As psychologists, it is our profession and duty to study the human mind and the areas surrounding it. One area in particular however is the study of human behaviour. Even since the origins of behavioural psychology, (Skinner, Pavlov, Watson and Raynor to name a few) psychologists have set out to find the causes of human behaviour. Why are we the way we are? What are the causes of both simple and complex emotions such as anger, or empathy, and ultimately reducing every behaviour to its fundamental core. Now that’s all well and good, but I have a huge bone to pick with this. It comes in the form of constructs.
Now these are a huge part in behavioural psychology. They represent ideas such as emotions that cannot be physically measured, so that they become measurable. That in itself is a ridiculous contradiction. I’m not saying that things such as emotions don’t exist, but if something isn’t physically there and is simply based off interpretation one way or another, then surely there are no accurate means of measurement? Sure things such as inter-rater reliability can be used, but at the end of the day when there are no universal standards of emotion, then how can they be truly measured? How do you define if someone is upset? Is it whether they seem to be a little down, not talk as much, or does a person have to be at the point of crying before everyone can agree that there upset? Again more problems arise from this; What if the person is hypersensitive, the severity of whatever they may be upset over, and every single individual has their own coping strategies and ways of dealing with things.
I guess the whole point of this little rant is that there are far too many different extraneous variables to even begin to consider to accurately measure emotion, and since it is simply a construct, how can it be measured? I could have been even more obscure from the start of this and simply stated that psychologists cannot measure how many dinosaurs walked the earth, but I’ll chose not to be as pedantic. Psychologists will always try their best to understand and measure human behaviour, but at the end of the day there’s only one person who can tell you how you’re feeling and why you are the way you are, and that’s you.