Psychology - Cognitive approach - Methodolgy

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  • Created by: jkav
  • Created on: 04-02-15 15:30


1. Lab Experiments

One of the main methods of investigation used by the cognitive psychologists is lab experiments. This is due to the belief that psychology is a pure science and therefore behaviour should be studied objectively and scientifically. How can we study thought processes in a lab? Cognitive psychologists believe that they can make inferences about the processes in a person's mind on the basis of observations of the persons behaviour, and also by asking people to answer questions (such as asking people to study word lists and report which words they can rememeber).

For example, the classic study by Loftus and Palmer. In fact, Loftus conducted a variety of different experiments to examine whether peoples memory for an event can be distored by leading questions. She studied particpants responses as a means of testing whether their memory for an event had been distorted under certain conditions. This area of research is particularly relevant to our understanding of the reliability of eyewitness testimony.

Another area of research that Loftus has investigated is the weapon effect, which again related to eyewitness testimony and the accuarcy of memory.


  • The lab experiemtns is the best way to study causal relationships because extraneous variables can be carefully controlled.
  • Lab experiments offer an objective menas of studying human behaviour. As the experimenter will follow set, standard procedures, this means the experiment can be repeated again (replicated) by others to demonstrate the validity of the findings.
  • As data resulting from experiments can be quantified (e.g. the percentage of particpants in Loftus and Palmer's study who said there was a headlight), it is easier to analyse and make comparisons.


  • Lab experiments such as those carried out by Loftus may not represent everyday life because people dont take the experiement seriously and/or they are not…


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