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One can argue that in any field, not only psychology, a theory must be tested multiple times and present the same results to be proven as valid. However, often an experiment proving a specific concept becomes widely popular, and the practice can be adopted by many without questioning the validity of findings. The dangerous implication of this is that further research is based on faulty outcomes, producing more inadequate findings that affect the existing body of knowledge. This paper aims to evaluate the claim that advances in psychology can only be achieved through questioning the existing theory.
Child Violence and Social Learning Theory
To discuss the implications of psychological advancement based either on challenging the existing theory or using it as the basis of one’s work, it is necessary to examine specific examples relevant to this issue. In Chapter 3 titled Learning from Watching, Oates (2012) discusses the aspects of social learning theory and advances made in this field over the years. The context described in this chapter is very relevant to the issue of advancing psychological knowledge because it mainly focuses on the merits of the digital era, such as computer technology and the Internet. The primary implication of the research cited by Oates (2012) is that use of innovational technology is a part of a child’s social learning process. For instance, many media resources and some research cite violence depicted in film or video games as significant harm to children’s psychological development.
However, the main question is whether the social learning theory provides valid evidence suggesting the direct impact of what a child sees when growing up on his or her development or not. One of the recent examples is the response of the United States government to the mass shooting in Texas, where both the President and the Congress blamed video games for fostering violence in young individuals (Tassi, 2019). Based on the description from Chapter 3, it can be argued that the misconception is a result of the common assumption that people learn behaviors by observing their environment and others.
To understand the issue more specifically, an example of research that led to the prevalence of claims in the media regarding the danger of exposing children to video games should be examined. The experiment cited by Oates by Badura et al. and conducted in 1963 indeed provided evidence supporting the idea that children who were exposed to violent behavior can mimic it and be more aggressive than their peers (cited in Oates, 2012). While this study had several groups of children and used appropriate methods for research in psychology, the interpretation of findings can be questioned. For example, the Society for Research in Child Development (2019) cites new research conducted in 2019 by Hygen et al., which explicitly focuses on video games and their impact on children of different ages. The findings suggest that there are some implications for concern, although in general there is no direct link between violence and video games depicting it.
The concern is mainly connected to the development of social skills but not aggressive behavior. Hence, the two examples of studies provide an understanding of the need to treat the results of experiments in psychology with caution and conduct further research into the specific matter to have concrete evidence. The new findings suggest that the conclusions made based on the original experiment were incorrect, hence questioning the study allowed advancing the understanding of the matter.
Theories of Attachment
Another example of the beneficial impact of questioning existing theory is the attachment theory. Within Chapter 5, the author Custance (2012) explores the issue of love in the context of the attachment theory. Bowlby’s focus on human attachment was possible because the researcher aimed to examine the idea that challenged the previous focus on the mother-child bond (cited in Custance 2012). In essence, this allowed the development of a more in-depth understanding of different attachments that exist among humans. Other research, such as findings of Harlow regarding the importance of tactile contact for infants based on the observations of monkeys provides further advancement into the concept of human relationships (cited in Custance 2012). It can be concluded that both Bowlby and Harlow made significant advancements to the understanding of attachment as more than just a mother-child connection by challenging existing approaches.
The Impact of Additional Research
The significant implication is that within the field of psychology, there are many variables and options for potential bias affecting the findings, which should be considered when evaluating the conclusions. Arguably, the only logical approach to determining the cohesiveness of the findings and the underlying theory is to test multiple times in different conditions, questioning the original methodology. Next, it is necessary to explore the results to ensure that no need for questioning the existing theory is present. One argument against this can be the financial and resource issue arising from retesting the theories. In the context of advancing psychology and finding out more about the human mind, this appears to be a question requiring further exploration. A counterargument exists, suggesting that it is impossible to advance and improve using evidence that does not correspond to the actual state of things. Thus, such advancement would be made in the wrong direction, and resources would spend inappropriately.
Using the previous example of Rorschach’s test, it should be noted that some still believe in its validity and use it regularly. Sears (2017) argues that unlike IQ testing or standard approaches, Rorschach’s test offers a better insight into one’s personality because it has no correct answer. The example outlined by the author suggests that this can be a better approach to understanding one’s personality. It is possible that the current state of comprehending the test and interpreting its implications is imperfect and can be improved by further research.
