Cognitive Ontology A Unified Framework for Psychological Constructs


A construct is a concept proposed by a researcher to represent an object of interest. Constructs serve as core media for scientific communication in research. In psychological science, the ontological commitment of constructs - whether a construct reflects a particular ontological entity - has received less attention. However, the progress of psychological science is compromised by three issues related to ontological commitments of constructs the lack of a unified framework for defining and measuring psychological constructs, the confusion of ontological relations of psychological constructs, and the difficulty in identifying the similarities and deviations among different psychological constructs. We propose that one potential solution to the predicament is a consensus-based cognitive ontology framework that sort out the mapping relationship between psychological constructs and psychological entities. Cognitive ontology aims at answering the following questions (1) what is the object of psychological science; and (2) how to accumulate the knowledge in the field? We suggest that based on evolutionary theory, psychological science should take human’s psychological capacity, which is shaped by evolution, as the object of its study. Empirical studies of psychological capacity should be conducted under a consensus-based framework that provides a coherent logical flow from psychological capacity to construct, measurement, and data, via mathematical or formal models. To build this framework, researchers need meta-science to re-evaluate the existing operationalization/measurements of psychological constructs; large-scale datasets from massive data collection using all available operationalization/measurements obtained in meta-science; and models, data-driven and/or theory-driven, to specify the relationships among measurements. By doing so, researchers will be able to update the measurement and theoretical models of the target construct and its related constructs. Iterating the above process, with the collaboration among researchers, the field as a whole will continue updating the measurements and theoretical models of its constructs, accumulating data, and, eventually, accelerating theoretical breakthroughs in psychological science.

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