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  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: May 2010

10 - Developmental Science: A Case of the Bird Flapping Its Wings or the Wings Flapping the Bird?


In Chapter 1, Terry Winegar urges developmental scientists to reflect on their scientific practices. Reflection, including self–reflection about the researcher's own scientific aims and assumptions, should result in explicit clarification of goals and theoretical commitments, and their methodological derivations. Effective work on the central questions of the field is dependent on a clear understanding of the multiple levels involved in research and the appropriateness of the links made between these levels. Winegar identifies the levels of research as metatheory, theory, methodology, method, data, and phenomenon, interconnected in a linear progression with feedback loops of implications. Inappropriate dominance by any level will involve problems of level autonomy or fusion and, therefore, unproductive research efforts and obfuscation of the central questions of developmental science. Winegar argues for clearer articulation of research activities at each level and warns about the dangers of substituting work at one level for careful attention to another level. In particular, he is concerned about substituting mindless methods and frenetic data collection for methodology, theory, and metatheory.

In similar vein, Joachim Wohlwill (1991) discussed relations between method and theory in developmental psychology, in what became his final word to the field. There are some striking convergences in the two approaches, and the title of my commentary focuses on the discussion of Winegar's claims within a nice piece of imagery suggested by Wohlwill.