Methodology in Social Psychology. Logics of inquiry

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1 Methodology in Social Psychology Logics of inquiry

2 How to carry out scientific research given our understanding of the nature of knowledge. Philosophy of Science clarifies why experimental, scientific psychology adopts the practices that it does, but also that there are other models which can be adopted. Experimental Social psychology informed by positivism Critical social psychology informed by social constructionism

3 Social psychology is an empirical endeavour that seeks to answer research questions (framed in a variety of ways) is empirical (collects data based on observations of what people do/say) is analytic (data gathered are analysed and interpreted to answer these questions) is directed (methods chosen as appropriate)

4 Reality, Knowledge & Science Ontology (the study of what actually exists) Epistemology (the study of what knowledge is, what we can know & what the limits of knowledge are) Methodology (the study of the ways in which the world can be studied). ontological assumptions - affect epistemological assumptions - affect methodological assumptions.

5 Example in social psychology Ontological question: Is the social world external to, and separate from, human action? Epistemological question: What kind of knowledge can we gain about the universal laws of human social behaviour? Methodological question: How should we study the effects of stereotypical attitudes on our behaviour?

6 How is philosophy of science relevant to psychology? Addressing the question of is psychology a science? We need a flexible idea of what science might entail.

7 Comte, Ayer and logical positivism Positivism unity of science project Vienna Circle 1920s - logical positivism emphasis on theories & logical deduction of hypotheses

8 Statements had to be verifiable to be meaningful. Commitment to empiricism, checking ideas against the world. Assumption of realism Using these criteria - Psychology borderline.

9 Popper and disconfirmation Karl Popper ( ) first major attack on logical positivism. verifiability encouraged confirmation of theories rather than genuine discovery. consistent evidence is merely corroboration. a good theory make predictions that could in principle be found to be false: falsifiability the hallmark of good science.

10 Problems: theories and observations are neither independent nor neutral science is a practical business - find best answer rather than the application of logic

11 Kuhn and revolution Thomas Kuhn ( ) - scientific progress not a purely rational process. peaceful interludes - normal science where scientists share a paradigm - punctuated by violent intellectual revolutions.

12 Implications of Kuhn's ideas for how we think about psychological research? Relationship between evidence & theory framed by paradigm in which research is carried out.

13 Paul Feyerabend ( ) rejected realism for a form of relativism =in principle all forms of theories are worthwhile. argued for theoretical pluralism argued theories could not be compared - concept of incommensurabilty theories give meaning to facts, not vice versa

14 A form of social constructionism emphasizing that the world is not singular but plural. Scientific inquiry constructs the objects it inquires into, scientific objects are created by the very practice of investigation itself. Implications of Feyerabend s ideas for how we think about psychological research? demystifies logical positivism. If no single correct method for doing science for all problems at all time in all places, then every research project has to find its own method.

15 Evidence: Methods of enquiry Questions about the nature of research How we justify using methods How they are warranted Research, not a technical exercise as an aid to argument, but central to argument itself

16 Research report starts with problem/question, ends with solution/answer via relevant evidence Research methods make evidence plausible Report = nested series of arguments Overall argument = conclusion correct, given evidence

17 Research depends on worldview The academic discipline of social psychology is first and foremost a way of looking at the world. All evidence gathered from theoretical position Theorising and research are not separate activities

18 Social Psychology uses wide range of different research methods, e.g., Descriptive research Specially constructed situations/experiments Participant or naturalistic observation Set-up conversations Interviews Tests Questionnaires Surveys Text analysis (content discourse) Settings: lab, field, survey face-to-face, phone,

19 Quantitative - Qualitative (organising principle) Numbers/measurement description/interpretation, narrative Continuum, 3 dimensions: Naturalistic/ Controlled Unstructured/ Structured Specific/ Generalizable

20 3 main Data collection techniques (ESP) Measures Definition Example Observational Self-report Implicit Recording actions directly relevant to the research question Subjects responses to questions Recording actions that imply an underlying effect Length of direct eye gaze between people when they are interacting Questionnaire responses, responses in interviews Response times to classifying items (e.g., not/belonging to category attractive )

21 Research strategies Lab expt. Field expt. Surveys Control High Medium Low Realism Low High Irrelevant Representativeness Varies Low High

22 Validity Internal: confounding Construct: social desirability effects, demand characteristics, experimenter effects External: volunteer/non-volunteer effects

23 Social Psychology as science Assumes nature of social world no more problematic than nature of natural world. In principle open to discovery by clear measurement and logical design. Reliability, precision, validity

24 Social psychology from a Constructionist standpoint No certainty Not separate from what we research Research not neutral Experiment = social situation therefore shapes behaviour

25 Participant Observation Negative virtues avoid demand, volunteer & experimenter effects Open/in-depth interviewing Meaning within relationships as personally and interpersonally constructed Reflexivity examining research process itself

26 Discourse analysis: How people use discursive resources in order to achieve interpersonal objectives in social interaction. specific instances of language in use, naturally occurring talk Language is the main symbolic system through which people construct their social realities People deploy language purposefully and strategically to achieve particular goals

27 Different levels of discursive practices Individual level e.g., when people have arguments Level of social groups e.g., when they develop their own slang Level of culture & society e.g., a particular worldview is so embedded into the language that taken for granted

28 The map is not the territory What we say about the world is an abstraction from it, a conceptual construction. Other positions are possible.

29 Tension: Capturing the complex nature of reality on the one hand while on the other producing a theoretical account which allows one to comprehend it.

30 Sylvie & Bruno Concluded (Lewis Carroll 1939) What a useful thing a pocket-map is I remarked. That s another thing we ve learned from your nation said Mein Herr, map-making. But we ve carried it much further than you. What do you consider the largest map that would be really useful? About 6 inches to the mile. Only six inches exclaimed Mein Herr, we very soon got to 6 yards to the mile. Then we tried 100 yards to the mile. And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to a mile! Have you used it much? I enquired. It has never been spread out, yet said Mein Herr, the farmers objected, they said it would cover the whole country and shut out the sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.

31 Reading [Hogg & Vaughan Ch 1, pp.6-16.] [also 3 page handout from Theory & Social Psychology, Sapsford et al.]. Manstead, A.S.R. & Semin, G.R. (2001) (3 rd ed.). Methodology in social psychology: Tools to test theories. In Hewstone & Stroebe. London: Blackwell. Stainton Rogers, W. (2003) Social Psychology: Experimental & Critical Approaches. OUP. Chapter 2. (Lecky p34 multiple copies). Tuffin, K. (2005) Understanding Critical Social Psychology. London: Sage. Chapters 1, 2,3. Wilson, T.D. (2005) The message is the method: Celebrating & exporting the experimental approach. Psychological Inquiry, 4,

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