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Statistical Positivism versus Scientific Realism: A Comparison of Two Paradigms for Psychological Research

Nov 23, 2017

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Statistical Positivism versus Scientific Realism: A Comparison of Two Paradigms for Psychological Research
by Valery Chirkov, Department of Psychology, University of Saskatchewan

Thursday, Nov. 23
3:00–4:00 pm
Arts 153

Statistical positivism or statistism is a research paradigm rooted in the shallow realist ontology and extreme empiricist epistemology that uses statistical methods as a primary methodology to answer the main questions of scientific inquiry about the nature and essence of the reality under investigation.  This paradigm has been abandoned in most of the sciences, but finds its last refuge in some domains of psychological studies.  In this presentation, I will provide the main theoretical propositions of this paradigm, illustrate them with an empirical example, and use this example to highlight limitations and weakness of such thinking for psychological investigations.  As an alternative to it, I will present the scientific realism paradigm, also critical realism, or critical scientific realism, that is rooted in the deep realist ontology, social constructionist epistemology, and critical methodological multiplism as methodology.  The realist paradigm targets unobservable generative causal mechanisms as the primary objectives of its investigation.  After outlining the main proposition of this paradigm, I will provide an example of its utilization and outline its major advantages in comparison to statistical positivism.  A special emphasis will be made regarding serious damage that the statistical positivist reasoning does to student education by diverting future researchers from a creative and innovative thinking toward scientific discoveries.

 

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