Arguably, the line between proving a theory wrong and finding specific elements of it that can improve the understanding of human psychology is unclear. The example of the experiment by Badura et al. cited by Oates (2012) provided a better insight into the child development issue, which was used by subsequent researchers to improve the knowledge further. Hence, nowadays, the evidence suggests that child behavior in regards to the social learning theory is more complex and is not merely a result of observing and copying others. Hygen et al. found that girls playing video games are more inclined to fall behind on developing adequate social skills if they dedicate much time playing these games (cited in the Society for Research in Child Development 2019). However, boys of the same age group did not display any adverse effects in regards to social behavior or violence. This claim suggests that psychological issues explored by researchers are complex and cannot be excellently studied with a single experiment. This is especially relevant in the context of a modern society where technology development and exposure to innovation can impact people in ways that are yet to be comprehended.
The evidence explored above suggests that some advances made in the field of psychology were enabled by building current research on the findings of previous studies. Chapter 8 by Edgar and Edgar (2012) emphasizes aspects, which can provide some evidence suggesting the need to use existing theory as the basis for future advancements. The authors described research by Broadbent who explored the attention theory and succeeding research, focusing on providing a more in-depth understanding of the researcher’s findings. Studies conducted by Cherry can be used to improve the model initially developed by Broadbent (cited in Edgar and Edgar 2012). Because the original author was unable to incorporate some of the elements such as the direction of the voice, its distinct features, and other characteristics. This example suggests that some theories and concepts in psychology require refinement and improvement to create a cohesive understanding of psychological phenomena.
Based on the explored information, it can be concluded that researchers should treat any theory indifferently and subject it to thorough testing to redefine it or explore new characteristics of a concept. Another example of the famous psychological experiment that is popular even outside the professional circles is the Stanford prison experiment. According to Resnick (2018), new findings based on Zimbardo’s notes provide an understanding of the misleading practices used by researchers that arguably affected the outcomes. For instance, the article suggests that correctional officers were explicitly instructed to behave in a cruel manner – which is thought to be the main finding of this study. Hence, the work that has been cited by many others and provided the foundation for the development of other concepts appears to be misleading.
Rorschach’s test was questioned by many because of the uncertainty about the underlying theory. This is an open-end task that requires one to use visualization for interpreting the ink pictures. According to Sears (2017) and Strochlic (2017), many debates exist around this theory, primarily because it can produce controversial results. Another aspect is that this test has been used for many years, which implies that most individuals are aware of the purpose and outcomes that can be manipulated. However, it is possible that more research into this technique can improve it and advance the subject of understanding an individual’s personality.
Overall, it can be concluded that the existing practices for testing concepts imply the need to check the findings and challenge the ideas presented by the authors. For one, a correct theory would produce consistent results throughout the experiments, providing even more evidence supporting the claims. The importance of the argument that advances in psychology can only be made by challenging the existing theory should be reviewed from both the perspective of exposing faulty research findings and using prior studies as the foundation for new experiments. It can be argued that by challenging the theory, researchers can make significant contributions to the field of psychology. It is because in both cases when the theory is proven right or wrong, the subject can receive more evidence or new implications for further examination.
Custance, D 2012, ‘Determined to love?’, in N Brace & J Byford (eds.), Investigating psychology, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom, pp. 189-233.
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Edgar, H & Edgar, G 2012, ‘Paying attention’, in N Brace & J Byford (eds.), Investigating psychology, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom, pp. 321-361.
Oates, J 2012, ‘Learning from watching’, in N Brace & J Byford (eds.), Investigating psychology, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom, pp. 99-139.
Resnick, B 2018, ‘The Stanford Prison Experiment was massively influential. We just learned it was a fraud’, Vox, Web.
Searls, D 2017, “Can we trust the Rorschach test?’, The Guardian, Web.
Society for Research in Child Development 2019, Playing video games generally not harmful to boys’ social development, Web.
Strochlic, N 2017, The Rorschach test is more accurate than you think, Web.
Tassi, P 2019, ‘Trump, republican focus on video games and ‘Call of Duty’ after mass shootings is a transparent distraction’, Forbes, Web.