Experimental Methods in Psychology

By Gustav Levine; Stanley Parkinson | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 12
Applied Experimental Psychology: Examples of the Kinds of Questions Asked, and Experiments Done, When the Focus Changes from Theory to Application

The research covered in the preceding chapters of experimental content was theory driven. It offered an opportunity to examine the logic of drawing conclusions about the validity of theoretical ideas, and to become acquainted with the use of surrogate variables. In the present chapter we change the focus from theory-driven research to applied research. As a concrete example, we look at research designed to ease the task of a computer user searching through computer menus.

Searching through computer menus to find a needed command can be an onerous task, so software manufacturers have tried to simplify the process, with different manufacturers offering different menu arrangements. Rather than relying on people's assumptions as to which arrangements are best, it is reasonable to do research to find out which ones induce the fewest errors, or permit the quickest arrival at needed computer commands. An experimental psychologist can use such straightforward criteria to answer the question of which is the best menu arrangment for a given set of circumstances.

The function of a computer menu is the same as that of a restaurant menu--to provide us with a list of the available options. The restaurant menu facilitates the interaction between the chef and the customer. The customer gives a command to the chef, finding the command in the menu, and using the waiter in a loose analogy

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