While experimental research is probably the most commonly known form of scientific research, it's important to know that while experimental research best explains causation, or cause and effect relationships, because it can show relationships more specifically, there are some challenges with it.
Often, human behavior is very complex, and the experiment itself might affect the results. Or, the different things that are being studied are too specific to the setting or situation, or too difficult to replicate on their own.
This is when psychology uses a series of non-experimental methods of research to try to explain the wide range of human thoughts and behaviors. These non-experimental forms of research are not less legitimate than experimental research, they're just different ways of approaching all of the different problems in order to reach a fuller understanding of them.
In today's lesson, we will explore five types of non-experimental research.
EXAMPLEFor example, altruistic behavior--or someone being nice or kind to others--is hard to replicate in a lab. It's difficult to come up with a situation where a person feels like they should authentically be nice to others within a lab. Therefore, it's helpful to be able to see it occurring organically outside in the world itself.
Naturalistic observation is probably the most common of the non-experimental methods of research. It is used often in psychology due to the nature of psychological concepts.
EXAMPLEFor example, schizophrenia is a mental disorder with a prevalence of about 0.3% to 0.7% of the population; a very small amount of people have schizophrenia. Therefore, in order to study it, it's better to go to a setting where people with schizophrenia are more inclined to come and to gather information from those settings. At the same time, researchers are able to help people with those problems.
EXAMPLEFor example, if you wanted to study a group of children and the factors that lead to later success in life, you could conduct a case study over a long period of time and gather a great deal of information.
In this instance, we can use existing data from other sources, and often from other fields of study, to explore those concepts. This is essentially research that examines information on a scale of breadth verses depth, and involves gathering a lot of information. This is helpful because it does incorporate other areas of research, not just psychology.
EXAMPLEFor example, you might look at crime rates within a city and see how they're related to feelings of stress within people that live within those cities.
EXAMPLEFor example, if you want to ask people about their shopping habits, personality traits, or feelings about different types of things within the world, you might use a survey--like a presidential poll to gauge current public sentiment about the president.
Surveys, as mentioned, are quite helpful because they're relatively easy to do, so they are used fairly often. However, it is important to understand that they provide a relatively broad and simple understanding of issues, depending on how long the questionnaires are and how valid they are for whatever subject they're talking about.
Source: THIS WORK IS ADAPTED FROM SOPHIA AUTHOR ERICK TAGGART.