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An extraneous variable (usually unmonitored) that is allowed to change systematically along with the two variables being studied. In the context of an experiment an extraneous variable that changes systematically along with the independent variable and has the potential to influence the dependent variable. A confounding variable provides an alternative explanation for the observed relationship and therefore is a threat to internal validity.

Confounding variable


In a research study a condition that involves no treatment or a placebo treatment.

Control group


In an experiment the variable that is observed for changes to assess the effects of manipulating the independent variable. In nonexperiments and quasiexperiments the dependent variable is the variable that is measured to obtain the scores within each group. The dependent variable is typically a behavior or a response measured in each treatment condition.

Dependent variable


Demonstrating that changes in one variable tend to be accompanied by changes in another variable simply establishes that the two variables are related. The remaining problem is to determine which variable is the cause and which is the effect.

Directionality problem


A study that attempts to show that changes in one variable are directly responsible for causing changes in a second variable. Also known as a true experiment.



The treatment condition in an experiment.

Experimental group


In simulation research the extent to which the psychological aspects of the research environment duplicate the realworld environment that is being simulated.

Experimental realism


A research strategy that attempts to establish the existence of a causeandeffect relationship between two variables by manipulating one variable while measuring the second variable and controlling all other variables.

Experimental research strategy


Any variable that exists within a study other than the variables being studied. In an experiment any variable other than the independent and dependent variables.

Extraneous variable


An experiment conducted in a setting that the participant or subject perceives as a natural environment.

Field study


In an experiment the different values of the independent variable selected to create and define the treatment conditions. In other research studies the different values of a factor.



In an experiment identifying the specific values of the independent variable to be examined and then creating treatment conditions corresponding to each of these values. The researcher then manipulates the variable by changing from one condition to another.



In an experiment an additional measure used to assess how the participants perceived and interpreted the manipulation and or to assess the direct effect of the manipulation.

Manipulation check


In simulation research the extent to which the superficial usually physical characteristics of the research environment duplicate the realworld environment that is being simulated.

Mundane realism


In an experiment a group or condition in which the participants do not receive the treatment being evaluated.

No treatment control group


An ineffective inert substitute for a treatment or medication.



A group or condition in which the participants receive a placebo instead of the actual treatment.

Placebo control group


A participants response to an inert medication or treatment that has no real effect on the body occurs simply because the individual thinks the placebo is effective.

Placebo effect


A procedure in which a random process is used to assign participants to treatment conditions.

Random assignment


A procedure that produces one outcome from a set of possible outcomes. The outcome must be unpredictable each time and the process must guarantee that each of the possible outcomes is equally likely to occur.

Random process


The use of a random process to help avoid a systematic relationship between two variables. The intent is to disrupt any systematic relationship that might exist between extraneous variables and the independent variable.



In an experiment the creation of conditions that simulate or closely duplicate the natural environment in which the behaviors being examined would normally occur.



The possibility that two variables appear to be related when in fact they are both influenced by a third variable that causes them to vary together.

Third variable problem


A study that attempts to show that changes in one variable are directly responsible for causing changes in a second variable. See experiment.

True experiment