Building and testing theories 927Presentation Transcript
Building and Testing theories:Experiences from Conducting Social Identity Research By lixiaobo
authors Ying-yi Hong et al Editor in chief Advances in Culture and psychology Professor of NTU and UIUC
Outline of the article What is a theory Propose a four-step approach in building and testing psychological theories (1)selecting phenomena; (2)finding critical commonalities; (3)abstracting(theorizing); (4) hypothesis testing Three examples: hierarchical identity, identity hegemony, bridging identity To suggest guidelines for conducting programmatic research in social and personality psychology.
Topic in this presentation
There is nothing so practical as a good theory. …Kurt Lewin
The value and importance of theory Fundamental to research and scientific discoveries. Guide researcher in Formulating research questions and hypotheses Selecting or creating methods and analytical strategies
Methods and Theory : a metaphor
What is a theory? A comprehensive explanation of an important feature of nature supported by facts gathered over time . Theories also allow scientists to make predictions about as yet unobserved phenomena. ----United States National Academy of Sciences(2005)
A good theory should be Falsifiable, that it can refuted by empirical testing (Popper,1959) Coherent(logical and internally consistent) Economical Able to explain a good range of known findings Able to predict future observation (Higgins,2004)
Be generative of new ideas and new discoveries. Scientists are not in the business of testing hypotheses . They are in business of making discoveries …..research that ends in a discovery. (Higgins,2004) A good theory should be
Building theories : a metaphor The building of theories is a process. Higgins (2006): a theory ,like a child, must be allowed to develop through contact with the world… To begin with, good parents do not assume what their child’s actual behaviors are like. They observe how their child’s actual behaviors in the world unfold in order to learn what their child is like. Similarly, scientists should not be concerned with confirming their theory’s predictions. They should observe the data produced by theory-driven research to learn more deeply about the theoretical mechanisms and processes.
Four-step Approach to Test Theories
4-step approach “Socially grounded” approach of theory testing. Allow researcher to base their scientific investigation on real-life social events. Guidelines for conducting programmatic research in social and personality psychology.
Caution There are many possible approaches to research. The four-step approach should be treated as a guideline for researchers, rather than as the only approach.
Step1:Selecting phenomena Lewin :social theories have to be grounded in social phenomena. Observing events , incidents ,and phenomena that happen around us and around the world We examine multiple phenomena that occur in different countries and across different times, link these together via some common underlying psychological mechanisms.
Example: political transition 1994 the transition of the Afrikaan White government to a democratically elected government in South Africa Hong Kong 1997 handover Unification of East and West Germany 1989
What be examined Whether people’s social identities gave rise to subsequent change in their intergroup attitudes during political transition, or whether their prior intergroup attitudes gave rise to changes in their social identities.
Step2: finding critical commonalities Identifying common components across the different events The goal is to analyze the particular psychological mechanisms underlying the phenomena and to identify their commonalities and/or their differences.
Example: political transition All of the three political transitions involved an integration or a merger of two social groups. Research on these can answer Does political transition evoke a sense of belongingness to the over-arching or merged group and thus heighten people’s identification with the common ingroup? Alternatively , does political transition evoke a threat to group distinctiveness and thus heighten people’s identification with the subordinate group? Would identification with common ingroup verse the subordinate ingroup be related to people’s perceptions of the other group involved in the merger
Step3: Abstracting(Theorizing) Extracting the underlying psychological processed inform the observed commonalities, and relating the processes to new or existing theories. General processes :the critical commonalities identified are converted into general processes that are defined by abstract concepts, parameters, or variables. The goal is to shift the focus of explanation from the particular to the general so that the proposed processes can be compared and tested against new or extant theories.
Example: political transition Abstracted two constructs: 1) levels of social identity/self-categorization( an over-arching versus a subordinate identity) 2)intergroup attitudes toward the outgroup in the merger
Linked them to existing theories Prior identities are the antecedents for their attitudes to the other group
Minimal group paradigm
Common Ingroup Identity Model
Prior intergroup attitudes are the antecedents for their social identities
Realistic group conflict theory
Relative deprivation theory
step 4: hypothesis testing
Examining and testing the theories empirically.
a reversal of abstracting
from the general to the specific
The derived hypotheses would constrain the choice of method
Example: political transition Social identity theories Social identity Intergroup attitude Realistic group conflict theory
H1:Social identity theories would predict that Hong Kong people holding a common ingroup identity (Chinese identity) would show more positive attitudes toward the other group in the merger (Chinese Mainlanders) over time, whereas Hong kong people holding a subordinate group identity (Hongkonger identity) would show less positive attitudes toward the Chinese Mainlanders at a later point in the transition. H2:Realistic group conflict theory would predict that the Hong Kong people who had more(less) positive attitudes toward the Chinese Mainlanders would be more likely to increase their endorsement of the Chinese (Hongkonger) identity at a later point during the political transition.
Method selecting A longitudinal design The participants’ social identification (Hongkonger vs. Chinese) and their attitudes towards Chinese Mainlanders were assessed at several points in time during the political transition. Cross-lagged Statistical model
conclusion These four steps allow us to test social theories against the real world. As noted, scientific theories are always tentative and subject to correction or replacement. The bottom line is that this process should be conducive to new ways of looking at the world, asking new questions , and eventually making new discoveries.
If you want to know more… For details of this article: ActapsychologicaSinica (心理学报). 2010,Vol.42,No.1,22-26 For details of example: Hong,Y.et al. the temporal causal link between outgroup attitudes and social categorization: The case of Hong Kong 1997 transition. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations ,2006,9,265-288