Talk by Frank Zenker: Theoretical knowledge and behavioral science

21/10/2022 18:00

The talk titled "Theoretical knowledge and behavioral science" by Frank Zenker will take place on Friday, 21 Oct 2022, 6.00-7.30 pm, at John Freely Hall, Room JF 507 (4th floor).

For more information, please click here.

Frank Zenker, Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey (

Behavioral science broadly lacks theoretical knowledge today. Some50 years of experimental/observational research have not resulted in empirically adequate theories that allow us to explain and predict human behavior, and to intervene onto it (e.g., in public policy making). In explaining this "state-of-the-art," I raise three related issues. First, a strong focus on induction suggests a lack of understanding among behavioral scientists about what theoretical knowledge is, why it is important, and why it requires a deductive approach. Second, the primary aim of "making discoveries" (by testing against chance) leads to applications of the best statistical inference strategies generally, and of a Bayesian hypothesis support threshold particularly, that typically ignore the minimum sample size-leading to underpowered studies the results of which are unlikely to replicate. Third, since observed behavioral responses typically translate into either small effects that are quasi-unobservable or into medium to larger effects the observation of which remains diffuse, the point-effect that an empirically adequate theoretical construct would have to predict is typically unknown, partly explaining why theoretical knowledge cannot easily arise. For each issue, I present possible remedies.

Guests: To enter the campus via the main gate near Bogazici Metro station, please obtain a guest pass in exchange for a passport or ID card.