Casting Nets and Testing Specimens: Two Grand Methods of Psychology

Casting Nets and Testing Specimens: Two Grand Methods of Psychology

Casting Nets and Testing Specimens: Two Grand Methods of Psychology

Casting Nets and Testing Specimens: Two Grand Methods of Psychology

Synopsis

Written for researcher and methodologists in the fields of psychology, education, and the behavioral sciences, this volume looks at the two major types of methods--the method of relative frequency and the method of specimens--and argues that although both can deliver useful information about human behavior, most social scientists have been using the method of relative frequency for the wrong purpose--to discover how the human as a species, functions. The method of relative frequency can be used effectively, Runkel asserts, only to estimate behavioral trends in a mass population. To learn how the internal workings of a species enable it to do what it does, the method of specimens must be employed.

Excerpt

We all gather information, every day, every moment, squirreling it away in our memories. We gather information whether we are reading, crossing a street, digging in the garden, interviewing a political condidate, painting a picture, or conducting a psychological experiment. Sometimes we use the information in the next split second, sometimes next year.

We use various methods to gather information and so to come to beliefs about the behavior of ourselves and others. Our methods are often very sophisticated when we act as social scientists, and are often rough and ready when we act in ordinary life, but we all use methods of some sort, and we often cite them to justify our beliefs. We say, "I saw her do it," or "We queried 1,500 randomly selected households." This book is about the methods we choose by means of which to reach conclusions. It is about how we come to beliefs about the nature and behavior of humans and other living creatures.

Despite the long list of particular methods and the names social scientists have given them, almost all fall into one of two grand classes that I will call the method of relative frequencies (to be explained in Chapters 2 through 8) and the method of specimens (to be explained in Chapters 9 through 12). Both methods can deliver useful information about human behavior. The main point of this book, however, will be to show that for a long time now most social scientists have been using the method of relative frequencies for the wrong purpose--to discover how the human animal, as a species, functions. The method that can do that is the method of specimens. To assert once more, however . . .

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