You are on page 1of 24

PYSC 224

Introduction to Experimental
Psychology

Session 1 – What is Experimental Psychology?

Lecturer: Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku, Dept. of Psychology


Contact Information: mamankwah-poku@ug.edu.gh

College of Education
School of Continuing and Distance Education
2015/2016 – 2016/2017
Session Overview
• We use the term “experiment” in our local parlance quite often,
and most of the time what we actually mean is that we are
trying something out to find out if it is true or not or if it will
work or not
• In scientific terms an experiment is the systematic manipulation
of some factors in the environment in order to observe the
effect of this manipulation on behavior- i.e. the process of
scientifically confirming or disconfirming a fact or principle
• Experimental psychology is the branch of psychology that
studies the processes of sensing, perceiving, learning, and
thinking about the world, through the use of controlled
experimentation
Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku
Session Goals and Objectives
At the end of this session, you should be able to
• Define what experimental psychology is
• Outline how experimental psychology originated
• Define the field of experimental psychology and what
psychologists in this field do
• Define and explain Zimney’s (1966) definition of an
experiment

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku Slide 3


Session Outline

The key topics to be covered in the session are as


follows:
• What is experimental psychology?
• Origin of experimental psychology
• What is an experiment?

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


Reading List

• Kantowitz, B. H., Roediger III, H. L., Elmes, D. G.


(2015). Experimental Psychology. Stamford: Cengage
Learning (Pp 60 – 62)
• Any introduction to Psychology text book

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


Topic One

WHAT IS EXPERIMENTAL
PSYCHOLOGY?

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


What is experimental Psychology?

Think about these questions for a moment:


• What do you think?
• What comes to mind?
• What have you heard?
• What have you read?
• What are you expecting to learn?

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


What is experimental Psychology?
• Experimental psychology is the branch of
psychology that studies the processes of:
sensing, perceiving, learning, and thinking
about the world, through the use of controlled
experimentation
• It is basically applying experimental method to the
study of behavior and its underlying processes

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


What is Experimental psychology?

• To psychologists it is not enough to describe


behaviour
• As a science, the goal of psychology is to:
 Describe
Explain
Predict and
Ultimately, improve the lives of people and
the world in which they live- i.e. control
behaviour
Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku
What is Experimental psychology?

• Psychology thus relies on the scientific method,


the best approach for:
• eliminating biases and opinions
• reaching a consensus about how behaviour
truly operates and
• correcting errors
• Scientific procedures enable psychologists
answer questions about human behaviour in a
more valid way
Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku
Topic Two

ORIGIN OF EXPERIMENTAL
PSYCHOLOGY

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


Origin of experimental psychology

• Psychology did not begin as a scientific


discipline until the late nineteenth century
• German physiologist Gustav Theodore
Fechner (1801-1887) was one of the first
scientists to study psychological processes
• He published his findings in 1860 in a book
he titled “Elements of Psychophysics”

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


Origin of experimental psychology

• In 1850, Herman von Helmholtz developed a


theory of how people perceive colour
• Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920)- established the
first psychological laboratory in Leipzig,
Germany to study conscious experiences (Coon,
2001)

• Thus, the discovery of psychology as an


independent science is attributed to Wundt

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


Origin of experimental psychology

• With the establishment of Wundt’s


laboratory, psychology made a transition
from philosophy to science (Benjamin, 2000)
• Thus, Fechner, Helmholtz and Wundt are
recognised as the founders of
experimental psychology

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


Topic Three

WHAT IS AN EXPERIMENT?

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


What is an Experiment?

• What do you understand by this?


• Give examples

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


What is an Experiment?

• An experiment is the systematic manipulation


of some factors in the environment to observe
the effect of the manipulation on behaviour
• Simply put, it is the process of scientifically
confirming or disconfirming a fact or principle
• A problem is investigated scientifically, by
manipulating certain variables to observe if it
will affect other variables, while holding other
variables constant
Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku
What is an Experiment?

• So, think about it:


a. Which variable are manipulated
b. Which variable are observed
c. Which variable are held constant?

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


What is an Experiment?

• A psychological experiment has been defined


by Zimney (1961) as an:

• “objective observation of phenomena that are


made to occur in a strictly controlled situation
in which one or more factors are varied and the
others are kept constant”

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


Terms in Zimney’s definition
• Let’s try to understand each of these terms
• “Objective observation”: making observations
void of personal biases
• Phenomena: an event or occurrence
• “Strictly controlled situation”: conducting an
experiment such that no other factors are
interfering with the conduct of the experiment

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


Terms in Zimney’s definition

• One or more factors are varied”: the


experimenter varies the independent variable to
observe its effect on the dependent variable
• “Others are kept constant”: certain variables may
not be of interest to an experimenter but they
can still affect the conduct of an experiment so
they are controlled

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


Terms in Zimney’s definition

Example- experimenting on The effect of practice on


performance
• Practice will be manipulated because it can be
varied in terms of duration
• Performance will be measured
• Other variables such as noise, time lapse, prior
knowledge etc. can also affect performance so
they will be kept constant

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


END OF SESSION 1

Dr. Margaret Amankwah-Poku


References
• Benjamin, L. T. (2000). The psychology laboratory
at the turn of the 20th century. American
Psychologist, 55, 318–321.
• Zimney, G.H. (1961) Method in Experimental
Psychology. Ronald Press, New York.
• Kantowitz, B. H., Roediger III, H. L., Elmes, D. G.
(2015). Experimental Psychology. Stamford:
Cengage Learning

Slide 24