2008_Toomela_IBPS_variables (p)

2008_Toomela_IBPS_variables (p) - Integr Psych Behav(2008...

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REGULAR ARTICLE Variables in Psychology: A Critique of Quantitative Psychology Aaro Toomela Published online: 5 June 2008 # Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008 Abstract Mind is hidden from direct observation; it can be studied only by observing behavior. Variables encode information about behaviors. There is no one- to-one correspondence between behaviors and mental events underlying the behaviors, however. In order to understand mind it would be necessary to understand exactly what information is represented in variables. This aim cannot be reached after variables are already encoded. Therefore, statistical data analysis can be very misleading in studies aimed at understanding mind that underlies behavior. In this article different kinds of information that can be represented in variables are described. It is shown how informational ambiguity of variables leads to problems of theoretically meaningful interpretation of the results of statistical data analysis procedures in terms of hidden mental processes. Reasons are provided why presence of dependence between variables does not imply causal relationship between events represented by variables and absence of dependence between variables cannot rule out the causal dependence of events represented by variables. It is concluded that variable-psychology has a very limited range of application for the development of a theory of mind psychology. Keywords Variable . Statistical data analysis . Causality . Psychology . Research methods Psychology is mostly aiming to discover causal relationships between environmental and mental events or trying to reveal hidden structure of the mind. First of these aims is related to the experimental stream of psychology where treatment effects are statistically compared. The second aim is related to the study of individual differences (Cronbach 1957 ). Differently from the psychology of the pre-WWII era (cf. Toomela 2007a , 2008 ), the studies of mind in modern mainstream psychology rely heavily, often exclusively, on the interpretation of information Integr Psych Behav (2008) 42:245 265 DOI 10.1007/s12124-008-9059-6 A. Toomela ( * ) Department of Psychology, Tallinn University, Narva mnt. 25, Tallinn 10120, Estonia e-mail: [email protected]
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encoded in variables. Variables are used in both streams of psychology, experimental and individual differences. In both streams, also, the variables are usually analyzed with some statistical data analysis procedures. The two streams of psychology are qualitatively different in the way the data are searched for. Experimental psychology manipulates with study conditions and collects data related to different treatment effects whereas individual differences psychology uses data collected without directly interfering with the study situation.
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2008_Toomela_IBPS_variables (p) - Integr Psych Behav(2008...

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