Advertisement

Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 245–265 | Cite as

Variables in Psychology: A Critique of Quantitative Psychology

  • Aaro ToomelaEmail author
Target Article

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 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This study was supported by the Estonian Science Foundation Grant No. 7490.

References

  1. Ardila, A. (2003). Culture in our brains: Cross-cultural differences in the brain-behavior relationships. In A. Toomela (Ed.) Cultural guidance in the development of the human mind (pp. 63–86). Westport, CT: Ablex.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, A. H., Mishara, B. L., Kostin, I. W., & Parker, L. (1979). Menstrual cycle affects kinesthetic aftereffect, an index of personality and perceptual style. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(2), 234–246.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blount, C., Evans, C., Birch, S., Warren, F., & Norton, K. (2002). The properties of self-report research measures: Beyond psychometrics. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 75, 151–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blumer, H. (1956). Sociological analysis and the “Variable.”. American Sociological Review, 26(6), 683–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Borod, J. C., & Koff, E. (1989). The neuropsychology of emotion: Evidence from normal, neurological, and psychiatric populations. In E. Perecman (Ed.) Integrating theory and practice in clinical neuropsychology (pp. 175–215). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  6. Borsboom, D., Mellenbergh, G. J., & van Heerden, J. (2004). The concept of validity. Psychological Review, 111(4), 1061–1071.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brainerd, C. J., & Reyna, V. F. (1992). The memory independence effect: What do the data show? What do the theories claim. Developmental Review, 12, 164–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bruder, G. E., Quitkin, F. M., Stewart, J. W., Martin, C., Voglmaier, M. M., & Harrison, W. M. (1989). Cerebral laterality and depression: Differences in perceptual asymmetry among diagnostic subtypes. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 98(2), 177–186.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bruder, G. E., Stewart, J. W., Ma, G. J., McGrath, P. J., Wexler, B. E., & Quitkin, F. M. (2002). Atypical depression: Enhanced right hemisphere dominance for perceiving emotional chimeric faces. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 111(3), 446–454.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bruder, G. E., Stewart, J. W., McGrath, P. J., Deliyannides, D., & Quitkin, F. M. (2004). Dichotic listening tests of functional brain asymmetry predict response to fluoxetine in depressed women and men. Neuropsychopharmacology, 29, 1752–1761.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bruder, G. E., Stewart, J. W., Mercier, M. A., Agosti, V., Leite, P., Donovan, S., et al. (1997). Outcome of cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression: Relation to hemispheric dominance for verbal processing. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 106(1), 138–144.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bruder, G. E., Stewart, J. W., Schaller, J. D., & McGrath, P. J. (2007). Predicting therapeutic response to secondary treatment with bupropion: Dichotic listening tests of functional brain asymmetry. Psychiatry Research, 153(2), 137–143.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bruder, G. E., Stewart, J. W., Tenke, C. E., McGrath, P. J., Leite, P., Bhattacharya, N., et al. (2001). Electroencephalographic and perceptual asymmetry differences between responders and nonresponders to the SSRI antidepressant. Biological Psychiatry, 49, 416–425.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bruder, G. E., Stewart, J. W., Voglmaier, M. M., Harrison, W. M., McGrath, P., Tricamo, E., et al. (1990). Cerebral laterality and depression: Relations of perceptual asymmetry to outcome of treatment with tricyclic antidepressants. Neuropsychopharmacology, 3(1), 1–10.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Campbell, J. K., O’Rourke, M., & Silverstein, H. (2007). Causation and Explanation. Cambridge, MA: MIT.Google Scholar
