A theory must also be evaluated on its ability to be confirmed or disconfirmed; that is, it must be falsifiable. To be falsifiable, a theory must be precise enough to suggest research that may either support or fail to support its major tenets. If a theory is so vague and nebulous that both positive and negative research results can be interpreted as support, then that theory is not falsifiable and ceases to be useful. Falsifia-bility, however, is not the same as false; it simply means that negative research results will refute the theory and force the theorist to either discard it or modify it.
A falsifiable theory is accountable to experimental results. Figure 1.1 depicts a circular and mutually reinforcing connection between theory and research; each forms a basis for the other. Science is distinguished from nonscience by its ability to reject ideas that are not supported empirically even though they seem logical and rational. For example, Aristotle used logic to argue that lighter bodies fall at slower rates than heavier bodies. Although his argument may have agreed with "common sense," it had one problem: It was empirically wrong.
Theories that rely heavily on unobservable transformations in the unconscious are exceedingly difficult to either verify or falsify. For example, Freud's theory suggests that many of our emotions and behaviors are motivated by unconscious tendencies that are directly opposite the ones we express. For instance, unconscious hate might be expressed as conscious love, or unconscious fear of one's own homosexual feelings might take the form of exaggerated hostility toward homosexual individuals. Because Freud's theory allows for such transformations within the unconscious, it is nearly impossible to either verify or falsify. A theory that can explain everything explains nothing.
Was this article helpful?