Experimental Research Method
Experimental research is the scientific method in which researchers manipulate, or change, a variable to observe the effect on some other variable (Franzoi, 2010). In correlation studies, the cause and effect relationship is not proven. For example, a study that shows a correlation between television viewing and increased aggression in children does not necessarily prove that television viewing causes aggression; the aggression could be caused by some other factor or influence (called a variable). However, the experimental researcher attempts to prove that one variable causes another by intentionally manipulating that variable (called the “independent” variable) and observes the effect on another variable (called the “dependent” variable).
Experimental researchers perform field studies and laboratory experiments. Laboratory experiments are favored because they take place in a controlled environment without the presence of other unintended variables, such as environmental influencers, thus improving the study’s internal validity. Occasionally, two independent variables combined can have a different effect on the dependent variable than if the dependent variable were exposed to the independent variables separately. This is known as the “interaction effect”. In one study, a group of people were either insulted or treated casually (independent variable #1) and shown either a violent or a non-violent file (independent variable #2), and researchers observed their shock-administering behavior (dependent variable). One of the drawbacks of laboratory experiments is that it is not always practical to generalize findings to the real world. In the real world, for example, people don’t administer shocks to other people. Unlike field experiments, the laboratory setting is not a person’s natural behavioral setting.
Researchers strive to keep their experimental studies unbiased by randomly assigning which participants will be exposed to the...