  16. Chapman, M., & Lindenberger, U. (1992a). How to detect reasoning-remembering dependence (And how not to). Developmental Review, 12, 187–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chapman, M., & Lindenberger, U. (1992b). Transitivity judgments, memory for premises, and models of children’s reasoning. Developmental Review, 12, 124–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chiarello, C., McMahon, M. A., & Schaefer, K. (1989). Visual cerebral lateralization over phases of the menstrual cycle: A preliminary investigation. Brain and Cognition, 11, 18–36.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Chistyakov, A. V., Kaplan, B., Rubichek, O., Kreinin, I., Koren, D., Hafner, H., et al. (2005). Effect of electroconvulsive therapy on cortical excitability in patients with major depression: A transcranial magnetic stimulation study. Clinical Neurophysiology, 116, 386–392.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cronbach, L. J. (1957). The two disciplines of scientific psychology. American Psychologist, 12, 671–684.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dunlap, W. P., Brody, C. J., & Greer, T. (2000). Canonical correlation and chi-square: relationship and interpretation. Journal of General Psychology, 127(4), 341–353.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Essex, C., & Smythe, W. E. (1999). Between numbers and notions. A critique of psychological measurement. Theory and Psychology, 9(6), 739–767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Galton, F. (1878). Composite portraits. Nature, 18, 97–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hampson, E., & Kimura, D. (1988). Reciprocal effects of hormonal fluctuations on human motor and perceptual-spatial skills. Behavioral Neuroscience, 102(3), 456–459.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Keppel, G. (1991). Design and Analysis. A Researcher’s Handbook. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  26. Koffka, K. (1935). Principles of Gestalt psychology. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. Lee, G. P., Loring, D. W., Meador, K. J., & Brooks, B. B. (1990). Hemispheric specialization for emotional expression: A reexamination of results from intracarotid administration of sodium amobarbital. Brain and Cognition, 12, 267–280.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lewin, K. (1935). A dynamic theory of personality. Selected papers. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  29. Lewin, K. (1997a). Field theory and experiment in social psychology. (Originally published in 1939). In K. Lewin (Ed.) Resolving social conflicts and field theory in social science (pp. 262–278). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lewin, K. (1997b). Field theory and learning. (Originally published in 1942). In K. Lewin (Ed.) Resolving social conflicts and field theory in social science (pp. 212–230). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lewin, K. (1997c). Frontiers in group dynamics. (Originally published in 1947). In K. Lewin (Ed.) Resolving social conflicts and field theory in social science. (pp. 301–336). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Luria, A. R. (1969). Vyshije korkovyje funktsii tsheloveka i ikh narushenija pri lokal’nykh porazenijakh mozga. [Higher cortical functions in man and their disturbances in local brain lesions]. Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Moskovskogo Universiteta.Google Scholar
  33. Luria, A. R. (1973). Osnovy neiropsikhologii. Moscow: Izdatel’stvo MGU.Google Scholar
  34. McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1996). Toward a new generation of personality theories: Theoretical contexts for the Five-Factor Model. In J. S. Wiggins (Ed.) The Five-Factor Model of personality (pp. 51–87). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  35. McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1999). A Five-Factor Theory of personality. In A. Lawrence, & O. P. J. Pervin (Eds.) Handbook of personality: Theory and Research. (pp. 139–153). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  36. McKeever, W. F., & Deyo, R. A. (1990). Testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, and spatial task performance of males. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 28(4), 305–308.Google Scholar
  37. Meehl, P. E. (1950). Configural scoring. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 14(3), 165–171.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Michell, J. (2000). Normal science, pathological science and psychometrics. Theory and Psychology, 10(5), 639–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Michell, J. (2003). The quantitative imperative. Positivism, naive realism and the place of qualitative methods in psychology. Theory and Psychology, 13(1), 5–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Molenaar, P. C. M. (2004). A Manifesto on psychology as idiographic science: Bringing the person back into scientific psychology, this time forever. Measurement, 2(4), 201–218.Google Scholar
  41. Molenaar, P. C. M., & Valsiner, J. (2005). How generalization works through the single case: A simple idiographic process analysis of an individual psychotherapy. International Journal of Idiographic Science, Article 1. Retrieved October 25, 2005 from http://www.valsiner.com/articles/molenvals.htm.
