straw poll
Fri, 16 Dec 1994 20:12:48 +0000


Hi All!

Taraa! Parp, Hoot, Yippee! (and Jingle-Bells).
At long last: here's the analysis of our Straw Poll!!!

Pause awhile, though.
This being the pcp newsgroup and all of the data being accessible to
everyone, you could have come to an analysis and conclusions yourselves.

But judging from the absence of any comments on the responses made in the
straw poll, (as distinct from comments _in_ the straw poll, you've lain low
on public constructions of the data, granted ownership, tillage and
scutage, droit de seisinfoimaunt, interfeudalated copywrit of attornment
and advowson absolute to me, cos I was the person who organised the
questionnaire in the first place.

Alright!! Here goes. Results. Copyright, of course. What's more, all rights
reserved. Reproduction in whole or part, etc. etc.

Q1. Your epistemological assumptions, on a scale that runs from "1" equals
"positivist" to "7" equals "constructivist"?

value: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 No Ans N
frequ: 0 0 0 3 8 8 5 1 25

Yep, pretty constructivist.

Q2. a). The only truths are objective (=publicly verifiable); 0
to take anything else as truth is to encourage acceptance of
delusion as truth.
b). Reality exists out there, and our job is to discover it, by
improving the rigour of our techniques for distinguishing the
true from the false, and thereby accumulating accurate
evidence about what's real.
c). Whatever we call it, the observation that some explanations 3
work better than others suggests that there _is_ a reality out
there, which will sooner or later make itself felt in an
unmistakeable way whatever varying constructions different
people put on it in the meantime.
d). Although we can't ever be sure about the "goodness of fit", we 15
nevertheless function most effectively when we seek to map our
constructions of what's going on onto the phenomena that we
encounter around us, looking as rigorously as we can for
consistency between actions, outcomes, and personal goals:
which we take to be the only evidence of success available to us.
e). Everything we encounter has to be experienced by the fallible 1
individual mind; this includes so-called "rigorous evidence",
as well as the basic understandings which we might seek to verify
by that evidence; thus, verification (personal or "scientific")
is pointless, and we are free to construct any world we care to
f). Theonlytruthsaresubjective(=privately experienced);thinking 1
of anything else as truth leads one to accept delusion as truth.
g). It is in principle impossible for anyone to make a meaningful 1
statement on this issue.
h). Meaningful statements are possible, but none of the above 4
adequately captures my own views. If this is your choice,
please take an inch of screen space in your reply in which to
_summarise_ them
No Answer

N, Q 2: 25

Ahar! the majority chose the right answer*, viz., no, there isn't solely
either a reality out there or solely a reality in here.

(* the one I was hoping for. I'm the researcher. All rights reserved, etc.)

Four people screwed up our statistical description by answering in their
own words (If I hadn't offered this option, (h), I would have got some
pretty neat figures, huh? Dammit, why offer respondents an "Other, Please
Specify" category anyway? Isn't our pilot work good enough for them?). But
I'm scholarly, I am, so here's a verbatim listing of what they said in
their own words:

"I would compare our mapping to a dance, in that a dance has an internal
consistency or coherence but can be "constructed" according to many different
rules or themes, and over time evolves in relationship to its own

"If I threw a heavy object at you, I predict you would try to avoid it.
However perceptions of people and social systems are profoundly coloured by
culture and experience; the less tangible the features we study, the
greater that colouring. I would like to be able to do research in such a
way that you don't need to know my epistemology to judge the adequacy of my
data and my interpretations."

"I believe that all constructions are created by fallible, subjective
persons and that you are free to construct whatever world you feel like.
However, scientific endeavors are still valuable, as they give one further
information to construe in whatever fashion makes idiographic sense."

"Truthful words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
Good persons do not argue.
Those who argue are not good.
Those who know are not learned.
The learned do not know." ---Lao Tsu; Tao Te Ching

Yesyesyes. Continue.

Q. 3. In which year did you complete your undergraduate studies?

50-59: 3
60-69: 4
70-79: 7
80-89: 3
90+ : 8
No Ans : 0
N : 25

(Slicing it finer, e.g. into 5-year intervals, the 80s are still low.)

