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October 2021

Why is experimentation in psychology often senseless?

Author(s): Wallach, M. A.

Journal/Book: Scand J Psychol. 1999; 40: PO Box 2959 Toyen, Journal Division Customer Service, N-0608 Oslo, Norway. Scandinavian University Press. 103-106.

Abstract: Jan Smedslund has engaged in a long and admirable campaign aimed at bringing psychologists in various fields to recognize that much of their empirical research is essentially pointless. In his article, ''Psychologic and the study of memory,'' Smedslund (1999) extends this campaign to the area of memory. What we propose to do here is examine his general argument-whether in relation to memory or other areas-for the claim that much psychological hypothesis testing makes no sense. We believe and will argue that although there are problems in the ways Smedslund has attempted to support this claim, the claim itself is valid. Smedslund has formulated a system of principles-''psychologic''-which he believes are necessarily true by virtue of the meanings of their constituent terms, i.e., an analytic truths. He has attempted to show that many hypotheses of experiments performed by psychologists can be logically derived from these principles and are therefore themselves also analytic truths. If this is correct, then it makes no sense to submit these hypotheses to empirical test. We shall advance two arguments. First, Smedslund is wrong that many hypotheses put to test by psychologists can be logically derived from principles which are necessarily true by virtue of the meanings of their constituent terms. But second, he is right nonetheless that many of these hypotheses are senseless to test.

Note: Article Wallach L, Duke Univ, Dept Psychol, Durham,NC 27706 USA

Keyword(s): MAINSTREAM

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