Data-driven research has always been something that made sense to me. For many years, I have created surveys that ask specific questions that can be sliced and diced into action points when I receive the data. I love simple yes and no answers and yet, here I find myself in the midst of social sciences, which introduces so many new levers that can be pulled to adjust every part of the research and the results.
I’ve spent a few days just trying to wrap my head around terminology that sounds like made up words. Phenomenology or hermeneutics for example just don’t sound real in my head. I understand that they are just concepts I haven’t been exposed to and in a few months they will be a normal part of my day, but they are new to me now.
Combine that with the idea of all of the bias and personal ethical values that I have been loading onto my neutral mathematical surveys and here I sit….
Perception is complicated
Yes, I admit to being biased. You have bias too.
We all have historical biases of some type. These are not intentional but from the way we were raised to the places we live and work, we perceive ideas in a way that is unique to our personal make-up. That means that when we ask or answer a question it carries all of the weight of every day we have spent on the planet regardless of what it asks us.
I can recall getting calls from telemarketers (before I blocked my number) and having their pronunciation of my name impact the way I responded to them. A person in some call centre has no way of knowing if they are correct, and I shouldn’t hold it against them, but my name is personal to me and getting it wrong may impact the way I respond. Right or wrong. We can’t always help it when our feelings are involved. Unfortunately, I could skew the data set because of something that has nothing to do with my thoughts on my long distance service.
How do you define ethical?
Once again our values as individuals add weight to the impact of the questions we ask and how we go about asking them. This concept leads me to some movie where a police officer asks questions of a suspect under duress. Yes, they were trying to do the right thing, but it was not necessarily carried out under what another person might define as an ethical situation since the person being questioned was not fully in control of their environment and/or faculties.
“Don’t under estimate the importance of body language” Ursula The Little Mermaid
I understand that I placed a cartoon here. I’m making light of something that adds incredible importance to social science research. I’ve wrapped the last point in my post around something that I think will leave you with a good memory of the experience of reading this post, further creating bias and impacting your views on my work.
Every thing in the way someone asks a question, interviews a person, or responds can impact the results of the inquiry. So, next time you answer a question or survey ask yourself if what you are answering is really all truth or just a little bit about something else.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://plato.stanford.edu/index.html
Mindful Inquiry into Social Research http://www.amazon.ca/Mindful-Inquiry-Research-Valerie-Malhotra/dp/0761904093/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1434795240&sr=8-1-fkmr2&keywords=Mindful+inquiry+into+social+research
Image source: Calvin and Hobbes
Image source: The Little Mermaid