Experimental Social Psychology - Strengths and Weaknesses

1640 Words Sep 4th, 2010 7 Pages
Outline the main features of experimental social psychology and consider the influences that led to its emergence. What do you think are its strengths and weaknesses?

Psychology was originally a branch of Philosopy, according to Hollway (2007). As more emphasis was placed on following scientific methods and principles, psychologists began using laboratory experiments to carry out research into individual behaviours. Experiments were considered to be more objective when considering individuals within the social world. Researchers were able to separate different situations that occurred in natural settings in an attempt to replicate particular aspects in a laboratory environment.
One of the earliest examples of contemporary social
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However, this objectivity is brought into question when researchers interpretations of results (as shown above) can differ. Also, by Milgram ignoring the level of disobedience, this area of the study was rendered invisible.
A key criterion of experimentation involves the participants being blind to the manipulation of variables. This prevents prior knowledge affecting the results. Although in some cases this involves deception, Professor Haslem points out most experimental social psychologists accept this as necessary if there is a strong scientific case for the research and providing the participants are not subjected to enduring harm. The introduction of strict research ethics meant that cognitive social psychologists must follow strict guidelines when designing research studies, which included ensuring the safety of their participants. However, in the 1960’s and 1970’s scientific knowledge was the most important consideration and researchers were given a free hand, which meant there were no adequate measures to protect the well-being of the participants. In Milgram’s words ‘before you do the experiment, you don’t know whether there will be stress (Milgram 1977, p.97 cited by Hollway, 2007). The research carried out during those two decades has to be considered in terms of its situatedness.
The use of deception can in certain
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