The aim of psychology is to understand the human mind and behavior. In contemporary psychology, the method of choice to accomplish this incredibly complex endeavor is the experiment. This dominance has shaped the whole discipline from the self-concept as an empirical science and its very epistemological and theoretical foundations, via research practice and the scientific discourse to teaching. Experimental psychology is grounded in the scientific method and positivism, and these principles, which are characteristic for modern thinking, are still upheld. Despite this apparently stalwart adherence to modern principles, experimental psychology exhibits a number of aspects which can best be described as facets of postmodern thinking although they are hardly acknowledged as such. Many psychologists take pride in being “real natural scientists” because they conduct experiments, but it is particularly difficult for psychologists to evade certain elements of postmodern thinking in view of the specific nature of their subject matter. Postmodernism as a philosophy emerged in the 20th century as a response to the perceived inadequacy of the modern approach and as a means to understand the complexities, ambiguities, and contradictions of the times. Therefore, postmodernism offers both valuable insights into the very nature of experimental psychology and fruitful ideas on improving experimental practice to better reflect the complexities and ambiguities of human mind and behavior. Analyzing experimental psychology along postmodern lines begins by discussing the implications of transferring the scientific method from fields with rather narrowly defined phenomena—the natural sciences—to a much broader and more heterogeneous class of complex phenomena, namely the human mind and behavior. This ostensibly modern experimental approach is, however, per se riddled with postmodern elements: creating phenomena in an experimental setting, including the hermeneutic processes of generating hypotheses and interpreting results, is no carbon copy of “reality” but rather an active construction which reflects irrevocably the pre-existing ideas of the investigator. These aspects, analyzed by using postmodern concepts like hyperreality and simulacra, did not seep in gradually but have been present since the very inception of experimental psychology, and they are necessarily inherent in its philosophy of science. We illustrate this theoretical analysis with the help of two examples, namely experiments on free will and visual working memory. The postmodern perspective reveals some pitfalls in the practice of experimental psychology. Furthermore, we suggest that accepting the inherently fuzzy nature of theoretical constructs in psychology and thinking more along postmodern lines would actually clarify many theoretical problems in experimental psychology.
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DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.612805
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Scientific Challenges to Free Will.Eddy Nahmias - 2010 - In C. Sandis & T. O'Connor (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Action. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 345-356.

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