Skip to main content
Select Source:

Control Group

Control group

In an experiment that focuses on the effects of a single condition or variable, the group that is exposed to all the conditions or variables except the one being studied.

Scientists often study how a particular condition or factor influences an outcome. In such an experiment, in which there are two groups of subjects, the group that is exposed to the condition or factor is called the experimental group . The other group, which provides a basis for comparison, is called the control group. For example, in a hypothetical study of the influence of the presence of loud music on the test performances of children, the control group would consist of the group of children not exposed to the loud music during the test. Their test scores would be compared with the experimental group, the group of children who were exposed to loud music during the test. In this type of experimental design , subjects would be randomly assigned to each group to ensure a reliable comparison.

Further Reading

Atkinson, Rita L.; Richard C. Atkinson; Edward E. Smith; and Ernest R. Hilgard. Introduction to Psychology. 9th ed. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987.

Zimbardo, Philip G. Psychology and Life. 12th ed. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman, 1988.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Control Group." Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Jul. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Control Group." Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 23, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/control-group

"Control Group." Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. . Retrieved July 23, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/control-group

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

control group

control group A group used for comparison with another, either because it represents the most common or typical case, or because it illustrates the absence of some phenomenon being studied. Human beings are not inert, lifeless matter, and hence cannot be studied simply by carrying out before-and-after studies around some experimental stimulus applied to them. Many other developments and changes will be occurring spontaneously at the same time, as people go about their lives, and it is difficult to disentangle the effects of one particular stimulus from all the others affecting people, as individuals or as groups, at the same time. The solution is to identify a group, or social aggregate, that serves as a control group in providing information on characteristics or changes in a baseline situation that is as close to ‘ordinary’ as possible, or illustrates social behaviour in the absence of the key factor of interest. Control groups can be created at the sampling stage, through statistical manipulation of the data-set, or during analysis. The most rigorous type is experimental controls, obtained by random allocation of cases. See also CONTROL (EXPERIMENTAL).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"control group." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Jul. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"control group." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 23, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/control-group

"control group." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved July 23, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/control-group

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.