How Strong is the Case Against Contemporary Social and Personality Psychology?. A Response to Carlson

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Based on a content analysis of the research published in the 1982 volumes of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (JPSP), Carlson (1984)finds severe deficiencies in the current fields of personality and social psychology. The abundance of the studies in JPSP failed to meet her minimum definitional criteria for acceptability. Carlson concludes that "the two fields appear to be linked mainly by their deficiencies and appear to have little content worth sharing" (p. 1304). This response argues that Carlson is incorrect in (a) an overly restrictive definition of what constitutes valid social and personality psychology, (b) her negative evaluations of the worth of the current approaches, and (c) an unjustified set of methodological prejudices. Carlson's attack seems to be an example of a larger problem in the field, that is, the mutual intolerance and lack of respect between the members of psychology's "two cultures." Carlson's culture favors a holistic, idiographic, naturalistic approach over the analytic (and frequently laboratory-based) nomothetic research done by most of JPSP's contributors. Although Carlson shows an intolerance of the cultural plurality of the field, it is probably mirrored by an opposing set of biases in the camp she is attacking. The advantages of coexistence over self-righteous insularity are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)839-844
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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