• New research

    The psychology of philosophy

    I first got interested in personality psychology long ago as a double-degree student of psychology and philosophy. I was intrigued by the psychology of philosophical divisions and started thinking about how people’s views of the world reflect their personalities. It seemed to me that there was frequently a coherence between the personalities of philosophers and the philosophical positions they adopted. Historical examples There are many historical examples consistent with this position. An example that comes to mind is Arthur Schopenhauer—a 19th century thinker known as the philosopher of pessimism, who was also known to be cynical and disagreeable in his personal life. Another obvious example is Immanuel Kant—an 18th century…

  • Science and society

    The behavioral sciences and the pandemic response

    Should decision-makers have listened more to behavioral scientists when making decisions about how to combat the pandemic? There certainly are some general insights from research in the behavioral sciences that are important for effectively combating a pandemic. Some general points of this nature are summarized by Van Bavel et al. (2020).   For instance, if we want to get people to wear face masks, then we need to promote norms that encourage mask-wearing (i.e., we need to normalize it). The most straightforward way of doing this (apart from using fines) would be to (a) clearly communicate that mask-wearing is a desirable and charitable act—something that “good citizens” do—and (b) have…

  • Philosophy and meta-theory

    Is there a generalizability crisis in psychological science?

    Tal Yarkoni recently published an article arguing that psychological science suffers from a generalizability crisis. Although this article has caused quite a stir in the field (and quite a bit of confusion), the issue Yarkoni discusses is by no means new. It has been known by methodologists for at least a couple of decades. It is also intimately connected to the problems that led to the demise of positivism and falsificationism in the philosophy of science. But Yarkoni has provided a new statistical formulation of this problem and brought it to the attention of mainstream researchers in psychology. I discuss the basic methodological issue, divorced from the statistical formulation, below.…

  • Political psychology

    Authoritarianism on the left and the right: A sequel

    In an earlier blog post, I discussed the problems with a new scale developed by Conway and colleagues to measure left-wing authoritarianism. I wrote that a better scale for measuring this construct could benefit research in psychology. Shortly after this, another team of researchers (Costello et al., 2021) published a new left wing authoritarianism scale. Although I have not studied this scale myself, it looks more promising and lacks the obvious problems of the Conway et al. scale. It is most likely an improvement on previous measures of left-wing authoritarianism. Nevertheless, the paper written by Costello et al. on their new scale is disappointing in some respects. A misleading narrative…

  • Philosophy and meta-theory

    Meta-theoretical myths in psychological science

    There is a lot of talk of “meta science” in psychology these days. Meta science is essentially the scientific study of science itself—or, in other words, what has more traditionally been called “science studies”. The realization that psychological science (at least as indexed by articles published in high-prestige journals) is littered with questionable research practices, false positive results, and poorly justified conclusions has undoubtedly sparked an upsurge in this area. The meta-scientific revolution in psychology is extremely sorely needed. It is, however, really a meta-methodological revolution so far. It has done little to rectify the lack of rigorous meta-theoretical work in psychology, which dates back all the way to the…

  • Philosophy and meta-theory

    Psychology is still WEIRD

    Psychological science is fraught with problems. One of these problems that has recently attracted widespread attention is the proliferation of false positives, which is rooted in a combination of QRPs (questionable research practices), including “p-hacking” (choosing analytical options on the basis of whether they render significant results) and “HARKing” (hypothesizing after the results are known), and very low statistical power (i.e., too few participants). Overall, psychology has responded vigorously to this problem, although much remains to be done. Numerous reforms have been put in place to encourage open science practices and quality in research. Another problem that has become widely recognized recently is that psychological research often makes inferences about…

  • New research

    The evolutionary foundations of worldviews

    When taking a graduate course on evolutionary psychology a few years ago, I thought a bit about the potential evolutionary bases of worldviews. I was specifically interested in the opposition between humanistic and normativistic perspectives posited by Silvan Tomkins Polarity Theory (more information here) that is encapsulated in the following quotation: “Is man the measure, an end in himself, an active, creative, thinking, desiring, loving force in nature? Or must man realize himself, attain his full stature only through struggle toward, participation in, conformity to a norm, a measure, an ideal essence basically prior to and independent of man?” (Tomkins, 1963). Evolutionary bases of of normativism and humanism Drawing on…

  • My new work

    Our book is finally out

    The book on philosophy of science and methodology for psychology that I have been working on together with Lars-Gunnar Lundh is finally out. Unfortunately, it is only published in Swedish so far, but I hope that we will soon be able to publish at least parts of it in English as well. If you happen to speak Swedish, you can access it from the publisher Studentlitteratur. The reason that we wrote this book is that we felt that there was no other book that connects philosophy of science with psychological science in a sufficiently systematic and non-polemical way (the best books in this genre tend to focus on the natural…