Photo by Polina Tankilevitch


CBT versus counselling. Mental models versus mental rules. Bayesianism versus everything. There are lots of brand wars in psychology which stifle the development of theory and lead to tedious arguments. This does get recognised in print now and again. Here are some examples.

The first comes from a discussion of the ACT-R theory (Anderson, 2007, p. 19):

“… this book is not about ACT-R; rather I am using ACT-R as a tool to describe the mind. […] We may be proud of our ACT-R models and think they are better than others […] but we try not to lose track of the fact that they are just a way of describing what is really of interest.”

Later (p. 239) Anderson cites Herbert Simon, who complained that

“… ‘brand names’ tend to make difficult the analysis and comparison of […] mechanisms or the exchange of knowledge between research groups. […] Physicists did not divide quantum mechanics into the Heisenberg Brand, the Schrodinger Brand, and the Dirac brand.”

Another example, from sociology: a book on social class (Wright, 1997, p. 34):

“Readers who are highly skeptical of the Marxist tradition for whatever reasons might feel that there is no point in struggling through the numbers and graphs in the rest of this book. If the conceptual justifications for the categories are unredeemably flawed, it might be thought, the empirical results generated with those categories will be worthless. This would be, I think, a mistake. The empirical categories themselves can be interpreted in a Weberian or hybrid manner. […] As is usually the case in sociology, the empirical categories are underdetermined by the theoretical frameworks within which they are generated or interpreted.”


Anderson, J. R. (2007). How can the human mind occur in the physical universe? Oxford University Press

Wright, E. O. (1997). Class counts: student edition. Cambridge University Press.