Key Concepts:

Terms in this set (29)

all participants receive all conditions; uses a within-subjects IV; also called repeated measures design; The primary advantage of this approach is that it provides maximum control of extraneous participant variables. Participants in all conditions have the same mean IQ, same socioeconomic status, same number of siblings, and so on—because they are the very same people. Within-subjects experiments also make it possible to use statistical procedures that remove the effect of these extraneous participant variables on the dependent variable and therefore make the data less "noisy" and the effect of the independent variable easier to detect;

In a within subjects experimental design, participants are assigned more than one treatment: each participant experiences all the levels for any categorical explanatory variable. The levels can be ordered, like height or time. Or they can be un-ordered. For example, let's say you are testing if blood pressure is raised when watching horror movies vs. romantic comedies. You could have all the participants watch a scary movie, then measure their blood pressure. Later, the same group of people watch a romantic comedy, and their blood pressure is measured.

Within subjects designs are frequently used in pre-test/post-test scenarios. For example, if a teacher wants to find out if a new classroom strategy is effective, they might test children before the strategy is in place and then after the strategy is in place.

Within subjects designs are similar to other analysis of variance designs, in that it's possible to have a single independent variable, or multiple factorial independent variables. For example, three different depression inventories could be given at one, three, and six month intervals.
Almost every experiment can be conducted using either a between-subjects design or a within-subjects design. This possibility means that researchers must choose between the two approaches based on their relative merits for the particular situation.

Between-subjects experiments have the advantage of being conceptually simpler and requiring less testing time per participant. They also avoid carryover effects without the need for counterbalancing. Within-subjects experiments have the advantage of controlling extraneous participant variables, which generally reduces noise in the data and makes it easier to detect a relationship between the independent and dependent variables.

A good rule of thumb, then, is that if it is possible to conduct a within-subjects experiment (with proper counterbalancing) in the time that is available per participant—and you have no serious concerns about carryover effects—this design is probably the best option. If a within-subjects design would be difficult or impossible to carry out, then you should consider a between-subjects design instead. For example, if you were testing participants in a doctor's waiting room or shoppers in line at a grocery store, you might not have enough time to test each participant in all conditions and therefore would opt for a between-subjects design. Or imagine you were trying to reduce people's level of prejudice by having them interact with someone of another race. A within-subjects design with counterbalancing would require testing some participants in the treatment condition first and then in a control condition. But if the treatment works and reduces people's level of prejudice, then they would no longer be suitable for testing in the control condition. This difficulty is true for many designs that involve a treatment meant to produce long-term change in participants' behaviour (e.g., studies testing the effectiveness of psychotherapy). Clearly, a between-subjects design would be necessary here.

Remember also that using one type of design does not preclude using the other type in a different study. There is no reason that a researcher could not use both a between-subjects design and a within-subjects design to answer the same research question. In fact, professional researchers often take exactly this type of mixed methods approach.