Laboratory experiments give the researcher complete control over how the experiment in conducted e. g. the “Stroop Effect” (Stroop 1935). The stroop effect was one of a series of experiments published by stroop in 1936 the term refers to how colour name words have an interfering effect on the time taken to name the ink colours of non matching colours, for example naming the ink colour of the word “blue” written in green ink takes longer than It does for the same word written in blue ink.
In one of these experiments, the colour names red, blue, green, brown and purple were selected. For the experimental condition, each word was printed in a grid such that each word occurred twice in each column and twice in each row. No word appeared in the colour that if named, by an equal number times in each of the other four colours. No word or colour immediately succeeded itself in any column or row. A second sheet of words was produced using the same words in reverse order.
The control condition used the same arrangement of ink and colours but this time each ink colours was represented by a coloured block. The independent variable was therefore whether the stimulus sheets consisted of words in ink colours, which conflicted with the colour of names or were in the form of colour blocks. The time taken to name the ink colours for each condition (the dependent) variable was compared on average, it took participants 47 seconds longer to name the ink colours of a stimulus sheet from the experimental condition, than from the control condition.
The advantages of experiments in controlled laboratory conditions are that we can define and manipulate some variables; other researchers can replicate experiments. Experimentation allows the pace to be forced rather than waiting for natural events to reproduce the appropriate scenario. Controlled laboratory experiments can yield both qualitative and quantative data and can be analysed using inferential statistics. The technical equipment is readily available and can be used to calculate accurate measurements.
The disadvantages are that variables can exist which have not been accounted for because of high levels of control they exclude the human element. A participant could manipulate the study by knowing in advance what the experiment is about, although concern may arise over the issue of consent and deception of the participants. Although experimental laboratory studies are a good example of a scientific methodology, social science has other methods, such a Naturalistic observations. Naturalistic observations are just one of several ways of conducting observations e. g.
Rosenhan(1933) Eight individuals, all free of any psychiatric symptoms presented themselves at different psychiatric hospitals in the USA. All reported the same symptoms- they said they heard voices say “dull”, “empty” and “thud” in their heads. Apart from this single symptom they were instructed to behave normally, and give honest answers to any other questions they were asked. All were believed to be genuine patients and were admitted to the psychiatric hospitals concerned, seven with a diagnosis of Schizophrenia. On admission they immediately ceased reporting that they had been hearing voices.
They were subsequently discharged 7 to 52 days later with diagnoses of ‘Schizophrenia in remission’, Rosenhan attributed these diagnosis to the context in which their behaviour was observed. Non-actually displayed the symptoms of Schizophrenia but in the context in which the symptoms were reported led to an expectation that these ‘Pseudopatients’ were indeed mentally ill. The advantages of the Naturalistic observation are that careful observation can lead to the suggestion of the appropriate hypothesis for further investigation and to prevent time being wasted in carrying out unrealistic experiments.
The behaviour observed is what the subjects naturally do under the circumstances. The disadvantages are that people who know that they are being watched may react differently. Observers may be influenced by their own opinions about what ought to happen. Cause and effect cannot be established with any certainty. Reapplication may be difficult since the observer cannot control the environment or subject. Another method used by social scientists are case studies, which contrast with the above A case study involves gathering detailed information about one individual or group.
Participant observation is more useful in case studies on organisations however individual case studies are usually done on the history of the subject and by interview e. g. mayall and petrie (1983) studied a group of London children aged 2 and their mothers and childminders. The study found that the quality of care provided by the childminders varied considerably. Some children did well but others were ‘failing to thrive’. In the case of children who weren’t doing well, there were two possible explanations. Some of them came from homes where there was ongoing conflict and the children’s problems could be explained in terms of discord.
The other explanation lies in the childcare environment. Mayall and Petrie found that some children often spent the day in an under stimulated, lacking in love and attention. As well as differing methodologies there are different types of data gathering such as Primary and Secondary data. Primary data is research, which is original, carried out by the researcher at first hand and can be used as a valuable secondary source of data for other researchers. Surveys, statistics, experiments and case studies etc. Secondary data provides useful background information, which the researcher can read up on before starting his/her own research.
Reliable secondary research can save time and money. But the disadvantages are that the information may not be reliable and could be bias. Secondary data can include historical documents; research data collected by other scientists, government statistics and published records. Newspapers can also be a source but are highly subjective and bias. The advantages are that secondary sources are a cheap and readily available source of information. Quantative data is data based on numbers and can be in the form of social surveys, for example, yes/no answers.
In questionnaires or formal interviews using yes, no, maybe answers. Quantative data can be either Primary or secondary data, you can find qauntative data in statistical reports and research for instance, statistics by government departments and Internet surveys. Whereas Qualitative data gives more than numbers, it gives details, which can be gleaned through formal, and informal interviews this method gives more specific information than quantative data. Qualitative data can be primary or secondary data, it can be obtained by participant and non-participant research surveys.
Cumberbach et al (1990) Analysed over 500 prime time advertisements over a two week period in 1990 involving over 200 character appearances. 75% of men but only 25% of women were judged to be over 30 years old. Men outnumbered women 2:1 and 89% of voice-overs, especially for expert/official information, were all male. 50% of female voice-overs were categorised as ‘sexy/sensuous’. The ratio of women to men rated as ‘attractive’ was 3:2. Introspection is another method of gathering data used in the social sciences. This experimentation involves looking into oneself and explaining how you feel.
Wilhelm Wundt (1879) described this as “conscience arising from two factors”. The first of these is the sensory information that we receive from the outside world, through the sense receptors of hearing, vision and so on. Being aware of this incoming information was, in Wund’s opinion, very much part of being conscious. In addition to this, out internal feelings and emotions contribute directly to what we are aware of. It was the combination of these two sources of information, which, according to Wundt, produced consciousness.