Experiments in Psychology

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSUS1PS7084

Semester and Year Offered: 4th Semester (Winter), 2nd Year of BA Psychology Programme

Course Coordinator and Team: Mamatha Karollil (coordinator)

Email of course coordinator: mamatha[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: Students who have passed 3rd semester in Psychology major only.

Aim: Experiments in Psychology is a course focused on one type of data collection method through conducting experiments on live participants in order to understand human functioning better. Objective and systematic approach to gathering information about behaviors that will pave a foundation for students to perform scientific research in their later educational expedition.

The course aims to enable students to:

  1. Employ the use of an experiment to investigate a psychological or social reality that they are attempting to theorize.
  2. Develop the capacity to translate research questions into variables and hypotheses, conduct observations, interviews (scales/tests) and other methods to collect data, and interpret the data.
  3. Learn the key strengths and weaknesses of the experimental method; as well as understand the kind of research questions best pursued through this method.
  4. Learn how to communicate results of studies conducted via the writing of reports/oral presentations.

Course Outcomes:

By the end of the course, students should have obtained:

  1. An understanding of key approaches in conducting experiments- hypotheses, designs, data collection, interpretation, ethical concerns.
  2. A capacity to conceptualize and execute experiments in the field (having gone through the practical process a few times).
  3. Ability to write and present orally experiment results/reports.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Lectures: Introduction to Experimental Psychology

This module will draw a sketch of the movement of Experimental Psychology in the disciplinary history, highlight and discuss some distinctive features of conducting experiments in human subjects including use of theories, establishing hypotheses and designing experiments. The lectures will also cover questions related to what kind of relationships can be explored between variables using this method, variables and types, controls, some basic designs like repeated measures/ within subject design, independent measures/ between subjects design, ABA designs and their pros and cons, difference between quasi and true experiments, experimental and mundane realism, questions of reliability and validity of the method, advantages-disadvantages associated with the method, and ethical concerns with regard to using this method.


1. Learning

Possible experiments:

  • à Impact of assessment styles on learning, hypothesized as MCQ test will lead to learning key concepts and analytical Qs will help the learner in developing clear concepts and ideas.
  • à Effect of subliminal conditioning (if any) on learning and memory by transmitting subliminal message through both audio and visual method, hypothesized as subliminal messages can be transmitted through subtle audio-visual inputs.

2. Cognition

Possible experiment:

  • à Explore problem solving strategies in code-breaking game. Looking at what is a problem, types, how to represent and understand a problem, problem solving strategies- algorithm & heuristics- means-end analysis, hill climbing method, analogy approach, thinking types-convergent, divergent, top-down processing, bottom-up processing.

3. Personality

Possible experiments:

  • Are certain personality traits linked to prosocial behaviors? Consider how traits such as kindness, generosity, and empathy might be associated with altruism and heroism.
  • Traits and anxiety/depression, traits and subjective well-being.
  • Personality and mate-choice, perceptions of attractiveness.
  • Self-esteem studies.
  • Personality and risk taking.

4. Social Psychology

Possible experiments:

  • Bystander Effect: Learn about social responsibility, pro-social behaviour, what makes people take a stand or respond when they witness injustice.
  • Halo Effect
  • Hawthorne Effect:
  • Asch’s Conformity study.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • 25% Class test: February 1st week beginning.
  • 25% Experiment 1: Presentations+Viva Voce OR Reports. February last week
  • 25% Experiment 2: Presentations+Viva Voce OR Reports. March last week
  • 25% Experiment 3: Presentations+Viva Voce OR Reports. April last week

Reading List:

  • The course draws primarily from the following book:
  • Nestor, P.G and Schutt, RK (2018). 3rd Edition. Research Methods in Psychology: Investigating Human Behaviour, United States: Sage Publications. (Chapters 1, 2, 5, 9, 10, 11)


  • Harris, Peter. 2011. Designing and Reporting Experiments in Psychology. 3rd Edition. Delhi: Tata MacGraw-Hill.
  • Dearborn, W. F. (1910). Experiments in learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1(7), 373-388.
  • Kurt, Frey. 2018. Experiments with People: Revelations from Social Psychology. 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge.
  • McLeod, S. A. (2007). Experimental Design. Retrieved from