Bridging Two Worlds of Research A Question of Complementarity

  • E. James Anthony


Behavioral research today has become too complex for the skills of a single discipline, especially in the area of clinical investigation. In this area a moderate-to large-sized project is commonly parceled out among different groups of specialists. The task of collaboration is strained by differences in language, in theory, and in method. Attitudes toward the collecting and processing of data can be almost antithetical. One might envisage a “soft” and a “hard” side in terms of data and a “tender” and “tough” side (to use William James’s categories) in terms of personnel. For all practical purposes there is a gap between the two, perhaps more apparent than real and certainly more felt than reasoned. (See Fig. 1.) It is by no means easy to bridge this gap, even when one is strongly motivated to do so, but in order to carry out a coherent and comprehensive program of research, one must talk to the other side. Therefore he may have to learn a new language, expand or contract a theoretical framework, and tolerate a radical transformation of his most precious ideas. The incompatibilities may appear insurmountable, the approach on the soft side being subjective, impressionistic, uncontrolled, “unblinkered”, qualitative, and nonnumerical, and, on the hard side, objective, instrumental, controlled, “blind”, quantitative, and statistical. The “tender-minded” behavioral scientists include anthropologists, social workers, dynamically oriented psychiatrists, and projective psychologists, while the “tough-minded” behavioral scientists include psychometric psychologists, experimentalists, psychophysiologists, and anthropometrists.


Hard Data General Introduction Naturalistic Study Soft Data Perfect Method 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. James Anthony
    • 1
  1. 1.The Harry Edison Child Development Research CenterWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA

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