Theories, Models, and Effects—Oh My! Differentiating Similar Constructs

  • Jason P. Martens Birmingham City University
Keywords: theory, model, effect, tools


Theories, models, and effects are related constructs that students often struggle to distinguish. However, these are important psychological tools, and by understanding them and their functions, students will better be able to apply them to psychological phenomena and broaden their depth of knowledge of the field. This article reviews the basic distinction between the constructs and highlights their functions within the field. Generally speaking, theories are broad in scope, offer the best explanatory power, and are generative in nature. Models are moderate in scope and are particularly well suitable for prediction and provide clarity of processes. While effects are narrow in scope and are primarily descriptive. Although distinct constructs, there will ultimately be overlap between them. The role of psychology lecturers to teach these constructs to their students is discussed.

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