If you are taking a psychology class, then you might at some point be asked to either design and imaginary experiment or actually perform an experiment or study. Finding psychology experiment ideas is not necessarily difficult, but finding a good experimental or study topic that is right for your needs can be a little tough. You need to find something that meets the guidelines and, perhaps most importantly, is approved by your instructor. In some case, you may even need to present your idea to your school’s institutional review board before you begin in order to obtain permission to work with human participants.
Requirements may vary, but you need to ensure that your experiment, study, or survey is:
- Easy to set up and carry out
- Easy to find participants willing to take part
- Free of any ethical concerns
So where should you start looking for good psychology experiment ideas?
Talk to Your Instructor About Your Psychology Experiment Ideas
Your professor or instructor is often the best person to consult for advice right from the start. In most cases, you will probably receive fairly detailed instructions about your assignment. This may include information about the sort of topic you can choose or perhaps the type of experiment or study on which you should focus.
If your instructor does not assign a specific subject area to explore, it is still a great idea to discuss your ideas and get feedback before you get too invested in your topic idea. You will need to get your teacher’s permission to proceed with your experiment anyways, so now is a great time to open a dialogue and get some good critical feedback.
Check Out a Few of These Psychology Experiment Ideas
Most of the following ideas are easily conducted with a small group of participants, who may likely be your classmates. The idea you ultimately choose to use for your psychology experiment may depend upon the number of participants you can find, the time constraints of your project, as well and limitations in the materials available to you. Consider these factors before deciding which psychology experiment idea might work for your project.
Experiments vs Surveys/Studies/Correlational Research
One thing to note, many of the ideas found here are actually examples of surveys or correlational studies. For something to qualify as a true experiment, there must be manipulation of an independent variable. For many students, conducting an actual experiment may be outside the scope of their project or may not be permitted by their instructor, school, or institutional review board.
If your assignment or projects requires you to conduct a true experiment that involves controlling and manipulating an independent variable, you will need to take care to choose a topic that will work within the guidelines of your assignment.
Some of the psychology experiment or study ideas you might want to explore:
- Does sleep deprivation have an impact on short-term memory? Ask participants how much sleep they got the night before and then conduct a task to test short-term memory for items on a list.
- Is social media usage linked to anxiety or depression? Ask participants about how many hours week they use social media sites and then have them complete a depression and anxiety assessment.
- How does procrastination impact student stress levels? Ask participants about how frequently they procrastinate on their homework and then have them complete an assessment looking at their current stress levels.
- How does caffeine impact performance on a Stroop test? In the Stroop test, participants are asked to tell the color of a word, rather than just reading the word. Have a control group consume no caffeine and then complete a Stroop test, and then have an experimental group consume caffeine before completing the same test. Compare results.
- Does the color of text have any impact on memory? Randomly assign participants to two groups. Have one group memorize words written in black ink for two minutes. Have the second group memorize the same words for the same amount of time, but instead written in red ink. Compare the results.
- How does weight influence how people judge others? Find pictures of models in a magazine who look similar, including similar hair and clothing, but who differ in terms of weight. Have participants look at the two models and then ask them to identify which one they think is smarter, wealthier, kinder, and healthier. Assess how each model was rated and how her weight may have influenced how she was described by participants.
- Does music have an effect on how hard people work out? Have people listen to different styles of music while jogging on a treadmill and measure their walking speed, heart rate, and workout length.
- How reliable is eyewitness testimony? Have participants view video footage of a car crash. Ask some participants to describe about how fast the cars were going when they “hit into” each other. Ask other participants to describe how fast the cars were going when they “smashed into” each other. Give the participants a memory test a few days later and ask them to recall if they saw any broken glass at the scene of the accident. Compare to see if those in the “smashed into” condition were more likely to report seeing broken glass than those in the “hit into” group. The experiment is a good illustration of how easily false memories can be triggered.
Consider Your Own Interests for Psychology Experiment Ideas
At some point in your life, you have likely pondered why people behave in certain ways. Or wondered why certain things seem to always happen. Your own interests can be a rich source of ideas for your psychology experiments. As you are trying to come up with a topic or hypothesis, try focusing on the subjects that fascinate you the most. If you have a particular interest in a topic such as memory, attention, development, personality, social behavior, or language, look for ideas that answer questions about the topic that you and others may have. This can be a fun opportunity to investigate something that appeals to your interests.
Britt, M.A. (2017). Psych Experiments. Avon, MA: Adams Media.
Martin, D.W. (2008). Doing Psychology Experiments. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.