Ideas for Psychology Experiments

Do you need to design an experiment for a psychology assignment? Students are often expected to design and sometimes perform their own experiments, but finding great psychology experiment ideas can be challenging at times.

If you are looking for an idea for psychology experiments, start your search early and make sure you have the time you need for background research as well as to design and perform your experiment. You should also discuss your idea with your instructor before beginning your experiment—particularly if your research involves human participants.

Inspiring ideas for psych experiments
Verywell / JR Bee 

If you need to design an experiment for an assignment, here are some psychology experiment ideas you can explore for inspiration. You can then find ways to adapt these ideas for your own assignments.

Psychology Experiment Ideas

Most of these experiments can be performed easily at home or at school. That said, you will need to find out if you have to get approval from your teacher or from an institutional review board before getting started.

The following are some questions you could attempt to answer as part of a psychological experiment:

  • Are people really able to "feel like someone is watching" them? Have some participants sit alone in a room and have them note when they feel as if they are being watched. Then, see how those results line up to your own record of when participants were actually being observed.
  • Can certain colors improve learning? Could the color of the paper used in a test or assignment have an impact on academic performance?
    You may have heard teachers or students claim that printing text on green paper helps students read better or that yellow paper helps students perform better on math exams. Design an experiment to see whether using a specific color of paper helps improve students' scores on math exams.
  • Can color cause physiological reactions? Perform an experiment to determine whether certain colors cause a participant's blood pressure to rise or fall.
  • Can different types of music lead to different physiological responses? Measure the heart rates of participants in response to various types of music to see if there is a difference.
  • Can smelling one thing while tasting another impact a person's ability to detect what the food really is? Have participants engage in a blind taste test where the smell and the food they are eating are mismatched. Ask the participants to identify the food they are trying and note how accurate their guess are.
  • Could a person's taste in music offer hints about their personality? Previous research has suggested that people who prefer certain styles of music tend to exhibit similar personality traits.
  • Do action films cause people to eat more popcorn and candy during a movie? Have one group of participants watch an action movie, and another group watch a slow-paced drama. Compare how much popcorn is consumed by each group.
  • Do colors really impact moods? Conduct an investigation to see if the color blue makes people feel calm, or if the color red leaves them feeling agitated.
  • Do creative people see optical illusions differently than more analytical people? Have participants complete an assessment to measure their level of creative thinking. Then ask participants to look at optical illusions and note what they perceive.
  • Do people rate individuals with perfectly symmetrical faces as more beautiful than those with asymmetrical faces? Create sample cards with both symmetrical and asymmetrical faces and ask participants to rate the attractiveness of each picture.
  • Do people who use social media exhibit signs of addiction? Have participants complete an assessment of their social media habits, then have them complete an addiction questionnaire.
  • Does eating breakfast really help students do better in school? According to some, eating breakfast can have a beneficial influence on school performance. One study found that children who ate a healthy breakfast learned better and had more energy than students who did not eat breakfast. For your experiment, you could compare the test scores of students who ate breakfast to those who did not.
  • Does sex influence short-term memory? You could arrange an experiment that tests whether males or females are better at remembering specific types of information.
  • How likely are people to conform in groups? Try this experiment to see what percentage of people are likely to conform. Imagine that you're in a math class and the instructor asks a basic math question. What is 8 x 4? The teacher begins asking individual students in the room for the answer. You are surprised when the first student answers 27 (which is not correct). Then the next student also answers 27—and then the next! When the teacher finally comes to you, do you trust your own math skills and say 32? Or do you go along with what the rest of the group seems to believe is the correct answer?
  • How likely are people to conform to the opinions of a group? This conformity experiment investigates the impact of group pressure on individual behavior.
  • How much information can people store in short-term memory? One classic experiment suggests that people can store between five to nine items, but rehearsal strategies such as chunking can significantly increase memorization and recall. A simple word memorization experiment is an excellent and fairly easy psychology science fair idea.
  • What is the Stroop Effect? The Stroop Effect is a phenomenon in which it is easier to say the color of a word if it matches the semantic meaning of the word. For example, if someone asked you to say the color of the word "black" that was also printed in black ink, it would be easier to say the correct color than if it were printed in green ink.

