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The optimal level of fuzz: case studies in a methodology for psychological research

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Cognitive science research is hard to conduct, because researchers must take phenomena from the world and turn them into laboratory tasks for which a reasonable level of experimental control can be achieved. Consequently, research necessarily makes tradeoffs between internal validity (experimental control) and external validity (the degree to which a task represents behaviour outside of the lab). Researchers are thus seeking the best possible trade-off between these constraints, which we refer to as the optimal level of fuzz. We present two principles for finding the optimal level of fuzz, in research, and then illustrate these principles using research from motivation, individual differences and cognitive neuroscience.
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Keywords: external validity; internal validity; philosophy of science

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, University of Texas, 1 University Station, A8000, Austin, TX 78712, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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