What is the difference between a field experiment and an experiment?

From PsychWiki - A Collaborative Psychology Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

An experiment is done in a controlled environment conducted by researchers in a scientific laboratory about a hypotheses. A field experiment is an experiment carried out in the participant's natural everyday environment. In both cases, the researcher is still manipulating the independent variables (changing the thing that affects the dependent variables). The main differences are that in the lab experiment, the researcher is able to control most of the conditions in the the setting. For example, the researcher can control who is present, what the staff says, how long the experiment takes, and so on. In the field experiment, the researcher may not have control over any of those conditions, as for example, people not related to the experiment may come and go randomly, those people can say whatever they want, and so on. The lab experiment has more control and so can better isolate factors thought to be important in the outcomes, but may not be very much like the natural everyday environment, and so the results may not generalize to those natural everyday environments. The field experiment is the natural everyday environment, and so the results of the study are more likely to generalize. However the field experiment has less control and so it may be very difficult to determine what factors were important in explaining the outcome.

Example / Application

Example: Marshmallow study - Delayed Gratification

Application: In the video, we see the experiment of delayed gratification in a setting more like a staged lab area than a natural setting and conducted by a researcher. In a field experiment, the children would be in their natural setting in there homes or kitchens given the marshmallow by an adult or parent and told they would receive another if they wait while researcher observed the experiment without interference.

Back to Research Design

Personal tools