Research Methods- Lab Experiment


Research Methods- Lab Experiment


  • Reliability: The original experimenter can specify precisely what steps were followed in the original experiment so other researchers can repeat this in the future.
  • It is a very detached method: The researcher only manipulates the variables and records the results. the researcher's personal feelings and opinions have no effect on the participant or the experiment.
  • Positivists favour the Lab experiments because it achieves their main goal of reliability through: Careful control over experimental conditions and it produces reliable data because other researchers can replicate this experiment.
  • It also allows the researcher to identify and measure behaviour patterns quantitatively and to manipulate variables to establish cause and effect relationships.


  • Lab experiments usually only study small samples- this makes it very hard to investigate large scale events e.g. Religion, the small scale pattern also reduces its representativeness.
  • Ethical issues: Lack of informed consent- this may be difficult to obtain from groups e.g. children, who may not be able to understand the nature and purpose of the experiment.
  • Deception and Harm- It is considered wrong to deceive people as to the nature of the experiment, as Milgram did in his Electric Shock experiment. Also, many of his participants were showing physical actions of stress e.g. sweating and 3 participants even had uncontrollable seizures.
  • The Hawthorne Effect- A Lab is not a natural environment, and it is then likely that any behaviour from participants in this environment is also unnatural or artificial. if people do not behave in true-to-life ways, the experiment will not produce valid results


In Laboratory experiments, researchers manipulate variables to discover laws of cause and effect relationships. Although they produce reliable data, lab experiments suffer from practical problems, ethical problems, and are prone to the Hawthorne effect. This may be why researchers use Field experiments as an alternative 


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