Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Bomb in the Brain - The Biology of Violence: The Effects of Child Abuse Part 3

Why people become violent. Series References: http://www.fdrurl.com/tn_abuse1

1 comment:

Stephen K. Greenhouse said...

An empirical approach includes a critical analysis of the data, the sampling techniques used, the research design, the statistical methods employed, and so on. While it may be true that a statistically average conservative person (s/he is not to be confused with an actual human being) has a higher initial fear response than his or her equally theoretical liberal counterpart, this really doesn't tell us a whole lot. Psychological research findings are not only mostly generalizations, but also statistical inferences all of which are limited by the extent of their internal and external validity and reliability. Virtually all research findings in the social sciences come with this caveat.

Thus in the example you cite, the findings do not discriminate between let's say religious and non-religious conservatives. It is entirely possible that conservative fundamentalists skew these findings in a way that hides rather than illuminates. It may turn out that a more stratified research design would reveal that a conservative atheist is even less impulsively fearful than the least impulsively fearful liberal.

My broader point is that even the most empirical of findings is something to be interpreted and can rarely be taken at face value. The empirical findings that are face valid are typically banal or tautological or “self-evident.”