Laboratory Experiments in Psychology

Laboratory Experiments in Psychology

Laboratory Experiments in Psychology

Laboratory Experiments in Psychology

Excerpt

The laboratory exercises in this book have been used in an introductory course in psychology at Harvard University during the past four academic years. We have tried to achieve two goals in the teaching of psychology with these experiments. First, we hoped to give our students some first- hand experience with the quality of a psychological fact. The generalizations and principles encountered in a text, no matter how excellent, cannot communicate the degree of certainty nor the aura of doubt that characterizes the empirical substance of our science. Rather than ignore this important aspect of psychology in an introductory course, we chose to let the student come upon it by himself. Second, we have tried to enrich the student's understanding of a selected group of experimental discoveries by giving him the opportunity for rediscovery. For the second goal, much more than for the first, the selection of experiments is crucial, and it is surely open to criticism and disagreement. Considerations of expense, practicability, and personal predilection have operated upon us and have, certainly, influenced our choice of experiments.

Our personal predilection may seem most idiosyncratic in regard to statistical technique. Our book, unlike most others of its kind, uses only a few descriptive statistics. It was, however, our intention that the work in the book be within the grasp of students with no special preparation either in psychology or statistics, and so we have tried to choose experiments for which the results would be clear-cut enough to be detectable without the aid of sampling statistics. Although our intention limited the range of possible experiments, it also extended the range of students who might do them.

Most of the experiments call for equipment easily assembled in the typical department of psychology with the aid of ordinary hand tools. The more elaborate pieces of apparatus, like memory drums, tachistoscopes, and recording galvanometers, if not already available, may be purchased from commercial apparatus companies. No attempt was made to list the names of these commercial suppliers, since we felt that for the purposes . . .

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