What Does an Experimental Psychologist Do?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2019
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An experimental psychologist specializes in research intended to lead to a better understanding of psychological and behavioral matters. The experiments a person with this title performs are usually intended to provide insight into the behavior of living things. An experimental psychologist's job is typically focused on learning about the psychology and behavior of human beings, though he may also study animals as part of his research. Often, a person with this title performs research for an educational institution, research company, or a government organization. In some cases, however, this type of psychologist conducts research projects independently.

When a person works as an experimental psychologist, he uses his natural curiosity and his research skills to develop and carry out psychology experiments. His goal is to gain a better understanding of the way the mind works and the reasons animals and people behave as they do. The results of his experiments can prove important in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. In fact, this type of research may also help reveal why people develop mental health conditions in the first place.


Despite the fact that an experimental psychologist usually works to increase understanding of the workings of the human mind and human behavior, animals often play important roles in this type of psychology research. For example, a person with this title may perform experiments involving monkeys to better understand motivation, not only in monkeys but also in humans. The research process usually involves experiment creation; the development of a hypothesis, which is a prediction based on prior scientific knowledge; the careful recording of the materials and procedures used; and a detailed explanation of the results achieved from the project. When a research project results in important discoveries, an experimental psychologist often publishes his findings for other professionals to review and use.

Typically, a person needs at least a master's degree in psychology to become an experimental psychologist, but an individual may need additional education to qualify for certain jobs in this field. For instance, an individual who wants to work at a college or university usually needs a doctoral degree instead. This is particularly true of people who want to teach experimental psychology at a university level. An individual may do well to earn a graduate degree in experimental psychology, but other types of psychology majors often prove suitable as well. The major a person chooses should usually include instruction in research methods and research design, however.


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Post 3

@burcinc-- It's true that some of the experiments that were done in the past were not entirely ethical but that's not the case anymore. An unethical experiment is not going to get approved.

Post 2

I don't think I would want to be an experimental psychologist because sometimes research done in this field isn't ethical.

I learned about Zimbardo's prison experiment in class this week and it was shocking. It was such an unethical experiment and even the professor who conducted it says so. The students who participated in this study were negatively affected from it.

I think it must be difficult to do research about psychology without causing at least some tension to the participants.

Post 1

I want to do a master's degree on experimental psychology and maybe also a Ph.D. after that. But from what I understand, the job prospects in this field isn't as great as it used to be. I will have to get enough experience while I do a master's degree to qualify for a Ph.D. I might be able to find a job as a research assistant at the university, if there is a need of course. I actually want to teach but I heard that teaching doesn't really help this career.

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