Psychologists study various mental processes, experiences, and human behavior, and to study all these factors, they rely on various methods of enquiry such as case study, content analysis, correlational researches, psychological testing, survey research, experimental, and observational. These enquiry methods help psychologists study various phenomena of the human mind in a systematic, organized, and well-structured manner. The main goals of the psychological enquiry involve describing the human behavior, predicting the effects of various variables, explaining & controlling various factors that change the behavior, and then finally applying the gained information to understand and formulate the psychological theories. The systematic approach of the psychological enquiry methods is the reason that various psychological theories are often termed scientifically proven. However, there exist some limitations also of the psychological enquiry methods. We’ll discuss these limitations in this article.
1. Lack of True Zero Point
A true zero point indicates that any other factor or trait is absent or null at that point. Whenever we measure or weigh anything, we start measuring it from the zero value, say 5 inches in length or 15 kg of weight. In fact, in physical sciences, every measurement starts from zero, but psychological measurements lack the availability of true zero points. For instance, we cannot say that a particular person has a zero value of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) or zero effect of outward stimuli on his/her behavior because every person has some level of intelligence, and outward stimuli always impact the human behavior to a certain extent. So, to measure various psychological factors, psychologists arbitrarily assign certain points as zero points and measure various phenomena with respect to these arbitrarily assigned zero points.
2. Relative Nature of Psychological Tests
The scores we obtain through the psychological tests are not absolute, rather these are relative scores because we score various psychological attributes by comparing them with the other relative factors. However, relative scores do not tell the actual level of the specific factor in the subject. For example, if we rank three subjects, say A, B, and C, as first, second, and third respectively on the basis of the marks they obtained in the IQ test, the major problem of this ranking would be that the intelligence difference of the subject A and subject B may or may not be same to the intelligence difference of the subject B and subject C. Let’s say, out of 200, the first rank holder (A) obtained a 140 IQ score, the second rank holder (B) obtained 130, and the third rank holder (C) obtained 90. Clearly, the IQ score difference of subjects A and B is much less than the subjects B and C. This shows that the subjects are not ranked according to their actual level of intelligence; in fact, they are ranked by the comparison methods.
3. Lack of Generalizability
Another major problem with the psychological enquiry method or, specifically, psychological testing is that they lack generalizability. Every psychological test is designed by keeping in mind certain factors related to a particular context or area. In fact, the majority of the psychological tests that we encounter today were designed by conducting various researches in the European and American regions, and most of the psychological theories are formulated by taking samples from these western populations. These psychological tests may not give accurate results if these are applied to the Asian or the African population because there are cultural and behavioral differences in different regions of the world. So, before conducting any psychological test, it should be properly checked that whether the particular test is generalizable or not because every single psychological test can not be used universally.
4. Subjective Interpretation of Qualitative Research Data
Psychological enquiry involves the collection of a vast amount of qualitative data, which includes feelings, behavior, perception, and other psychological factors of the subjects under study, and there is not any proper degree to measure these factors. Every psychologist interprets the research data in his/her own way. So, there may exist differences in the results obtained by different psychologists about the same factor or event. Hence, it is always preferred that the particular psychological enquiry or case study should be done by a panel of psychologists, and there should be a proper discussion between the psychologists before deducing the final results or formulating any psychological theory.
5. Other Issues
As psychological researches involve inspection of human behavior, the researchers have to follow various ethical guidelines while doing the psychological enquiry. Ethical guidelines may limit the psychological enquiry, but psychologists should respect the privacy of the subject and follow these ethical guidelines. There are proper ethical guidelines provided by the ‘American Psychological Association,’ which emphasize various aspects that need to be followed by the researcher like participation of the subject in the research should be voluntary, consent should be taken before conducting the research, proper debriefing about the test should be provided to the subjects, and confidentiality of the subjects should be maintained. As every research can not be conducted on humans, researchers conduct various studies on animals too. It should be noted that only those animals should be considered for the research, which are scientifically suitable for that particular research according to the ethical guidelines. Although it’s unethical to conduct researches on animals, it’s a necessity in every field of sciences to conduct researches on animals to discover new phenomena and mysteries of living beings. However, proper care of the animals should be taken, and wherever possible, mental or physical harm to the animals should be avoided.