Experimental psychology is considered the research arm of many fields within psychology to uncover underlying behavior ranging from learning to personality and cognition processes. This profession is based on tests to verify, falsify, or show the validity of a hypothesis dealing with human and animal behavior using animals such as rats, monkeys, and pigeons. This research is used to solve problems and explore theoretical questions to collect data and perform research. The research methods used by experimental psychology may include case studies, correlative, and naturalistic research. It could include evaluating groups of people to measure assigned variables.
The amount of research on which a professional can work depends upon their interests, area of employment, and educational background. Many individuals publish their articles in professional journals or teach classes in memory, learning, language, perception, attention, effects of substance abuse, and neuroscience. New areas of interest in the experimental psychology field have extended to motivation, emotion, and social psychology.
Experimental psychologists generally work at a college or university, research center, government, or private business. Businesses are usually interested in how to create a safer work environment and make their employees more productive. The areas that are concerned with work-related issues is called the study of human factors psychology and industrial organizational psychology. One recent job posting stated the need for a human factors engineer, someone with an experimental psychology background. This very prestigious government agency desired someone familiar with task analysis, user interface design, and usability testing. The candidate should be experienced with software engineering cycle phases and the collection and documentation of user requirements.
This person will work closely with product designers and process engineers to develop applications. They should also be experienced in designing and developing user surveys to obtain user feedback. Another posting by a major pharmaceutical company wants an employee to develop human factor strategy, plans, and processes and assist in product documentation. He should be able to gather user requirements and conduct ethnographic research. This person should be able to conduct formative usability studies during product concept and development to eliminate the potential risk in errors and defects. This experimental psychology role will conduct summative studies for product validation. H e will also oversee the activities of human factor consulting firms.
Lots of research is done in the clinical, educational, social, and child psychology fields. To practice in the field, you do not actually need a formalized degree. Important character traits for the job include good communication skills, as well as an excellent understanding of psychology research methods. Many times there are diverse job responsibilities which may include obtaining funding, maintaining records, and working with other groups or teams. Writing skills are essential since articles may appear in publications and journals. In this profession, nothing is taking for granted, as the experimental psychologist scrutinizes all areas of response.
For those people who do decide to get a formalized education in the field, they will learn how to design studies, conduct empirical research, and understand ethical issues. Most people will earn a master’s degree or a doctorate if they are interested in working at a university. Experimental psychology programs usually reside within the department of psychology of a college or university. The program will concentrate in general psychology and behavioral neuroscience and prepare students for basic research and teaching. A master’s degree will give a student a solid foundation in empirical research and prepare him for a PhD. Doctorate experimental psychology programs will provide more advanced training in research design and experimental methods.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics believes that this profession will continue to grow, especially for those with a doctorate degree in an applied specialty. The average salary ranges from $35,000 – $78,000 per year, with earnings higher for those people working at a college or university. Many college graduates find jobs as community college teachers, science writers, market researchers, and laboratory assistants.