Presentation on theme: "Post-Positivist Perspectives on Theory Development"— Presentation transcript:
1 Post-Positivist Perspectives on Theory Development Chapter ThreePost-Positivist Perspectives on Theory Development
2 Philosophical Roots of Post-Positivism: Classical PositivismPhilosophy developed by Auguste Comte in 19th centuryClassical positivism argues that knowledge must pass through theological and metaphysical stages before reaching scientific or positive stageFoundation of knowledge is in observable phenomena and formal logic
3 Logical PositivismVienna Circle scholars in 1920s-1930sDistinction between science and metaphysics through verifiability (analytic or empirical) principleScience meaningful; metaphysics meaninglessSearched for ideal language for scienceConsidered falsifiability of theories (Popper)Theory = axioms, postulates, definitions, and theorems
4 The Demise of Positivism Logical positivism largely rejected by the 1960s: Why?Verifiability principle came under serious questionObservation seen as theory-laden rather than value-freeLogical positivists seen as detached from workings of actual scientists who were trying to build actual theories
5 Post-Positivist Theory: Metatheoretical Commitments OntologyPost-positivists are modified realists who also recognize social constructionBeliefs about reality can be “real” to some people/groupsSocial constructions yield shared patterns of (predictable) behavior amenable to scientific investigationSocial constructions are reified and treated as objective by actors
6 EpistemologyLook for causal explanations for regularities in behaviorBut feel it is difficult to separate the knower and the knownRecognize fallabilities of scientific methodUse critiques of other scholars on evidence and logicAxiologyAttempt to be objective as possible
7 Structure of Post-Positivist Theory Note: Miller uses Dubin. I put more common terms in parentheses.Units: Constructs that make up the theory (conceptual definition of variables)Laws of interaction: Relationships among the constructsBoundaries: Who, when, and where the theory appliesPropositions: Logic deductions about how model works (conceptual explanation of hypotheses)Empirical Indicators: Operational definitions of units (variables)Hypotheses: Propositions that can be empirically tested (operationalization of hypotheses)
8 Functions of Post-Positivist Theory Explanation: Answering questions of why empirical phenomena occurPrediction: Using explanation to predict what might happen in a similar situationControl: Influencing empirical phenomena given theoretical knowledgeIn sum: explain, predict, control
9 Criteria for Evaluating the Worth of a Theory A theory should be accurate. In determining accuracy, a theory must also be testable.A theory should be consistent, both internally and with other theories.A theory should have relatively broad scope.A theory should be relatively parsimonious.A theory should be heuristic.
10 Theory DevelopmentPost-positivists rely on scientific method in the development of theory: Why?Scientific method maximizes objectivity and the separation between knower and known (epistemology).Scientific method allows for causal explanation by (1) establishing temporal order, (2) establishing covariation, and (3) ruling out alternative explanations. (experiments)
11 Why are experiments preferred design by Post-positivists? Features of experiments—Random selection of sample from larger populationRule out volunteer or contextual bias (e.g. college students who are all majoring in communication and want to get extra credit by volunteering)Manipulation of the Independent VariableControl group and experimental group for comparison (often several experimental groups)Random assignment of subjects to groups (control and experimental)
12 Theory Development (cont.) Theory VerificationNo theory covers all aspects or circumstances of a phenomenon so we can’t say it’s “true”But a good theory lends itself to tests of verificationFalsifiabilityMethod of “conjecture and refutation” seen as ideal for science
13 Growth of Post-Positivist Research Growth of theories can be viewed asan evolutionary process ( systematic and cumulative)as a revolutionary processSee Notes on Kuhn—do recall that he is talking about paradigm shifts rather than specific theories within a paradigm.Is communication discipline in a pre-paradigmaticstate? What do you think and why?