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Peterson, Clayton (2018): Methodological empiricism and the choice of measurement models in social sciences. In: European Journal for Philosophy of Science, Vol. 8, No. 3: pp. 831-854
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Realism is generally assumed as the correct position with regards to psychological research and the measurement of psychological attributes in psychometrics. Borsboom et al. (Psychological Review, 110(2), 203-219 2003), for instance, argued that the choice of a reflective measurement model necessarily implies a commitment to the existence of psychological constructs as well as a commitment to the belief that empirical testing of measurement models can justify their correspondence with real causal structures. Hood (Erkenntnis, 78(4):739-761 2013) deemphasized Borsboom et al.'s position and argued that the choice of a reflective measurement model does not necessarily require ontological commitments, though, in his view, it does necessitate a commitment to minimal epistemic realism. Although these arguments are formulated with regard to psychological research, they can actually be generalized to other disciplines in social sciences that use similar methodologies and statistical techniques. In Hood's opinion, empiricism does not suffice to provide an adequate account of the choice of reflective measurement models given that this choice requires an appeal to causal explanations. In this paper, we argue against Hood and answer this challenge, providing epistemic foundations for social science research that do not appeal to realism.