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The illusion of objectivity in psychology

Mattias Desmet (UGent)
(2019) PSYCHOTERAPIE (BRNO). 13(1). p.6-21
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Abstract
For about a decade, academic psychology has been in crisis. Plagued by methodological sloppiness, the replication of research findings all too frequently fails and several cases of outright fraud have surfaced. This paper argues that one of the major causes of the crisis in psychology often goes unnoticed and is situated at the level of measurement methods. While the method sections of myriads of research papers claim that the validity of the measurement instruments used is ‘acceptable’, ‘good’ or even ‘excellent’, every thorough analysis leads to profound skepticism. For many years, the use of numbers has given psychology an aura of scientific exactitude, yet upon closer examination, it rather puts psychology at risk of becoming a pseudo-science. This paper illustrates in a very tangible way how a variety of variables that are not intended to be measured impact on measurement outcomes and render most types of statistical inference ineffective. It concludes that a return towards single case research, a re-appraisal of narrative and qualitative description, and a measurement paradigm centered on quantification of formal characteristics of language might attune psychological research methods better to the complex and dynamic nature of its objects under study. Rather than pinning our hopes on the optimization of classical measurement methods, investing time and energy in such a reorientation might contribute to a true overcoming of the replicability crisis.
Keywords
Nomothetic and idiographic measurement, The replicability crisis, Validity and reliability of psychological measurement

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Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

MLA
Desmet, Mattias. “The Illusion of Objectivity in Psychology.” PSYCHOTERAPIE (BRNO), vol. 13, no. 1, 2019, pp. 6–21.
APA
Desmet, M. (2019). The illusion of objectivity in psychology. PSYCHOTERAPIE (BRNO), 13(1), 6–21.
Chicago author-date
Desmet, Mattias. 2019. “The Illusion of Objectivity in Psychology.” PSYCHOTERAPIE (BRNO) 13 (1): 6–21.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Desmet, Mattias. 2019. “The Illusion of Objectivity in Psychology.” PSYCHOTERAPIE (BRNO) 13 (1): 6–21.
Vancouver
1.
Desmet M. The illusion of objectivity in psychology. PSYCHOTERAPIE (BRNO). 2019;13(1):6–21.
IEEE
[1]
M. Desmet, “The illusion of objectivity in psychology,” PSYCHOTERAPIE (BRNO), vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 6–21, 2019.
@article{8747751,
  abstract     = {{For about a decade, academic psychology has been in crisis. Plagued by methodological sloppiness, the replication of research findings all too frequently fails and several cases of outright fraud have surfaced. This paper argues that one of the major causes of the crisis in psychology often goes unnoticed and is situated at the level of measurement methods. While the method sections of myriads of research papers claim that the validity of the measurement instruments used is ‘acceptable’, ‘good’ or even ‘excellent’, every thorough analysis leads to profound skepticism. For many years, the use of numbers has given psychology an aura of scientific exactitude, yet upon closer examination, it rather puts psychology at risk of becoming a pseudo-science. This paper illustrates in a very tangible way how a variety of variables that are not intended to be measured impact on measurement outcomes and render most types of statistical inference ineffective. It concludes that a return towards single case research, a re-appraisal of narrative and qualitative description, and a measurement paradigm centered on quantification of formal characteristics of language might attune psychological research methods better to the complex and dynamic nature of its objects under study. Rather than pinning our hopes on the optimization of classical measurement methods, investing time and energy in such a reorientation might contribute to a true overcoming of the replicability crisis.}},
  author       = {{Desmet, Mattias}},
  issn         = {{1802-3983}},
  journal      = {{PSYCHOTERAPIE (BRNO)}},
  keywords     = {{Nomothetic and idiographic measurement,The replicability crisis,Validity and reliability of psychological measurement}},
  language     = {{cze}},
  number       = {{1}},
  pages        = {{6--21}},
  title        = {{The illusion of objectivity in psychology}},
  url          = {{https://journals.muni.cz/psychoterapie/article/view/11935}},
  volume       = {{13}},
  year         = {{2019}},
}