Do you love to test theories to learn what the end result will be? Do you enjoy varying different aspects of a theory to see how it will make the process change or how the end product will differ? Do you love the intrigue of the psychology field but feel that your interests in the experimental phase of things makes your career path lean more in a science related direction? Well, believe it or not it is completely possible for you to pursue a career path that addresses each of these aspirations you have.
Experimental psychology is the term used to refer to the work done by individuals who use experimental techniques and methods to examine the behavior of humans, as well as the processes that exist behind the behavior. It is quite common in this field for experimental psychologists to work with animal subjects or human volunteers in order to more intensively study numerous topics. In this career path you may use your knowledge and skills to study topics such as social psychology, sensation and perception, learning, emotion, developmental processes, cognition, memory, motivation, developmental processes, and the neural substrates of each of these psychological areas.
As an experimental psychologist you will examine human behaviors in many different contexts. You will be responsible for using surveys for your participants, measuring response times as they specifically apply to your experiment, and calculating error rates in relation to your experiment. It is likely that you will conduct surveys before, during, and after the psychological experiment takes place and that you will need to make notes related to the type(s) of observations that you used. You will most probably spend the majority of your work day conducting one of three types of experiments: experimental, quasi-experimental, and non-experimental.
The methodology that is used within the world of experimental psychology is considered to be sound because of several factors. For instance, the complex nature of the mental process that accompany human behavior, along with the unconscious things that people do with relation to their behavior, and how a human’s behavior and actions can be interpreted are all areas that are studied as a means of this branch of psychology having a solid, reliable foundation. At the core of experimental psychology is the need for minimizing the potential for bias from the experimenter, ensuring that the sample size is sufficient, creating a counterbalance of the order of experimental tasks, using proper statistical analysis, and applying valid and reliable operational definitions to the experiments. It is important to understand that each of these factors come into play with regards to the effectiveness and validity of experimental psychology.
As an experimental psychologist, you will use a variety of measurement tools, such as nominal measurement, ordinal measurement, ratio measurement, and interval measurement. Each of these measurement tools will be utilized in a variety of settings based on the situation that is used as the basis of the experiment. In conjunction with a variety of measurement tools, experimental psychologists also use many different instruments. In your work in this branch of psychology, it will be very important that you stay abreast of changes that occur in relation to instruments that can be utilized. For instance, you may be required to use instruments like the Hipp chronoscope, the stereoscope, the kymograph, the audiometer, or the colorimeter. Or, you may use the olfactometer, a variety of mazes, the EEG (Electroencephalograph), the PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan, and the fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan). Regardless of the tools you use, the instruments you prefer, or how you like to observe your participants you will definitely need to have an extremely good eye for detail.