A theory not only explains known facts; it also allows scientists to make predictions of what they should observe if a theory is true. Scientific theories are testable. New evidence should be compatible with a theory. If it isn’t, the theory is refined or rejected. The longer the central elements of a theory hold–the more observations it predicts, the more tests it passes, the more facts it explains–the stronger the theory.
Part of the Darwin exhibition.
In a commentary to our article on the role of theory and simulation in social predictions, Krueger (2012) argues that the role of theory is neglected in social psychology for a good reason. He considers evidence indicating that people readily generalize from themselves to others. In response, we stress the role of theoretical knowledge in predicting other people’s behavior. Importantly, prediction by simulation and prediction by theory can lead to high as well as to low correlations between own and predicted behavior. This renders correlations largely useless for identifying the prediction strategy. We argue that prediction by theory is a serious alternative to prediction by simulation, and that reliance on correlation has led to a bias toward simulation.
Previous article in issue
Next article in issue
This diagram shows how outputs can be added to your flowchart at
relevant points, linking to the outcomes that they will produce.
Read more about how to develop a theory of change.