Research in psychology — страница 4

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leads to greater child compliance in a separate context. ‘‘Apparently strong’’ quantitative methods also can lead to the discovery that specific, concrete forms play a role in many situations, not just the original measurement context. For example, Strand (2002) found that the specificity scale was useful when applied to a task other than Wood’s block puzzle. Similarly, we might find that measures which were initially employed in particular structured observation contexts, say a measure of verbal aggression based on decibel levels or, more likely, a measure of activation in a certain part of the brain, identify specific concrete forms that play a particular role quite generally. Merleau-Ponty (1962) used the term ‘‘sediment’’ to refer to concrete forms of this

sort. Sediment often plays a part in psychological phenomena, and ‘‘apparently strong’’ quantitative procedures can be very helpful because they enable us to learn about these aspects of practical activity. Two qualifications are in order, however. First, even when one aspect of a phenomenon of interest typically takes a specific concrete form, we need to recognize that it is part of a larger, meaningful process. For example, even if Wood’s specificity scale worked in all contexts—which is extremely unlikely—it would be crucial to appreciate the role that the specificity of maternal directives plays as part of doing something, that is, teaching a child. It is not specificity per se, but the modulation of maternal efforts as a function of the child’s success at

what he or she is doing that is crucial. The second qualification is that there are always limits to the ways in which specific concrete contents function in a particular manner. It is useful to discover that a certain area of the brain typically functions in a particular way as part of what a person is doing, but another area might play this role under particular circumstances, perhaps due to brain plasticity. ‘‘Apparently strong’’ quantitative studies can be helpful here, too, because they are useful for marking out the relevant limits. Such research has other benefits that can be considered the flipside of the advantages I have mentioned so far. Studies employing ‘‘apparently strong’’ quantitative procedures can help us understand psychological phenomena in

terms of richly generative principles, because quantitative measures such as discrete behavior codes provide concrete examples of meaningful constructs and quantitative procedures like experiments constitute concrete examples of meaningful processes. For example, research employing Wood’ paradigm suggests the general principles that ‘‘homing in and out’’ is a crucial feature of parenting and that this process refers to modulating the specificity of parental bids. ‘‘Apparently strong’’ quantitative methods are well suited for investigating these claims. We might well find, for example, that Wood’s specificity scale itself is relevant only in a few contexts, but that some other concrete characterization of modulating specificity is on the mark quite generally.

Alternatively, we might find that, however understood, modulation of specificity has limited relevance, but that ‘‘homing in and out’’ captures an important process if we define it in concrete ways that share in common contingently providing more or less help. ‘‘Apparently strong’’ quantitative research is very useful for learning about general principles because these principles are concretely meaningful; they are not abstract ideas. Even if we somehow knew beforehand that a given principle was true (which, of course, is never the case), we would not know what it actually means because there is no transparent mapping from the principle to concrete events. ‘‘Apparently strong’’ quantitative research procedures would help us greatly in this hypothetical

situation, and they help us all the more in real research situations in which we simultaneously must learn the principles and what they mean concretely. 4. It’s ‘‘good’’ quantitative research and it’s interpretive Studies by Fischer and his colleagues (e.g., Fischer, 1980; Fischer & Bidell, 1998) and Dawson (2006) have investigated development in a wide range of domains, including among many others, understanding of social interaction concepts such as ‘‘nice’’ and ‘‘mean,’’ skills in mathematics, and understanding ‘‘leadership.’’ This research has provided a great deal of support for a clearly delineated 13-level developmental sequence in complexity ranging from reflexive actions to understanding principles. Dawson et al. (2006) claimed