(redirected from experiments)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Idioms.


(science and technology)
The test of a hypothesis under controlled conditions.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
The morbid fears superinduced by the shock following the sudden demise of the first creature of his experiments had given place to a growing desire to further prosecute his labors until enduring success had crowned his efforts with an achievement which he might exhibit with pride to the scientific world.
His recent disastrous success had convinced him that neither Ithaca nor any other abode of civilization was a safe place to continue his experiments, but it was not until their cruising had brought them among the multitudinous islands of the East Indies that the plan occurred to him that he finally adopted--a plan the outcome of which could he then have foreseen would have sent him scurrying to the safety of his own country with the daughter who was to bear the full brunt of the horrors it entailed.
In regard to animals, much fewer experiments have been carefully tried than with plants.
"Yes," I said "Write and tell me if the experiment fail."
With your permission, therefore, I will merely watch the progress of the experiment."
When Thorndike experimented with animals in cages, he found that the associations established were between a sensory stimulus and a bodily movement (not the idea of it), without the need of supposing any non-physiological intermediary (op.
Sanders and Hubbard had never done more than pay his room-rent and the expense of his experiments. For his three or four years of inventing he had re- ceived nothing as yet--nothing but his patent.
"If you keep doing it every day as regularly as soldiers go through drill we shall see what will happen and find out if the experiment succeeds.
"Yes, that is what we used to say; and indeed, we thought that this was one of love's laws,--this experiment, as you call it."
The members of the Gun Club ought, therefore, without delay, to commence the works necessary for such an experiment, and to be prepared to set to work at the moment determined upon; for, if they should suffer this 4th of December to go by, they will not find the moon again under the same conditions of perigee and of zenith until eighteen years and eleven days afterward.
But these were mere trifles, and they assured their mother that the experiment was working finely.
"I think myself bound to prove, in justice to both of us, that I am not asking you to try this experiment in deference to any theory of my own devising.