Once you have an idea, the next step is to learn more about how to conduct a psychology experiment.

Explore Your Interests

If none of the ideas in the list above grabbed your attention, there are other ways to find inspiration.

How do you come up with a good psychology experiment? One of the most effective approaches is to look at the various problems, situations, and questions that you are facing in your own life.

You can also think about the things that interest you. Start by considering the topics you've studied in class thus far that have really piqued your interest. Then, whittle the list down to two or three major areas within psychology that seem to interest you the most.

From there, make a list of questions you have related to the topic. Any of these questions could potentially serve as an experiment idea.

Turn to Textbooks

Your psychology textbooks are another excellent source you can turn to for experiment ideas. Choose the chapters or sections that you find particularly interesting—perhaps it's a chapter on social psychology or a section on child development.

Start by browsing the experiments discussed in your book. Then think of how you could devise an experiment related to some of the questions your text asks. The reference section at the back of your textbook can also serve as a great source for additional reference material.

Talk to Other Students

It can be helpful to brainstorm with your classmates to gather outside ideas and perspectives. Get together with a group of students and make a list of interesting ideas, subjects, or questions you have.

The information from your brainstorming session can serve as a basis for your experiment topic. It's also a great way to get feedback on your own ideas and to determine if they are worth exploring in greater depth.

Study Classic Psychology Experiments

Taking a closer look at a classic psychology experiment can be an excellent way to trigger some unique and thoughtful ideas of your own. To start, you could try conducting your own version of a famous experiment or even updating a classic experiment to assess a slightly different question.

You might not be able to replicate an experiment exactly, but you can use well-known studies as a basis for inspiration.

Review the Literature

If you have a general idea about what topic you'd like to experiment, you might want to spend a little time doing a brief literature review before you start designing.

Visit your university library and find some of the best books and articles that cover the particular topic you are interested in. What research has already been done in this area? Are there any major questions that still need to be answered?

Tackling this step early will make the later process of writing the introduction to your lab report or research paper much easier.

Ask Your Instructor

If you have made a good effort to come up with an idea on your own but you're still feeling stumped, it might help to talk to your instructor. Ask for pointers on finding a good experiment topic for the specific assignment. You can also ask them to suggest some other ways you could generate ideas or inspiration.

While it can feel intimidating to ask for help, your instructor should be more than happy to provide some guidance. Plus, they might offer insights that you wouldn't have gathered on your own.

A Word From Verywell

If you need to design or conduct a psychology experiment, there are plenty of great ideas (both old and new) for you to explore. Consider an idea from the list above or turn some of your own questions about the human mind and behavior into an experiment.

Before you dive in, make sure that you are observing the guidelines provided by your instructor and always obtain the appropriate permission before conducting any research with human or animal subjects.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a good topic for a psychology research paper?

    Finding a topic for a research paper is much like finding an idea for an experiment. Start by considering your own interests, or browse though your textbooks for inspiration. You might also consider looking at online news stories or journal articles as a source of inspiration.

  • What are the classic social psychology experiments?

    Three of the most classic social psychology experiments are:

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. David R. Fordham and David C. Hayes. Worth repeating: Paper color may have an effect on student performance. Issues in Accounting Education. 2009;24(2):187-194. doi:10.2308/iace.2009.24.2.187

  2. Greenberg DM, et al. Musical preferences are linked to cognitive styles. PLoS One. 2015;10(7). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0131151

  3. Kurt S, Osueke KK. The effects of color on the moods of college students. Sage. 2014;4(1). doi:10.1177/2158244014525423

  4. Adolphus K, Lawton CL, Dye L. The effects of breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents. Front Hum Neurosci. 2013;7:425. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00425

  5. Chen Z, Cowan N. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. Chunk limits and length limits in immediate recall: A reconciliation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. 2005;31(6):1235-1249. doi:10.1037/0278-7393.31.6.1235

Additional Reading
  • Britt, MA. Psych Experiments. Avon, MA: 2017.
  • Martin, DW. Doing Psychology Experiments. Belmont,CA: Thompson Wadworth; 2008.

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.