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A decade of theory as reflected in Psychological Science (2009-2019)

McPhetres, Jonathon, Albayrak-Aydemir, Nihan ORCID: 0000-0003-3412-4311, Mendes, Ana Barbosa, Chow, Elvina C., Gonzalez-Marquez, Patricio, Loukras, Erin, Maus, Annika, O'Mahony, Aoife, Pomareda, Christina, Primbs, Maximilian A., Sackman, Shalaine L., Smithson, Conor J.R. and Volodko, Kirill (2021) A decade of theory as reflected in Psychological Science (2009-2019). PLOS ONE, 16 (3). ISSN 1932-6203

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Identification Number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0247986


The dominant belief is that science progresses by testing theories and moving towards theoretical consensus. While it's implicitly assumed that psychology operates in this manner, critical discussions claim that the field suffers from a lack of cumulative theory. To examine this paradox, we analysed research published in Psychological Science from 2009-2019 (N = 2,225). We found mention of 359 theories in-text, most were referred to only once. Only 53.66% of all manuscripts included the word theory, and only 15.33% explicitly claimed to test predictions derived from theories. We interpret this to suggest that the majority of research published in this flagship journal is not driven by theory, nor can it be contributing to cumulative theory building. These data provide insight into the kinds of research psychologists are conducting and raises questions about the role of theory in the psychological sciences.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2021 11:45
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2024 18:12

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