Pragmatism, realism, and psychology: Understanding theory selection criteria

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APA Citation: 

Long, D. M. (2013). Pragmatism, realism, and psychology: Understanding theory selection criteria. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 2, 61-67.

Publication Topic: 
Contextual Methodology and Scientific Strategy
Publication Type: 

This paper examines some practical implications of philosophy for psychological scientists. A number of methodologists have emphasized the importance of philosophical assumptions in organizing scientific activity. Contextual Behavioral Science (CBS), for example, has been explicitly organized around a form of pragmatism. Beginning with the role of conceptual standards in guiding the theory development, this paper introduces readers to realism and pragmatism as divergent views of scientific progress. The concept of theory-selection criteria is proposed as a useful way of understanding the practical implications stemming from realism and pragmatism. Psychometric construct validity, and inter-theory construct coherency are examined as examples. It is proposed that while realists tend to treat construct validity and theory unification as necessary and sufficient indicators of progress, pragmatists tend to treat these qualities as only potentially progressive. Directions for future philosophical writing are suggested.

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