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Generating theories is hard, and none of our theories are good enough

Andrew Perfors
University of Melbourne, Australia ~ School of Psychological Sciences

One response to the ongoing replication crisis in the social sciences has been the observation that solutions such as pre-registration become less necessary (or perhaps even unnecessary) when experiments and analyses are constrained by good theory. In this talk I will discuss what characteristics are necessary for a theory to be "good enough" to play this role effectively. I will argue that in all or almost all areas of psychology -- including mathematical psychology -- existing theories and computational models do not have these characteristics. I will conclude by discussing what can be learned from "not good enough" theories and will offer some thoughts on how to create better ones given the epistemological and practical problems inherent in doing science in the real world.





Theory development
Great talk Last updated 2 years ago

Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this talk, and I was especially heartened by your call to focus more on measurement, especially of similarity. This is an area I've worked on a bit, and would like to work on further, but I haven't always felt that others recognized it to be useful -- I think it comes back to the bias against "merely methodo...

Dr. Russell Richie 2 comments
Awesome job - some ideas on measurement Last updated 2 years ago

Thanks for the stimulating talk, very enjoyable and very clearly presented. I also wholeheartedly agree with the issues you bring up in measurement, and I thought I'd share some ideas I had about the problem to gauge your thoughts. I think it can sometimes be tiring to compare psychology and other fields like physics, but I think there's an exam...

Dr. Ricky Romeu 2 comments
Core vs. ancillary assumptions Last updated 2 years ago

Greatest talk, thoroughly enjoyed it. Would much agree to your five points about what a good & strong theory should be like. I especially liked your emphasis on the importance of differentiating between core and ancillary assumptions in theory development AND evaluation. Totally agree that the measurement problem in psychology is huge (and embarras...

Prof. Jay I. Myung 3 comments
Wonderful talk Last updated 2 years ago

First of all, very much enjoyed the talk. Your conclusion about theories in Psychology was the consensus that Aba and I reached after many conversations, too (though we also speculated that there are a lot of good theories in psychology that are so obvious that we forget about them - e.g., being awake and trying as being important aspects of perfor...

Chris Donkin 6 comments
Cite this as:

Perfors, A. F. (2020, July). Generating theories is hard, and none of our theories are good enough. Paper presented at Virtual MathPsych/ICCM 2020. Via