Under what conditions does theory obstruct research progress?

Author: Greenwald, A.G.; Pratkanis, A.R.; Leippe, M.R.; Baumgardner, M.H.

Description: Researchers display confirmation bias when they persevere by revising procedures until obtaining a theory-predicted result. This strategy produces findings that are overgeneralized in avoidable ways, and this in turn hinders successful applications. (The 40-year history of an attitude-change phenomenon, the sleeper effect, stands as a case in point.) Confirmation bias is an expectable product of theorycentered research strategies, including both the puzzle-solving activity of T. S. Kuhn’s “normal science” and, more surprisingly, K. R. Popper’s recommended method of falsification seeking. The alternative strategies of condition seeking (identifying limiting conditions for a known finding) and design (discovering conditions that can produce a previously unobtained result) are result centered; they are directed at producing specified patterns of data rather than at the logically impossible goals of establishing either the truth or falsity of a theory. Result-centered methods are by no means atheoretical. Rather, they oblige resourcefulness in using existing theory and can stimulate novel development of theory.

Subject Headings: Obstructing research progress; Theory;

Keywords: Under what conditions does theory obstruct research progress?

Publication year: 1986

Journal or book title: Psychological Review

Volume: 93

Issue: 2

Pages: 216-229

Find the full text : https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037/0033-295X.93.2.216

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Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 2381