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Ecological Validity is the degree to which the behaviors observed and recordied in a study reflect the behaviors that actually occur in natural settings. In addition, ecological validity is associated with "generalizability". Essentially this is the extent to which findings (from a study) can be generalized (or extended) to the "real world". In virtually all studies there is a trade-off between experimental control and ecological validity. The more control psychologists exert in a study, typically the less ecological validity and thus, the less they may be able to generalize. For example, when we take people out of their natural environment and study them in the lab, we are exerting some control over them and, as a result, possibly limiting how much we can generalize the findings to all people in natural settings.
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