Scientific explanation in psychology

Julia Pfeiff

My dissertation project is concerned with the question how psychology explains human experience and behavior. Current philosophical research on the topic largely focuses on explanations in cognitive and biological psychology, leaving explanations from other psychological subdisciplines unexamined. This is unfortunate since it is far from clear that our current models of psychological explanation can account for explanations in these subdisciplines. My research goal is to arrive at a model of psychological explanation which covers explanations in these neglected subdisciplines.
To ensure that this model is in accordance with the explanatory practice of psychology, I will conduct an empirical study to assess how psychologists use the term “explanation”. The results of this study will serve as input to my philosophical analysis of the phenomenon.
Some of my project’s central questions are the following: Which different kinds of explanations are there in psychology? Which scientific or practical interests determine the (kind of) explanation that is put forward in a particular case? Is there a unified model of psychological explanation that covers explanations within strongly differing psychological subdisciplines?
I assume that the resulting model of psychological explanation will be of interest both for practicing scientists within psychology and for philosophical debates about scientific explanation in general.