LETTER TO THE EDITOR: To Be or Not to Be: The "Ghosts" of Psychological Science

By Rusu, Alina; Gavita, Oana | Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies, September 2007 | Go to article overview

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: To Be or Not to Be: The "Ghosts" of Psychological Science


Rusu, Alina, Gavita, Oana, Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies


Dear Editor,

In a previous letter to your Journal, we (OG) have already discussed the issue of the "ghost concepts of cognitive science" but now we would like to particularize it on a specific case, which was recently published in an influential journal.

Thus, recently, Gray, Gray, & Wegner (2007) have published an interesting paper in "Science" (315) related to the "dimensions of mind perception". Basically, their aim was to study the "...structure of mind perception..." (p. 619). Their findings are interpreted to reveal two components of mind perception, namely "agency" and "experience". The study was correctly conducted, involving a very clever design. Such a study is useful if we resist the temptation of reification (i.e., transforming a mental model into a psychological reality) of its constructs (e.g., "mind perception", "mind agency"). However, the authors seem to not resist the temptation of reification, talking about "mind structure", "mind agency" rather than seeing these like pure psychological constructs etc.

Indeed, in a psychological/cognitive system, a set of inputs is associated with a set of outputs by several psychological models/constructs (some of them even described mathematically). These psychological constructs have several functions: (1) explain why a certain input is associated with a certain output; (2) predict the output given a certain input; (3) describe the input-output relations; and (4) organize and summarize various inputoutput relations. But are they any more "real" than a mathematical model [i.e., F(x)=2x], such as other scientific constructs like "gene" or "mass" are? Is it correct to understand these constructs as psychological realities (i.e., "mind perception"). For example, nobody would argue that F(x)=2x is a fundamental component of physical reality simply because it connects some mathematically quantified physical inputs and outputs. Why then shall we argue that a psychological construct is a part of a psychological reality simply because it connects some psychological inputs and outputs?

We must be aware that some psychological constructs are just functional models with no reality to them; they are similar to F(x)=2x. However, other psychological constructs might be not only functional models but also part of reality. Having said that, what is the difference - the boundary - between these two types of constructs? The main distinction is that for a psychological construct to be a part of reality, we need a clear-cut definition of the construct and a qualitative description of the psychological phenomenon, which should be fully grasped by the human brain (i.e., have an identified biological/brain counterpart; a description at the implementational level); thus, not only does it model various reality based input-output relations, but it also has a clear biological counterpart. The understanding of this distinction is fundamental for psychology and its relation with neurosciences; for example, a difficulty lies in separating the biological counterpart of an input and output from that of the psychological construct connecting/modeling them.

Confusing models/constructs of reality with reality is a serious error in science. Does this make the construct (e.g., "mind agency") not described at the implementational level (i.e., brain level) less important for psychology than those with a clear biological counterpart (e.g., "cognitive inhibition" based on the prefrontal lobe)? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: To Be or Not to Be: The "Ghosts" of Psychological Science
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.