This volume is intended to provide thorough, accessible tutorials on the major topic areas in the field of experimental psychology. The volume should be useful not only as a reference source for professionals, being part of this Handbook, but also as an effective, stand-alone textbook for students.
Consequently, the volume is aimed at professional psychologists, entry-level graduate students, and advanced undergraduates who have some relatively limited background in experimental psychology. Just as reading this volume does not depend on reading the other volumes in the scries, reading a specific chapter in this volume is not contingent on reading any other chapters.
Each chapter provides an up-to-date, state-of-the-art review of a specific subticld of experimental psychology, providing coverage of what is known and what is currently being done, along with some of the historical context.
WHAT IS EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY?
The experimental method is defined by the manipulation of independent variables and the measurement of dependent variables. Extraneous variables are either controlled or allowed to vary randomly. In particular, care is taken to remove any variables that are confounded with the independent variables. Because of the control exerted, this method permits the investigator to isolate causal relations. Any change in the dependent variables can be viewed as caused by the manipulation of the independent variables.
Experimental Psychology has a rich heritage that started when Wilhelm Wundt created the first psychology laboratory in 1879 at the University of Leipzig. Because of the unique ability to draw causal inferences with experiments, early psychology was essentially experimental psychology. Although there arc certainly those who think that the experiment is the wrong methodology for many aspects of psychology, the primary methodological goal of most research in psychology has been the exertion of as much control as possible, so that the general idea of the experiment as the ideal research tool is widely accepted in psychology.
Today the term experimental psychology does not, however, cover all of the areas in psychology that employ the experimental method. The use of experiments is widespread, including, for example, research in biological, social, devel opmental, educational, clinical, and industrial psychology.
Nevertheless, the term experimental psychology is currently limited to cover roughly the topics of perception, performance, learning, memory, and cognition. Although by definition empirical in nature, research on experimental psychology is focused on tests of theories, so that theoretical and experimental objectives and methods are necessarily intertwined. Indeed, research in experimental psychology has become progressively more interdisciplinary, with an emphasis on not only psychological theories but also theories based on other disciplines including those in the broader fields of cognitive science and neuroscience.
In addition, since its inception there has been a continued growth and relevance of experimental psychology to everyday life outside of the laboratory. The potential applications of the results of psychol ogy experiments are increasingly widespread and include, for example, implications concerning teaching and training, law, and medicine.
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