A method to integrate descriptive and experimental field studies at the level of data and empirical concepts

J Appl Behav Anal. 1968 Summer;1(2):175-91. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1968.1-175.


It is the thesis of this paper that data from descriptive and experimental field studies can be interrelated at the level of data and empirical concepts if both sets are derived from frequency-of-occurrence measures. The methodology proposed for a descriptive field study is predicated on three assumptions: (1) The primary data of psychology are the observable interactions of a biological organism and environmental events, past and present. (2) Theoretical concepts and laws are derived from empirical concepts and laws, which in turn are derived from the raw data. (3) Descriptive field studies describe interactions between behavioral and environmental events; experimental field studies provide information on their functional relationships. The ingredients of a descriptive field investigation using frequency measures consist of: (1) specifying in objective terms the situation in which the study is conducted, (2) defining and recording behavioral and environmental events in observable terms, and (3) measuring observer reliability. Field descriptive studies following the procedures suggested here would reveal interesting new relationships in the usual ecological settings and would also provide provocative cues for experimental studies. On the other hand, field-experimental studies using frequency measures would probably yield findings that would suggest the need for describing new interactions in specific natural situations.