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Experimental practices and objectivity in the social sciences: re-embedding construct validity in the internal-external validity distinction

Jiménez Buedo, María and Russo, Federica (2021) Experimental practices and objectivity in the social sciences: re-embedding construct validity in the internal-external validity distinction. [Preprint]

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Abstract

The experimental revolution in the social sciences is one of the most significant methodological shifts undergone by the field since the ‘quantitative revolution’ in the 19th century. One of the often valued features of social science experimentation is precisely the fact that there are (alleged) clear methodological rules regarding hypothesis testing that come from the methods of the natural sciences and from the methodology of RCTs in the biomedical sciences, and that allow for the adjudication among contentious causal claims. We examine critically this claim and argue that some current understandings of the practices that surround social science experimentation overestimate the degree to which experiments can actually fulfil this role as “objective” adjudicators, by neglecting the importance of shared background knowledge or assumptions and of consensus regarding the validity of the constructs involved in an experiment. We take issue with the way the distinction between internal and external validity is often used to comment on the inferential import of experiments, used both among practitioners and among philosophers of science. We describe the ways in which the more common (dichotomous) use of the internal/external distinction differs from Cook and Campbell’s original methodological project, in which construct validity and the four-fold validity typology were all important in assessing the inferential import of experiments. We argue that the current uses of the labels internal and external, as applied to experimental validity, help to encroach a simplistic view on the inferential import of experiments that, in turn, misrepresents their capacity to provide objective knowledge about the causal relations between variables.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Jiménez Buedo, María
Russo, Federica0000-0002-1993-9697
Keywords: Validity; Experimentation; External Validity; Internal Validity; Construct Validity
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > Experimentation
Depositing User: Federica Russo
Date Deposited: 14 May 2021 03:31
Last Modified: 14 May 2021 03:31
Item ID: 19032
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > Experimentation
Date: 2021
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19032

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