The Pursuit of Objectivity in Psychology


by Mattias Desmet

The Pursuit of Objectivity in Psychology (2018)

For about a decade, academic psychology finds itself in a crisis. Replication of the vast majority of research findings fails, the field is plagued by a bewildering methodological sloppiness and several cases of outright fraud have surfaced.

This book argues that one of the major causes of the crisis in psychology is situated at the level of measurement methods. While myriads of research papers claim that the validity of the measurement instruments used is ‘acceptable’, ‘good’ or even ‘excellent’, every thorough analysis of validity and reliability of nomothetic measurement procedures leads up to profound skepticism.

For a long time, the use of numbers gave psychology an aura of sophistication and exactness, but now it rather puts psychology at risk to become a pseudoscience. The author illustrates that a variety of factors not-intended-to-be-measured impacts on measurement outcome, which renders most types of statistical inference ineffective. He concludes that a reorientation towards single case research, a reappraisal of narrative and qualitative description, and a measurement paradigm centred on quantification of formal characteristics of language might attune psychological methods better to the complex and dynamic nature of its subjects. Ultimately, such a reorientation might contribute to a true overcoming of the replicability crisis.

Mattias Desmet is Professor in Clinical Psychology at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences at Ghent University, Belgium.

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Dimensions 20 × 13.5 cm