Operationism in Psychology - What the Debate is About, What the Debate Should Be About

I offer an analysis of operationism in psychology, which is rooted in an historical study of the investigative practices of two of its early proponents (S. S. Stevens and E. C. Tolman). According to this analysis, early psychological operationists emphasized the importance of experimental operations and called for scientists to specify what kinds of operations were to count as empirical indicators for the referents of their concepts. While such specifications were referred to as “definitions,” I show that such definitions were not taken to constitute a priori knowledge or be analytically true. Rather, they served the pragmatic function of enabling scientists to do research on a purported phenomenon. I argue that historical and philosophical discussions of problems with operationism have conflated it, both conceptually and historically, with positivism, and I raise the question of what are the “real” issues behind the debate about operationism.
Keywords operationism  operational definitions  history and philosophy of psychology  epistemology of experimentation
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
Edit this record
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Mark as duplicate
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 30,781
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
S. S. Stevens and the Origins of Operationism.Gary L. Hardcastle - 1995 - Philosophy of Science 62 (3):404-424.
Methodology of Psychology.C. A. Qadir - 1961 - Pakistan Philosophical Congress 8:133-144.
Observationalism in Psychology.R. S. Peters - 1951 - Mind 60 (January):43-61.
Operationism.Abram Cornelius Benjamin - 1954 - Springfield, Ill., Thomas.
Operationism.Raymond J. Nogar - 1956 - New Scholasticism 30 (3):380-382.
Operationism--A Critical Evaluation.A. Cornelius Benjamin - 1950 - Journal of Philosophy 47 (15):439-444.
Operationism as a Cultural Survival.Frank E. Hartung - 1944 - Philosophy of Science 11 (4):227-232.
Operationism Analysed Operationally.Hornell Hart - 1940 - Philosophy of Science 7 (3):288-313.
Is Operationism Unjust to Temperature?Fred Wilson - 1968 - Synthese 18 (4):394 - 422.
Added to PP index

Total downloads

Recent downloads (6 months)

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.
My notes
Sign in to use this feature