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In the study of personality, however, there is no escaping an immediate, insistent, incessant preoccupation with the problem of linking concepts and empirical operations.
By and large, measuring length by a ruler and weight by a scale does not generate controversy; the relation of these concepts to their respective methods of measurement seems obvious and beyond dispute.
And because anxiety is important regardless of whether it is theoretically conceptualized as a prime mover, as derivative, or as epiphenomenon, psychologists wish to measure it.
There are four classes of indicators that may be used: (1) a subject may be observed in his everyday life and actions (presumably without his actions’ being affected by these observations) and from his behaviors a judgment is made as to whether he is anxious; (2) a subject may be asked, by means of a questionnaire, to state directly (or in ways he may not completely understand) whether he is anxious; (3) a subject may be placed in a controlled or test situation designed to elicit special behaviors or products relevant to anxiety; (4) a subject’s physiological reactions may be assessed by various instruments, to determine whether he shows certain responses or changes presumed to be indicants of anxiety.
Patternings that are found to be stable when these means are applied to variegated data are presumptive evidence of functional entities.
These functional entities may be named and employed thereafter as integrative and consequential concepts.
The distinction between, yet interdependence of, concept and measurement in the study of personality requires a spiraling interplay of these levels of analysis—concepts should suggest approaches to measurement, and measurement should refine conceptual formulations.Personality measurements, if they discriminate at all, always express, in a pure or impure form, explicitly or implicitly, a personality concept in terms of which the differential behavior may be understood.Personality concepts, if they are not hopelessly vague or inconsistent, always imply specifiable behavioral differences in people.The second tactic, now increasingly employed, eschews the seeming arrogance of arbitrary conceptualization.It begins with, and even encourages, diversity but rests its fate in analytical methods believed capable of identifying the lawfulness and conceptual structure of the personality phenomena which have been collected for study.
And yet, if a science of personality is to be formed, the responsibilities of coupling concept and measure must be met.