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To achieve a full understanding of psychological phenomena, research should always use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods
In psychology, it is very common to use both qualitative and quantitative research methods in research. In the past and at present there are many examples of studies that have used both methods, and we will be discussing if psychological phenomena should always use a mixture of both methods. Qualitative research is looking at detail or exploring research examples such as interviews, observation, archival records and focus groups. Quantitative research is generating data that can be turned in to numerical statistics including surveys, longitudinal studies, systematic observations and online polls. We will be analysing and discussing the advantages of the different methods used with examples from real studies. We will also be looking at the different viewpoints on qualitative and quantitative methods used to study psychological phenomena and evaluating the claim of the importance of using both methods.
The Adorno et al. (1950) study that was conducted by Theodor Adorno, Frenkel Brunswick, Levinson and Sanford were the people behind the authoritarian personality study. Adorno et al. (1950) used a mixture of methods for his study including scale measures and interviews. Scales are set of questions or statements the participants are required to answer. For example, the Ethnocentrism scale that was produced by Adorno et al, are statements about individuals from smaller ethnic groups and the dominant American people in the nineteen forty’s and nineteen fifties (McAvoy, 2012). Participants were required to answer each statement by agreeing or disagreeing with it. Each participants total was calculated and then used to work out the ethnocentrism score, which is believing their group is better than others. The higher an individual scored on the ethnocentrism scale, the higher act of prejudice they were towards individuals from other ethnic groups. These scales were good as they had the chance to test a huge number of people in a small amount of time, and the same questions were given to all the participants. This method was a quantitative method because it had measurements. After this successful scale to measure thoughts towards Jews or the other ethnic groups Adorno et al developed another scale called the F-scale. The F-scale was to measure the personality characteristics which had a potential for fascism. Adorno et al believed that participants also achieving high scores on the F-scale had authoritarian personality and with the participants scoring low had a non-authoritarian personality (McAvoy, 2012). In the second part they carried out interviews. During the interview, the participant was asked open questions such as what they thought about themselves, what hopes, fears and goals they had. The interviews helped the researchers to collect more in-depth data. The scales were limited as the participants were only responding to what the researchers had presented to them and to only agree or disagree. Whereas with the interviews the participants were able to put through their own ideas, beliefs, their history and experiences. This data collection method is known as qualitative data.
Adorno et al. used two methods commonly used by researchers in Psychology. Psychoanalysis was one of them, it uses clinical interviews and conversations as a method to investigate the mind. The second was a method to study personality which concentrates on quantification and measurements. In this research, we can see the importance of using both quantitative and qualitative methods to benefit the outcome of the research. In the first part the scales were used and in the second part, questioners were used to helping get a better understanding of an authoritarian personality.
An important study was conducted by Brian Bigelow and John La Gaipa (1975), on children’s friendship. They focused on the differences in the children’s understanding of friendship at different ages. As part of their research, they asked the children to think about their best friends and write an essay about what was expected from their best friends compared to what they expected from other friends and acquaintances. From the age of six to fourteen years, the children wrote four hundred and eighty essays from the upper working class and middle to lower class family’s Ontario, Windsor and Canada. The children were recruited from eight different schools, and there were thirty boys and thirty girls from each school. This method was originally a qualitative method but then the essays were compared with a list of expectations that were created by Bigelow and La Gaipa. As the frequency of the expectation was counted each time it appeared in the essay it was transformed into quantitative data. In doing this the data collection method was changed from description counts to frequency counts. The numerical data helped them to understand the differences between the different age groups and to see analyse if there was a comparison between girls and boys. There was a large number of children participating in the study and the idea to code the essays with a set of groups helped the researchers to study the essays in an easy way, otherwise, it could have been difficult and very time consuming to every child’s individual opinion with such a big number of the group. Another method that might be useful in researching children’s friendship can be to interview the children. A list of questions was made to ask the children, this will help to ensure all the children are asked the same questions and allowing the children to talk about issues that might not have been thought about (Brownlow, 2012).
The qualitative and quantitate research method they used helped to understand the nature of friendship in children and how their expectations can change as they grow older. However, it is important to think about the understanding of the children and how they can verbalise the feelings and thoughts. So, it might better to interview only older children as they might have a better understanding. William Corsaro had a different approach to studying friendship in children. He was interested in how the children talked to each other and believed that the research should focus on the children’s understanding of a friend (Brownlow, 2012). It was different from Bigelow and La Gaipa’s method because he was more interested in the child’s personal understanding rather than translating the child’s understanding into numbers or patterns. Corsaro made notes and video recording on the children’s interactions with others, this is known as the ethnographic approach. This is when he becomes a member of a group to do observations in the group over a certain amount of time such as from a month or even years.
Studying the brain and neuropsychology of language is important to help understand how it can affect the certain types of research methods used to achieve a full understanding of psychological phenomena. Franz Joseph Gall who was a Viennese doctor believed that the different outer parts of the brain had different functions. each part of the brain had the responsibility of controlling a particular behaviour of the mind. so, memory would be stored in a different part of the brain and another part would store romantic love feelings, this theory was known as the Phrenology. He invented a phrenology map which showed the anatomy of the brain which showed the parts of the brain and its roles. Broca and Wernicke were known for studying the relations between the brain and languages, they were known for the development of neuropsychology. They believed that different parts of the brain were associated with cognition and behaviour of an individual. They found it useful to study damaged brains to understand how a normal brain would function. Wernicke believed that to understand how a brain function, it was important to research how the different parts interacted (Toates, 2012).
A technique called the Wada technique, where an anaesthetic was injected in the vessel that connected to the one hemisphere of the brain. This process temporary reduces process in just that hemisphere, so during this period, the activity of the other hemisphere can be studied. So, if there are any disruptions to speech it can be seen, the individual might be asked to name objects that are shown. With this process usually both hemispheres are studied, and it will show that the left hemisphere is important for language. Another technique used to study the brain is Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which gives a very detailed image of the brain. A person lays under an MRI scan, where a very detailed image is taken using magnetic waves. It can give a detailed image of the blood vessels, fluid-filled sacs and if there is any diseased tissue present. This very effective in getting detail without undertaking surgery. However, it was argued that it was not always definite that a damage to a certain part of the brain caused a specific symptom, this is because a damage to one part of the brain can have an effect on another part of the brain, so it can be difficult to make a conclusion of studies of people with brain damage. Damage to different parts of the brain can impair the function of the different parts of the body. If it is physical, it can affect qualitative method research and if it psychological it can affect qualitative method research.
To help and achieve a full understanding of psychological phenomena research has not always used both qualitative and quantitative methods. As we have seen in some of the studies some have used both methods and in others only one method is preferred. William Corsaro was one of them, he choose to use only a qualitative approach and was interested in studying the children’s interactions with each other to get a better understanding of friendship. However, The Adorno et al. (1950) study and John La Gaipa (1975) study used both methods as it gave a better understanding of psychological phenomena. They both started with the quantitative method and then used a qualitative method.
- Brownlow, C. (2012) ‘Making friends’, in Brownlow, C. (eds) Investigating Psychology, Oxford, Oxford university press, pp. 237-269.
- McAvoy, J. (2012) ‘Exposing the authoritarian personality’, in McAvoy, J. (eds) Investigating Psychology, Oxford, Oxford university press, pp. 19-55.
- Toates, F. (2012) ‘Language and the brain’ in Toates, F. (eds) Investigating Psychology, Oxford, Oxford university press, pp. 285-318.
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