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Investigating the Psychological World

Scientific Method in the Behavioral Sciences

Brian D. Haig

Publication Year: 2014

This book considers scientific method in the behavioral sciences, with particular reference to psychology. Psychologists learn about research methods and use them to conduct their research, but their training teaches them little about the nature of scientific method itself. In <I> Investigating the Psychological World</I>, Brian Haig fills this gap. Drawing on behavioral science methodology, the philosophy of science, and statistical theory, Haig constructs a broad theory of scientific method that has particular relevance for the behavioral sciences. He terms this account of method the <I>abductive theory of method</I> (ATOM) in recognition of the importance it assigns to explanatory reasoning. ATOM offers the framework for a coherent treatment of a range of quantitative and qualitative behavioral research methods, giving equal treatment to data-analytic methods and methods of theory construction. Haig draws on the new experimentalism in the philosophy of science to reconstruct the process of phenomena detection as it applies to psychology; he considers the logic and purpose of exploratory factor analysis; he discusses analogical modeling as a means of theory development; and he recommends the use of inference to the best explanation for evaluating theories in psychology. Finally, he outlines the nature of research problems, discusses the nature of the abductive method, and describes applications of the method to grounded theory method and clinical reasoning. The book will be of interest not only to philosophers of science but also to psychological researchers who want to deepen their conceptual understanding of research methods and methodological concerns.

Published by: The MIT Press

Series: Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvi

Although modern science is made up of many parts, scientific method is its centerpiece. The centrality of method to science stems from the fact that it provides scientists with the primary form of guidance in their quest to obtain knowledge about the world. As fallible inquirers, scientists face...

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pp. xvii-xx

In the mid-1990s, Hillary Clinton argued that it takes a village to raise a child. The assertion occasioned a skeptical response from a number of quarters, but there can be no doubting the claim that it takes a village to raise a book. This book is no exception, for it has depended on the support...

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1. Method, Methodology, and Realism

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pp. 1-30

Modern science is a complex human endeavor comprising many parts. It articulates aims that it seeks to realize; it employs methods to facilitate its investigations; it produces facts and theories in its quest to obtain an understanding of the world; and it is shaped by the institutions within...

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2. Detecting Psychological Phenomena

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pp. 31-58

Since the 1950s, much psychological research has employed a top-down research strategy in which a minimalist account of the hypotheticodeductive method, in tandem with null hypothesis testing, is used to test hypotheses and theories ( Rorer, 1991 ; Rozeboom, 1997 ). This practice...

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3. Theory Generation: Exploratory Factor Analysis

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pp. 59-86

Exploratory factor analysis is a multivariate statistical method designed to facilitate the postulation of latent variables that are thought to underlie and give rise to patterns of correlations in new domains of observed or manifest variables. Intellectual abilities, personality traits, and social...

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4. Theory Development: Analogical Modeling

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pp. 87-104

This chapter focuses primarily on the development of scientific theories. In particular, I aim to show that ATOM develops its theories by adopting a strategy of analogical modeling. However, before considering this strategy, I will provide a brief and selective overview of the nature and place...

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5. Theory Appraisal: Inference to the Best Explanation

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pp. 105-132

Contemporary scientific methodology boasts a number of general approaches for evaluating scientific theories. Prominent among these are the hypothetico-deductive method, which evaluates theories in terms of predictive success; Bayesian accounts of confirmation, which assign...

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6. Conclusion

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pp. 133-162

In this concluding chapter, I round out my characterization of ATOM. I begin by outlining a promising theory of the nature of research problems and show how it is deployed in ATOM. I then offer some supplementary remarks about the nature of ATOM. This is followed by two applications...


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pp. 163-170


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pp. 171-188


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pp. 189-198

E-ISBN-13: 9780262322379
E-ISBN-10: 0262322374
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262027366

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology