The Illusion of Our Research Data

Don’t get too married to your research data because it may just be an illusion.  That is the premise of Jonah Lehrer’s captivating article in The New Yorker magazine (“The Truth Wears Off: Is there something wrong with the scientific method?” December 13, 2010).  Lehrer makes the point that the repeatability – which is to say, the integrity – of scientific data is fleeting.  Using examples from experimental research in psychology, zoology, and biology (biomedical and neuroscience), Lehrer concludes that, “Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Central to the article is an attempt to explain what Joseph Banks Rhine (a psychologist at Duke University from 1927 to the early 1960s) called the “decline effect” – meaning, Read Full Text

The Question of Happiness

[NOTE: This article was originally posted December 2010]

What a great time of year to think about happiness.  We can think about our own happiness, we can think about others’ happiness, but happiness is really nonexistent if not for research design.   A short look around the Web will prove the point that there are as many ways to think about the happiness question as there are positive psychologists, health providers, and a variety of researchers interested in our well-being.  Here are just a few examples: Read Full Text

The Messy Inconvenience of Qualitative Analysis

Qualitative analysis is difficult.  We can wish it wasn’t so but the fact remains that the nature of qualitative research, by definition, makes analysis ball-of-wirepretty messy.  Unlike the structured borders we build into our quantitative designs that facilitate an orderly analytical process, qualitative research is built on the belief that there are real people beyond those quantitative borders and that rich learning comes from meaningful conversations.

But the course of a meaningful conversation is not a straight line.  The course of conversation is not typically one complete coherent stream of thought followed by an equally well-thought-out rejoinder.  These conversations are not rehearsed to ensure consistent, logical feedback to our research questions; but instead are spontaneous discussions where both interviewee and interviewer are thinking out loud, continually modifying points of view or ideas as human beings do.

The messiness of the interconnections, inconsistencies, and seemingly illogical input we reap in qualitative research demands that we embrace the tangles of our conversations by conducting analyses close to the source.  While Read Full Text