What is ecological validity? | Definition & Examples (2023)

Posted on September 12, 2022 byKassiani Nikolopoulou. Revised October 10, 2022.

ecological validitymeasure howgeneralizableexperiential knowledge is related to the real world, such as situations or attitudes typical of everyday life. It is a subspecies ofexternal validity.

If a test has high ecological validity, it can be generalized to other real-world situations, whereas tests with low ecological validity cannot.

They are investigating whether airline passengers watch in-flight safety videos. They are interested in whether or not they can retrieve certain information from them. you recruit aInvestigationthan 100 people and send them a security video and ask them to watch it at their leisure. Then you send them aquestionnaireto find out what they can remember from the video.

The use of this approach would have its resultslowecological validity. The experience of watching the video at home is very different from watching it on the plane.

Reachhochecological validity, the best approach would be to carry out theExperimentin a real flight.

Ecological validity is often applied in experimental studies of human behavior and cognition, for example, in psychology and related fields.

table of Contents

  1. What is ecological validity?
  2. Evaluation of ecological validity
  3. Ecological Validity vs. External Validity
  4. Examples of ecological validity
  5. Limits of ecological validity
  6. Ecological Validity FAQ

What is ecological validity?

Ecological validity assesses thevalidityof the results of a study based on the setting or setting in which the study was conducted. If you have reason to believe that the study setting may have affected the generalizability of the results, the ecological validity of the study may be questioned.

Ecological validity is also sometimes calledmundane realism.Although some use the terms interchangeably, secular realism refers specifically to the extent to which events in an experiment are likely to occur in the real world.

For example, an experiment in which participants are asked to read a news article about local politics in another country has mundane realism because it uses activities that are common in daily life (for example, reading the news). However, the study may lack ecological validity if people in the real world do not read an article on the subject.

Evaluation of ecological validity

In order to assess the ecological validity of a study, the setting in which it was conducted must be critically examined. It's not as simple as "the experiment was carried out in a laboratory, so it lacks ecological validity." Rather, the point is to show what can prevent the results of one setting or environment from being successfully transferred to another.

The following questions can help you assess ecological validity:

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  1. In what setting is the study conducted?
  2. To what other setting(s) are you trying to apply these conclusions?
  3. How are these two different or similar?
Suppose you are evaluating the ecological validity of a laboratory experiment. Participants are presented with a random list of words on a screen and their ability to recall the words is scored. If you want to apply these insights to a real world context, e.g. B. a conversation between people, you need to think about how these two settings differ.

For example, you can argue that the list of words in the lab environment is isolated from any real world context. The participant remains motionless in front of a screen, unable to react or influence the situation in any way. On the contrary, these conditions are not present in a real conversation, where people interact and share information in a natural way. Therefore, you may question the ecological validity of the results.

It is important to remember that research studies conducted in a laboratory setting are not necessarily ecologically valid. And generalization does not depend solely on ecological validity.It is also necessary to take into account other factors such as:population validity.

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Ecological Validity vs. External Validity

external validityexamines whether the study results can be generalized beyond the sample. In other words, see if you can apply what you found in your study to others.populations, situations orVariables.

On the other hand,ecological validityIn particular, it examines whether the results of the study can be generalized to real situations. Ecological validity is a subtype of external validity.

Suppose you want to assess the external validity and ecological validity of a study aimed at improving medication adherence (ie, taking prescribed medications) in adult patients with chronic diseases.

To assess external validity, one must ask whether the results can be generalized to patients with characteristics that differ in any way from those of the study. These may be patients receiving different treatment or patients being followed for a longer period of time.

To assess ecological validity, you should specifically consider whether the study results can be applied to real-world situations, such as B. clinical practice in everyday life, can be generalized.

Examples of ecological validity

Measuring ecological validity tells you to what extent the results of research or experiments are representative of real world conditions. Here are some examples.

You are conducting a behavioral research study on your campus. For research purposes, it provides participants with two options:
  1. In the rain, walk to your destination, an auditorium in an adjacent building
  2. Enter but at a much greater distance to reach the same auditorium

Their results show that 83% of the participants would walk a shorter distance if it rained.

