Anatomy of a Psychological Theory: Integrating Construct-Validation and Computational-Modeling Methods to Advance Theorizing

Ivan Grahek*, Mark Schaller, Jennifer L. Tackett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Discussions about the replicability of psychological studies have primarily focused on improving research methods and practices, with less attention paid to the role of well-specified theories in facilitating the production of reliable empirical results. The field is currently in need of clearly articulated steps to theory specification and development, particularly regarding frameworks that may generalize across different fields of psychology. Here we focus on two approaches to theory specification and development that are typically associated with distinct research traditions: computational modeling and construct validation. We outline the points of convergence and divergence between them to illuminate the anatomy of a scientific theory in psychology—what a well-specified theory should contain and how it should be interrogated and revised through iterative theory-development processes. We propose how these two approaches can be used in complementary ways to increase the quality of explanations and the precision of predictions offered by psychological theories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • computational modeling
  • construct validation
  • theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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