Given Danziger’s claims about ‘methodomorphic theories’ and given what you know of quantitative and qualitative research methods and psychology in general, what do you think would be the obstacles to attempt to break free of the ‘methodological circle’?
Research methods in modern psychology offer a variety of methodological options for researchers to utilise. However, there are issues associated with all methods. This essay will examine problems associated with the ‘methodological cycle’, such as the monopolisation of statistical methods in social sciences. These ‘issues’ continue to be common practice in psychological research and present obstacles to moving towards a less rigid, constrained method of working. This will be followed by exploring approaches that move forward, towards a more fluid and inclusive method of empirical psychology, such as Theoretical Sampling in Grounded Theory and Relational metatheory.
Danziger coined the term ‘methodological circle’, asserting that many psychological researchers adopt methods based on certain assumptions about the subject matter, which in turn “only produce observations which must confirm these assumptions” (Danziger, 1998, p 1). These assumptions continue to be common practice in current psychological research, and pose as a barrier to moving away from the ‘methodological circle’.
Psychology as Pure Science
Kuhn (1962) described "ordinary science" as involving discussion of problematic truth claims and is carried out within the context of implicitly shared metatheoretical frameworks; on the other hand “paradigms” involve discussion that challenges these metatheoretical frameworks themselves. Psychology operates within both of these frameworks.
‘Ordinary science’, also known as Scientism, involves uncritically accepting that science is both highly distinct from, and superior to, 'common sense' and methods for identifying cultural patterns. However, factors that a social scientist may wish to study do involve facets that are not static and are defined by the context in which these facets operate. An example of this could be trauma. Trauma is viewed by individuals in Western society as a concept which individuals or a collective may suffer after a disrupting or distressing event. However, in less developed societies, such as in Rwanda which suffered mass genocide, no instances of trauma are reported (Alexander et al, 2004). Such examples highlight the problems presented by adopting a purely scientific (positivist) approach to a social phenomenon. In addition to this, it must be remembered that even though research will always endeavour to be as objective as possible they will, ultimately, use their common-sense knowledge of how social phenomena operate in order to define and measure these variables for precise investigation (Silverman, 1993). Psychologists who work purely in line with Scientism make the error to totally remove itself from common sense, rather than acknowledging and working with it, adopting, say, a more constructivist approach e.g. Conversation Analysis. Kock (1973) sums this up assumption beautifully by saying “The entire subsequent history of psychology can be seen as a ritualistic endeavor to emulate the forms of science in order to sustain the delusion that it already is a science" (Kock, 1973, p. 66).
Dependence on statistics
The use of statistical methods in psychology can be said to have become “institutionalized” (Danziger, 1998, p. 4). According to Danziger, such institutionalization presents 3 main problems: 1. It assumes that statistical conclusions are the only means of providing reliable and valid results for interpreting and developing theory; 2. It asserts that certain rules and models are constant, and cannot be amended or updated by new evidence; 3. it postulates that methodology must lead theory formation, and not the other way round. Such facets create a rigid environment, which restricts ways in which the social...
References: Alexander, J. C., Eyerman, R., Giesen, B., Smelser, N. J., Sztompka, P. (2004) Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, University of California Press, CA
Danziger, K. (1985) The methodological imperative in psychology. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 15, 1-13
Freud, S. (1918) The Complete Introductionary Lectures on Psychoanalsis, Alden Press, Oxford
Hase, S. (2000) ‘Mixing methodologies in research’, NCVER conference, Coffs Harbour, April.
Koch, S. (1963) Psychology: A Study Of a Science, (Koch, S. (Ed.). (1959-1963), McGraw-Hill, New York
Kuhn, T. S. (1962) The structure of scientific revolutions. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
Overton, W. F. (2012) Paradigms in Theory Construction, (Eds L’Abate, L.) Springer; US.
Silverman, D. (1993) “Beginning Research”. Interpreting Qualitative Data. Methods for Analysing Talk, Text and Interaction, Sage Publications, Londres
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