Media reports inform and enhance public attitudes toward a host of social phenomena, not least sexual offending. For instance, the News of the World reacted to the public’s horror toward the killing of schoolgirl Sarah Payne in 2000 by printing the names and locations of convicted child sex offenders, playing on and amplifying the public’s feelings about the relative riskiness of sex offenders.
It is hard to know how to reply to Ian McPhail’s latest riposte to my commentary on theory construction. To set the scene. First, I have a degree in philosophy and yes have read Feyerabend, Popper, Hanson, Lakatos etc. and the rest of the crew! My Masters thesis was on the metaphysics and epistemology of psychology so this material is familiar to me. I keep up with much of the relevant literature and am currently writing on some aspects on method in psychology. I prefer not to defer to the authority of the greats in argument; it is logically irrelevant, and incorrect.
To start my reply to Prof. Ward’s response, it is probably best to outline where he and I agree on some of the topics covered on the blog and in his recently published work. First, we both agree that there is a need for more and better conceptual work in forensic psychology. Ward and Beech, as well as Mann and colleagues, make the point that the time has come for more in-depth theoretical work to deepen our understanding of the psychological constructs that cause sexual violence. Mann et al. are right to suggest that the field is probably at a point when empirical research has identified a good swath of psychological constructs that are ripe for theoretical development. And Prof. Ward is right to point out that more conceptual work needs to be done, that the current state of affairs can be aptly described as impoverished, and that conceptual work is necessary for progress.