The Social Production of Evidence in Psychology: A Case Study of the APA Task Force on Evidence-Based Practice
Evidence-based practice (EBP) has become a general gatekeeping discourse in psychology (as elsewhere), a designation that confers legitimacy on the policies and practices that can claim it. The various political negotiations that establish such legitimacy also deploy, contest, and, to some degree, stabilize the notion of “evidence”, and so become the ideological and material arbiters of the concept. In this chapter, we discuss this social production of “evidence”, focusing on the American Psychological Association task force on EBP as a case study. Drawing on archival materials from the task force proceedings, original interviews with task force participants (collected by the first author), as well as on the published report and other related materials, we trace how the category of “evidence” is shaped through the negotiation of epistemic, political, practical, and interpersonal considerations. This analysis highlights what has always been true in both psychology and science more generally—namely, that what evidence “is” cannot be separated from how it is deployed within the networks of influence that both arbitrate and are arbitrated by it.
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