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Sampling in psychology refers to the process of selecting a portion of the population to participate in a study, intended to represent the larger group from which they are drawn. This process is crucial for conducting research that is both efficient and generalizable. So, sampling is the process of selecting individuals to participate in a research study.


In the field of psychology, sampling is a foundational method used to infer the behaviors, attitudes, and characteristics of a broader population based on a smaller, manageable group of individuals. Effective sampling strategies are essential to ensure that the results of psychological studies are valid and reliable. There are several types of sampling methods used in psychological research:

  1. Random sampling: This involves selecting participants such that each member of the population has an equal chance of being included in the sample. This method helps in achieving representativeness and minimizing selection bias.
  2. Stratified sampling: Here, the researcher divides the population into different subgroups (or strata) that represent a key characteristic (such as age, gender, or ethnicity) and then samples from each subgroup proportionally. This ensures that all significant segments of the population are represented in the sample.
  3. Convenience sampling: This method involves selecting participants who are readily available to the researcher. While this is less costly and more convenient, it may not accurately represent the population and is more susceptible to biases.
  4. Purposive sampling: Researchers use their judgment to choose participants who are considered more useful or representative for the study. This method is often used in qualitative research where specific insights or experiences are needed.

Application Areas

Sampling is utilized across all branches of psychological research, including:

  • Experimental psychology: Ensuring diverse and representative samples in experiments to generalize findings.
  • Social psychology: Studying behaviors and attitudes across different social groups, often requiring careful sampling to reflect societal diversity.
  • Clinical psychology: Sampling is crucial when researching the efficacy of therapeutic interventions to ensure that results are applicable to a broad client base.

Well-Known Examples

Famous psychological studies often relied on specific sampling methods to achieve their findings:

  • Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiments: While criticized for ethical reasons, the sampling method was purposive, aiming to assess a range of American males.
  • Surveys on public health psychology: Often use stratified sampling to ensure all groups within a population are adequately represented in the study, enhancing the applicability of the findings to the entire population.

Treatment and Risks

In psychological research, poor sampling methods can lead to significant biases, limiting the generalizability of the results. This can affect the development of psychological theories or the effectiveness of interventions designed based on non-representative samples. Ethical considerations also arise when sampling, as researchers must ensure that no group is disproportionately burdened or excluded from research benefits.

Similar Terms

Related terms in research methodology include:

  • Population: The entire group a researcher is interested in studying.
  • Sample size: The number of participants included in the sample, which can influence the power and accuracy of the study.
  • Data collection: The process of gathering information from the sample, closely related to but distinct from sampling.


Articles with 'Sampling' in the title

  • Chorionic villus sampling: Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) refers to prenatal diagnostic technique that involves taking a sample of tissue from the Chorion. It is a method for the prenatal detection of genetic abnormalities that samples the membrane enveloping the am . . .
  • Cluster sampling: Cluster sampling refers to a probability sampling technique involving random selection of groups instead of individuals from a population. It is a multistage sampling in which natural groups (clusters) are sampled initially, with the member . . .
  • Convenience sampling: Convenience sampling refers to a non-probability sampling method involving selection of individuals on the basis of their Availability and willingness to respond- that is, because the y are easy to get
  • CVS (Chorionic Villus Sampling): CVS (Chorionic Villus Sampling) : CVS (Chorionic Villus Sampling ) is the sampling and testing of the Chorion for fetal abnormalities. It is an alternative to amniocentesis in which fetal cells are extracted from the Chorion for prenatal . . .
  • CVS (Chorionic villus sampling): CVS (Chorionic villus sampling) : CVS or Chorionic villus sampling ) is an alternative to Amniocentesis in which fetal cells are extracted from the Chorion for prenatal tests
  • Event sampling: Event sampling refers to a technique of behavioral observation that involves observing and recording one specific event or behavior during the first interval, then shifting to a different event or behavior during the second interval, and so . . .
  • Nonprobability sampling: Nonprobability sampling refers to any technique in which samples are selected in some way not suggested by probability theory. Examples include reliance on available subjects as well as purposive (judgmental), quota, and snowball sampling
  • Probability sampling: Probability sampling refers to a research strategy that involves acquiring a random sample for inclusion in a study- a sampling method in which the entire population is known, each individual in the population has a specifiable probability . . .
  • Proportionate stratified random sampling: Proportionate stratified random sampling is defined as a probability sampling technique that involves identifying specific sub-groups to be included, determining what proportion of the population corresponds to each group, and randomly sele . . .
  • Random sampling: Random sampling refers to a recruitment process in which every person in a particular population has exactly the same probability of being in the study- it produces a representative s ample
  • Thought sampling: Thought sampling refers to a means of obtaining samples of thoughts outside of therapy by asking the client/patient to record thoughts on tape or in a notebook at different intervals
  • Time Sampling: Time Sampling refers to a procedure in which the investigator records the frequencies with which individuals display particular behaviors during the brief time intervals each is observed
  • Time sampling: Time sampling refers to a technique of behavioral observation that involves observing for one interval, then pausing during the next interval to record all the observations
  • Nonsampling errors: Nonsampling errors are errors that occur during the measuring or data collection process. Nonsampling errors can yield biased results when most of the errors distort the results in the same direction


In psychology, sampling is a critical research technique used to select participants for studies. The choice of sampling method significantly affects the reliability, validity, and applicability of research findings. A well-constructed sample allows psychologists to draw meaningful conclusions about human behavior that can be generalized to the broader population.


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