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AS Sociology: Experiments

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AS Sociology: Experiments

  1. 1. As Sociology Topic 3: Experiments
  2. 2. Intro <ul><li>Sociologists do not often use laboratories for experiments, but it is important that you do know when and for what they are used, even if only on occasion in sociology. </li></ul><ul><li>There are three different Experimental Methods that sociologists sometimes use in their research and they are: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lab Experiments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Field Research </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Comparative Method </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. What is our Learning Objective? In Topic 3 we will examine and understand the different forms of experiment and their strengths and limitations as ways of investigating the social world.
  4. 4. 1) Lab Experiments: Plants Example <ul><li>Need a set of identical plants & randomly divide them into two groups— </li></ul><ul><ul><li>An experimental group </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A control group </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Lab Experiments: Treatment of Groups <ul><li>We treat them differently by: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Experimental group gets varied quantities of nutrients and we carefully measure and record any changes to growth and appearance that we observe. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Control group get a constant quantity of nutrients, and we still measure any changes to growth and appearance we observe. </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Lab Experiments: Findings & Conclusions <ul><li>Upon Comparing Results: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Experimental plants grew faster than control group </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We Conclude? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>That we have discovered a cause and effect relationship: nutrients cause growth. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Science Side of it: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Nutrients is the independent variable (the causal factor) and the result of the growth is the dependant variable (dependant since it happens only due to the first variable's presence, nutrition). </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Lab Experiments: Logic & the Experimental Method <ul><li>Scientist manipulates (alters) the variables in which they are interested in order to discover what effect they have. </li></ul><ul><li>By doing this, the scientist can establish a cause and effect relationship . </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This also allows the scientist to correctly predict in future experiments under specified conditions. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Example: So, in our plant experiment, we can predict what will happen when a certain quantity of nutrient is given to the plants. </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Lab Experiments: Reliability (Repeatability) <ul><li>Yes, we have discussed this term before! </li></ul><ul><li>The idea is, that once an experiment has been conducted, other scientists can then replicate it, or put another way, repeat it exactly in every detail . </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, lab experiments are highly reliable producing the same result each time for two reasons. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Why are Lab Experiments Highly Reliable? <ul><li>Original experimenter can specify precisely what steps were followed in the original experiment so others can repeat it and get the same outcome. </li></ul><ul><li>Highly detached method: researcher merely manipulates the variables and records the results. Feelings and opinions have no bearing on the outcome of the experiment. </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, lab experiments have MAJOR advantages as the methods used to identify cause and effect relationships in hard sciences. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Lab Experiments: Its Relationship with Sociology? <ul><li>So, given the prior, we might expect Positivist Sociologists to use lab experiments, since they prefer the scientific approach, right? </li></ul><ul><li>Nope. Despite this, there are multiple reasons why such experiments are rarely used in sociology even by positivists. </li></ul><ul><li>We will look at a few of the positivist arguments regarding their non use of lab experiments. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Lab Experiments: Positivism <ul><li>We all know by now that positivists like the idea of lab experiments in principle as it meets their goal of reliability . </li></ul><ul><li>Strengths: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Careful control over experimental conditions and experimenter detachment produce reliable data that others can replicate . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Researcher can identify and measure behaviour patterns quantitatively and manipulate variable to establish cause and effect relationship. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Lab Experiments: Positivism <ul><li>Limitations: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It is often impossible or unethical to control the variables. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Their small scale means that results may not be representative or generalisable. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>So... </li></ul><ul><li>Due to the above, positivists sometimes prefer to use the comparative method instead. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Lab Experiments: Interpretivists <ul><li>Outright reject the lab experimental method saying it fails to achieve their main goal of validity . </li></ul><ul><li>Claim it is an artificial situation producing unnatural behaviour. </li></ul><ul><li>Prefer more natural methods, such as field experiments. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Positivists criticise Interpretivists saying it goes too far reducing control over variable. </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. This concludes Lab Experiments & Reliability
  15. 15. Up Next… Lab Experiments: Practical Problems
  16. 16. Lab Experiments: Practical Problems <ul><li>Society is a complex machine; in practice it would be virtually impossible to identify or control all the variables that affect our attitudes toward marriage, women's role in the workplace or our feelings about homosexuality. </li></ul><ul><li>Lab experiments cannot study the past either since by definition of the time having already passed, we cannot control the variables since that time has come and gone. </li></ul><ul><li>The above outlines only briefly the practical problem of attempting to apply lab methods to society. </li></ul><ul><li>Typically lab exp. Only study small scale-- reduces representativeness. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Lab Experiments: Ethical Problems <ul><li>There are ethical (moral) objections to doing experiments on humans, under certain, but not all circumstances . </li></ul><ul><li>So, as a general rule, researchers need informed consent of the participants. </li></ul><ul><li>Difficult to get informed consent with specific groups such as children or learning difficulties individuals , who may not be able to understand the nature and purpose of the experiment. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Stanley Milgram (1974) <ul><li>Generally, it is considered wrong to mislead people as to the nature of a study. </li></ul><ul><li>S. Milgram did lie to his participants in his studies of obedience to authority. </li></ul><ul><li>Told participants they were assisting in an experiment on learning. </li></ul><ul><li>They were instructed by the researcher to administer electric shocks when the learner failed to answer questions correctly. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Milgrams Real Study <ul><li>He was looking at the participant's willingness to follow orders to inflict pain. </li></ul><ul><li>Not real shocks-- but the participants were not aware of this. </li></ul><ul><li>Milgram's Findings? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>65% of participants were willing to administer 450 volt shocks to the learners. </li></ul></ul>

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