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Profiles of Social Research

Profiles of Social Research: The Scientific Study of Human Interaction

Morton Hunt
Copyright Date: 1985
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 364
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  • Book Info
    Profiles of Social Research
    Book Description:

    This splendid introduction to social research describes an area of scientific investigation that profoundly influences our daily lives and thoughts, but about which most of us know very little. We can picture a research chemist at work, white-coated and surrounded by beakers and test tubes-but what is the nature ofsocialresearch? For interested general readers and particularly for students entering the various social science fields, Morton Hunt paints an immensely informative and accessible portrait.

    He begins with a lucid overview of the important varieties of social research, describing their advantages and limitations. Against this background, Hunt then details five remarkable case histories, eyewitness accounts of significant recent episodes in social research. Woven skillfully through each narrative are explorations of the basic methodological, practical, moral and political issues raised by social research. The story of a noteworthy series of sociopsychological experiments on teamwork, for example, enables Hunt to weigh the merits of using a laboratory setting to study social behavior and the ethics of deceiving human subjects. In similar fashion, Hunt depicts a historic cross-sectional survey on segregated schooling; a complex attempt to measure the impact of welfare programs; a real-world experiment with guaranteed annual incomes; and a path-breaking study of human aging that followed its subjects for a generation.

    This engaging and intelligent book will give readers a new understanding of the breadth and richness of social research as well as an informed appreciation of its significance for their lives.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-298-5
    Subjects: Psychology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    Marshall Robinson

    In 1982 the Russell Sage Foundation, one of America’s oldest general purpose foundations, celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary. To commemorate this long commitment to the support and dissemination of social science research, we departed from our customary publishing procedures to commission several special volumes. These anniversary volumes were to be more personal and reflective than many of the books that emerge from Foundation-supported research, less constrained by the formal and rhetorical requirements of the scholarly monograph. As befits an anniversary celebration, the volumes would address issues that have been of traditional concern to the Foundation.

    For decades, the Russell Sage Foundation...

    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. xv-xxiv)

      (pp. 3-48)

      In a waiting room, two undergraduate men are filling out questionnaires. One of the two is a “stooge,” playing a part in an experiment; the other is an innocent. In the next room, separated from them by a collapsible cloth curtain-wall, they hear the young woman who gave them the questionnaires opening and closing drawers, then climbing up on a chair apparently to get something. Suddenly there is a crash and a scream as the chair falls over; then the woman moans and cries. (Actually, the sounds are produced by a high-fidelity tape recorder.) The innocent, about to rush to...


    • 2 THE DILEMMA IN THE CLASSROOM. A Cross-sectional Survey Measures the Effects of Segregated Schooling.
      (pp. 51-97)

      It is hardly every day that a young social scientist with relatively few years of experience receives an unexpected phone call asking him to head a $1.5 million study that could have a major impact on American society. It is even rarer for such a person to politely refuse an offer of this kind because the study, ordered by Congress to help carry out a recently enacted law of major social importance, would take him away from more basic or, as it is sometimes called, “pure” research.

      Both those improbable things happened one winter morning in 1965. James S. Coleman,...

    • 3 SAMPLING SOCIAL REALITY. A Complex New Survey Measures the Impact of the Government’s Social Programs on the American Family.
      (pp. 98-154)

      On Monday, October 3, 1983, in 175 localities all over America, 240 part-time survey interviewers, most of them middle-aged women, picked up heavy stacks of papers and set forth in their cars to start seeking out some 25,000 homes and asking personal questions of the strangers who lived in them.

      Of itself, this was hardly unusual; in our research-oriented era many hundreds of local and national surveys and opinion polls are always under way in America. The government alone had 228 of them in progress on a typical recent day, and at least four times that many others were being...

    • 4 ONE THING AT A TIME. A Series of Laboratory Experiments Explores the Antisocial Tendency of People Working in Groups to Secretly Do Less Than Their Best.
      (pp. 155-199)

      At Ohio State University in Columbus, one fall morning in 1975, the quiet inside the football stadium building (whose rooms were mostly assigned to subdued academic uses) was shattered by an uproar; somewhere, a number of students were shouting at the top of their lungs. In the social psychology office, a startled secretary scrambled to her feet, but the bedlam abruptly broke off. She sat down again, only to have the shouting burst forth anew—the voices seemed to be yelling “LEEE-ON!”—then stop, then start yet again.

      Finally, she went out into the hall to investigate. The intermittent uproar...

    • 5 THE SLOWEST, COSTLIEST, BUT BEST (AND WORST) OF METHODS. Two Long-Term Studies, Tracking Nearly 800 People Over Many Years, Find That Many of Our Beliefs About Human Aging Are Incorrect.
      (pp. 200-246)

      If, in 1948, someone had recommended to young Bud Busse—Ewald William Busse, M. D., then finishing his residency in psychiatry at Colorado Psychopathic Hospital in Denver and planning a career in research—that he commit himself to spend more than a quarter of a century on a single project, he might well have said that the other person should commit himself, in another sense of the word.

      Nonetheless, Busse eventually did just that. His dedication, although due in part to his interest in the subject—human aging—was in far larger part the result of the method he and...

    • 6 TWENTY THOUSAND VOLUNTEERS. A Massive Real-World Experiment Tests a Bold Proposal to Combat Poverty by Means of a Guaranteed Annual Income.
      (pp. 247-296)

      In a Seattle public-housing project in the fall of 1970, a middle-aged black woman standing in her apartment doorway listened to a pitch earnestly delivered by Gary Christophersen, a pony-tailed hippie-ish young white man. As Christophersen (nowadays a conventionally barbered but informally dressed businessman) remembers the incident, her expression gradually changed from the guarded to the cynically amused.

      “She began to smile,” he recalls, “and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. I don’tbelieveyou!Nobodywould do that!’”

      He was momentarily taken aback, but then rallied and said that the offer was on the level: As part of a...

    (pp. 297-308)
    (pp. 309-322)
    (pp. 323-324)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 325-337)