Syllabus for


G. Scott Acton

This is a course on psychology viewed through the lens of the "received view" of the philosophy of science presented by Popper and Lakatos. According to this view, science consists of bold theories that outpace the facts. Scientists continually attempt to falsify these theories but can never prove them true. Many subtleties of the received view will be illustrated using the contemporary literature in psychology as an example. Students should come away with an understanding of how the philosophy of science contributes to an understanding of science.



The Received View in the Philosophy of Science: Popper's Formulation

Popper, K. R. (1959). The logic of scientific discovery. New York: Harper & Row.

Acton, G. S. (1997, August 12). Why the earth may really be flat [WWW document]. URL


The Received View: Lakatos' Formulation

Lakatos, I. (1970). Falsification and the methodology of scientific research programmes. In I. Lakatos & A. Musgrave (Eds.), Criticism and the growth of knowledge (pp. 91-196). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hacking, I. (1983). A surrogate for truth. In Representing and intervening: Introductory topics in the philosophy of natural science (pp. 112-129). New York: Cambridge University Press.


The Received View on Psychoanalysis

Popper, K. R. (1969). Science: Conjectures and refutations. In Conjectures and refutations: The growth of scientific knowledge (3rd ed., pp. 33-65). London: Routledge.

Grünbaum, A. (1986). Précis of The foundations of psychoanalysis: A philosophical critique. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 9, 217-284.


The Received View on Evolutionary Psychology

Ketelaar, T., & Ellis, B. J. (2000). Are evolutionary explanations unfalsifiable? Evolutionary psychology and the Lakatosian philosophy of science. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 1-68.

Hull, D. L. (1999). The use and abuse of Sir Karl Popper. Biology and Philosophy, 14, 481-504.


The Received View on Intelligence

Urbach, P. (1974). Progress and degeneration in the 'IQ debate.' British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 25, 99-135, 235-259.


Personality: A Synthesis in the Received View

Eysenck, H. J. (1997). Personality and experimental psychology: The unification of psychology and the possibility of a paradigm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 1224-1237.


Critique of a Critique of Social Psychology

Gergen, K. J. (1973). Social psychology as history. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 26, 309-320.

Schlenker, B. R. (1974). Social psychology and science. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 29, 1-15.

Wallach, L., & Wallach, M. A. (1994). Gergen versus the mainstream: Are hypotheses in social psychology subject to empirical test? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 233-242.


Psychopathology: "You're Either Popperian or You're Delusional!"

Leeser, J., & O'Donohue, W. (1999). What is a delusion? Epistemological dimensions. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 108, 687-694.


Cognitive Psychology: Are People Really Falsifiers?

Klayman, J., & Ha, Y. W. (1987). Confirmation, disconfirmation, and information in hypothesis-testing. Psychological Review, 94, 211-228.

Poletiek, F. H. (1996). Paradoxes of falsification. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A: Human Experimental Psychology, 49, 447-462.


The Received View on Progress in Psychology

Meehl, P. E. (1978). Theoretical risks and tabular asterisks: Sir Karl, Sir Ronald, and the slow progress of soft psychology. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 46, 806-834.

Dar, R. (1987). Another look at Meehl, Lakatos, and the scientific practices of psychologists. American Psychologist, 42, 145-151.


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