Statistics Blog 1 (Sem 2)
After writing a research report using qualitative methodology in the form of IPA the aim of my blog this week is to discuss the importance of processing rich detailed data to make conclusions about humans, preserving their integrity. Rather than a straight comparison to the quantitative method I intend to use the book “The Bell Curve” (Richard J Herrnstein & Charles Murray) to form the argument of my entry.
Studies such as Zimbardo’s prison experiment and Milgram’s study of obedience have been well documented and explicitly taught, psychological harm and physical harm to participants occurred during Zimbardo’s investigation and psychological harm could be argued in Milgram’s study. While harm on a singular occasion to a relatively small number of individuals (acting as participants) may seem dreadful to some and more than worthy of a student’s blog, I instead wish to discuss the harm that can come from the conclusions that studies using a purely quantitative method can arrive at.
One research report by no means makes me an expert, I did however learn a lot from the experience that has influenced my views. A qualitative study that builds rapport with participants during a conversation-like interview yields emotional content and fact that is specific to their own experiences, these experiences are often the same or similar to others, not because humans are so innately boring but rather because we all live in the same sorts of ways. Cross cultural studies will likely show different trends but they however would probably be matched by other members of their culture.
Quantitative methodology as I have stated in my last blog is a remarkable method for making inferences about cognition, examining reaction time and drug trials. However the latter has plenty of space for the qualitative method as often the best solutions are drug and methods such as community care. In the case of “The Bell Curve” it is so called due to the distribution we are all by now familiar with, the examination of IQ in relation to culture, race and wealth were explored with aims to advise the American government. Using mean scores of IQ for a range of racial backgrounds the two authors proposed that up to 80% of intelligence is inherited. They also used information on intelligence and cross referenced it with employment status, likelihood of incarceration and unwanted pregnancies etc.
Herrnstein died before the book was published and the information was ‘written off’ as anti-American and racist. Using the average of IQ scores to determine the worth of a race and to treat them differently, just because the average outcome of low IQ individuals seems undesirable to the cognitive elite is wrong. The information outlined in The Bell Curve may appear racist but to Charles Murray it was merely the report of statistics that were valid and the measures reliable.
While the data the authors gathered may have been true a more qualitative methodology would have allowed investigation of why such outcomes are prevalent in certain cultures and racial backgrounds. Wealth directly affects housing and therefor areas for schooling, it may well be that the race in question would easily have a higher IQ average if they were given the same opportunities, denying equal opportunity in capitalist countries is common, but to then drag their identities through the mud for the discrimination placed on them is wholly unfair to do let alone publish.
To conclude my rant, quantitative methodology is an excellent tool but should be used with care. Adopting a qualitative aspect can help appreciate the facts responsible for outcomes rather than an oversimplified and inaccurate singular cause and response ideal.