Culture of Science: Strange History of the Methodological Thinking in Psychology

  • Aaro ToomelaEmail author
Target Article


In pre-World-War-II psychology, two directions in methodological thought—the German–Austrian and North American ways—could be differentiated. After the war, the German–Austrian methodological orientation has been largely abandoned. Compared to the pre-WWII German–Austrian psychology, modern mainstream psychology is more concerned with accumulation of facts than with general theory. Furthermore, the focus on qualitative data—in addition to quantitative data—is rarely visible. Only external–physical or statistical-rather than psychological controls are taken into account in empirical studies. Fragments—rather than wholes—and relationships are studied, and single cases that contradict group data are not analyzed. Instead of complex psychological types simple trait differences are studied, and prediction is not followed by thorough analysis of the whole situation. Last (but not least), data are not systematically related to complex theory. These limits have hindered the growth of knowledge in the behavioral sciences. A new return to an updated version of the German–Austrian methodological trajectory is suggested.


Methodology Holism Part/whole relations 



This work was supported by Estonian Science Foundation Grant No. 5388.


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© Springer Science & Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Special EducationUniversity of TartuTartuEstonia

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