Representative Sample in Psychology: Definition & Example

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Drawing Conclusions Based on Internal Validity

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:05 A Problematic Study
  • 0:49 Representative Sample Defined
  • 1:38 Examples
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Orin Davis
A representative sample is drawn from a population of interest and has demographics and characteristics that match those of the population in as many ways as possible.

A Problematic Study

Suppose you had a friend that did a study of intelligence, and found that 9 out 10 people are super geniuses. Between your peals of laughter, you would probably think that he must have been the odd one out! Obviously, his study had a problem with it, but what is the problem, exactly?

You might think that it is because his sample only had 10 people, but if he grabbed 10 people at random, what are the odds that 9 of them would be super geniuses? Suppose further that the results of his study were based on a sample of 100 people. 90 super geniuses in a group of 100 - pretty impressive, and clearly proves the study's problem, right?

Not if his sample is Fields Medal winners and Nobel Laureates! (Now you are wondering about the other 10, aren't you?)


Representative Sample Defined

The reason why his study is invalid is because the sample he chose did not represent the population to which he is applying the findings. If he was saying that 9 out of 10 Fields Medal winners and Nobel Laureates are super geniuses, that finding might make sense. But, if he tried to apply those results to the regular population, you would counter that he does not have a representative sample of the general population. That is, the characteristics of the sample he chose do not match those of the group at large, so the sample does not represent the group well.

Whenever you want to study a small group and generalize from the small group to the larger one, you need to make sure that the small group is just like the larger one. Otherwise, one of the differences between the makeup of the groups could also explain any qualitative differences between the groups.



Let's take a look at a couple of examples.

Example 1:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account