Building and Testing theories:
Experiences from Conducting Social Identity
Research
By lixiaobo
Building and Testing Theories
authors
Ying-yi Hong et al
Editor in chief
Advances in Culture and
psychology
Professor ...
Building and Testing Theories
Outline of the article
What is a theory
Propose a four-step approach in building and
testi...
Building and Testing Theories
Topic in this presentation
Theory in research
Overview of the four-step
approach to test the...
Building and Testing Theories
There is nothing
so practical as a
good theory.
…Kurt Lewin
Building and Testing Theories
The value and importance of theory
Fundamental to research and scientific
discoveries.
Gui...
Building and Testing Theories
Methods and Theory : a metaphor
Building and Testing Theories
What is a theory?
A comprehensive explanation
of an important feature of
nature supported b...
Building and Testing Theories
A good theory should be
Falsifiable, that it can refuted by empirical
testing (Popper,1959)...
Building and Testing Theories
Be generative of new ideas and new
discoveries.
Scientists are not in the business of
test...
Building and Testing Theories
Building theories : a metaphor
 The building of theories is a process.
 Higgins (2006):
 ...
Building and Testing Theories
Four-step Approach to Test
Theories
Step1:Selecting phenomena
Step2:Finding critical commona...
Building and Testing Theories
4-step approach
“Socially grounded” approach of
theory testing.
Allow researcher to base t...
Caution
• There are many possible
approaches to research.
• The four-step approach
should be treated as a
guideline for re...
Building and Testing Theories
Step1:Selecting phenomena
 Lewin :social theories have to be
grounded in social phenomena.
...
Building and Testing Theories
Example: political transition
Hong Kong 1997 handover
Unification of East and
West Germany 1...
Building and Testing Theories
What be examined
Whether people’s social identities gave
rise to subsequent change in their...
Building and Testing Theories
Step2: finding critical commonalities
Identifying common
components across the
different ev...
Building and Testing Theories
Example: political transition
 All of the three political transitions involved an
integrati...
Building and Testing Theories
Step3: Abstracting(Theorizing)
 Extracting the underlying psychological
processed inform th...
Building and Testing Theories
Example: political transition
Abstracted two constructs:
1) levels of social identity/self...
Building and Testing Theories
Linked them to existing theories
Minimal group paradigm
Self-categorization theory
Common...
Building and Testing Theories
step 4: hypothesis testing
Examining and testing
the theories empirically.
a reversal of a...
Building and Testing Theories
Example: political transition
Social
identity
Intergroup
attitude
Social identity
theories
R...
Building and Testing Theories
 H1:Social identity theories would predict that Hong Kong
people holding a common ingroup i...
Building and Testing Theories
Method selecting
A longitudinal design
The participants’ social identification
(Hongkonger...
Building and Testing Theories
conclusion
These four steps allow us to test social
theories against the real world.
As no...
Building and Testing Theories
If you want to know more…
For details of this article:
 Acta psychologica Sinica (心理学报).
2...
Building and Testing Theories
Thank you!
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Building and testing theories 927

  1. 1. Building and Testing theories: Experiences from Conducting Social Identity Research By lixiaobo
  2. 2. Building and Testing Theories authors Ying-yi Hong et al Editor in chief Advances in Culture and psychology Professor of NTU and UIUC
  3. 3. Building and Testing Theories 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.
  4. 4. Building and Testing Theories Topic in this presentation Theory in research Overview of the four-step approach to test theories
  5. 5. Building and Testing Theories There is nothing so practical as a good theory. …Kurt Lewin
  6. 6. Building and Testing Theories 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
  7. 7. Building and Testing Theories Methods and Theory : a metaphor
  8. 8. Building and Testing Theories 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)
  9. 9. Building and Testing Theories 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)
  10. 10. Building and Testing Theories 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
  11. 11. Building and Testing Theories 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.
  12. 12. Building and Testing Theories Four-step Approach to Test Theories Step1:Selecting phenomena Step2:Finding critical commonalities Step3:Abstracting(Theorizing) Step4:Hypothesis testing
  13. 13. Building and Testing 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.
  14. 14. 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.
  15. 15. Building and Testing Theories 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.
  16. 16. Building and Testing Theories Example: political transition Hong Kong 1997 handover Unification of East and West Germany 1989 1994 the transition of the Afrikaan White government to a democratically elected government in South Africa
  17. 17. Building and Testing Theories 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.
  18. 18. Building and Testing Theories 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.
  19. 19. Building and Testing Theories 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
  20. 20. Building and Testing Theories 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.
  21. 21. Building and Testing 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
  22. 22. Building and Testing Theories Linked them to existing theories Minimal group paradigm Self-categorization theory Common Ingroup Identity Model Realistic group conflict theory Relative deprivation theory Prior identities are the antecedents for their attitudes to the other group Prior intergroup attitudes are the antecedents for their social identities
  23. 23. Building and Testing Theories 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
  24. 24. Building and Testing Theories Example: political transition Social identity Intergroup attitude Social identity theories Realistic group conflict theory
  25. 25. Building and Testing Theories  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.
  26. 26. Building and Testing Theories 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
  27. 27. Building and Testing Theories 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.
  28. 28. Building and Testing Theories If you want to know more… For details of this article:  Acta psychologica Sinica (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
  29. 29. Building and Testing Theories Thank you!

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