Quantification, Conceptual Reduction and Theoretical Under-determination in Psychological Science

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Abstract
I argue that academic psychology’s quest to achieve scientific respectability by reliance on quantification and objectification is deeply flawed. Specifically, psychological theory typically cannot support prognostication beyond the binary opposition of “effect present/effect absent”. Accordingly, the “numbers” assigned to experimental results amount to little more than affixing names (e.g., more than, less than) to the members of an ordered sequence of outcomes. This, in conjunction with the conceptual under-specification characterizing the targets of experimental inquiry, is, I contend, a primary reason why psychologists find it difficult to discriminate between competing, explanations of the effects of mind on behavior. Absent well-specified theory capable of enabling precise and detailed quantitative prediction, inferring underlying mental mechanisms from experimental outcomes becomes a difficult, if not impossible, task.
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First archival date: 2021-05-14
Latest version: 2 (2022-07-08)
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