Whose Psychological Concepts?

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Originally published in Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books, 1998, Vol 43(10), 671–672. Review of “The Structure of Psychological Common Sense,” by Jan Smedslund (see record 1997-36518-000). This book brings forth a charge against contemporary psychology: In speaking about psychological phenomena, psychologists tend to use language unreflectively, and this unanalyzed language is an obstacle to scientific progress. For many years, Malle explains, Smedslund has been fighting aggressively for more attention to the definition and choice of concepts in psychology. In this book, however, he conveys the impression of an aging, lone warrior who has laid down his weapons and resigned himself to reiterating his message, whether others will listen or not. The reader who has never heard of Smedslund will therefore be bewildered by this book. Smedslund's goal and method are: to describe the invariant structure of psychological concepts and assumptions embedded in ordinary language, by defining and relating them to each other. Malle summarizes the book and discusses its strengths and weaknesses. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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