van Rooij & Baggio: Theory before the Test. How to build high-verisimilitude explanatory theories in psychological science

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for December, 18th at 12:00 CET. We are delighted that our speaker is Professor Iris van Rooij. We will discuss her forthcoming paper, co-authored with Giosuè Baggio: Theory before the test: How to build high-verisimilitude explanatory theories in psychological science available at
Abstract: Drawing on the philosophy of psychological explanation (Cummins, 1983; 2000), we suggest that psychological science, by focusing on effects, may lose sight of its primary explananda: psychological capacities. We revisit Marr’s (1982) levels-of-analysis framework, which has been remarkably productive and useful for cognitive psychological explanation. We discuss ways in which Marr’s framework may be extended to other areas of psychology, such as social, developmental, and evolutionary psychology, bringing new benefits to these fields. Next, we show how theoretical analyses can endow a theory with minimal plausibility even prior to contact with empirical data: we call this the theoretical cycle. Finally, we explain how our proposal may contribute to addressing critical issues in psychological science, including how to leverage effects to understand capacities better.

The seminar is focused on discussing the papers, in a reading group style. The speaker first introduces the main theses of the paper (for around ten minutes), and then the floor is open for comments. In the online version of the seminar, the questions must be first signaled briefly on the chat to manage the flow of the discussion. To receive the Google Meet link, please contact Dr. Przemysław Nowakowski (

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