Why psychology needs conceptual analysts: Wachtel's "discontents" revisited

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Commenting on Wachtel's "Investigation and its Discontents" [Wachtel, P. L. (1980). Investigation and its discontents: Some constraints on progress in psychological research. American Psychologist, 35, 399-408], I agree that lack of support for a career path of conceptual analysis and critique is a serious problem. Psychology requires a strong conceptual component because it is subject to unusual distortions and self-deceptions in theory formation and evidential evaluation due to issues of power, self-esteem, and social ideology. I agree with Wachtel that pressures for quantity of publication are detrimental to scientific quality, but dispute his suggestion that excessive focus on quantity in assessing productivity can be addressed by having tenure and promotion candidates submit only their three best papers. Such reviews must be based on the entire record, so improvements must involve journals' acceptance standards. Regarding Wachtel's concern about the influence of grants on reviews, I argue that grants should be relevant only to the extent they bear on the candidate's scholarly goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-43
Number of pages5
JournalApplied and Preventive Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Conceptual analysis
  • Foucault
  • Harmful dysfunction
  • Philosophy of psychology
  • Theoretical psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Why psychology needs conceptual analysts: Wachtel's "discontents" revisited'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this