  42. Munro, D. (1992). Process vs structure and levels of analysis in psychology. Towards integration rather than reduction of theories. Theory and Psychology, 2, 109–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pearl, J. (2000). Causality. Models, reasoning, and inference. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Petersen, A. C. (1976). Physical androgyny and cognitive functioning in adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 12, 524–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ramus, F. (2004). Neurobiology of dyslexia: A reinterpretation of the data. Trends in Neurosciences, 27(12), 720–726.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Richardson, K. (2002). What IQ tests test. Theory and Psychology, 12(3), 283–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Russo, F., & Williamson, J. (2007). Causality and Probability in the Sciences. London: College Publications.Google Scholar
  48. Sanders, J. L. (1978). Relation of personal space to the human menstrual cycle. Journal of Psychology, 100, 275–278.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Shute, V. J., Pellegrino, J. W., Hubert, L., & Reynolds, R. W. (1983). The relationship between androgen levels and human spatial abilities. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 21(6), 465–468.Google Scholar
  50. Siegler, R. S. (1996). Emerging minds. The process of change in children’s thinking. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Siegler, R. S. (Ed). (2004). Special Issue: U-shaped changes in behavior and their implications for cognitive development. Journal of Cognition and Development, 5(1), 1–151.Google Scholar
  52. Sloman, S. (2005). Causal models. How people think about the world and its alternatives. Oxford: Oxford University press.Google Scholar
  53. Smith, L. B., & Thelen, E. (1993). A dynamic systems approach to development. Applications. Cambridge, MA: MIT.Google Scholar
  54. Sohn, D. (1999). Experimental effects. Are they constant or variable across individuals? Theory and Psychology, 9(5), 625–638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sosa, E., & Tooley, M. (1993). Causation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Spirtes, P., Glymour, C., & Scheines, R. (2000). Causation, prediction, and search. Cambridge, MA: MIT.Google Scholar
  57. Stewart, J. W., Wuitkin, F. M., McGrath, P. J., & Bruder, G. E. (1999). Do tricyclic responders have a different brain laterality? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 108(4), 707–710.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Thelen, E., & Smith, L. B. (1994). A dynamic systems approach to the development of cognition and action. Cambridge, MA: MIT.Google Scholar
  59. Tomberg, T., Toomela, A., Ennok, M., & Tikk, A. (2007). Changes in coping strategy, social support, optimism and health-related quality of life following traumatic brain injury: A longitudinal study. Brain Injury, 21(5), 479–488.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tomberg, T., Toomela, A., Pulver, A., & Tikk, A. (2005). Coping strategies, social support, life orientation and health-related quality of life following traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury, 19(14), 1181–1190.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Toomela, A. (2007a). Culture of science: Strange history of the methodological thinking in psychology. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 41(1), 6–20.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Toomela, A. (2007b). History of methodology in psychology: Starting point, not the goal. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 41(1), 75–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Toomela, A. (2008). Kurt Lewin’s contribution to the methodology of psychology: From past to future skipping the present. In J. Clegg (Ed.) The observation of human systems: Lessons from the history of Anti-Reductionistic Empirical Psychology. New Brunswick, N. J.: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  64. Toomela, A. (in press). Methodology of idiographic science: Limits of single-case studies and the role of typology. In S. Salvatore, J. Valsiner, S. Strout, & J. H. Clegg (Eds.) YIS: Yearbook of idiographic science 2008. Rome: Giorgio Firreira.Google Scholar
  65. Toomela, A., Pulver, A., Tomberg, T., Orasson, A., Tikk, A., & Asser, T. (2004). Possible interpretation of subjective complaints in patients with spontaneous subarachnoid haemorrhage. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 36(2), 63–69.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Toomela, A., Tomberg, T., Orasson, A., Tikk, A., & Nômm, M. (1999). Paradoxical facilitation of a free recall of nonwords in persons with traumatic brain injury. Brain and Cognition, 39, 187–201.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Watson, G. (1934). Psychology in Germany and Austria. Psychological Bulletin, 31(10), 755–776.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTallinn UniversityTallinnEstonia

Personalised recommendations