Question
Asked 5th Mar, 2019

Why do social sciences lag behind the natural sciences in reliability, validity, objectivity and prediction?

Human behaviour is very complex in nature but it does not mean that it is unpredictable. We need to understand the nature, course and direction of human behaviour and explain its structure, organization, functions and dynamics in a proper scientific orientation.

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please: where does this idea comefrom? who said it/is saying it ? or is it your opinion?
"Why do social sciences lag behind the natural sciences in reliability, validity, objectivity and prediction?"
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Popular Answers (1)

6th Mar, 2019
Jochen Glaser
Technische Universität Berlin
Well, most of the social sciences (and humanities) certainly 'lag behind the natural sciences in reliability, validity, objectivity and prediction' as understood by the natural sciences. Attempts by social sciences to mimic the natural sciences (rigid quantitative aproaches, experiments, quasi-experimental approaches) are successful in some fields (e.g. psychology or economics) but still face problems of reproducibility and can be challenged with regard to their contribution to understanding humans.
Which brings me to my point: No natural scientist has to find out what their photons, atoms, moelcules, cells, plants, fields, rocks, suns and so on think, or what they mean when they behave in a particular way. Social scientists and humanists have to reconstruct the meaning given to their actions by the objects of their study, and how they derive acourse of action from this meaning. The ways in which we make sense of the world defies objective measurement. Social scientists and humanists face this problem twice: Their subjects of study give meaning in a process that defies objective measurement, which is why they must reconstruct this meaning in a process that cannot be fully explicated or measured itslef. Anthony Giddens and others have called this 'double hermeneutics'.
In purely scientific measurement this means more variation (I agree with Peter here) but also constantly shifting relevances of contextual variables of which there is a large number, and which are again difficult to measure.
This is why the social scineces and humanities have developed their own standards of quality.
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All Answers (11)

