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Experimental Psychology

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Realism in Experimentation

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Conducting research in a realistic setting is optimal, but unfortunately, is not always ethical or even practical.

For example, researchers cannot simply march into a voting booth and observe what factors influence individuals’ voting behaviors.

Instead, they can create realism in the laboratory by designing an authentic voting experience, which includes questioning and observing the exact variables that might influence the study’s outcome.

Using a realistic setting, this video will demonstrate how to design, conduct, analyze, and interpret an experiment that investigates whether restaurant reviews are related to a diner’s level of tipping.

In this experiment, a realistic restaurant setting is designed to allow the researcher to manipulate how restaurant reviews—positive and negative— influence participants’ dining behavior.

For the positive review group, participants are asked to read a critique that compliments the service. In contrast, the negative review group is asked to read a critique that condemns the service.

After reading one of the reviews, participants are then shown a video that depicts a dining scenario with subpar service and must imagine themselves as one of the diners and the researcher as the server.

Once the video is over, participants are given a bill for the imagined meal. The dependent variable is the amount of money left as a tip.

Thus, participants who read the positive review are hypothesized to be more forgiving of the subpar service and offer a higher tip than diners who read the negative review.

To begin the study, meet the participant at the lab door and welcome them into the Hawk Villa restaurant. Guide all participants through the consent process and discuss the overall plan for the session.

After the participant consents to the experiment, give them a wallet containing $136.10, divided into specific bill and coin amounts.

Randomly divide participants to one of two experimental groups by handing them either a positive or negative review.

When the participants finish reading the reviews, have them watch a video depicting a dining scene. Instruct the participants to imagine themselves as the diner and the researcher as the server.

After showing the video, return to the table with the bill.

Once the participant places money in the billfold, return to the table and ask if they need any change.

To conclude the experiment, debrief the participant and explain why simulating a restaurant in the lab was necessary for the experiment.

To analyze the data, first count the money each participant placed in the billfold. Subtract the bill total of $44.67 from the amount the participant left to calculate the tip amount. Then, calculate the tip percentage.

To visualize the data, graph the mean tip percentages by group. Notice that participants in the positive review condition tipped higher than those in the negative review condition.

Now that you are familiar with how to optimize realism within a laboratory environment, let’s take a look at how you can apply this approach to other forms of research.

Driving simulators are often used in the laboratory to safely investigate driving ability in individuals with visual deficits or those under the influence of a substance, such as alcohol.

In addition, researchers can study navigational skills in individuals by examining task performance in a simulated real-world environment.

Finally, researchers have adapted dance movements to engage patients who express poor mobility and balance, such as those with Parkinson’s disease, and subsequently monitored changes in motor performance.

You’ve just watched JoVE’s introduction to using realism in laboratory experiments. Now you should have a good understanding of how to design and conduct this type of study, and how to calculate results and apply the phenomenon conducting research using realistic settings.

Thanks for watching! 

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