PSY2 – Research Methods: Lesson 04

Laboratory Experiments

PSY2 RM PowerpointTeachers or students who want the original PPT please tweet @psychopepper

Learning Objectives

  • To KNOW and UNDERSTAND what the common features of all experiments are.
  • To KNOW and UNDERSTAND what the  features are of a laboratory experiment.
  • To EVALUATE the strengths and limitations of laboratory experiments.

Lesson Outline:


  1. To brainstorm the images and words which come to mind when the word ‘experiment’ is used.
  2. To reflect on the stereotypical ideas and images of ‘science experiments’
  3. To reflect on what the purpose is of some of these ideas and images in traditional laboratories.
  4. To reflect on what the equivalents might be in a Psychology laboratory.
  5. To take notes in booklet on experiments and specifically laboratory experiments.
  6. To take notes in booklet on the strengths and limitations of the use of laboratory experiments in Psychology.  Introducing the Point, Because, So What? system of evaluation.
  7. To reflect on the fundamental debate of realism Vs control by deciding which is more important to you and justifying your decision.

Content Recap:

Experiment: Experiments allow us to study cause and effect (causation). They all have an IV (independent variable) and a DV (dependent variable) and make some attempt to control all other potential extraneous variables (EVs).  There are four different kinds of experiments

Laboratory Experiment: An experiment conducted in a special environment where variables can be carefully controlled. Participants are aware they are taking part in an experiment, though they may not know the true aims of the study.

Control: The amount of restrictions placed.  In order to have a lot of control a research study needs to identify any potential influences on the result and make sure they are kept constant.  If this happens then we know that what we did caused the changes we see. (A positive of laboratory experiments).

ReplicationThe ability to repeat the experiment.  In order to be able to replicate a study the research had to be well designed, carried out and reported, as well as carefully controlled.  If this happened then another experimenter can ‘copy’ the research exactly. (A positive of laboratory experiments).

Ecological Validity:  The ability to repeat the experiment in a different setting (real world) and get the same results.  If we wanted to say everyone is the same then we would need to make sure that our results are true in all different settings. (A negative of laboratory experiments because they don’t have it).

Mundane Realism:  The extent to which an experiment reflects the real world.  Mundane: meaning boring, an experiment should reflect what happens in our day to day lives.  (A negative of laboratory experiments because they don’t have it).

Demand Characteristics:  A cue that makes participants aware of what the researcher expects to find, or how participants are expected to behave. They can change the outcome of a study because they can lead to changes in participants behaviour.  (A negative of laboratory experiments because they give these out).

If you would like to access PsychoPepper’s Gloassary of Terms please click here

Study Notes (TBC):

If you would like to download a set of study notes for this lesson, you can do so here.  If you would like access to the original word file please tweet @psychopepper


I would suggest that you have a copy of one of the textbooks which will allow you to read around the subject matter, pre-read ahead of lessons or even take extra notes/practise questions afterwards.  I would recommend the following (you do not need to replicate books, one of each type is plenty!)

Extra ReadingElephants on Acid or Hippo Eats Dwarf


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