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What is Experimental Psychology?

Experimental PsychologyExperimental Psychology isn’t a specific branch of psychology, but instead generally refers to standard methods and techniques that psychologists with scientific training use to collect and analyze data. Continue reading to learn how this unique approach to understanding human behavior is utilized by all schools of psychology.

A History of Experimental Psychology

Experiments have always been a part of the field of psychology. The father of modern psychology, Wilhelm Wundt, used mathematical computations in his early 19th century experiments. Throughout the years different psychologists have developed the field of Experimental Psychology. For example, Experimental Psychology was introduced into America by one of Yale’s star professors’ George Ladd. He built a research lab, public the first Experimental Psychology textbook and performed various experiments. In modern times, Experimental Psychologists work in all schools of psychology to conduct lab and clinical based experiments.

The Methodology behind Experimental Psychology

Experimental Psychology depends on rigorous and well-controlled experiments. During these trials, human or animal subjects are exposed to external stimuli or provided specific behavioral instructions. Almost everyone is familiar with certain experiments, such as a mouse trying to navigate a maze or a primate trying to figure out a puzzle. However, human experiments are much more complex. For example, the experimental psychologist must take into account extraneous variables, environmental conditions and experimenter bias. Additionally, they must choose an appropriate sample size, correct define the operations and use sound statistical analysis. Experiments must be completely controlled and perfectly executing in order to stand up to peer review, which is one of the foundations of all scientific endeavors.

The Science behind Experimental Psychology

Experimental Psychology is more than just a single discipline because it involves scientific research for every school of psychology, from social psychology to educational psychology. Experimental psychologists and scientists all believe in the same basic four principles. First, determinism means that all phenomena have some sort of systematic cause. Second, empiricism means that objective observation is the key to interpreting the world around us. Third, parsimony means that scientists prefer a minimalist approach to developing and researching theories. That is, science embraces the principle of Occam’s razor, which means that the theory with the fewest assumptions should be the logical conclusion. Finally, the fourth principle is testability. All theories must be empirically tested with applied falsifiability.

Experiment Examples

Since Experimental Psychology is involved in every branch of psychology, there are an impressive variety of experiment categories. Social psychology uses field experiments and objective observation to understand collective behavior. For example, they might construct a simulated scenario that tests how participants engage in altruistic behavior, such as helping an injured stranger. On the other hand, cognitive psychologists can use complex equipment and software to analyze the neurological reactions of participants watching scary or violent images. Finally, psychologists studying abnormal behavior, such as phobias or personality disorders, could test participants with these conditions against groups of mentally healthy people.

Careers in Experimental Psychology

According to the American Psychological Association, experimental psychologists seek to answer basic questions about human behavior through applied research. For example, the most popular research topics include memory, emotion, perception and sensation. These scientific professionals typically work in university research centers, but also work for private companies or even the government. They may also work in other subfields, such as education, human resources and health care.

Related Resource: Engineering Psychology Careers

In summary, experimental psychology involves standard scientific research procedures that encompass different disciplines and schools of psychology. Experimental psychologists generally perform controlled experiments and data analytics in university settings. All branches of psychology depend on Experimental Psychology for empirical data, research and experimentation.