natural experiment

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natural experiment An experiment in which the independent variable is not artificially manipulated, but rather changes naturally in terms of its level or presence, so that these alterations can be used to monitor its effect and attempt to determine its impact upon a dependent variable or variables. Such studies are understandably rare in sociology, although one example is provided by John Gaventa's study of quiescence and rebellion among Appalachian coal miners (Power and Powerlessness, 1980), which investigates the impact of historically variable power relationships (most notably the mobilization of bias (see COMMUNITY POWER)) involving large business corporations in local communities.