A2 - Psychology - Disadvantages of the Scientific Method

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The scientific method may lack internal validity

  • Investigator effects and demand characterisitics threaten internal validity.
  • For example, a questionnaire with leading questions would lack validity.
  • Investigator effects also occur in the 'hard' sciences, e.g. the uncertainty principle.
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The scientific method may lack external validity

  • If experimental findings don't match real-life observations they do not generalise beyond the setting in which they are conducted.
  • For example, Milgram's findings about proximity did not explain obedience in the Nazi death camps.
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The scientific method can be reductionist

  • Operationalising variables is reductionist as we oversimplify behaviours.
  • For example, Laing suggested we should consider each case of schizophrenia individually (idiographic approach) rather than describing them as in purely physical-chemical terms.
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The scientific method tends to ignore individual d

  • Science is nomothetic, looking for similarities and making generalisations.
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The scientific method raises ethical issues

  • Good scientific research has ethical costs, e.g. psychological harm. A balance between scientific benefits and ethical costs is desirable but may ignore individual rights.
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