9.4 Limitations: Ecological validity
The practical of the study results in the real worldshould also be discussed. This is called ecological validity.
Studies don’t need to be ecologically valid to be useful; much can be learnt under special conditions, as long as the potential limitations are understood when applying the results to the real world. Although ecological validity is not essential for a good study, ecological validity is useful if it is possible to achieve.
The ecological validity of experimental studies may be compromised because the experimental conditions are sometimes contrived.
Example 8.3 (Ecological validity) Consider a study to determine how likely it is that people will buy a coffee in a reuseable cup.
We could ask people about their intentions. This study may not be ecologically valid, as how people act in the real world may not align with what the say, especially when social pressures exist to use reusable cups.
An alternative study involves watching people buy coffees at various coffee shops, and record what people actually do in practice.This second study is more likely to be ecologically valid, as we are watching actual behaviour in the real world.