October 17

Read Slife & Williams, Chapters 6 & 7

This week’s response paper will be written at the beginning of the class on Thursday, Oct. 19. I will distribute a brief description of a research project that day and ask you to comment on the assumptions it makes about science and the scientific problems raised by the project.

Slife and Williams discuss several problems faced by those who would approach human behaviour scientifically. These include problems associated with:

  • viewing method as independent of theory and as the key to arriving at truth,
  • basing the persuasiveness of science in logic,
  • verifying the truth of a theory or hypothesis,
  • falsifying a theory or hypothesis,
  • establishing causality,
  • operationalizing unobservable constructs,
  • maintaining objectivity.

We need to consider how these problems manifest themselves in particular cases. Below are links to three research descriptions that we will discuss on Tuesday in order to practice applying Slife and Williams’ ideas about the relationship of science and psychology to specific cases.

Research description one – a PhD dissertation
Research description two – a PhD dissertation
Research description three – a hypothetical thesis proposal

Slife and Williams also propose alternatives to the conventional conception of the nature of science and of the relationship of psychology to science. These include:

  • science can be viewed as a particular language with which or through which people try to understand the world;
  • science is a social practice and the paradigms that exist within this practice establish the legitimacy of questions, methods and explanations;
  • behavioural science could be viewed as a practice that is grounded in lived experience rather than as an extension of natural science with legitimacy based on use of the same methods.
  • behavioural science might be better conceptualized as less about method and more about attending to theoretical work, for example, to how scientists (psychologists) formulate their questions and to the history of these formulations.
  • a postmodern science might place more emphasis on possibility and temporal holism, rather than on necessity and temporal reductionism.

On Tuesday we will examine how these abstractions are relevant to actual practice in psychology by considering the research descriptions above as well as the projects in which you are involved for your other courses. Please read Chapters 6 and 7 carefully in preparation for the discussion.

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