The Riots of 1964 — Chapter 4

Research Director’s Report
Manning Van Nostrand, Director of Research

Research as an Intervention Technique

Raymond Aron in his MAIN CURRENTS IN SOCIOLOGICAL THOUGHT suggests that the ardor for precipitous measures contemplated by an individual for changing society can be cooled by giving that person a research project. “When one undertakes a concrete, detailed study of social institutions, one becomes critical in detail and forgets about total negation” says Aron. This is along the line of a “discovery” made in the course of the Project. There were certainly other actions, intervention techniques undertaken by the Hampton Beach Project. However, particularly in the case of the Business Attitude test, research gave staff workers a very real opportunity for dialogue with the various participants of the Beach community.

It is difficult to say what kind of effect these research efforts produced in and of themselves. However, the subjective impression gained by those who engaged people in conversation using the relatively objective schema of a research instrument was that there was a positive effect of having such an opportunity to reflect on the totality of the summer’s experience.

Research instruments were not primarily designed to open this kind of dialogue. The press of other phases of the program made it difficult to pursue with any high degree of involvement in such conversations. However, there is enough of this effect to warrant very real consideration for this aspect of research in subsequent projects.