The Tone Debate: Knowledge, Self, and Social Order

Maarten Derksen*, Sarahanne Field

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
86 Downloads (Pure)


In the replication crisis in psychology, a “tone debate” has developed. It concerns the question of how to conduct scientific debate effectively and ethically. How should scientists give critique without unnecessarily damaging relations? The increasing use of Facebook and Twitter by researchers has made this issue especially pressing, as these social technologies have greatly expanded the possibilities for conversation between academics, but there is little formal control over the debate. In this article, we show that psychologists have tried to solve this issue with various codes of conduct, with an appeal to virtues such as humility, and with practices of self-transformation. We also show that the polemical style of debate, popular in many scientific communities, is itself being questioned by psychologists. Following Shapin and Schaffer’s analysis of the ethics of Robert Boyle’s experimental philosophy in the 17th century, we trace the connections between knowledge, social order, and subjectivity as they are debated and revised by present-day psychologists.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-183
Number of pages12
JournalReview of General Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date22-Sept-2021
Publication statusPublished - 1-Jun-2022

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