In this post we are going to talk about the most relevant paradigm from the point of view of science Without a doubt, it is one of the most relevant today, having its origins in the 19th century.

What is a positivist paradigm?

It receives several names: quantitative, empirical-analytical and rationalist paradigm . It comes from the philosophical current of Positivism, which is interested in the verification of knowledge through predictions. For this reason, it is also called the predictionist paradigm.

The system consists of raising a set of hypotheses about some phenomenon and then submitting it to examination and verification.

Knowledge is only valid if it is verifiable and quantifiable . As measurable and repeatable, phenomena can be confirmed as trends, leading to new hypotheses and the creation of theories. The quantitative and qualitative aspects form a solid union in the positivist system.

Its scope of development was concentrated, for obvious reasons, in the factual and natural sciences, but it was also embraced by the social sciences.

In sum, the positivist paradigm ensures that knowledge, based on the experience of the senses , only evolves through observation and experimentation, within the framework of the application of the scientific method. 

In the French philosopher Auguste Comte, the precursor of Positivism, is the germ of the paradigm: in the thought that only the facts captured directly by the senses are valid and that they can be subjected to empirical verification.

haracteristics of the positivist paradigm

Because of its ontological dimension. The positivist paradigm starts from the fact that there is an objective reality, external, apprehensible and guided by codes and immutable natural systems.

Because of its epistemological dimension. There is a separation between the researcher and the object of investigation. The researcher analyzes and studies the object without exercising control over it or vice versa. Knowledge is devoid of prejudices and is generated regardless of the social context in which it is generated.

Because of its methodological dimension. The best methodology to decipher reality involves four mechanisms of action: experimentation, manipulation of variables, hypothesis verification and quantitative techniques.

As a hypothetical deductive system. The purpose of the paradigm is systematic knowledge, subject to verification and comparison, quantifiable and repeatable. For example, it pursues the cause of phenomena and events in the social world. It should be noted that the behaviorist paradigm is of the positivist type, since it is interested only in observable and verifiable behavior.

As a hypothetical-deductive method. His method of study is that of factual or exact sciences. Its objective is to lead the particular towards the production of general laws, finding the causes of problems.

The stages in the application of this paradigm

Social reality is studied using statistics. The object of study adapts to the system, implying a methodological reductionism. The studies are carried out on the basis of a large sample in order to generalize the results. Three stages are distinguished in the method, namely:

  • Elaboration of the object of study. Based on an investigation of the literature or documentary archeology, the study topic is selected. Then, the problem statement is written, plus the formulation of the objectives, the justification, the theoretical framework and the hypothesis.
  • Definition of the investigation. It’s the kind of research. The research subjects are determined, the sample is established and the data collection techniques are designated, plus the construction and application of the research instruments.
  • Confrontation-explanation and presentation of the conclusions.

It is a very common way of doing things in academia. Even with notable weight in the world of psychology.

Positivist paradigm and social sciences

The interest of the positivist paradigm is to find the facts or causes of social phenomena stripped of the subjective states of the subjects. Indeed, in the field of Social Sciences, the application of the positivist paradigm pursues the systematization of its phenomena.

In this way, his objects of study focus on observable , quantifiable, verifiable phenomena , such as height, weight, gender or the number of students who do not pass a test, the number of repeaters per course, etc.

Knowledge based on the empirically verifiable pursues the causes of the phenomena of social reality, forming general conclusions of the observed problems. Validity is achieved through experimental study, systematic observation of behavior and the correspondence of variables.

Importance of generalization about the individual

From the above, a generalization of the processes is carried out , leaving unverifiable situations aside, with the ultimate aim of explaining the phenomena and specific situations.

For the empirical-analytical paradigm, social reality is put in the following terms:

  • Both social and natural reality are the same for all observers.
  • Social processes can be studied by their constituent elements: the whole is equal to the sum of its constituent elements.
  • Social reality is made up of variables. They are different elements that interact forming a whole system.
  • Social processes are produced by regular factors beyond human will. They are capable of being systematized in laws that facilitate their prognosis.
  • Social processes are subject to the quantification of their observable (indicators) or external expressions.
  • Variables can be used as objects.
  • The reality is described through mathematical models.

Thus, a work scaffolding is formed that, without a doubt, changes the way of understanding things in the field of social sciences.

Techniques and instruments of the hypothetical-deductive system

Among the most used are the following:

  • Questionnaires and scales to measure the attitudes of individuals.
  • The application of the registration form, the rigorous registration of behaviors or observable situations. The observation is ranked by categories and subcategories.
  • Check List .
  • Standardized tests and inventories. These techniques can measure phenomena such as stress level, personality types or job well-being, etc.

How the hypothetico-deductive or positivist scientific method works

The first thing is that the hypothesis must infer consequences that are observable in reality. But, this does not demonstrate its certainty, but its plausibility.

  • Do not confuse factual judgment with value judgment. It is impossible to separate a value judgment from a factual judgment.
  • The researcher takes a spatio-temporal sample and analyzes the situation.
  • In education, the method distinguishes the “ends” from the “means”, giving the latter a higher hierarchy over the former. Pedagogy is displaced by Education Sciences.
  • The problems are understood as technical issues, so they can be solved objectively, following the information from the observations and measurements. The discursive and rhetorical resource is left aside.

In the field of social sciences, research -in the terms mentioned above- seeks to identify trends that can be the object of generalization to a population or society .

In addition, it is proposed to test the theories by testing the hypotheses and establishing the connections between the variables. The ultimate goal of research is to generate formalized knowledge.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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