Ecological validity

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In the behavioral sciences, ecological validity refers to the judgement of whether a given study's variables and conclusions are sufficiently relevant to its population (e.g. the "real-world" context).[1] Unlike traditional notions of validity, ecological validity is not necessarily related to the methodological validity of a study (i.e. inferences made about the variables studied).[2][not specific enough to verify] Essentially, ecological validity is a commentary on the relative strength of a study's implication(s) for policy, society, culture, etc., rather than on inferences related to the given variables.

The original meaning of 'ecological validity' defines it narrowly as a property of stimuli in perceptual experiments.[3]

Vs. Realism and external validity[edit]

The term "ecological validity" is now widely used by researchers unfamiliar with the origins and technical meaning of the term to be broadly equivalent to what Aronson and Carlsmith (1968)[4] called "mundane realism." Mundane realism references the extent to which the experimental situation is similar to situations people are likely to encounter outside the laboratory. For example, mock-jury research is designed to study how people might act if they were jurors during a trial, but many mock-jury studies simply provide written transcripts or summaries of trials, and do so in classroom or office settings. Such experiments do not approximate the actual look, feel, and procedure of a real courtroom trial, and therefore lack mundane realism. The better-recognized concern is that of external validity: if the results from such a mock-jury study are reproduced in and generalize across trials where these stimulus materials, settings, and other background characteristics vary, then the measurement process may be deemed externally valid.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brewer, M. (2000). Research Design and Issues of Validity. In Reis, H. and Judd, C. (eds) Handbook of Research Methods in Social and Personality Psychology. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.
  2. ^ Shadish, W., Cook, T., and Campbell, D. (2002). Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Generalized Causal Inference Boston:Houghton Mifflin.
  3. ^ Hammond, Kenneth R. (September 1998). "Ecological Validity: Then and Now". University at Albany. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  4. ^ Aronson, E., & Carlsmith, J. M. (1968). Experimentation in social psychology. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (2nd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 1-79). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.