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CHAPTER FOUR. Developmental Science and the Experimental Method

Allison Holmes and Douglas M. Teti

Subject Psychology » Developmental Psychology

Key-Topics science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631222618.2004.00006.x


The primary focus of developmental science has been and continues to be on the manner in which particular phenomena evolve and change with age, and identifying lawful antecedents of change. This volume is testimony to the importance of that enterprise. However, because describing how and why change occurs is developmental science's primary calling, it sometimes creates the impression (especially among non-developmentalists) that the discipline is non-experimental, that developmental scientists are ill-equipped to understand and apply the basic principles of the experimental method, and that laboratory experimental methods have no place in a developmental scientist's methodological arsenal. Indeed, developmental science may in part be responsible for these impressions. McCall (1977) , for example, decried attempts by developmental scientists to align with more experimental approaches, emphasizing instead that describing and understanding growth and change in developmental phenomena in naturalistic contexts was much more important to the discipline, and to a broader understanding of human development. We certainly have no quarrel with this perspective. As we shall see, however, experimentation in service of illustrating developmental processes very much has a place in developmental science. The kind of experimental work we refer to here does not include the well-documented, broad-based, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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