Persuasion: How Opinions and Attitudes Are Changed

By Herbert I. Abelson | Go to book overview

7
SOCIAL SCIENCE METHODS

The studies reported here made use of methods acceptable to the social sciences. Such methods help the researcher to be as thorough, deliberate, and unprejudiced as possible in carrying out his work. In a way they are like blinders; they minimize distractions and irrelevancies, and they focus attention on the subject matter under investigation. Among the characteristics of scientific methods, there are two that are especially worth discussing: a study carried on by these methods is repeatable and controllable.

If a study can be repeated almost exactly as it was originally conducted, that means two things: (1) it has been conducted step-by- step, with each step in the process known and accounted for, and with nothing creeping in that was not intended to be there; (2) another investigator, working independently, can repeat the study and corroborate or refute earlier findings. The physical scientist can often meet a more exacting standard of repeatability than the social scientist, even though they have both been trained in the same general principles of scientific method. For example, the research chemist may have relatively little trouble verifying his results. He creates the setting for the experiment, notes each step in the process as he goes along, knows the order in which the ingredients are added, their relative strength and purity, and all the other elements of procedure. Contrast this situation with that of a research psychiatrist attempting to deduce some of the mysteries of mental illness from his experiments with patients. Whatever hypotheses he develops from one set of studies often cannot be verified by repeating the work on the same patients, because he may have changed them in some way. They are no longer the same kinds of people they were before the original investigation. The social

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Persuasion: How Opinions and Attitudes Are Changed
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1 - How to Present the Issues 1
  • 2 - The Influence of Groups 19
  • 3 - The Persistence of Opinion Change 41
  • 4 - The Audience as Individuals 53
  • 5 - The Persuader 71
  • 6 - Broad Issues Related to the Study of Persuasion 87
  • 7 - Social Science Methods 93
  • 8 - A Few Definitions 101
  • References 105
  • Index 114
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