Achievement of Behaviouralism: Research Methodology and Theory Building



The achievements of behaviouralism can be traced in two fields,techniques of research or research methodology and theory building.

(1) Research Methodology:

The behaviouralists made significant achievements in the development and refinement of the tools and techniques of research.

Developments in the fields of:

(i) Content-analysis,

(ii) Case-analysis,

(iii) Interviewing and observation, and

(iv) Statistics are particularly remarkable.

They also use the most sophisticated quantification and measurement techniques in their empirical research projects. The method of content-analysis, in its qualitative form, was not unknown to the political scientists of the nineteenth century — the first use of systematic content-analysis in Political Science was made in Harold Lasswell's study of propaganda in World War I, and the quantitative counting of words, themes or other units of communication come up still later.'

The behaviouralists made remarkable achievements in the field of rigorous comparative case analysis also. For example, Bruce, Russet evolved a rigorous comparative case-analysis frame-work for the study of deterrence. He held the opinion that it could be applied with advantage to many other situations.

Glandon Schubert and Willium Crotty have done remarkable work in this field by applying the method to Supreme Court "games" and comparative analysis of political parties and party systems respectively. Research in comparative politics has been considerably facilitated through cross-national investigations.

The methods of interviewing and observation have led to a tremendous growth in sophistication. The political scientists were asking questions and taking interviews also in the pre-behavioural era too but their techniques could be hardly distinguished from those used by journalists. In the field of interview, there has been increasing sophistication in the designing of survey questions and questionnaires and in the substantive aspects of interview.

The greatest refinement, however, in the field came in the sphere of sample survey, which became a basic instrument of social research in its own right and stimulated a series of achievements not only in the development of ancillary techniques but even in the construction of explanatory theory.

Population samples, for example, particularly in the field of prospective voters began to be designed and administered with great skill. The quota sample of the thirties was followed by the development of probability sampling in the forties.

For example, Lazarfied in his study of electoral voting was able to claim that he could explain 95% of the votes cast in Elmira Country in 1940 on the basis of only three variables (changing factors) of residence, socio-economic status and religion.

Finally in the field of statistics there have been remarkable changes. Early statistics was univariate. It was concerned only with the magnitude of a single datum or with trends of an individual variable through time. This way followed by by-variate analysis, which provided more opportunities of comparison but could not be regarded as a major methodological innovation. Political scientists like Julius C. Turner interested in the study of the impact of constituency characteristics on legislative behaviour, and V.O. Key, in tracing the nature of electoral support for political parties, considerably refined bi-variate investigations.'

But more recently, writers have developed what are described as multi-variate procedures, which enable researchers to test entire paradigms in one full sweep. These developments in the field of statistics have led to the growth casual modelling, by means of which the path of causation within a system of variations can be tested. Casual modelling, according to Karriel is "a direction in which all researchers will be heading in years to come."

"Taking up the measurement of research techniques", says prof. S. P. Verma, "we can therefore, talk of a phenomena development in the field of content- analysis, from qualitative to quantitative analysis, in the field of case-analysis, from uniqueness to comparative analysis, in the field of interviewing and observation, from polls to surveys and experiments, and in the field of statistics, from uni-variate to multi-variate analysis. Any discipline claiming to call itself a science can be proud of these achievements in the fields of technology of research."

(2) Theory Building:

The contribution of the behaviouralists towards the theory building is not laudable because they are mainly concerned with the individual's and group behaviour. They focus their attention less and less on State, Government and institutions.

The main reason why the behaviouralists have failed to evolve a systematic theory is that they have been influenced mainly by social sciences like psychology and sociology which deal with individuals or small face to face groups.

The psychologists mainly deal with fact-to-face groups - like family, club, class-room or neighbourhood-groups which are more amenable to the requirements of scientific procedure than are more inclusive formations.

A certain amount of theory, notably, connected with leadership studies, arises out of the development of group dynamics which overlaps the fields of Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology. It should be, however, noted that the primary object of the behaviouralists is not to found a systematic theory.

Only a fractional of behavioural research in political science carried out by Max Weber and Mannheim concerns itself with the state of society because they were sociologists or anthropologists more inclind towards history or philosophy.

Besides that some reflections of political theory are also visible in the speculative synthesis of Talcott parsons. The developments in the behavioural sciences, thus are "a good deal more revolutionary in the realm of technique than in that of validated and expanded theory".

The greatest contribution of the behaviouralists in regard to theory has been in the field of voting behaviour, but it is regarded by many political scientists as 'the most individualized, most un-complemented and perhaps least important element in the political process.'

"The theory that has emerged in this field largely through the use of the sample survey technique", writes Truman, "is exclusively a social psychological theory of electoral choice,, with only-the-barest, suggestions of; implications for other features of the electoral or political process."