Studies: The Ecological Validity of Research
Anthony Loiselet, Jean-Michel Hoc, and Pascal Denecker
CNRS -- University of Valenciennes, LAMIH, PERCOTEC, France
Research in ergonomics is now using simulation because, either field study is not feasible (for reasons of cost, factor control, disturbance of operators, etc.), or it is not the actual situation which is under study but a future one to be explored. Within this context, the ecological validity of simulator studies is often questioned, particularly in regard to the confidence that can be put in the possible transfer of results from simulation to "natural situation"1. This paper addresses ecological validity as a possible feature of external validity, that is the transfer of knowledge from a situation under study to another situation or a class of situations where conditions are at least partly different.
Ergonomists are used to distinguishing basic research from applied research in terms of ecological validity. Basic research would aim at finding general primitives with maximal external validity, but could be irrelevant to natural situations. Applied research would be designed to intervene on specific situations with a minimal external validity but with a maximal ecological validity. This paper will show that this distinction is short-sighted. Basic research is mainly motivated by knowledge of theories and applied research by knowledge of situations, but the ecological validity problem is the same, although it could be less crucial in the former than in the latter ( Matalon 1988).____________________