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The Benefits and Challenges of Conducting Field Experiments in Consumer Research

By: & Published: 2019 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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A field experiment is a form of research experiment conducted within a natural environment, as opposed to that of a laboratory experiment. Conducting a field experiment is similar in concept to that of a laboratory experiment; a researcher must take proper measures to minimize confounding factors to establish and test for a cause and effect. A field experiment has several benefits, most importantly is that of examining a test subject in a more natural state, which helps to establish external validity. However, conducting a field experiment also comes with a number of challenges. To properly conduct this type of experimentation, a researcher must take extra precautions to minimize unnecessary confounding factors while capturing and taking into consideration other external variables the participant will experience in the real world. The process of the field experiment is presented in this article using a research project as example that studies the impact of warm/cold temperatures (e.g., perceived warmth from holding a hot beverage) on psychological perceptions of warmth and cold, which in turn influences consumer perceptions of public service announcements. Through this study, the article focuses on addressing the practicalities involved in the planning and executional stages of conducting field experiments such as environment set-up and participation rates. Equally important to preplanning and design, a researcher must also be prepared to adapt and improve upon the experiment design to better fit the changing factors in the environment.

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