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Encyclopedia of Psychology Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, Editor-in-Chief

ACTION RESEARCH

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The most important potential limitations of action research entail negative consequences of combining research and advocacy. The kind of knowledge acquired by involvement in action research is often considered suspect by mainstream social scientists because of the difficulty of simultaneously advocating the truth of a claim and critically examining its validity. A contending view is that the scholarly and activist roles are not contradictory, but are related dialectically.

ACTUARIAL PREDICTION

One objection to actuarial prediction, alluded to above, is that humans can develop ad hoc novel theories about how a given organism’s behavior is controlled. Statistical formulas and computer programs cannot develop such theories (though future computer programs may gain this capacity). Hence, it ought to be possible in principle for an applied psychologist to develop a theory of the behavior of a single organism, and then use this theory to make highly accurate predictions. However, this capacity awaits empirical demonstration in a practical prediction problem.

Goldberg (1965) published a famous actuarial formula for the broad diagnostic category into which a client’s major pyschopathology falls (neurosis vs. psychosis) from MMPI scores. Goldberg showed that a wide variety of actuarial prediction schemes outperformed expert clinical judges on this task. Predictions were checked by examining the clients’ medical charts. Reasonably accurate predictions could be obtained from a simple sum MMPI scale T-scores. The average clinician did not do as well, and the rule in fact outperformed almost all individual clinicians.

Computerized predictions have been increasingly studied since the advent of inexpensive but powerful computers

ADDICTIVE PERSONALITY

When researchers study the personalities of drug abusers, they often appear quite similar. However, if scientists first identify the same personalities and then inquire about drug abuse, the apparent relationship disappears. There is an explanation. Investigators have found there is a life style that emerges from drug abuse. This context subtly influences the personality. Over time, personality changes result from a career of drug seeking and using.

Therefore, many experts agree there is no such thing as an addictive personality. The personality similarities among people who experience addiction are most probably the result, not the original cause, of their addiction.

This view has some interesting implications. For example, when people stop their addictive behaviors, do their personalities change again? The answer is yes. Some alcohol studies indicate that it takes about 5 years of sobriety before an addict’s personality returns to normal (e.g., Vaillant, 1983). After this time, psychological tests reveal that the person recovering from alcohol dependence has personality characteristics that are indistinguishable from those who never struggled with alcohol dependence.

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