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Research Group on qualitative methods

The desire to "do science" led psychology to emphasize the importance of methods whose scientific model of reference is that of the physical sciences and of quantification. This development was followed, to the detriment of less easily systematised qualitative approaches, because of the difficulties inherent in a Psychology involved in the immediate situation.


The social and scientific advantages of the quantitative orientation allowed, on the one hand, the legitimacy of the discipline in an increasingly bio-technological society, and, on the other hand, real progress in areas of behavioural psychology presenting programmable consistencies, such as Artificial Intelligence. However, the drawbacks of such an approach appear obvious.


This position limits the necessary flexibility for understanding situations presenting irregularities and unexpected complexity. Their research processes focused on general invariants do not include the construction of human meaning. This construction is characterized by its plasticity, its flexibility and is highly dependant on ambiguous and confused contexts. Thought is guided by metaphor and analogy to find its way through such "fuzzy" systems.


Qualitative methods take seriously into account these critics. Traditionally found separated at the University, in Health Psychology, they are located at the crosswise of fields and subjects. They have common points with several qualitative schools using ethical and epistemological approaches although beyond theoretical tensions.


Whatever the qualitative directions taken, authors reject a certain "methodolatry" (Bruner, 1991; Chamberlain, 2002). Through their attention to the co-construction of meaning and the emergence of meaning as a function of contexts, their practice questions the values and the socio-political role of research in psychology. Science of psychology is therefore not neutral. Value attached to a form of research is to be ascertained as much from its contribution to knowledge as from its socio-political role in a given culture.

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