Naturalistic and positivistic researchers

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Naturalistic and positivistic researchers

Postby Richard » 29 Jan 2019 07:02

Most applied linguistics researchers have a preference for either naturalistic or positivistic approaches to research. Why do different researchers have different preferences? For example, is it an issue of personality, of competence, of experience ....?
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Re: Naturalistic and positivistic researchers

Postby justthedave » 29 Jan 2019 11:57

Individuals with even a mild case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder would tend to gravitate towards a more positivistic approach to research. Even though one's nature is more content with a naturalistic approach towards research, the perception of sureness, specifically with a heavy statistical nature, would tend to bring about a sense of tranquility with the research.
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Re: Naturalistic and positivistic researchers

Postby stevelouw » 30 Jan 2019 13:39

Dave is right that individual researchers' personality or nature will predispose them to certain kinds of research. And if I may just add a little self-(aggrandizing)-citation at this point, since my own research considered the importance of beliefs, it is incumbent upon me to mention that what beliefs a researcher holds about knowledge, and what the role of 'good' research is with regard to uncovering this knowledge, must also be somewhat relevant.

I wonder, though, how important the researcher's context is in determining a his/her preference. In some fields, positivist approaches to research are considered more 'rigorous' and perhaps therefore more scientific in some way. It could also be that in some universities, or even specific faculties, there is a preference for findings that come from intensive 'unbiased' research based in steady principles that the scientific community can respect. If someone works in this kinds of environment, their choice to do naturalistic research could be seen as contrary or even subversive.
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Re: Naturalistic and positivistic researchers

Postby donparo » 31 Jan 2019 09:42

I would always attribute one’s preference with experience, background and opportunities as well. My previous researches were purely positivisitc in nature because I had no background in conducting qualitative researches. But it doesn’t mean I will work on positivistic researches all my life. Being in the our program now gives me more opportunities and support to explore other research paradigms.
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Re: Naturalistic and positivistic researchers

Postby Sachiko » 02 Feb 2019 09:11

A lot of interesting discussions and great insights here.
Going back to Richard's initial question "Why do different researchers have different preferences? For example, is it an issue of personality, of competence, of experience ....?" I'd say it is the mixture of all of these, but more to do with individual philosophy, in some sense similar to the idea of 'beliefs' that Steve has discussed. I also found it very interesting that you (Richard) listed 'competence' as one of the components, and that got me wondering. A researcher holding a naturalistic view, of course, tends to see things through that lens, which leads him/her to use more qualitative approaches. At the same time, it may be natural for such a researcher to be interested in learning about methodological approaches that are in line with her/his beliefs at the initial stage of their journey, which leads him/her to acquire knowledge and skills in that area, hence a particular preference...
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Re: Naturalistic and positivistic researchers

Postby Woravut » 05 Feb 2019 08:21

We all have our preferences (e.g. whether type of music, food, dressing, room decoration, tourist attraction, or research approach). Our preferences can be seen as a cognitive bias.

How do we develop our cognitive bias?
We are all born with a set of complex and connected nerves (with its subsets) in the brain. I have no ideas how to call it. So, I will use "mechanism" to refer to it.

Of several mechanisms in our brain, two main ones are a thinking mechanism and an emotional mechanism.

When we were born, we were fed with a certain type of food. We grew up with a certain type of music, or place, or a world view.
These abstract or concrete things are things that exist outside of our bodily system, but are related to us as we are exposed to them.
Much and repeated exposure leads to a certain set of nerves being strengthened. The result is a certain set (or subset) of nerves becomes stronger, leading to familiarity.

(let's think about this. Can Aj. Richard, Stuart, Steve have Kao Kraprow Kai (Chicken with basil leaves) or noodles as a breakfast? or Can Sachiko have Som Tam (papaya salad with chilli) as a breakfast?)

So, the familiarity is the result of exposure and the thinking mechanism...

(to be continued)
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Re: Naturalistic and positivistic researchers

Postby Woravut » 08 Feb 2019 10:12

Now, let me continue.

The ohter main mechanism is the emotion mechanism. Some may argue that the emotion mechanism is part of the thinking system. While I have no scientific support, I will use my observation to support my stance. Think about why an infant, whose brain is not yet fully developed, smiles or bursts into laughter when his/her parents look at the infant or do something nonsense in front of the infant. I think that the smile and the laughter are caused by the emotion mechanism. Anohter example is when we are so emotional, it seems that our thinking system is in sleeping mode. Or when we are nervous when speaking in front of the public, it seems some of us need to be struggling to speak out. When we are very sick or in pain, it seems difficult for many of us to think. Emotion clouds thinking.

So it is possible to say that the thinking mechanism is independent from, but very very closely related to the emotion mechanism.

Related to the emotion mechanism is mental comfortability. (Mental comfortability is not physical comfortability - e.g. laying down on a nice bed, or wearing a jacket in a cold place)

Note that familiarty is not the same thing as, but is closely related to, comfortability. Think about when you are in a familiar place or are surrounded by people you are famialiar with, there are times that you may not feel mentally comfortable. Mental comfortability is the positive/negative feeling that we have towards a certain thing, place, or idea.

While I argued in the previous post that 'Much and repeated exposure leads to a certain set of nerves being strengthened. The result is a certain set (or subset) of nerves becomes stronger, leading to familiarity', the mental comfortability is to do more with the nerves, rather than the exposure. These nerves can dictate how people to choose one thing over another. Think about some people who are educated in science, but believe in ghosts. Think about introvert and extrovert people. Think about educated people who feel happy to listen to criticism, but some who do not want to hear critisim. Think about some who prefer to have a peace of mind rather than questioning things around. Think about twins who were born in the same family, and raised in the same environment, have physical sameness, but mental and intellectual differences.

Different approaches/paradigms carried with them certain ways of thinking and doing. A certain researcher feels more mentally comfortable with one way of thinking and doing. And I believe this plays a more important role in dictating whether one will chose a naturalistic or positivist paradgim. Let me support my point. When I was in Sydney, I knew one PhD Student who had beening doing research from a positivist viewpoint. She had 'familarity' with the positivist groud. However, her PhD was from a constructivist view. I asked her why...after years of doing quantitative reserach, want to do qualitative research (something she was not familiar with). Based on my loose memory, she said something like she started not to beleive in numbers, and human behavoirs were more than number.

So, I think mental comfortability (the emotion mechanism) plays a more important role than familarity (the thinking mechanism).
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Re: Naturalistic and positivistic researchers

Postby Richard » 11 Feb 2019 07:28

A readable and interesting introduction to the role of emotion in thinking is 'Descartes' Error' by Antonio Damasio. He argues (similar to Woravut but with a lot of research support) that emotions drive thinking. Worth reading.
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