Description - Comparative Studies of How People Think by Michael Cole
The psychology of thinking has traditionally been in the business of making comparisons between different groups of people. On the whole, these comparisons have rendered a substantial body of knowledge; but all too often, they have suffered the pitfalls of faulty organizational logic and unfounded or invidious conclusions. In this extraordinarily clear and critical introduction, Michael Cole and Barbara Means Jay out the problems involved in comparing how people think. They show, for example, how variables confounded with the constitution of two groups can lead to the wrong interpretation of group differences. More subtly, they demonstrate how cognitive differences between groups can destroy the equivalence of the tests used to make comparisons. They also discuss the unfortunate way that observed differences between groups have led to prejudicial interpretations in which mental differences are transformed into mental deficits. Cole and Means illustrate all these problems with a rich variety of examples drawn from the research literature in comparative cognition. Because they use real examples. Cole and Means offer much more than the usual banal remedies for improving research design. Instead of merely telling the student to run the right control groups, for example, they show how theory enters into the selection of appropriate controls and how atheoretic comparative work can easily run amok. It is a rare event when seasoned researchers take time to tell the novice how to avoid the problems of previous research. Comparative Studies of How People Think provides just such an event.
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(209mm x 138mm x 18mm)
Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
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Book Reviews - Comparative Studies of How People Think by Michael Cole
US Kirkus Review »
The dangers of generalizing from comparative studies of how different groups of people learn, remember, conceptualize (think, that is), much less the dangers of making educational or social policy based on such data, are documented in detail by Professors Cole (Communications, Univ. of California, San Diego) and Means (Educational Psychology, Univ. of Maryland). They first review the assumptions underlying traditional experimental research in psychology, then show how comparative studies typically violate the logic of such experimental designs. Most importantly, they point out that "all other things cannot be equal" when groups are compared, no matter how carefully the researcher thinks he has matched them. Educational variables, cultural differences, physiological variation, even historical events may contribute to variation in subjects' responses to instructions, or to the task itself, and certainly can influence their ultimate performance. The authors therefore suggest alternate research strategies - among them scrupulous analysis of the processes involved in the tasks being studied, with comparisons of patterns of performance (not the usual search for "better" scores); or comparisons of groups and tasks, with systematic variation to eliminate a possible explanation of varying performance levels. In addition, they describe four approaches in which subjects' performances are compared with a theoretical model which has predicted particular outcomes. The final chapter will be of particular interest to the lay reader concerned about the leap from laboratory to life - notably, for its discussion of the dubious uses of research findings to explain (or attempt to change) spontaneous and varied real-world behaviors. A valuable study for educational researchers and users of educational research - which one need not have a statistical background to comprehend. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Michael Cole
Michael Cole is Professor of Communication and Psychology and Director of the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition at the University of California, San Diego.