You can argue that the results of your study can be generalized to the real world for two reasons:

  1. The environment in which your test took place is an everyday environment, a campus.
  2. The dilemma you presented to the participants can easily arise in everyday life.

Now you can be sure to generalize about what most people would do in a similar situation. In this case, they would probably prefer running in the rain to get there faster than taking a longer route and staying dry.

(Video) Ecology-Definition-Examples-Explanation

This situation ticks the boxes of high ecological validity. However, remember that in order to draw firm conclusions about the generalizability of your results, you must also considerpopulation validity.

If the results of the investigation orexperiments (controlled)SonnoRepresentative of actual conditions, the study results are characterized by low ecological validity.

You want to study the behavior of people who play poker regularly. In a lab setting, ask participants to play poker on a computer without wagering real money. They analyze their behavior, including how many verbal outbursts they have and how much financial risk (for example, number of double bets and number of chips wagered) they are willing to take.

After a few weeks, younoticethe same players in a natural environment. HisResultsshow that players have more or less the same number of verbal outbursts in both scenarios. However, they are more willing to take financial risks in the laboratory. Given that the players knew they were participating in an experiment and no real money was involved, this result is not surprising.

Ultimately, this study has low ecological validity as the results cannot be generalized or applied outside of the laboratory setting.

Limits of ecological validity

The ecological validity has some limitations that should be noted.

laboratory environments

Research studies in fields such as psychology are often carried out in laboratories with the goal of better understanding human behavior. Ideally, such an experiment provides results that can be generalizedwhich means that it predicts behavior outside the laboratory. If so, the study shows evidence of ecological validity.

However, laboratories are controlled environments. Distractions are minimized so study participants can focus on the task at hand, clear instructions are provided, and researchers make sure the equipment is working. In addition, laboratory experiments run the riskdemand properties, or references that link to the studyGoals. These cues can prompt participants to change their behavior.

Since these are all conditions not normally found in real life, they may affect the ecological validity of the study.

lack of standard measurements

There is no consensus on a uniform definition of ecological validity; In fact, there are several definitions. As a result, there are no agreed standards for measuring ecological validity. This leads some researchers to question the utility of ecological validity, arguing that it is enough to say exactly what behavior or context is being tested.

Before addressing ecological validity in yourDissertationoresearch work, it is important to find out how your professor, department or field of study defines it.

Commitment to internal validity

As mentioned above, controlled laboratory settings are not always suitable for high ecological validity. However, controlled environments are better for establishing thecause and effect relationshipsfor high needinternal validity, where the ideal is that the circumstances are as identical as possible.

This can lead to some compromise between the almost unnatural environment required to assess internal validity and the real life approach required to assess ecological validity. While a natural environment has high ecological validity, it carries the risk of more external factors influencing the relationship between them.Variables, resulting in low internal validity.

Ecological Validity FAQ

Why is ecological validity not prioritized in studies conducted in theory test mode?

The purpose of the theory test mode is to find evidence to refute, refine, or support a theory. As such,generalizabilityit is not the objective of the theory test mode.

Therefore, the priority of researchers in Theory Check mode is to eliminate the alternative causes of the relationships between them.Variables. In other words, they prioritizeinternal validityaboveexternal validity, includingecological validity.

(Video) Ecological Validity in Psychology | Definition Ecological Validity | Ecological Validity Psychology
What is the difference between reliability and validity?

Reliability and Validityboth refer to how well a method measures something:

  • reliabilityrefers toconsistencya measurement (if the results can be reproduced under the same conditions).
  • validityrefers toaccuracya measure (whether the results really represent what they are meant to measure).

if you doexperimental research, you should also consider thatinternal and external validityyour experiment

What is the difference between internal and external validity?

internal validityis the level of confidence that the causal relationship you are testing is not influenced by other factors orVariables.

external validityis the extent to which its results can bewidespreadto other contexts.

The validity of your experiment depends on yoursexperimental design.

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What is ecological validity? | Definition & Examples (1)

Kassiani Nikolopoulou

Kassiani has an academic background in communication, bioeconomy and circular economy. As a former journalist, she enjoys turning complex scientific information into accessible articles to help students. She specializes in writing about research methods and research bias.

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