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Experimental Psychology on Subjects - Dictionary of Arguments

Parisi I 106
Subjects/experiments/method/Experimental Psychology/Wilkinson-Ryan: Many critiques of experimental psychology focus heavily on the disadvantages of the particular sample used in the study. Traditionally, psychologists relied heavily on undergraduate samples, in large part because they are conveniently located for a researcher working in a university, and because they are cheap—either because they are students and will work for small amounts of money or because they receive course credit for participating in research studies. (...)it is not difficult to understand why this population is problematic for many kinds of inquiries. This is perhaps especially especially true in the legal domain, where we think that college students are notably different than the majority of the subjects of our criminal justice system, and indeed that their limited interaction with the civil justice system (they have few contracts, few possessions, etc.) makes it difficult to confidently generalize results obtained from undergraduate samples. Example:
Mechanical Turk: The modern debate on sample selection is heavily focused on the online samples. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk has been at the center of this debate. Mechanical Turk uses online volunteers who participate as workers and are paid small amounts of money (often very small amounts) for discrete tasks. (...)most systematic research comparing results obtained on Turk with results obtained using other sampling methods has not found systematic differences (Mason and Suri, 2012(1); Paolacci, Chandler, and Ipeirotis, 2010)(2), but again the objection is fairly intuitive: Why would we think that people willing to fill out an online questionnaire for $.50 are similar to the general population? With this concern, the question that a reader must ask is in what ways the sample is limited or unusual, and whether, in light of that, the subjects are odd in a way that is likely to matter for the inquiry at hand.


1. Mason, Winter and Siddharth Suri (2012). “Conducting Behavioral Research on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.” Behavior Research Methods 44: 1–23.
2. Paolacci, Gabriele, Jesse Chandler, and Panagiotis G. Ipeirotis (2010). “Running Experiments on Amazon Mechanical Turk.” Judgment and Decision Making 5: 411–419


Wilkinson-Ryan, Tess. „Experimental Psychology and the Law“. In: Parisi, Francesco (ed) (2017). The Oxford Handbook of Law and Economics. Vol 1: Methodology and Concepts. NY: Oxford University Press.


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Experimental Psychology
Parisi I
Francesco Parisi (Ed)
The Oxford Handbook of Law and Economics: Volume 1: Methodology and Concepts New York 2017


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-04-17
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