In every science, as far as possible, knowledge is obtained first hand. This knowledge is obtained systematised and organised. How is this knowledge obtained? It is done through observation and experiment. To observe is to find a fact; to experiment is to make a fact.
Experiment is observation under known and pre-arranged conditions. Observation is the general thing of which experiment is the special form. When observation is controlled and ceases to be general, we have an experiment.
The tremendous growth of Psychology during the last fifty years is due mostly to experimental method. Until the late 19th century Psychology was not considered as a Science. It was regarded as a branch of Philosophy and the methods employed for Psychological investigations were those of Philosophy such as observation and introspection.
The first attempt of making experiments in Psychology was made by Wundt in 1879. He established the first laboratory at Leipazig in Germany. Experiments were made chiefly in the field of sensation, perception, association and memory.
Later on, Germany and America took the lead and by 1894, a score of research laboratories started working. The last two decades have brought in important developments in technique, methods and trends in Psychology. In America and England there is a psychologist for every school. His task is to take care of the mental health of the children and this experiment is proving very successful.
It consists in the recognition of the inter-connection of the human organism and the external world. The essential principle of the method is to place a human individual in a certain situation and to note how he reacts therein.
It is on the basis of his reaction in relation to the situation in which has been placed that the laws of objective Psychology have been derived.
Woodworth expresses it as a stimulus- Response chain. (SR) ‘S’ is the stimulus presented to the individual or the situation in which he is placed and ‘R’ is the individual’s reaction to the stimulus or the way in which he behaves in the situation. The essential task of Psychology is to take the course from ‘S’ to ‘R’ and to state the routes from ‘S’ to ‘R’ under various circumstances.
Experiment in Psychology is performed on a subject who is a living being. The living organism has got certain characteristics and the experimenter must take these into account both in the conduct of the experiment as well as in the interpretation of the results.
The experimental psychologist has to depend on the co-operation of his subject, whether an adult or a child or an animal. He cannot lose sight of the time-honored saying, “one man can take a horse to water but
1. Further, Experimental method has serious limitations when it is applied to Educational Psychology. While dealing with human beings it cannot be as objective as it is claimed by its advocates, because human behaviour cannot be controlled to that extent as is possible in the case of physical and chemical phenomena.
2. Secondly, human behaviour under controlled conditions is different from spontaneous behaviour. Therefore, the experimental findings should be cautiously applied to the spontaneous behaviour of human beings under normal and free conditions.
It is not always possible for every teacher to experiment scientifically because of no special training in doing so and of lack of facilities for experimentation in schools. Yet he can adopt new teaching methods with better results.
1. New teaching methods suggested by Psychology should be tried.
2. Experimental Psychology helps the teacher in dealing satisfactorily with the backward, the deficient, the emotionally deranged and the delinquent child.
3. Experiments can also be carried on in the development of character and leadership. Schemes of self-government and of giving responsibility to students can be tactfully introduced in schools.