Workshop: The Epistemology of Psychological Measurement
Idea & Motivation
In the physical sciences precision measurement is the gold standard of evidential support and theory confirmation. In the psychological sciences, however, measurement has had a fraught history. Psychophysics and its behaviorist / operationalist allies found ways to quantify psychologically relevant behavior—indeed this tradition spawned much foundational work in measurement, including Stevens’ hierarchy of scales and the Representational Theory of Measurement. Nevertheless, the significance of the numbers assigned to psychological states has been hotly contested: psychological states cannot be conjoined or juxtaposed in the way that physical magnitudes can, consequently, operations performed meaningfully on numerical quantities, such as addition, do not have any direct operational correlate for psychological quantities. This battle rages today primarily over the practices of psychometrics, and whether the numbers it assigns to putative psychological quantities, such as intelligence, emotional state, or personality traits, have any meaning.
This conference aims to explore the distinctive features of psychological measurement, asking what can we know from psychological measurement? What legitimates (or not) assigning numbers to psychological quantities? Is measurement in psychology epistemically, ethically, or ontologically different from that in the physical sciences? What are the conditions of success for psychological measurement?
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