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WARNING: This talk contains some examples drawn from studies of violent behaviour, including rape. Extending the scientific discipline of Psychology in order to deal with the complexity of applied practice David Clarke School of Psychology University of Nottingham.

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WARNING: This talk contains some examples drawn from studies of violent behaviour, including rape.


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    1. WARNING: This talk contains some examples drawn from studies of violent behaviour, including rape. Extending the scientific discipline of Psychology in order to deal with the complexity of applied practiceDavid ClarkeSchool of PsychologyUniversity of Nottingham

    2. Part 1Some general points about psychological research and ‘the real world’.Part 2A brief ‘tutorial’ on sequence analysis, as an example of these principles.

    3. Point OneOn any journey, start from where you are now.

    4. Experimental psychology Science Human affairs

    5. Experimental psychology Science Human affairs ‘Natural psychology’

    6. We have to start from where we are now ... The real world is messy (but not entirely incomprehensible). We have to accept that, and refine our approach gradually towards more precise descriptions. NOT begin with methods that require complete precision and bemoan them for not working properly.

    7. Point TwoDo things in the right order.

    8. Typically research tries to start from descriptions of single cases, and end up with general explanations. There are two steps: combining over instances; and finding the meaningful (causal) patterns. Traditional research aggregates first and then looks for patterns (which are often lost during aggregation). The alternative is to find patterns and explanations case-by-case, and then identify the commonalities.

    9. Data Conclusions Particular General

    10. Data Conclusions Particular Impossible (Psych training) General

    11. Data Conclusions Particular Impossible (Psych training) Impossible (My claim) General

    12. Data Conclusions Particular Impossible (Psych training) Loss of structure Impossible (My claim) General ‘Aristotelian’ Experimental Psychology

    13. Data Conclusions Particular Impossible (Psych training) Loss of structure Impossible? Impossible (My claim) General ‘Aristotelian’ Experimental Psychology

    14. Data Conclusions New approaches to case study Particular Impossible (Psych training) Loss of structure Impossible (My claim) General ‘Aristotelian’ Experimental Psychology

    15. QUESTION ANSWER SPECIFIC   CASE-BASED METHODS GENERAL   APPLIED RESEARCH

    16. Point ThreeDon’t try to count everything.

    17. “In truth, a good case could be made that if your knowledge is meagre and unsatisfactory, the last thing in the world you should do is make measurements. The chance is negligible that you will measure the right things accidentally.” (George Miller, 1962)

    18. Parametric vs structural sciences (Harré) Physics vs chemistry... ... and anatomy, geology, astronomy, crystalography, etc etc

    19. Point FourBeware of ‘cause’ and ‘effect’...

    20. ...and falling objects.

    21. Point FiveBeware of assuming...

    22. 1) That all experiments are quantitative, and all non-experimental studies are qualitative. 2) That ‘qualitative methods’ can only be certain kinds of approaches to the study of language, such as Conversation Analysis, and Discourse Analysis.

    23. Point SixBeware of generalisations.

    24. Research has shown that women are significantly better at XYZ, than men.(Typical format for research finding. Major premise.) Jane is a woman.(Typical occasion for application of findings to individuals. Minor premise.) Therefore, Jane’s ability at XYZ, (relative to men), is ???(Typical inference needed in practical situations. Conclusion.)

    25. Point SevenTo thine own self be true.

    26. The structure of knowledge? Waterstones Bookshop (Nottingham) Floor Plan - alphabetical index History (indexed under ‘H’) Law (indexed under ‘L’) etc, etc Academic Psychology (under ‘A’) - 3rd floor Popular Psychology (under ‘P’) - 2nd floor

    27. What you know as a person, and what you know as a scientist are very different. They seem impossible to reconcile. Our official view, as a discipline and a profession, is that it would be wrong to try, because the former is worthless, and the latter is ideal. But ...

