The Research Enterprise In Technology Psychologists conduct researches to build knowledge, to test theories and to discover new phenomena in varied fields of specialization (Beins, 2004). Research is a complex process that starts with the identification of a problem which the researcher wishes to answer and to explore. The second step is to determine what kind of research design the problem would be best answered or demonstrated. In psychology, there are many research designs that could be employed by the researcher, however many prefer to use experiments. Now, what is an experiment? Take for example that one wants to determine children’s reactions to a lost kitten. If you just simply leave a kitten in the middle of the room and observe how children will respond to the kitten, does it mean that one has conducted an experiment? You might say yes, because you have tried to answer your question, but essentially, this example is not a true experiment. An experiment is characterized by the manipulation of variables in order to effect the change in behavior that the researcher wants to study (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2000). The factors present in the research environment that is not related to the behavior under study must be controlled or held constant in order to avoid the possibility that these factors might influence the variables in the study The most basic element of an experiment is the variables of the study. An experiment must have an independent variable and a dependent variable (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, & Zechmeister, 2000). The dependent variable is the response measure of the effect of the manipulation of the independent variable while the independent variable refers to the manipulation of the environment controlled by the experimenter. Hence, going back to our original example, the reaction of children is the dependent variable and the presence of the kitten is the independent variable. However, the independent variable must at least have two levels either qualitatively (cute, clean and fat kitten and a scrawny, smelly kitten) or quantitatively (1 and 2 kittens). The most important thing to note is that two conditions must be compared with each other to determine if a change in behavior has occurred due to the independent variable. Such as the appearance or the number of kittens affects children’s reactions to the kitten. In simpler forms, an experiment can be designed wherein a group of participants will experience the manipulated independent variable while the control group does not experience it, hence any difference in behavior can be attributed to the manipulation of the independent variable. The advantage of conducting an experimental research is that it offers a better way of controlling extraneous variables that can confound the results of the experiment. Another advantage is that experiments allow the researcher to establish causality between the independent and dependent variable, hence any behavioral change is caused by the manipulation of the conditions that affect the behavior (Huitt, 2003). Lastly, experiments have the advantage of economy, it allows the experimenter to conduct the research in a controlled environment and does not need to wait for the right conditions, and data gathering is done immediately as opposed to surveys and interviews. However, one has to be aware that experiments are not always 100% fool proof nor it is always correct. It has been established that experiment subjects are influenced by the knowledge of the experiment’s purpose and or objectives or the expectations of the experimenter which is called the Hawthorne effect (Beins, 2004). Another pitfall of experiments is the effect of the experimenter on the subjects. Like when the experimenter exhibit behaviors that cue the subjects on what is expected of them such as an experimenter smiles when a child gives the correct response.
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