The studies of psychologists have been of great relevance to how we conduct ourselves in everyday life, some being noticeable to society and some not. Research on learnt behaviour, attention and an understanding of why we as civilised beings do harm to others have given psychologists a scientific insight into the human (and non-human) mind and how we behave. The claims that are made by psychologists through laboratory based research, are always supported with evidence based on the results given; but how relative can experimental research in a laboratory be to our everyday lives? Drawing on Milgram(1963), Skinner(1948) and Broadbent’s(1954) research, this paper aims to assess the ecological validity of laboratory based research to real life situations, the important factors that are needed in order for the results to be generalised and bring to light how the research has been applied to society and how it is of relevance in the understanding of human behaviour.
An experiment is mainly conducted to test a hypothesis that relates to a real life situation. The aim is to prove or disprove what is believed to be true by taking real life problems and analysing the different variants that may have an affect on them. Conducting this in a laboratory allows researchers to do this without the distraction of any confounding variables.
One example of laboratory research having relevance to real life and its appliance is the research of attention and how it affects the performance of an individual. Donald Broadbent’s research was directly geared towards the study of attention, where he conducted an experiment that explained the impossibility of being able to attend to different stimulants at the same time. Through the design of a theoretical model Broadbent successfully illustrated how information is processed, in that it enters three stages; the first is through our senses, which is then briefly stored before being selectively filtered out using the feedback of either memory, experience or expectations. Unfortunately it was found that only a limited amount of information was abled to be processed at one time and so an extra activity such as multitasking, whilst being possible, could only be achieved through rapid switching of the information being adhered to. This explains that attention is a process that requires the withdrawal of one thought to effectively attend to another. Broadbent’s research is an example of how laboratory based research is of relevance to real life, in particular the enforcement to illegalise the use of phones whilst driving. Since the turn of the century society has seen a rise in the amount of cars being driven on the road and a further rise in the amount of mobile phone usage. In combining the two there has been a positive correlation in that the increase in drivers using a mobile device has caused an increase in the more vehicle accidents being reported. Today the law requires that no person driving is allowed to use a mobile phone or similar device. This is because research on attention has influenced further studies and has proven that the driver is four times more likely to crash whilst using the device because the reaction of the driver is 50% slower than that of a driver whose full attention is on the road.
An important feature in laboratory based research is the level of control the researcher has over the variables, in that it is able to be kept constant or can be manipulated in a plethora of ways; this is of great importance to yield honest results that can be considered universal. Milgram’s study aimed to explain the level of obedience in society where he recruited five hundred men of different working backgrounds. The results revealed that a high number of participants were obedient enough to administer up to 300 volts to the ‘learner’ without any feelings of remorse because ‘they were just following orders’....