Quiz 1: Introduction to Personality Theory
A theory is a set of related assumptions capable of generating hypotheses.As such, it is narrower than a philosophy and more general than a hypothesis. Philosophy deals with what should be, whereas theories are built on scientific evidence.Theory relates to a branch of philosophy called epistemology, or the nature of knowledge, because theory is an essential tool of science, an important means of gaining knowledge. Although theories are built partially on speculation, they do not stem from baseless speculation.Theorists combine scientifically derived data with thoughtful speculation to construct theories that will lead to further scientific experimentation. A useful theory is capable of generating multiple hypotheses, or educated guesses.Scientists can test hypotheses through scientific experimentation, whereas theories are not directly testable. Theories should include a careful taxonomy, or classification system.A taxonomy is merely part of a useful theory.Unlike a theory, a taxonomy is not dynamic; that is, it is not capable of generating hypotheses.
Theories and observations have a mutual and dynamic interaction.A newly born theory is built on tentative observations.Scientists can test hypotheses spawned by that theory, leading to new observations.As more observations become available, the theory can grow to include a greater number of hypotheses, and, in turn, scientists can test these hypotheses and provide additional observations.
A useful theory should generate both descriptive research and hypothesis testing.A theory that fails to spark research falls into disuse and will be discarded by scientists. A theory must be open to falsifiability.It must suggest research that is capable of either supporting or refuting its major tenets.Theories that can explain opposing data are not falsifiable. Theories should organize observations.A theoretical framework allows scientists to make sense of their findings. A theory should guide action.It provides people with a road map for making day-to-day decisions. A useful theory is internally consistent.It has a set of operational definitions that are used consistently and does not offer opposing answers to the same questions. A theory should be as parsimonious as possible.Other things being equal, scientists prefer the simpler of two theories.