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(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.


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References in periodicals archive ?
The primary advantage of using the unsuccessful applicants as a control group and controlling for application lotteries is that, if selection is truly random, this strategy should uncover the true effect of the parental choice program on student test scores using a method that closely resembles a randomized experiment, at least in theory.
Huysentruit and Lefevere analyze a randomized experiment that sheds light on the role of standard information, goal framed information, and decision task complexity in the choice of method of payment by child benefit recipients.
Duflo and Saez analyze a randomized experiment to shed light on the role of information and social interactions in employees' decisions to enroll in a Tax Deferred Account (TDA) retirement plan within a large university.
Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, India Institute of Management, and Esther Duflo, NBER and MIT, "Women's Leadership and Policy Decisions: Evidence From a Nationwide Randomized Experiment in India"
Randomized experiments sometimes enable one to draw credible policy-relevant conclusions.
Nutritively sweetened beverage consumption and body weight: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized experiments.
Instead, its aid arm, the US Agency for International Development, has now retreated into low-yield programs conceived as randomized experiments.
In the social sciences, practical or ethical reasons generally ruled out randomized experiments and so randomized experiments held limited utility (these days the Internet provides more opportunities).
Reyna goes on to support an exceptionally narrow definition in which randomized experiments are synonymous with scientifically based research.
Stanford's Caroline Hoxby and Harvard's Thomas Kane have organized randomized experiments that compare students who win the charter lottery with those who applied but lost.
Much more interesting is their final chapter where they take a walk through some of the exciting current research using randomized experiments being undertaken by development economists around the world.
Randomized experiments for planning and evaluation: A practical guide.

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