Chapter 2 - Page 47

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Quantitative research methods: designing an experi

What would be the independent and dependent variables?
In a laboratory experiment, the experimenter has control over most of the variables that they think will affect the outcome of the experiment. For example, we could design an experiment in which the effect of ambient noise on work performance was measured. We could expose individuals to specific noises at specific levels at specific times while they completed specific tasks and questionnaires assessing mood. Alternatively, we could set up a field experiment in which participants would be observed under fairly 'natural' conditions. For example, we might compare the effects of different office lighting conditions, or the weather, on individuals' mood and productivity. 
The important feature of naturalistic observations is that the observer remains in the background and does not interfere with the people (or animals) being observed. In some cases, psychologists do interfere with a situation in a natural setting. For example, some experiments designed to discover what factors determine whether bystanders come to the aid of people who have been hurt or who are in distress. An 'accident' is staged, and the behaviour of passers-by is surreptitiously observed. Although studies such as these take place outside the laboratory - at job sites or on the street - they are experiments, not naturalistic observations. Such experiments might be called quasi-field studies.

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