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Advantages of the use of the scientific method in psychology There are a number of advantages to using scientific methods in psychology. Firstly an important aspect of imperial data is that it is objective, i. e. not affected by expectations of the research. So, without objectivity we have no way of being certain that data collected is valid. An example of this is seen with Gardner & Gardner. When they observed Washoe they might have judged that Washoe was using real words because they wanted her to succeed, for that reason the Gardners developed a strict set of criteria to make judgements.
This shows that through objectivity it allows for there to be no bias evident. Another advantage is that the scientific method allows for control. Laboratory experiment enables researchers to demonstrate causal relationships. The experimental method is the only way to do this – where we vary one factor (IV) and observe its effects of the DV. It order for this to be a fair test, all over conditions must be controlled and the best place for this is a laboratory.
This is an advantage because if we can’t demonstrate causal relationships then we can’t be sure that, for an example, a person anxiety was reduced by the drug used.
Also the scientific method permits replication. If scientists record their methods and standardise them carefully so the same procedures can be followed in the future, i. e. replicated. This is an advantage because by repeating a study is the most important way to demonstrate the validity of any observation or experiment.
If the outcome is the same this affirms the truth of the original results. An example where this can be seen is with Milgram and his research not having ecological validity.
But the fact it has be replicated suggests that the study does have ecological validity. Throughout the history of psychology they have moved from Psychodynamic to behaviourism to humanistic and finally to cognitive. This is known as the Fundamental Shifts in Psychology. Freud first developed the basic ideas which underline the approach as a whole. This approach was not seen as scientific, even though Freud tried to develop the science of psycho-analysis. Psychology then moved into a behaviourist approach which rejected the mphasis on both the conscious and unconscious mind. Instead, behaviourism strove to make psychology a more scientific discipline by focusing purely on observable behaviour. Pavlov’s research with dogs led to his discovery of the classical conditioning process. Then the humanists came into play and the result was not simply new variations on psychodynamic theory, but rather a fundamentally new approach. The Humanistic Approach began in response to concerns by therapists against perceived limitations of Psychodynamic theories.
They were different from other approaches because they showed emphasis on subjective meaning and a rejection of determinism. Finally the cognitive approach developed as a separate area within the discipline since the late 1950s and early 1960s following the “cognitive revolution” initiated by Chomsky’s critique of behaviourism. It accepts the use of the scientific method, and generally rejects introspection as a valid method of investigation. Finally laboratory experiments are considered the most scientific method of research as it allows research to be controlled; objective and replicable.
Whereas the least scientific method is considered to be case studies, these generalise from one person’s experiences and often let the researcher become ‘attached’ to the subject. For example Loftus and Palmer did an experiment where 45 students were shown seven films of a traffic accident, these film segments ranged from 5-30 seconds. Participants received a questionnaire in which they were asked to “give an account of the accident you have just seen”. Participants were then divided into five groups of nine participants. Each group was given a slightly different specific question about the accident.
So, advantages of using laboratory experiments is that it gave Loftus & Palmer greater control over confounding variables such as environment the films were watched in. It also makes it easier to replicate research to check findings about EWT are reliable. Case studies on the other hand, relate to single instances so it is not possible to generalise to other people. The results of the study are only valid when applied to that case. Also a case study realises on qualitative rather than quantitative analysis, there is a danger that behaviour is interpreted in the way the researcher wants (subjective).
An example of this can be seen with Freud and his research ‘little Hans’. Hans was a 5 year old boy brought to Freud’s attention by the boy’s father because he had a phobia of horses pulling laden carts. The problem with this case study is that by Han’s father using leading questions it means that Hans’s answers may well have been influenced by his father’s expectations. So, as you can see there are many advantages of using scientific methods in psychology as it allows for results to be controlled, objective, replicable and as a result valid.
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