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In Defense of Experimental Data in a Relativistic Milieu

Chow, Siu L. (1995) In Defense of Experimental Data in a Relativistic Milieu. [Journal (Paginated)]

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Abstract

The objectivity and utility of experimental data as evidential support for knowledge-claims may be found suspect when it is shown that (a) the interpretation of experimental data is inevitably complicated by social factors like experimenter effects, subject effects and demand characteristics, (b) social factors which affect experimental data are themselves sensitive to societal conventions or cultural values, (c) all observations (including experimental observations) are necessarily theory-dependent, and (d) experimental data have limited generality because they are collected in artificial settings. These critiques of experimental data are answered by showing that (i) not all empirical studies are experiments, (ii) experimental methodology is developed to exclude alternate interpretations of data (including explanations in terms of social influences), (iii) theoretical disputes and their settlement take place in the context of a particular frame of reference, and (iv) objectivity can be achieved with observations neutral to the to-be-corroborated theory despite theory-dependent observations if distinctions are made (a) between prior observation and evidential observation and (b) between a to-be-corroborated theory and the theory underlying the identity of evidential response.

Item Type:Journal (Paginated)
Keywords:Relativism, Theory-dependent observation, The distinction between instigating phenomenon and evidential data, experiment, meta-experiment, the social psychology of the psychological experiment, experimenter effects, subject effects, demand characteristics, objectivity, the irrelevancy of ecological validity, the technical meanigs of experimental control
Subjects:Psychology > Cognitive Psychology
Philosophy > Philosophy of Science
ID Code:828
Deposited By:Chow, Dr. Siu L.
Deposited On:25 Aug 1999
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54

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