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Lecture 7

SOC SCI H1E Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Operationalization, Cortisol, Mad Scientist

Social Science
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SocCore H1E Lecture #7
Measuring Well-Being
How should we interpret studies in the Social Sciences? What does it mean to study
“Happiness” and “well-being” are both abstract concepts - the sort of things whose very
meaning philosophies debate
In order to use empirical methods to study how these relate to various factors in life and
society, we first need to find empirically testable measures of well-being
Turning an abstract concept into something measurable is called operationalizing the
Abstract concepts are not helpful for studies. If we want to do empirical studies and use
experience in a precise mathematical sense, we need to identify a way to go from
abstract concepts to measurable things. Finding an empirically testable measure for
something is called operationalization.
Operationalizing Mass
Mass is an abstract, theoretical concept - What empirical significance does it have? How
do we measure it? When we say that a body has mass, stipulating that it has a certain
property doesn’t really mean anything concrete. To say that something has mass, we
need to describe what having mass does and how to empirically verify it, or even
measure how much mass it has with a precise set of things to do.
Weigh the body - doesn’t tell you the mass but it tells you the weight. Scales relate mass
and weight with the acceleration due to gravity. See how much force the spring in the
scale has to apply to keep it from accelerating. Divide by 9.8 to figure out the mass.
Important! We think of scientific measurements as fundamental or basic, but we
have to apply a lot of theory to get there in reality! You need to understands
springs, acceleration due to gravity, etc in order to use a scale.
Shove the body - yeet it right off a cliff! Apply a known force and then determine mass
from this. F = ma.
Operational Anger
What about anger? How might we measure anger?
Maybe measurable things - hitting things? Raising your voice? Body temperature or
pulse rate? Information revealed from brain scans? Hormones?
Survey questions - recent Gallup poll measured anger stress and worry across different
countries. We are angrier and mores stressed than we have ever been before but so are
other countries.
Mass measurements are good in that they are reproducible in different times, at different
places, and in different ways. But anger not so much, no measurement for anger is
reliably reproducible.
How do / should we operationalize well-being?
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