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A construct is a fact that cannot be empirically recognized within a scientific theory . Constructs are therefore of an intellectual or theoretical nature. This does not mean that the issue in question does not “exist”, but only that it is deduced from other, measurable issues ( indicators ). This is why one speaks of latent constructs (or latent variables, see also Latent Variable Model ). The process of “opening up” is called operationalization .

Example : the construct intelligence eludes direct observability, but can be measured using indicators such as performance in intelligence test tasks.

The term construct is closely related to the term concept . The concept emphasizes more that it is a scientific or theoretical term, while the construct emphasizes the non-observability.

Definition of constructs

Constructs can in various ways defined to be

Real definition
“The historical development of language established names for objects, properties, processes and activities that are learned in the course of a person's individual development. [...] Such real definitions should refer to suitable examples for the objects, properties, processes or activities to be designated. "

The difference between nominal and real definitions is explained in more detail here. Carl Gustav Hempel pointed out that the term real definition can be understood to mean three different classes of cases: "the nominal definition, the meaning analysis or the empirical analysis."

Nominal definition
Analytical definition
“The scientific use of terms requires their meaning analysis ( Hempel , 1954) or analytical definition. These are not conventions introduced by scientists, but statements that are supposed to be empirically verifiable. [...] With the analytical definition, the researcher indicates what he wants to designate with a term. [...] It is now up to everyone to understand the analytical definition or not. However, later research practice ultimately shows whether the definition has proven itself or whether the definition is correct or realistic. "
Operational definition
“The term 'operational definition' (or operationalization of a feature) goes back to Bridgman (1927). The original version, tailored to physics, can be summarized as follows: 1. The operational definition is synonymous with a corresponding set of operations […] 2. A term should not be defined in terms of its properties, but in terms of the operations associated with it . 3. The true meaning of the term is not found by observing what you say about it, but by noting what you do with it. 4. All of our knowledge is to be put into perspective against operations selected to measure our scientific concepts. If there are several sets of operations, they are also based on several concepts ”(see also operationalism ).

Constructs of the first and second kind

Theo Herrmann distinguishes constructs of the first type , whose extension and intention are completely empirically known, from constructs of the second type , whose intension is indefinite and whose extension is greater than has been or can be observed (so-called “excess of meaning”).

Constructs of the first kind are only collective terms so that not all members of a category have to be listed. Constructs of the second type allow extrapolation to non-observed facts, for example from the present to the future or from a sample to their population.

Example of a construct of the first kind :

“Qualified psychologist”: This term describes all people who have successfully completed the psychology course with the diploma examination .

Example of a second type of construct :

A football coach who can motivate his team to perform at its best is called a good psychologist . This designation allows u. a. the hypotheses that he will also be able to motivate teams in the future (extrapolation) and that he will also prove to be a connoisseur outside of football (generalization). If the hypotheses can be empirically verified, one speaks in science of the hypothetico-deductive method (see for example Dagfinn Føllesdal : Hermeneutics and the Hypothetico-Deductive Method ).

Constructs in Theory Building

According to the sociologist Hanns Wienold , theoretical constructs are terms that are suitable for relating what is observed to one another without being inferred directly from observed facts. In contrast to the “strictly empirical conception of science”, theoretical constructs are recognized in more recent sciences as “meaningful components of scientific theories ”.

In psychology, the concept of construct was primarily examined by Lee Cronbach and Paul E. Meehl in the context of validity testing. Different constructs and their relationship to one another form a nomological network in the sense of a scientific theory, which must be empirically verified. For example, if it is theoretically assumed for a newly developed psychological test that it captures a new construct (e.g. emotional intelligence ) which is supposed to be independent of existing constructs (e.g. cognitive intelligence ), then the two constructs form a nomological network . This network, i.e. H. the theoretically assumed relationships between the constructs must then be checked empirically (e.g. by means of a confirmatory factor analysis ). Should it be empirically shown that the theoretical assumptions in the nomological network are not correct, then among other things the theory can be changed, the operationalization of the construct adjusted or, if necessary, the construct completely abandoned. In the example this would mean that if the independence of emotional intelligence from cognitive intelligence could not be empirically proven, an independent construct of emotional intelligence should be dispensed with (see Ockham's razor / principle of thrift). Constructs are therefore important components for theory description and testing.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Construct  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Bortz, J. & Döring, N. (2006). Research methods and evaluation for human and social scientists. Springer, Heidelberg 2006, ISBN 3-540-33305-3 , pp. 60–63 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  2. CG Hempel: A Logical Appraisal of Operationism. In: Scientific Monthly. 79, 1954, pp. 215-220.
  3. ^ PW Bridgman: The Logic of Modern Physics. MacMillian, New York 1927 (German translation: PW Bridgman: The logic of today's physics. Hueber, Munich 1932).
  4. ^ Theo Herrmann: Personality traits . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1984. ISBN 978-3170014763
  5. ^ Dagfinn Føllesdal : Hermeneutics and the Hypothetico-Deductive Method. In: Dialectica. 33, No. 3-4, 319-336, doi : 10.1111 / j.1746-8361.1979.tb00759.x .
  6. ^ Hanns Wienold: Theoretical Constructs. In: Wienold u. a .: Lexicon of Sociology. 1995.
  7. Cronbach, LJ, & Meehl, PE (1955). Construct validity in psychological tests. Psychological Bulletin, 52 (4), 281.