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Ecological Validity

An explanation of ecological validity in psychology.

Such validity is important for a psychology study or approach to be taken into account or used in other situations. Ecological validity refers to the extent to which a theory, study or approach in psychology approximates the real-world situation that it is to be applied to or study. Experiments that are controlled and carried out in artificial situations may be argued to lack ecological validity, as behaviour in these situations may be affected by the fact that a participant knows that they are taking part in an experiment; a factor which does not affect field studies in real situations.


Field Studies & Observations

Studies that involve observing human behaviour in real life situations are often considered to carry higher ecological validity, but as behaviour is subject to individual differences, the extent to which finding can be generalised to other situations is limited.


Laboratory Studies

Low in ecological validity as they are artificial situations, and this may affect the behaviour being observed.

Ecological versus External Validity

Ecological and external validity are linked but different, and should not be confused. External validity measures the extent to which findings can be generalised to real-life, while ecological validity measures the extent to which an experiment approximates real life.

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