Sociology Index


Validity is one of two criteria (the other being reliability) by which researchers judge their results or measurement tools. A valid result is one that accurately measures what it claims to be measuring. Using shoe size as a measurement of intelligence is not a valid measure of intelligence. It lacks face validity since it is not obvious that it is measuring what it claims to measure.

One test of validity might be the extent to which your measurements allow you to make predictions about future behaviour. If your measurement of intelligence does not predict how people perform in examinations then perhaps it is not a valid measurement of intelligence. The concept of validity refers to the extent to which the data we collect gives a true measurement of "social reality" (what is "really happening" in society).

The concepts of reliability and validity very important in sociological research:

If data is reliable but not valid, then it may have limited use. We can make general statements about the world, but such statements may not actually apply to any particular social group. 

If data is valid, but not reliable, we may not be able to use it to make general statements about the world (for example, we may be able to understand something about one particular group of people that may not necessarily apply to all people in that group).

Concurrent validity is a parameter used in sociology, psychology, and other psychometric or behavioral sciences. Concurrent validity is demonstrated where a test correlates well with a measure that has previously been validated. The two measures may be for the same construct, or for different, but presumably related, constructs.

In social science and psychometrics, construct validity refers to whether a scale measures the unobservable social construct (such as "fluid intelligence") that it purports to measure. The unobservable idea of a unidimensional easier-to-harder dimension must be "constructed" in the words of human language and graphics. Nomological validity is a form of construct validity. It is the degree to which a construct behaves as it should within a system of related constructs called a nomological set.

On the Validity of Official Statistics A Comparative Study of White, Black, and Japanese High-School Boys - William J. Chambliss, Univ. of California, Richard H. Nagasawa, Portland State College, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
A continuing debate in the sociology of deviance is the degree to which official statistics are representative of the distribution and rate of deviance in the society. Some argue that official statistics are totally meaningless as indices of deviance rates; others maintain that, although official statistics are distorted, they nonetheless indicate important trends and distributions of real rates of deviance. Official and unofficial delinquency rates of black, white, and Japanese youths in a large metropolitan area were analyzed. Our conclusion is that official statistics are so misleading that they are virtually useless as indicators of actual deviance in the population. It is suggested that the visibility of the offenses, the bias of the policing agencies, and the demeanor of the youth account for the rate and distribution of delinquency among the three groups and that official rates are a complete distortion of the actual incidence.

Critical Sociology of Science and Scientific Validity - Sal Restivo, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Julia Loughlin, Syracuse University, Science Communication, Vol. 8, No. 3, 486-508 (1987)
Critical sociology of science, in conjunction with an emancipatory epistemology, focuses attention on the social and especially value aspects of validity and objectivity. This is the foundation for our arguments concerning the relevance of the sociology of science for explaining and understanding science, and for fashioning science policy. After outlining the basic features of critical sociology of science and emancipatory epistemology, we explore their implications for the problem of validity in applied social science research. Drawing on research on the use of illegal drugs, we argue that Campbell's suggestions regarding how to define research problems and treat qualitative methods, as well as other aspects of his "sociology of scientific validity, " may improve validity in the sense of achieving consensus and vigor within specialties. More generally, however, his program may inhibit progress in developing accurate, objective knowledge of science and society.

Optimizing Scientific Validity - Toward an Interdisciplinary Science Studies 
Robert A. Neimeyer, William R. Shadish, JR, Memphis State University 
Science Communication, Vol. 8, No. 3, 463-485 (1987)
In his lead article for this series, Campbell discusses the role of a "disputatious and mutually reinforcing community of truth seekers" in promoting a sociology of scientific validity. Situating his work in the broader context of the sociology of science, we first raise a number of questions about the conceptual and empirical warrant for his recommendations, local factors that might affect their implementation, and temporal and "level of analysis "issues which could influence the optimal form that a scientific community might take. In general, however, these considerations do not vitiate Campbell's prescriptions so much as point up the need for conceptually informed empirical research on the outcome of varymg social structures for science. We then survey some of the potential contributions to science studies that are being made by psychologists of diverse specialties, ranging from a relatively mdividualistic focus on creativity and cognitive processes to a broader view of scientific behavior in a social context.

Validity of Self-Reports About Quality of Life Among Patients With Schizophrenia 
Nasreen Khatri, M.Sc., David M. Romney, Ph.D. and Guy Pelletier, Ph.D. 
Psychiatr Serv 52:534-535, April 2001
Lehman's Quality of Life Interview was administered to 22 patients with schizophrenia and their proxies and to 15 patients with cancer and their proxies. The results indicated that there was a discrepancy between responses on global objective and subjective measures for patients with schizophrenia but not for patients with cancer. A discrepancy was also found for the proxies of the patients with schizophrenia but not for the proxies of the patients with cancer.