Can psychologists measure everything?

12 Feb

Is it possible for psychology to measure everything in society and is it a viable aim for the subject? If it’s true (and i believe it is) that knowledge and it’s validity is forever changing due to new findings then does it matter if psychology tries, and fails, to study everything?

The main issue I think with this question is the operationalisation of concepts. Take for example research into studies based on emotions. Emotions are very hard to operationalise as they differ in meaning from person to person. Take for example the emotion of happiness. This word is used to describe a wide range of good feelings by people that are as a result of a wide range of events and news. To operationalise this means that some versions of happiness will be missed out as one definition would never be enough to cover the whole range. Easterlin (1994) looked at whether or not that increasing the income of people made their happiness increase. He found that as the peoples income increased so did what was needed to fulfill their happiness. For example a poor family may only need their bills and food to be paid for in order for them to class themselves as happy, however would this suffice for the billionaire who is used to a large house, fancy cars and designer clothes. I think maybe not. If anything this study showed that there are some concepts like emotions that are changing constantly that mean any measurement of them would be outdated the minute it was taken (I get that this is the case for other concepts as well but I think that emotion measurement is probably more fluid than most).

So  back  to the question… is it possible to measure everything for psychologists? In my opinion no. Though the majority of things there is some way to measure and study i just feel that some things are too ambiguous and not specific enough for research. Again back to emotions how would this be measured exactly..a scale? If so what would be used for the different intervals? Life events of some kind maybe rating your happiness on a scale against certain other events in your life? This doesn’t exactly sound very scientific to me and how would it all be quantified? everyone’s experiences are different so how could they be compared to each other if the life events scale are different? It just doesn’t seem entirely possible to me.


2 Responses to “Can psychologists measure everything?”

  1. Joe Butler February 13, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    Just checking that you have comments available.

  2. rebeccag92 February 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    I agree that the transient and subjective nature of emotions make them more difficult to operationalise than other quanititative variables, such as number of siblings. However I believe that due to recent technological advances such as CAT scanners, MRI anf fMRI scanners such variables are now easier to quantify and identify than ever before. Whilst we cannot know for ourselves how somebody else experiences hapiness brain scanners can identify how the brain responds, for example the reward center which was first seen in rats; the rats were placed in a box and received an electric shock to the brain if they ventured into a certain corner, the rats seemingly enjoyed this as they would return to this corner repeatedly and even favoured the electrical ‘reward’ over food (Olds & Milner 1954). This area of the brain is believed to be the nucleus accumbens and is thought to release dopamine, elevating mood and thus creating a pleasurable sensation. Although this by no means operationalises the feeling of happines it does attribute to the operationalisation of the experience of happiness. The experience of the brain is a more objective measure and therefore arguably more scientific.

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