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Explaining Individual Differences

Ward, Zina B. (2023) Explaining Individual Differences. [Preprint]


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Most psychological research aims to uncover generalizations about the mind that hold across subjects. Philosophical discussions of scientific explanation have focused on such generalizations, but in doing so, have often overlooked an important phenomenon: variation. Variation is ubiquitous in psychology and many other domains, and an important target of explanation in its own right. Here I characterize explananda that concern individual differences and formulate an account of what it takes to explain them. I argue that the notion of actual difference making, the only causal concept in the literature that explicitly addresses variation, cannot be used to ground such an account. Instead, I propose a view on which explaining individual differences involves identifying causes that could be intervened on to reduce the variability in the population. This account provides criteria of success for explaining variation and deepens our understanding of causal explanation.

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Item Type: Preprint
Ward, Zina B.zina.b.ward@gmail.com0000-0003-0160-6656
Keywords: explanation; causal explanation; individual differences; variation; interventionism; actual difference makers
Subjects: General Issues > Explanation
Specific Sciences > Psychology
Depositing User: Zina B. Ward
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2023 04:32
Last Modified: 05 Oct 2023 04:32
Item ID: 22625
DOI or Unique Handle:
Subjects: General Issues > Explanation
Specific Sciences > Psychology
Date: 2023

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