Psychological Research, Folk Wisdom & Wisdom
Assignment – Discussion – Personality Theory & Research: What is the purpose of conducting and utilizing psychological research versus relying on our own folk wisdom? Most personality research is quantitative and uses experimental and correlational designs. What are a few of the challenges and limitations of these approaches? How about case studies and other qualitative approaches? In your opinion, is it ever ethical to use deception in assessment or research?
Psychological Research, Folk Wisdom, and Wisdom
Before attempting to distinguish between conducting psychological research and relying on our own folk wisdom, it may be useful to first examine the definitions of research, folk wisdom, and wisdom. While research is defined as “the systematic investigation” (Lexico, 2022a) of a particular subject “in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions” (Lexico, 2022a), folk wisdom refers to “knowledge and experience that originates from the beliefs and opinions of ordinary people” (Lexico, 2022b). This definition of research corresponds to Funder’s (2016) assertion that psychological research entails exploring the unknown, acquiring new knowledge, and by doing so contributing to the field of psychology. Because researchers are regular people, they, or rather we, are influenced by the thinking processes ascribed to ordinary people, as defined by folk wisdom. The more trained a researcher is in conducting scientific research, for example, in research methodology and statistical analysis, the more likely he will avoid being unduly influenced by various prejudices, preconceived notions, or other factors that can obstruct the discovery of new knowledge.
Thus, while folk wisdom can cloud a researcher’s judgment, I believe that wisdom is a quality that any researcher can benefit from. Given that wisdom is defined as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment,” (Lexico, 2022c) it seems self-evident that the more wisdom a researcher possesses, the more effective he will be in his quest to comprehend the complex reality of human experience. In this regard, I believe it is advantageous for a researcher to incorporate both logic and intuition when pursuing new knowledge. For instance, Funder (2016) recounts a time when he was required to memorize the periodic table and wondered where it originated. Interestingly, Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev spent a long time attempting to put the periodic table together but was only able to do so after imagining the entire table in a dream, demonstrating the critical role of intuition in accessing the mind’s full potential (Nierenberg, 1986).
While both experimental and correlational studies seek to establish a relationship between two variables, each has its own set of difficulties and limitations. For instance, it is frequently plausible in correlational studies that an unmeasured third variable resulted in the creation of two correlated variables (Funder, 2016). Correlational research, in this sense, identifies a relationship between two variables. However, it does not establish conclusively whether one variable caused another. To this end, researchers rely on experimental research, which makes establishing a cause-and-effect relationship easier by manipulating variables. Some limitations of experimental research include the fact that ethical or practical considerations may actually prevent an experiment from being carried out at all, i.e., not every variable that can be manipulated should be manipulated, or that controlling irrelevant variables makes the test situation somewhat artificial (Funder, 2016).
While a case study provides qualitatively detailed information about a specific situation or phenomenon and can provide valuable insights for future research, it has several limitations, including a lack of scientific rigor and the inability to replicate the findings (Funder, 2016). Additionally, the researcher’s subjectivity may influence the outcome, and it can be time-consuming and costly (Funder, 2016).
Concerning the question of whether deception is ever ethical in assessment or research, I must admit that I still know too little about the various circumstances in which deception may be justified. Nonetheless, I would prefer not to use it in my own research or when assisting clients. The primary reason for this is that I have discovered that the more honest I am with myself and others, the easier life appears to be. To relate this to the psychological triangle: When I think one thing, feel another, and act completely differently, I frequently encounter difficulties in my life. While Funder (2016) refers to this as inconsistencies, I refer to it as incongruence. On the other hand, when I make an effort to remain congruent, that is, when my behavior and actions match my deeper feelings and what I am thinking or saying, I encounter less conflicts in my life. Thus, to conclude this discussion where it began, just as I believe wisdom is critical in the field of psychology, whether as a researcher or a therapist, I believe being congruent is equally important.
Funder, D. C. (2016). The Personality Puzzle. 7th Ed. W. W. Norton & Company.
Lexico. (2022a). Oxford University Press. Retrieved January 23, 2022, from
Lexico. (2022b). Oxford University Press. Retrieved January 23, 2022, from
Lexico. (2022c). Oxford University Press. Retrieved January 23, 2022, from
Nierenberg, G. I. (1986). The art of creative thinking. Simon & Schuster.