Experimental Psychology: Know About Its History, Features and Method
Experimental psychology refers to the work done by those who apply experimental methods to psychological study and basic processes. Experimental psychologists employ human participants and animal subjects to study many topics, including (but not limited to) sensation and perception, memory, cognition, learning, motivation, emotion; developmental processes, social psychology, etc.
History of Experimental Psychology
With its emergence in the nineteenth century, psychology begins to focus and take an interest in the study of observable phenomena, thus giving rise to empirical science, that is, based on the observation and experience of events. Later, experimental psychology used rigorous methods and instruments to make measurements in its investigations. Experimental psychology emerges as a modern discipline in Germany with Wundt creating the first experimental laboratory in 1879 and introducing a mathematical and experimental approach to research. Earlier in 1860, Gustav Theodor Fechner, a German psychologist, attempted to test and justify the connection between physical and sensory quantities through experimental data in his work Elements of psychophysics. Other authors who contributed to this growing science were Charles Bell, a British physiologist who studied nerves; Ernst Heinrich Weber, a German physician and considered one of its founders, and Oswald Külpe, among others, the main founder of the Würzburg School in Germany. The emergence of different schools was given by this tendency towards experimentation at the time, the purpose of which was to try to monitor the degree of relationship between the biological and the psychological. Among these schools is the Russian one, which was interested in neurophysiology and was initiated by Pavlov Y Bechtěrev. Functionalism, which seeks to demonstrate the biological laws that define behavior, and Watson’s behaviorism. In the twentieth century, behaviorism was the dominant school of psychology in general and in the United States in particular. It is a branch of psychology that singles out mental phenomena within the framework of experimental psychology. This was not the case in Europe, however, as psychology was influenced by authors such as Craik, Hick, and Broadbent, who focused on topics such as attention, thought, and memory, laying the foundations of cognitive psychology. In the last half of the century, psychologists used more methods, not only focused and limited to a strictly experimental approach. In addition, the experimental method is used in many different areas of psychology, such as social psychology and developmental psychology.
Features of Experimental Psychology
1) Empiricism refers to gathering data that can support or disprove a theory. Unlike purely theoretical reasoning, empiricism is concerned with observations that can be tested. It is based on the idea that all knowledge comes from observations that can be perceived, and the data that surrounds them can be collected to create experiments.
2) Falsifiability is a fundamental aspect of all contemporary scientific work. This concept was formulated by Karl pooper. Otherwise, ridiculous but unprovable claims could be given the same weight as the most rigorously tested theories.
3) Determinism refers to the idea that every event has a cause before it. Applied to mental states, this means that the brain responds to stimuli and that these responses can ultimately be predicted, given the right data.
These aspects of experimental psychology run through all the research done in the field
Work of an experimental Psychologist
Experimental psychologists with their knowledge can work in a variety of spheres like school colleges, laboratories various government institutions and can also work privately, . Some of these experts teach students experimental methods, while others conduct research in cognitive processes, animal behavior, neuroscience, personality, and other fields. Those who work in academia often teach psychology courses in addition to conducting research and publishing their findings in professional journals. Other experimental psychologists work with businesses to discover ways to increase employee productivity or create safer workplaces—a specialty area known as human factors psychology.
Methods used in Experimental Psychology
a) A laboratory experiment is an experiment conducted under highly controlled conditions (not necessarily a laboratory) where precise measurements are possible. Where the experiment will take place, at what time, with which participants, and under what circumstances, the researcher decides to use a standardized procedure.
b) Field experiments are conducted in an environment that consists of everyday events. The experimenter is still manipulating the independent variable, but in a real environment (so he can’t really control the extraneous variables).
c) Natural experiments are conducted in every day (ie real-life) environment of the participants, but here the experimenter does not have control over the independent variable as it occurs naturally in real life.
Criticisms of Experimental Psychology
Critical psychologists argue that experimental psychology approaches people as entities independent of the cultural, economic, and historical contexts in which they exist. These connections of human mental processes and behavior are neglected according to critical psychologists such as Herbert Marcuse. Thus, according to critical theorists such as Theodor Adorno and Jürgen Habermas, experimental psychologists paint an inaccurate portrait of human nature while providing tacit support to the prevailing social order.
Experimental psychology provides an Idea about the behaviour of people and tries to study that behaviour using experimental methods. Experimental psychologists can investigate a variety of topics using many different experimental methods. Each contributes to what we know about the mind and human behavior.