The Baby Factory: Difficult Research Objects, Disciplinary Standards, and the Production of Statistical Significance

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Science studies scholars have shown that the management of natural complexity in lab settings is accomplished through a mixture of technological standardization and tacit knowledge by lab workers. Yet these strategies are not available to researchers who study difficult research objects. Using 16 months of ethnographic data from three laboratories that conduct experiments on infants and toddlers, the author shows how psychologists produce statistically significant results under challenging circumstances by using strategies that enable them to bridge the distance between an uncontrollable research object and a professional culture that prizes methodological rigor. This research raises important questions regarding the value of restrictive evidential cultures in challenging research environments.

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Type of resources: Primary Source, Reading, Paper

Education level(s): College / Upper Division (Undergraduates)

Primary user(s): Student

Subject area(s): Applied Science, Social Science

Language(s): English