Verbal Data Analysis for Understanding Interactions
Background From the beginning of scienti c investigation of the mind, researchers have used verbal data. When the rst psychological laboratory was established in Germany, introspection was the dominant research method. In introspection, researchers asked participants to report their conscious experiences during exposure to various sensory stimuli, such as colors or tones. e researchers believed that introspection could reveal the elements of basic consciousness, which could then be combined to describe all human experiences. It soon became clear, however, that the verbal data produced by introspection was too subjective and unreliable, which led to its abandonment as a scienti c method. Psychologists started using verbal data again with the cognitive revolution. e prevailing data collected for psychological research, especially in human memory studies, were response time and error data. However, as researchers began to examine more complex processes such as problem solving, they needed a method that could provide more direct access to the contents and processes of problem solving and reasoning. Newell and Simon (1972) established the use of “think-aloud” protocol, in which participants speak their thoughts while engaging in various problem-solving tasks. is process differed from the earlier introspection method in that it did not force participants to re ect and comment on their thinking. Still, questions were raised about the method’s validity, since verbalization can in uence the very cognitive process that it aims to investigate (Nisbett & Wilson, 1977; Schooler & Engstler-Schooler, 1990). Distinctions were made between concurrent and retrospective verbalizations. It was argued that while retrospective verbalization in uences cognitive performance, the concurrent verbalization of the think-aloud method does not, since it only gives voice to already-ongoing inner speech (Ericsson & Simon, 1993). As the eld began studying complex forms of knowledge development, researchers were again in need of a method that allows the examination
of complex representational changes accompanying learning and development. Verbal data analysis, o en abbreviated to “verbal analysis,” was initially developed in the process of meeting these challenges (Chi, 1997, 2006). As the eld expands its research focus to collaborative interactions, verbal analysis is being used widely to address research questions that arise in the studies of collaborative learning. is chapter will examine verbal analysis and its use in addressing various questions about human learning and cognition.