Examine the reasons why some sociologists choose not to use experiments when conducting research
One of the main reasons why many sociologists choose not to use laboratory experiments for research is one of impracticality; the absolute control of conditions required for a lab experiment is nigh impossible to achieve in fields of sociology, as that level of control over variables would require a completely artificial environment which would require an inordinate amount of money and resources to construct effectively. If an experiment took place in an environment less controlled than this, then even identification of all the relevant variables would be ridiculously difficult, and manipulation of variables to study a behavioural reaction completely impossible.
Even assuming that it is possible to create a controlled environment for sociological experiments, there are still many practical issues with experimental methods. Firstly there is no possible way for experiments to research past social trends, which immediately reduces the range of data available to a sociologist, for instance it would be impossible to try and find changes in society through experimental methods unless a sociologist replicated exactly a social experiment conducted in the past to compare the data. Secondly, again assuming a laboratory environment has been constructed for sociology, this could only be used to study a limited sample and therefore would not create very reliable data, and so would not be easily generalisable, which then appears to defeat the point of using a laboratory experiment. Finally it is argued that the artificial environment of an experiment would provoke the “Hawthorne Effect”, in which a person with knowledge of their observation modifies their behaviour, in an attempt to second guess what the observer expects or wants them to do, which would not give very valid data and also, as only some people would succumb to this effect, would also not give very reliable data....
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