structure and produces trustworthy results. One common internal issue that has negatively affected many psychology experiments is reactivity. Reactivity is the phenomenon where a participant in an experiment changes his behavior because he knows he is being observed.
When reactivity is present, the results of any experiment are less accurate because changes are no longer due solely to the treatment being given to the participants. To learn more about reactivity and how it can be reduced or eliminated from your experimental design, check out this helpful article at BetterHelp.com.