Comparing the Experimental and the Clinical Methods in Psychology

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The philosopher Sir Karl Raimund Popper once said, ‘Understanding a theory has, indeed, much in common with understanding a human personality. We may know or understand a man's system of dispositions pretty well; that is to say, we may be able to predict how he would act in a number of different situations. But since there are infinitely many possible situations, of infinite variety, a full understanding of a man's dispositions does not seem to be possible.’ (Popper, 1972). One of the most challenging and complicated studies in psychology is the study of personality. In fact, personality is so complicated that it has several definitions. The study of personality is a laborious process due to two reasons, different individuals have distinct profiles of psychological attributes and personality persists throughout life (Crowne, 2007). Clinical and experimental methods used to assess and test personality differ in several realms. Both methods are used to understand personality, but many clinicians seem to prefer one or the other. Experimental methods have superiority in regard to precision and viability of results. However, there seem to be more inclination towards the use of the clinical method due to its leniency and flexibility providing better techniques for the study of personality. The clinical procedure garners extensive amounts of personal information on clients to comprehend their circumstances and fathom their behaviour. Experimental methods, on the other hand, are more often used for studies in the field of psychopathology, providing useful knowledge by controlling and manipulating variables (Barlow et al., 1995). The clinical and experimental methods both disagree in the types of methods they approach to begin answering questions regarding personality. The word 'clinical', derived from the Greek word meaning ‘bed’, is still used today denoting contact with the ill and disturbed for the purpose of diagnosis and prognosis (Crowne, 2007). This method refers to the beside side treatment of patients, in the same way Freud treated his neurotic patients in bed. However, in current medical practices, the bedside treatment is no longer carried out (Crowne, 2007). This method is used to thoroughly study individuals through interviews, physiological and psychological tests, observation, listening, and interpretation (Crowne, 2007). These techniques are useful in approaching a problem from different vantage points, so one can better fathom the complex meaning of personality. The study of disturbed persons is used to make conclusions about the human personality (Crowne, 2007). It might sound perturbing, but it is quite simple and appropriate. Since personality is a qualitative characteristic, it is presented on a continuum. This implies that there is no distinct line separating normal from abnormal personality. Clinical methods can be adequately conducted when people are willing to test an idea, construct answerable questions, use clarified concepts, have cautious observation, and a reasonable pursue of generalizations (Crowne, 2007). It is a challenging method, requiring both observational and conceptual demand due to the intricate data assimilated in clinical interactions with individuals (Crowne, 2007). This technique requires astute observation and the ability to obtain general principles out of seemingly immaterial information (Crowne, 2007). It is often formidable to be acutely attuned with the patient’s behaviour and words, and to decipher what the actions indicate afterwards (Crowne, 2007). This procedure is essential to the study of personality because it provides an insight on the behaviour and attitudes of persons without external influence. The clinical method collects historical and biological information on individuals. This incorporates information on personal and family background, education, health, and work history, as well as the person’s opinions about the nature and causes of the problem being studied...
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