Media effects and media studies researchers have recently been forced to determine the most effective way to measure the media's influence on individuals or groups. While thousands of media effects studies exist, the study design employed has varied. Between-subjects experimental design is increasingly becoming one of the most statistically valid ways to determine the effect of stimuli on a target population because every participant is only exposed to the treatment or stimulus once. This design allows researchers to make comparisons between groups based on each group's response to the stimulus material or treatment. This chapter provides a case study of a between-subjects experimental design using a sample of 601 children who participated in an experiment designed to measure weight stigmatization and bias following exposure to one image of an overweight or thin individual. Finally, the chapter discusses the advances and disadvantages to the design in this case and proposes directions for future research.
An experiment is a mode of observation that enables researchers to probe causal relationships. Many experiments in social research are conducted under the controlled conditions of a laboratory, but experimenters can also take advantage of natural occurrences to study the effects of events in the social world.
Babbie, 2010, p. 230
Experimental design is one of several quantitative research methods used ...