The difference between experimental and survey methods in psychology are markedly different; however, they are often times confused. The important difference is not necessarily in the method as much as it is what questions are answered. Experiments tend to look for causal relationships while surveys simply observe what is naturally occurring and report the findings. I have taken an experimental study about gender’s role in psychology and will be comparing it with a survey that was conducted about age’s role in psychology.
In 2011, an experimental study was published; this study sought to find if and how much of an impact that gender has on the Big Five personality traits. These traits are neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, and openness/intellect. The participants in this study were observed in their daily lives, asked questions, and the data has been interpreted. The independent variable in this experiment was the scores on the Big Five personality scale, and the dependent variable is the gender since participants were designated according to gender. According to the study, significant gender differences were found for the traits of neuroticism, agreeableness, and extraversion. This apparently is a typical finding, but what they did find in this study is that factors such as age and race have the ability to exacerbate gender differences in all of the traits (Weisberg, 2011).
Another study, released in 2010, was a survey method study conducted in the form of an interview of over 350,000 people between the ages of 18-85. This study sought to find the effects that age has on psychological well-being; in order to achieve the most accurate results, people from all classes and walks of life were in included while all ages were represented equally. In this study, participants were asked a series of questions that are collectively intended to gauge psychological well-being. The findings in this survey were that humans experience a significant causal relationship between age and psychological well-being. For example, after age 50, many humans experience a significant drop off of most negative emotions except sadness, and an increase in positive emotions (Stone, 2010).
As you can see, the type of questions and answers involved with the experimental method versus the survey method are very different. To put it simply, a survey seeks to find out what is going on while an experiment seeks to find out why it is going on. Human psychology is a very complex topic; both survey and experimental studies are very useful in this field of study.
- Stone, A. A., Schwartz, J. E., Broderick, J. E., & Deaton, A. (2010). A snapshot of the age distribution of psychological well-being in the United States.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107(22), 9985–9990. http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1003744107
- Weisberg, Y. J., DeYoung, C. G., & Hirsh, J. B. (2011). Gender Differences in Personality across the Ten Aspects of the Big Five. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 178. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00178