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October 2021

Memory psychology: An empirical or an analytical science?

Author(s): Engelkamp, J.

Journal/Book: Scand J Psychol. 1999; 40: PO Box 2959 Toyen, Journal Division Customer Service, N-0608 Oslo, Norway. Scandinavian University Press. 119-122.

Abstract: Jan Smedslund (1999) made an attempt to show that (memory) psychology is pseudo-empirical because the laws formulated on the basis of experiments are only apparently empirical. In reality, he claims, the laws are necessarily true because they follow from presuppositions included in the applied concepts. He stated that in order to understand psychological phenomena, it is sufficient to work in an armchair, there is no need to enrich our empirical knowledge because the basic insights are logical in nature. Smedslund supported his position by demonstrating that several findings from memory psychology logically follow from a small number of axioms in his 'psychologic', and these axioms are, in his view, consensually true. Therefore, psychological experiments cannot prove or falsify the predictions. In fact, the experiments only test the realization of the rather uninteresting auxiliary hypotheses. In his view, real empirical predictions are only possible in those cases when psychological variables are linked to physical or biological variables, e.g., brain structures. We do not share his position, and in the following, we want to develop our arguments.

Note: Article Zimmer HD, Univ Saarland, Dept Psychol, D-6600 Saarbrucken, GERMANY


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