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). 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).[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.
Vs. Realism and external validity
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) 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.
- 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.
- Shadish, W., Cook, T., and Campbell, D. (2002). Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Generalized Causal Inference Boston:Houghton Mifflin.
- Hammond, Kenneth R. (September 1998). "Ecological Validity: Then and Now". University at Albany. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- 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.