    28. If I lived on a hill and wanted to see further, I would build a tower on the hill. I wouldn’t build my tower in the valley, and hope that one day it would be even taller than the hill. (What we know as scientists should be designed to complement what we know as people; not substitute for it.) How can we do that?

    29. Treat what you know (as a professional, and as an everyday person) as part of ‘the literature’. Not because it is perfect (the literature isn’t either) but because we have to use it, challenge it, engage it, in order to make it better, and to integrate it with scientific / professional knowledge.

    30. But (and this is a very big ‘but’) It is ‘tacit’. You can’t state, review, and critique it as your starting point, like ordinary literature. You have to elicit it, and work on it, through the medium of case study.

    31. That is where tacit (professional and ‘everyday’) knowledge, and explicit (scientific) knowledge, can be made to meet and complement each other.

    32. ‘SCIENCE’ Experiments evaluation/ selection rival possibilities Pool of ideas and beliefs @ time t t - 1 t + 1 Sources General applications and future versions

    33. ‘SCIENCE’ Experiments evaluation/ selection rival possibilities Pool of ideas and beliefs @ time t t - 1 t + 1 Sources General applications and future versions PRE-THEORETICAL PROBLEM SOLVING Direct face-value link Problem Solution

    34. ‘SCIENCE’ Experiments evaluation/ selection rival possibilities Pool of ideas and beliefs @ time t t - 1 t + 1 Sources General applications and future versions PRE-THEORETICAL PROBLEM SOLVING Direct face-value link Problem Solution ‘PRACTICE’ Research-based knowledge (?) (?) Case particulars Plan/remedy

    35. Pool of ideas & beliefs  & lay at Time t Pool of beliefs at t +1 Pool of beliefs at t - 1

    36. ‘SCIENTIFIC’ METHOD Experiments Revised weightings SLOW CYCLE Conflicts Pool of ideas & beliefs  & lay at Time t Pool of beliefs at t +1 Pool of beliefs at t - 1

    37. ‘SCIENTIFIC’ METHOD Experiments FRESH SOURCES Revised weightings SLOW CYCLE USES Conflicts Pool of ideas & beliefs  & lay at Time t Pool of beliefs at t +1 Pool of beliefs at t - 1

    38. ‘SCIENTIFIC’ METHOD Experiments FRESH SOURCES Revised weightings SLOW CYCLE USES Conflicts Pool of ideas & beliefs  & lay at Time t Pool of beliefs at t +1 Pool of beliefs at t - 1 Applications Ideas FAST CYCLE Problems Evaluations Specific ‘cases’ Specific hypotheses, forecasts & recommendations CASE METHOD

    39. Point EightDon’t assume that ‘one size fits all’

    40. Psychology sets out to describe what kinds of people behave in what kinds of ways in what kinds of situations. And of course not all people, behaviour and situations are the same. So - What kinds of people are there? What kinds of behaviour are there? What kinds of situations are there? We don’t know. In the main we have not stopped to ask. We have ploughed ahead with the illusion that ‘one size fits all’, and that’s why our generalisations do not apply reliably to individuals.

    41. Imagine a world.. ..where chemists did not distinguish different compounds, but just dealt in the common properties that apply to them all ..where doctors did not distinguish different diseases, but applied the same generally helpful remedies to all ‘poorly people’ ..where biologists had not discovered species but dealt with the average data from all life-forms !!!

    42. We need to get a life (but first we must get an ontology)

    43. Point NineDon’t be too sceptical

    44. All other things being equal, false positives can only be reduced at the expense of increasing false negatives. We are trained to be ultra-sceptical, so we avoid believing most conclusions which are false (and also a great many that are true). Instead of being a profession that can ‘see further through a brick wall than the next person’, we can often fail to notice or accept what everyone else finds blindingly obvious.

    45. Sequence Analysis

    46. Of all truths relating to phenomena, the most valuable to us are those which relate to the order of their succession. On a knowledge of these is founded every reasonable anticipation of future facts, and whatever power we possess of influencing those facts to our advantage. John Stuart Mill, 1851