The Roles of Instruments in Psychological Research

History of Psychology 8:3-34 (2005)

Authors
Thomas Sturm
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Abstract
What roles have instruments played in psychology and related disciplines? How have instruments affected the dynamics of psychological research, with what possibilities and limits? What is a psychological instrument? This paper provides a conceptual foundation for specific case studies concerning such questions. The discussion begins by challenging widely accepted assumptions about the subject and analyzing the general relations between scientific experimentation and the uses of instruments in psychology. Building on this analysis, a deliberately inclusive definition of what constitutes a psychological instrument is proposed. The discussion then takes up the relation between instrumentation and theories, and differentiates in greater detail the roles instruments have had over the course of psychology’s history. Finally, the authors offer an approach to evaluating the possibilities and limitations of instruments in psychology.
Keywords Psychology  Instruments  Theory-experiment relation
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