Disadvantages of the scientific method

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Lack in internal and external validity

  • Internal validity - psychological research is fraught with problems such as investigator effects and demand characteristics, which compromise the internal validity of the study.
  • Disadvantage because observed effects may be due to variables other than the researchers manipulation. E.g. a questionnaire may have a number of leading questions, which means the findings are not valid.
  • External validity - findings form psychological research are not always supported by real life, everyday observations. 
  • Disadvantage because it suggests findings of psychological research cannot be generalised beyone the particular settings in which they were conducted.E.g. Milgram (1963) findings bore very little relationship in the real world - Milgram found that being in close proximity to the 'victim' produced lower levels of obedience, yet this constraining factor did not explain obedience in the Nazi death camps.
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Reductionist, individual differences and ethics

  • Reductionsist - in order to conduct psychological reserach, behvaiour must be reduced to a set of individual operationalised variables. True in experiments and observational studies where behavioural categories are operationalised. Disadvantage as result of reductionism is oversimplification so we are no longer studying what we meant to study. E.g. schizophrenia is sometimes though of as a 'physical-chemical system that has gone wrong'.
  • Ignore individual differences - nomethetic approach lookign for a generalisaiton about people and find similarities. Disadvantage as the result of this is that age, gender, culture and other differences are overlooked. E.g. most psychological research has involved American male sutdents as participants - assumption is that the results from this group can be generalised to the rest of the population regarless of gender, nationality and age.
  • Ethics - diasadvantage as the issue to consider is whether the benifits fo the research outweigh the ethical costs. Even if ethical costs are 'excusable' the end result is that participants may have been harmed in some way. E.g. many peopel feel that the knowledge gained in Milgram (1963) study excuses the psychological harm experienced by the participants.
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