The Use of Personal Documents in Psychological Science: Prepared for the Committee on Appraisal of Research

By Gordon W. Allport | Go to book overview

congressmen provide a barometer of public opinion. Up to now, to be sure, the use of such documentary evidence has been sporadic and haphazard. Social science might easily help in perfecting these indices of public needs. Why are letters to the editor or congressmen generally against something rather than for something? How many letters make a fair sample of public opinion? There are many such questions dealing with the relation between documents and social policy which need to be explored.


CONCLUSION

This chapter has stated both major and minor arguments for the employment of case documents in psychological science. The reader may more readily assent to some of the arguments than to others. Actually it is necessary to assent to only one of them in order to justify the employment and improvement of personal documents as instruments of social and psychological research.

Much more experimental and critical work needs to be done in order to establish fully the somewhat radical hypothesis advanced in this chapter to the effect that all the primary goals of science (understanding, prediction, and control) can be reached more directly and more effectively through the admittance of an idiographic view of the single case to a position of prominence equal to that now held by the nomothetic tradition.

The evidence in hand justifies our plea for the use and refinement of those common sense modes of mental operation which are characteristically concerned with the behavior of the single case in all its patterned complexity. Unless these tools of common sense are admitted to the equipment of the social disciplines it is difficult to see how these disciplines can in the future outstrip naked common sense. Up to the present

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