Q. 4. Does your academic training, undergraduate or graduate, include a
major, or equivalent, in psychology?

Yes: 22
No: 1
NA: 2
N: 25

Er. Why did I ask this one anyway? Oh ar, because it'll help me to break
down the answer to other questions of course, chosen at whim during the
analysis. Research design after the event, you understand.

Q. 5. Where would you place your own epistemological assumptions,
on a scale that runs from
"1" = classic realism (e.g., Aristotle to Penrose)
"2" = British empiricism (e.g., Bacon or either Mill)
"3" = logical positivism (e.g., early A.J. Ayer) or rationalism
(a la Karl Popper)
"4" = pragmatic constructivism (e.g.Kelly, Bohr) or perhaps 12
QED (quantum eletrodynamics)
"5" = classic constructivism (e.g., Kant)
"6" = Cartesian idealism
"7" = phenomenology-encaspulated redundancy (take your pick) 3
"8" = really nothing to say-can only smile/skepticism and/or 2
animal faith (e.g., Hume)
No Answer
Tricky buggers
"4.5" 1

"6.5" 1

Sort of as hoped for, with a majority for Kelly not confused by the
asserted logical equivalence to quantum electrodynamics.

Okay, that's the boring description over; now the _real_ science starts. We
ignore all the sotto voce comments which offered statements we didn't ask
for, (neglecting to report their frequency with respect to sample size and
hence possible importance), and start looking at _relationships_! We
type 1 errors by avoiding the shotgun approach of correlating everything
with everything, and try and remember the decisions we made all those weeks
ago about our _design_.

Is there in fact any relationship between Q1, people's self-attribution
along the positivism-constructivism scale, and Q2, their epistemological
Okay, ignore the fact that Q2 is in nominal categories, pretend they're
scaled by assigning ratings a = 1, b = 2 etc., salve the conscience by
using Spearman's rho instead of Pearson's r, and get

rho= 0.343, n = 21 respondents. Um. Not a lot of shared variance, many ties
screw it up, (rho corrected for ties only 0.206), well, yes, most people
chose alternative d) to Q2 after all. What does the contingency table look
like? Recode Q2 back into nominal categories

Q1 4 5 6 7
Q2 c 0 1 2 0
d 3 5 5 2
e 0 0 0 1
f 0 0 0 1
g 0 0 1 0

Do a sneaky chi-square, equals 12.6 with 12 degrees of freedom (ignoring
the people who answered in their own words), p(chi-square)= 0.3988. Oh
well, the problem is obviously due to all the people choosing alternative
d) to Q2, the Kellian alternative. Wish they hadn't done that, no
relationship can be seen.

Onwards: substitute Q 5 for Q1 and the more sophisticated category system
will sort 'em out. Ignore the fact that 5 people refused to play ball and
didn't answer Q5, do a quick chi-square, = 16.236, p(chi-square)= 0.3665,
ho hum. Er, quite a lot of zero frequencies, suggests there's lots of zero
expected values, shall we bother with Fisher's Exact Probability test, nah,
unlikely to be significant anyway.

What else? Oh yes! _Construct validity!_ Ought to check that there is
indeed some relationship between Q2 and Q5. A speedy contingency table, and
aha! chi-square = 29.747, p(chi-square)= 0.0741, nearly significant! Feel
guilty about all those zero frequencies, consider Fisher's EP test,
collapse categories instead, and get something veeery interesting:

Q5: 3&4 5&6 7&8
c&d 11 1 4
e&f 2 1 0

viz., Q2 c) & d) people who believe that there is a reality out there which
will sooner or later make itself felt, plus people who don't, but are into
mapping the phenomenal flow...
tend to be Q5 3) & 4) logical positivists plus constructivists
!... er...
whereas Q2 e) & f), subjectivists plus solipsists: tend to...
er, well, _none_ of them tend to be Q5 7) & 8) phenomenologists or have
nothing to say, actually.
Oh well, it's only a pilot, refine the questions a bit, eliminate any need
for those pesky content analyses of OPS categories that distract people
from answering numerically, and choose a _biiig_ sample. (After all, if
Eysenck got correlations of 0.017 to be significant with samples of over
1000 back in the 60s, why shouldn't we?)

(End of part 1; watch this space)

Devi Jankowicz