What is it about?

Claims about academic psychology being in deep crisis have been especially frequent in recent years. Some emphasize that many psychological studies cannot be replicated, while others argue that psychology has neglected variation across times and cultures, or that many psychological theories are ill-developed. In this context, the vagueness of psychological concepts is often considered a bug that needs to be fixed. In contrast, we argue that it is not a bug, it is a feature: Hoping to arrive at a finite set of necessary and sufficient criteria that define psychological concepts once and for all is an illusion.

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Why is it important?

Other than one might intuitively think, the fact that psychological concepts are inherently vague does not mean that they are ineffable or lack meaning. Nevertheless, it has important consequences for the way academic psychology should best respond to its current crises. For instance, we argue that psychologists should pay more attention to the context conditions under which psychological knowledge is created, need to put more effort into exploring variation across times and cultures, and would benefit from embracing theoretical and methodological pluralism.

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This page is a summary of: Approaching psychology’s current crises by exploring the vagueness of psychological concepts: Recommendations for advancing the discipline., American Psychologist, January 2024, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/amp0001300.
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