Commentary on Cronbachs Disciplines of Scientific Psychology

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Commentary on Cronbach’s ‘The Two Disciplines of Scientific Psychology’

In this paper Lee Cronbach delivers his visionary presidential address to the American Psychological Association (APA), calling for the unification of experimental and correlational psychology in which he argued that psychology continues to this day to be limited by the dedication of its investigators to one or the other method of inquiry rather than to scientific psychology as a whole. He discusses the two streams on branches of psychology that have run through the last century. One stream being the experimental and the other correlational psychology. He describes the essential features of each approach to asking questions about human nature and he strongly hints at the benefits to be gained by unification. Put simply, Cronbach sees this as a puppet show where the experimentalist manipulates the puppets to arrive at a successful outcome while the correlationist watches the interaction of the puppets as he would people, to see how environment, social elements and the like affects them. Cronbach is proposing a coming together of these two strands of psychology to compliment each other and arrive at a more complete solution. The experimenter is more concerned with situations that he can closely control i.e. experiments with laboratory animals in a closely confined situation where he can introduce variables and see how his subjects react to stimuli and measure the responses. The correlationist is more interested in looking at the wider picture and observing how subjects interact with each other and with their environment, social surroundings and other subjects etc. Experimental methods are the only ones that can produce a definite result as it calculates correlations between variables specifically those manipulated and those affected by the manipulation, therefore it can conclusively demonstrate causal relations between variables. Alternatively, in correlational research, variables...
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