Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Acronyms, Idioms, Wikipedia.


(science and technology)
The test of a hypothesis under controlled conditions.



a method of cognition by means of which the phenomena of reality are investigated under controlled and regulated conditions. The difference between an experiment and an observation is that, in the former, certain operations are performed on the object under study. An experiment is based on a theory that determines the experimental procedure and interpretation of the results. The chief goal of many experiments (known as crucial experiments) is to test hypotheses and theoretical predictions that are of fundamental significance. As a form of praxis, an experiment thus functions as a criterion of the truth of scientific knowledge in general.

The experimental method of research was first used in modern times in the natural sciences (for example, by W. Gilbert and Galileo). It was first given a philosophical interpretation in the works of F. Bacon, who also worked out the earliest classification of types of experiments (see Soch., vol. 1, Moscow, 1971, pp. 299–310). The development of experimental scientific activity was accompanied by the epistemological struggle between rationalism and empiricism, which differed in their interpretation of the relationship between empirical and theoretical knowledge. The attempt to overcome the one-sidedness of these two schools of thought was first made by classical German philosophy; it culminated in dialectical materialism, in which the thesis of the unity of theory and experimental praxis expresses in concrete terms the general proposition about the unity of the sensory and the rational, or of the empirical and theoretical levels, in the process of cognition.

Various types of experiments are used in modern science. In the realm of basic research, the simplest type of experiment is the qualitative experiment, which aims at establishing the presence or absence of a theoretically postulated phenomenon. In a measurement experiment, which is more complex, some property of the object is defined in quantitative terms. Still another type of experiment that is commonly used in basic research is called the hypothetical, or mental, experiment. Such an experiment, which belongs to the realm of theoretical knowledge, consists of a set of mental procedures that are unrealizable in practice and are applied to ideal objects. As theoretical models of actual experimental situations, hypothetical experiments seek to determine whether the basic principles of a theory are in agreement.

Applied research makes use of all these different types of experiments, which are designed to test specific theoretical models. Simulation experiments are characteristic of the applied sciences; such experiments use material models that reproduce the essential features of the natural situation or technical system under study. This type of experiment is closely related to the production experiment. Mathematical statistical methods are applied in processing experimental results; a special branch of mathematical statistics investigates the principles underlying the analysis and design of experiments.

Social experimentation, which began in the 1920’s, facilitates the adoption of new forms of social organization and optimal management. Social experiments thus perform a cognitive function and fall within the sphere of social management. A social experiment must take into account the interests of the particular group of people who are the object of the experiment, this object being one of the participants in the experiment, and the investigator himself being part of the situation he is investigating. The content and procedures of social experimentation are also conditioned by society’s legal and ethical norms.


Engels, F. Anti-Dühring. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 20.
Engels, F. Dialektika prirody. Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. Materializm i empiriokrititsizm. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 18. Chapter2.
Sivokon’, P. E. Metodologicheskie problemy estestvennonauchnogo eksperimenta. Moscow, 1968.
Ryvkina, R. V., and A. V. Vinokur. Sotsial’nyi eksperiment. Novosibirsk, 1968.
Makarevichus, K. Mesto myslennogo eksperimenta v poznanii. Moscow, 1971.
Nalimov, V. V. Teoriia eksperimenta. Moscow, 1971.
Khramovich, M. A. Nauchnyi eksperiment, ego mesto i rol’ v poznanii. Minsk, 1972.
Kapitsa, P. L. Eksperiment, teoriia, praktika. Moscow, 1974.
Trigg, G. L. Reshaiushchie eksperimenty v sovremennoi fizike. Moscow, 1974. (Translated from English.)
Dingier, H. Uber die Geschichte und das Wesen des Experimentes. Munich, 1952.
Experiment und Erfahrung in Wissenschaft und Kunst. Freiburg-Munich, 1963.
Siebel, W. Die Logik des Experiments in den Sozialwissenschaften. Berlin, 1965.
Parthey, H., and D. Wahl. Die experimented Methode in Naturund Gesellschaftswissenschaften. Berlin, 1966.


References in classic literature ?
March came home to find the three older girls hard at work in the middle of the afternoon, and a glance at the closet gave her an idea of the success of one part of the experiment.
He had been too much absorbed in his experiments to sustain it.
Heidegger, motioning them to be seated, "I am desirous of your assistance in one of those little experiments with which I amuse myself here in my study.
Always keenly interested in biology, his almost unlimited means had permitted him to undertake, in secret, a series of daring experiments which had carried him so far in advance of the biologists of his day that he had, while others were still groping blindly for the secret of life, actually reproduced by chemical means the great phenomenon.
Had they tried the experiment of recovering the letter?
I have now enumerated," said Barbicane, "the experiments which I call purely paper ones, and wholly insufficient to establish serious relations with the Queen of the Night.
It is also most instructive to compare--but I have not space here to enter on details--the evidence advanced by our best botanists on the question whether certain doubtful forms should be ranked as species or varieties, with the evidence from fertility adduced by different hybridisers, or by the same author, from experiments made during different years.
There is no evidence that this was done in the experiments in question, nor indeed that the influence of theory in falsifying the introspection was at all adequately recognized.
Prince, let us have Konstantin Dmitrievitch," said Countess Nordston; "we want to try an experiment.
Now," he said, "read that account of a case, which has--as I believe-- a direct bearing on your own position, and on the experiment which I am tempting you to try.
It is true, indeed, as regards the experiments which may conduce to this end, that one man is not equal to the task of making them all; but yet he can advantageously avail himself, in this work, of no hands besides his own, unless those of artisans, or parties of the same kind, whom he could pay, and whom the hope of gain (a means of great efficacy) might stimulate to accuracy in the performance of what was prescribed to them.
We entirely sympathize with Professor Mathen's views, but till the Board sees fit to further regulate the Southern areas in which scientific experiments may be conducted, we shall always be exposed to the risk which our correspondent describes.

Full browser ?