Psychology itself is as complex as the human mind it studies. If you are even slightly familiar with the world of psychology, you’d know that a lot of experimentation and research is done to conclude a theory or concept. There are some guidelines psychologists follow when experimenting and in those guidelines is something known as variables. As you know a variable is either a characteristic or value that is subject to change. These play a critical role in psychology, as they are used to determine the various changes on a subject and observe if it changes other things as well.
Types of Variables
In psychology, there are four types of variables.
- Independent variables: Independent variables are the ones that can be altered as per the experimenters’ need for monitoring changes. As the psychologist has direct control over these variables, they cannot be affected by any other factors but the experimenter, hence the name independent variable, as it is not dependent on other variables.
- Dependent variables: Unlike Independent variables, these variables are the ones on which experimenters have no direct control. These variables or outcomes change as a result of altering Independent variables, as they depend on those. Dependent variables can also be seen as the results. It should be noted that dependent variables do not always change upon changing the independent variable.
- Extraneous variables: These variables are external factors that can impact the relationship between independent and dependent variables. These are further divided into participants’, situational, demand, and experimental variables. These categories also give us an idea as to what variables are dependent upon besides independent and dependent variables.
- Confounding variables: Here the variables can not be controlled and they may change the results of experimentation.
Here we are only talking about the independent and dependent variables. The following experimental examples are used for both independent and dependent variables.
Examples of Independent variable
1. Academic Performance: A psychologist is conducting a test to see how students’ test performance is impacting depending on the color of the room. Two groups are of students are formed where one is sat in a red room while the second group is sat in the blue room. The color of the room is the independent variable.
2. Muscle memory: In another experiment, the psychologist wants to see if AC has any effect on the driving of a person. So he makes a couple of drivers go around a course without the AC and then again but with the air conditioning enable. Switching Airconditioning on and off is the independent variable.
3. Ice cream experiment: In ethics research, a group of participants is made into a group of two and the first person is asked to choose between melted ice cream and regular ice cream, but the catch being whatever the first person doesn’t choose is received by the second participant. The ice creams’ temperature here is the independent variable.
4. Milgram’s experiment: In a famous experiment, known as Milgram’s experiment. One participant was given fake electronics that ranged from 15 volts to 400 volts to shock the other participant. Here the independent variable is the voltage of those devices.
5. Comparative experiment: A psychologist wants to know about the dogs, he acquired dogs from a shelter and then gave them a treat if they respond to a certain command they are given a treat but if not, no treats are received. The treat and command are the variables here.
Examples of Dependent variable
1. Academic Performance: Just like the first example of the independent variable. If two groups of students are sat in two different colored rooms, their test results will vary greatly. The results here are the dependent variable.
2. Muscle memory: As we have seen the Airconditioning is the primary variable in the experiment. However, the effects on driving will be the result of the independent variable and can only be determined once the entire experiment has been finished.
3. Ice cream experiment: People can become ethical or unethical depending on the things that are offered. When it comes to dependent variables, of course, the second participant will receive whatever is left but if they choose to finish it or not is entirely up to them. This can also be considered as a participant variable.
4. Milgram’s experiment: Though the primary variable was the electric shock devices, even though the shock receivers were faking reactions, those were the result of the input and the dependent variable.
5. Comparative experiment: As we can see command and the treat act as the variable over which the psychologist has direct control, which the reaction of the dogs is completely dependant on the independent variable.
From these examples, it is easy to distinguish between independent and dependent variables. Though independent variable is easily identified, complexities arise when we try to distinguish the dependent variable from the extraneous variable.