5th Mar, 2019
Peter A Kindle
Hi, Manzoor,
The first thing that comes to mind is that human behavior has more variation than the foci of natural sciences. My geologist colleague does not have to deal with the same degree of variability as he studies rocks or minerals. But I doubt that this is what you had in mind.
Meyer et al.'s (2001) paper, "Psychological Testing and Psychological Assessment," in American Psychologist, 52(2), pp. 128-165 attempted to answer several questions about the rigor of psychological assessment in comparison to a wide range of medical tests. If you will consult this excellent article, I believe you will see that social sciences (as represented by psychology) are not less reliable, valid, or objective than any other science that uses human subjects.
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6th Mar, 2019
Jochen Glaser
Technische Universität Berlin
Well, most of the social sciences (and humanities) certainly 'lag behind the natural sciences in reliability, validity, objectivity and prediction' as understood by the natural sciences. Attempts by social sciences to mimic the natural sciences (rigid quantitative aproaches, experiments, quasi-experimental approaches) are successful in some fields (e.g. psychology or economics) but still face problems of reproducibility and can be challenged with regard to their contribution to understanding humans.
Which brings me to my point: No natural scientist has to find out what their photons, atoms, moelcules, cells, plants, fields, rocks, suns and so on think, or what they mean when they behave in a particular way. Social scientists and humanists have to reconstruct the meaning given to their actions by the objects of their study, and how they derive acourse of action from this meaning. The ways in which we make sense of the world defies objective measurement. Social scientists and humanists face this problem twice: Their subjects of study give meaning in a process that defies objective measurement, which is why they must reconstruct this meaning in a process that cannot be fully explicated or measured itslef. Anthony Giddens and others have called this 'double hermeneutics'.
In purely scientific measurement this means more variation (I agree with Peter here) but also constantly shifting relevances of contextual variables of which there is a large number, and which are again difficult to measure.
This is why the social scineces and humanities have developed their own standards of quality.
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6th Mar, 2019
Dr Manzoor Hussain
University of Kashmir
I agree with Peter that human behavior has more variation than the foci of natural sciences and also with Glaser that there is constantly shifting relevance of contextual variables in the measurement of human behavior but the fact is that even variations ultimately lead to patterned behavior and human behavior is more than contextual in nature.
6th Mar, 2019
Danny Zschomler
Goldsmiths, University of London
The social world differs substantially form the natural world as Jochen laid out clearly and therefore the onto-epistemological position of social scientists differs from the positivist approach of natural scientists and should subsequently not be judged by the same measurements. Thus, the question needs to be inspected for criticality and reflexivity in terms of assumptions and pre-suppositions. However, within the social sciences there are quantitative and well as qualitative approaches to explain reality. Within the quantitative methods the positivist approach to social reality is applied and therefore the same same measurements of reliability and validity are applied. Yet these methods do not explain the formation and meaning of these phenomena and therefore qualitative methods help to give a rich explanation of what can be observed. I argue that a mixed-method approach might be a pragmatic and pracrical step towards a solution to 'validity' and 'reliability'.
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7th Mar, 2019
John Traphagan
University of Texas at Austin
Jochen is right on the mark. And objectivity isn't really very meaningful in much of the social sciences in any case--certainly not objectivity as it is understood in the natural sciences, and even there it has plenty of problems.
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8th Mar, 2019
Dr Manzoor Hussain
University of Kashmir
I agree with Zscholmer and Traphagen for their approach of criticality and reflexivity in terms of assumptions and pre-suppositions. Definitely, methodological monism asserts that the separation between the knower and the known must be overcome, because you cannot know others without knowing yourself. That is why, self-reflexivity is absolutely important. To know others a sociologist cannot simply study them, but must also listen to and confront himself/ herself. Knowing is not an impersonal effort but 'a personalized effort by whole, embodied men'. Reflexive sociology invites methodological monism, and, therefore, alters the very meaning of knowledge. It does not remain merely a piece of information. Instead, it becomes an awareness! It generates self-awareness and new sensitivity. Reflexive sociology is heavily demanding. Unlike positivist sociology in which you can remain 'neutral' and 'apolitical', reflexive sociology demands your moral commitment and ethical engagement. You cannot separate your life from your work. Possibly new trends in sociological research emanating from feminist and Dalit movements resemble this sort of reflexive sociology. Because in these research trends one sees not just technical objectivity, but essentially a high degree of empathy, an urge to understand suffering, and a striving for an alternative praxis.
But, there are issues of who represents whom and it has come under severe debate not only in anthropology but also in the general debates in the social sciences.
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why do you think this is so? that, "....lag behind the natural sciences in reliability, validity, objectivity and prediction?''
Jochen Glaser has given us a vg answer; in sum, i would add that, using the exact criteria of the ns for sc is in appropriate AND incorrect. For eg. "predicting human behavior will never had the rigor ( reliability, validity, objectivity ) that prediction in ns does. similarly, human beings cannot ethically be experimented on the way experiments are conducted in ns. other important factors are objectivity, human behavior when observed; there is more, but an underdtanding of the differences between ns and sc would provide valuable answers, as in the philosophy of science or epistemilogy.
Here is a brief paper on the difference between the sciences, where it might be not excellent, the last 2 pagesd are excellent readings on the issue of the difference between the ns and sc. https://www.collier.sts.vt.edu/sciwrite/pdfs/boutellier_2011.pdf
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13th Mar, 2019
John Traphagan
University of Texas at Austin
I'd like to ad, echoing Mary-Helen, that the idea of lagging behind isn't really very meaningful here. The natural sciences and social sciences are different and study very different things. They have come up with distinct, and appropriate, ways to address questions of reliability, validity, and objectivity--and also subjectivity--in relation to the type of research that they do and their respective objects of study.
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28th May, 2019
Eberhard Weber
University of the South Pacific
I think that social science does not lag behind, but it has different methodologies and different ways to do research. I would even claim that a positivist approach like usually is followed in physical science is based on the effort to reduce everything to a few variables that can be controlled and that are measured. This is usually highlight successful, but is does not provide always answers to what we would like to have. A philosopher once said: biology is just such successful as it never really asks what life is, physics is so successful as it never really asks what matter is. Social science cannot reduce society to a few variables that can be measure, but it deals with something that is extremely complex....
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How to calculate mean based on questions answered (SPSS)?
Question
3 answers
  • Miguel BenitezMiguel Benitez
I have a questionnaire with 2 sets of 4 main questions, with confidence questions following depending on their answer. Participants are randomly allocated to one condition and answered minimum 4 questions and maximum 8. Each question has information displayed in a different order. For example, one question would be to choose between brand A, brand B, or prefer not to choose. If they chose brand A or B, a follow-up question would appear asking their confidence on a scale of 1-5 (20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, 100%). We take "prefer not to choose" as 0% confidence. (So choosing "prefer not to choose" means they answer 4 questions only, and choosing a brand means they get a confidence question each time so will answer up to 8 questions - 4 choosing a brand and 4 confidence).
I need to calculate the mean confidence levels for each participant for each data order (the 4 main questions) but participants answered anywhere from 4-8 questions each. Currently I have written this command in SPSS which seemed to work:
compute Mean1 = mean.1(v1, v2, v3, v4, v5, v6, v7, v8).
Where v1/v2 are data order 1 (v1 is confidence in brand A, v2 is confidence in brand B), v3/v4 is data order 2, v5/v6 is data order 3, v7/v8 is data order 4.
From my understanding of this syntax, SPSS will only calculate the mean if the participant answered 1 or more confidence questions. What I am confused at is, whether SPSS will calculate the mean based on the number of questions a participant answered? For example:
Participant A answers 8 questions (4 brands chosen, 4 confidence questions)
Participant B answers 4 questions (2 brands chosen, 2 confidence questions)
Participant C answers 3 questions (1 prefer not to choose, 1 brand chosen, 1 confidence question)
Since they have all answered at least 1 confidence question, will SPSS do:
Total confidence divided by 4 questions (Participant A)
Total confidence divided by 2 questions (Participant B)
Total confidence divided by 1 question (Participant C)
Or just Total confidence divided by 8 each time (since there are 8 variables specified in the syntax)? Ideally I want SPSS to do the former (divide by the number of questions answered).
I appreciate this was very long and hard to visualise but please if you need any more details I am happy to provide.
How to identify journal quartiles (Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4) for the journals indexed in the ISI/SSCI list?
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18 answers
  • Cong Minh HuynhCong Minh Huynh
Dear researchers,
However, I dont know how to identify journal quartile (Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4) for the journals that are indexed in ISI/SSCI list? Would you please help me to do that?
Thank you so much!
Stay healthy and best regards,

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