Read Joseph Cronbach: Biography of this psychologist

It is difficult, if not impossible, to conduct research in psychology without specifying the influence of Lee cronbach.

He is an essential author for understanding psychology as it is today, and arguably one of the most influential researchers of the last century.

His many contributions to the knowledge of science have a transversal character, because he is dedicated to epistemological reflection and to the definition of a method allowing to reinforce the rigor of the scientific discoveries which could be deduced from this discipline.

    Biography of Lee Joseph Cronbach

    In the following lines, we will immerse ourselves in the life of the author through a brief biography of Lee Joseph Cronbach, Although stopping at some of his most profound contributions.

    academic career

    Lee Joseph Cronbach was an American psychologist who made numerous contributions to the field of psychometry and education, including the Cronbach’s alpha index (widely used today for the purpose of determining the reliability of a tool quantitative assessment).

    Lee Cronbach was born in the city of Fresno in 1916, where he received his university degree (Bachelor of Arts, 1934), then pursued his master’s degree at Berkeley and his doctorate in Chicago (Psychology of Education, 1937). Throughout his career, was interested in the methodological rigor of studies published in the context of psychologyHe therefore proposed important tools to strengthen it.

    As a teacher, he taught in many universities in his country; particularly in Chicago, Illinois, and Stanford (where he spent much of his academic life). In recognition of his considerable contribution, Lee Cronbach was appointed president of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1957 and one of its divisions (assessment and measurement), as well as the American Psychological Association itself. Educational research in 1964.

    In addition to his contribution to psychological assessment, he has developed excellent work in the field of teaching. In the 70s he had the opportunity to be director of the Stanford Evaluation Consortium; a research and training organization that depended on the departments of psychology and which designed large-scale projects to improve coordination between schools in the districts that make up the state of California.

    Cronbach’s research was also relevant in clinical and community settings. He has developed programs for health and for juvenile and child delinquency, Emphasizing an extraordinary rigor in his work and making visible the importance of social and political reality in its planning and development. Thanks to these contributions, he significantly improved the way research was conducted in the social, health and educational fields.

    Lee Cronbach died in 2001 of congestive heart disease, leaving behind for posterity an imperishable intellectual heritage for psychometry, educational psychology and epistemology. Not in vain, he is one of the authors with the largest number of references of scientific articles around the world.

    Theoretical and epistemological principles

    The variety of studies in which the author’s work is used illustrates very well one of the postulates on which it would be based, which is none other than the existence of two independent but strongly linked psychologies: one of experimental (which requires manipulation in the laboratory to observe the causes / consequences with absolute control of the situation) and a correlation (by which one could observe the way in which two variables interact with each other in less restricted environments)

    Lee Cronbach’s take on psychology it aspires to the formulation of essential laws which could become widely applicable and generalization, in a way similar to what happens with physics or chemistry. He considered that it was possible to dissect the associations that occur in human phenomena in order to establish a posteriori causal relations which, based on the laws of probability, would bring their object of study closer to the positivist rigor of other disciplines.

    Thus, he understood the behavior and the thought of the human being as realities imbued with nature, and therefore subject to the same explanatory principles that the natural sciences possess. These sought to establish certain regularities between the phenomena of study, with particular sensitivity to the probability of error inherent in their complexity, but by developing universal principles on which to base a body of useful and reproducible knowledge.

    Lee Cronbach was able to recognize that the goal of psychology should not be limited to the experimental reproduction of laboratory conditions to test hypotheses of a nomothetic nature (applicable to all subjects in their character as particles extracted from a group), But had to consider the phenomena that take place in everyday environments. In this way, he longed for the unification of the two psychologies that he himself distinguished, In an attempt at syncretism which would prove to be paradigmatic.

    Lee Cronbach’s reflections on this question led him to assert that the reduction of psychic phenomena that occurs in experimental situations could not give a precise answer to human problems, life is debated in the permanent discourse of multiplicity interactions. of variables, between which the socio-cultural bases the coordinates would be underlined and the substratum of the scene in which his daily life takes place.

    In conclusion, I recall that the observation of phenomena (with a mind devoid of prejudices and open to fascination) is the key to establishing knowledge of an entity sufficient to assimilate it to that of physics or chemistry. On the latter, I will remind you that they are not free from uncertainties, because the macro and microphysical world assumes a practically infinite number of variables for their formulations).

    Contributions as a methodologist

    Lee Cronbach’s view on psychology was a historic milestone, showing positivism’s desire to assimilate with other sciences from a perspective that embraced reason and attracted all naivety. However, the contribution by which he is still such a well-known author today was its famous Cronbach’s alpha, measure is inserted in theory G (Or Theory of Generalizability) with which the Classical Theory of Tests developed.

    Classical testing theory predicts that any score (empirical value) that a subject obtains in tests designed to measure a psychological construct is consistent with their actual score plus the random error (being the difference observed by subtracting the empirical score and the actual score). This error may result from methodological deficiencies, or even from circumstances such as the place where the measurement is carried out or the personal situation of the assessor.

    Theory G would be complementary to the classical theory of tests. It would aim to quantify the reliability of a test by determining all sources of error, ensuring a more precise decision-making process. And it is that this process occupied a remarkable part of the academic life of the author, for whom he proposed methods resulting directly from statistics.

    In this context, Cronbach’s alpha would increase as one of the statistics intended to assess the internal consistency or reliability of a measurement tool (Or the factors that compose it). Although the concept was introduced by Cyril J. Hoyt (professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota) and Louis Guttman (mathematician and sociologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) a few years earlier; it was Cronbach who was finally able to popularize it, reformulate it and extend it further to the scientific community.

    Whenever a researcher intends to measure an attribute, it must be taken into account that this is never directly quantifiableBut its evaluation must be done through a process of abstraction in accordance with the theoretical model from which it comes. The common thing is that this ends up being done by administering questionnaire, items are subsumed as second order factors (eg depression or anxiety).

    To assess the accuracy of the measurement and to explore with a minimal margin of error what it actually claims to measure, Cronbach’s alpha is used. It is the weighted average of the variances or correlations between the elements that make up the factor, Obtain from its use a score that oscillates between 0 and 1 (being 0.70 the cut-off point from which the test can be considered reliable and used for evaluation purposes in any field of psychology) .

      An evaluation in the service of society

      Psychological assessment, by Cronbach, was inextricably linked to social policies and had to be subject to the needs of the village in its own right. aspiration to achieve a state of justice and plurality. He understands that if political influences are inevitable, it is necessary that a process of adaptation takes place between them and social programs, based on sensitivity to needs through a flexible approach to the subject of the study. .

      Because of this point of view, he postulated an evaluative planning that could take into account the enormous diversity to which each potential research was subjected, in which two stages were included: convergence and divergence. The first extracted possible variables that could be explored, while the second established a hierarchy of priorities for the study.

      Finally, the same author considered that the interpretation of the results was a second step in their evaluation, during which he might lose some information due to the subjectivity of the assessor. This is why he deemed essential a structured training aimed at selecting the appropriate questions and orienting the process towards action, that is to say towards decision-making in which the improvement of the lives of people or institutions assessed would be a priority.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Cronbach, L. (1951). Alpha coefficient and internal structure of the tests. Psychometrics, 16 (3), 297-334
      • Cronbach, L. and Meehl, P. (1955). Build validity in psychological testing. Psychological Bulletin, 52, 281-302.
      • Cronbach, L. (1957). the two disciplines of scientific psychology. American Psychologist, 12, 671-684.

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