Psychology can’t help us understand people like you and me

Personality researcher René Mõttus explains how psychology research findings relate to an abstract average person, not you or me

I am not suggesting that psychological science is headed in a wrong direction. I think were are accumulating a solid body of knowledge about the average person and that this focus is right because science ought to be about universals – here, what generalises across individuals. But we have to be honest about what this science can offer: it is a psychology of the stranger, not a psychology of any actual individual you or I know.

We might assume that research in psychology helps us understand people like you and me. However, personality researcher at the University of Edinburgh Dr René Mõttus explains that psychology researchers often do not know the answers to questions about the thoughts, feelings, behaviour and motivations of individuals. This is because human minds are complex, people are different and psychology research is mostly about an average abstract person.

Read René’s thoughts on what psychology research can and cannot say about actual individuals:

How do you recognize a good psychologist? They don’t know | Psychology Today

About René Mõttus

René Mõttus is Reader in Psychology at the University of Edinburgh. His research interests include human personality, specifically how to most efficiently represent human personality.

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