Psychology 290

Special Topics Study Course

Seminal Papers in Quantitative Psychology

Spring Semester, 2021

Syllabus for Spring, 2021


Jack L. Vevea (
Social Science and Management Bulding, Room 306-A
Office hours: Wednesdays, 9:00-11:00 A.M. Telephone: (209) 658-1706


There is no required text for the class; articles to be read before each class meeting will be posted on the web site. Look for links in the syllabus.

Meeting times:

We will meet virtually via Zoom on Tuesdays 2:00 to 4:45 P.M. An announcement on Catcourses gives a link to my Zoom room.

Course description:

We will examine seminal papers in quantitative psychology. Each week, I will post two to four papers for discussion the following week.

Course learning goals:

In the class, you will become acquainted with important, groundbreaking papers in various areas of quantitative psychology.

Course learning outcomes:

By the end of the class, you will:
  • be familiar with important groundbreaking work in various areas of quantitative psychology;
  • be conversant with various strategies for reading complex papers;
  • expand your knowledge of your field beyond the content of the specific papers assigned in class.
  • Prerequisites:

    Graduate status and an interest in quantitative psychology.


    Grading will be based entirely on class participation and weekly response papers. Each week, two to four papers will be assigned as reading. Students will:
  • read the papers and come to class prepared to discuss them;
  • write a one-paragraph response that summarizes the papers;
  • prepare two to three questions about each paper (included with the response essay)
  • identify and share highlights of one or two related papers that you identify yourself.
  • Academic Integrity

    Students should be familiar with University policies on academic honesty. You will find relevant information here.

    Students with Disabilities

    UC Merced has a variety of services available to accommodate students with disabilities. Information is available here.


    Here are readings for January 26:

  • the APA Journal Article Reporting Standards;
  • a reply
  • ; and a reply to the reply.
  • Here are readings for February 2:

  • Appelbaum and Cramer, 1974
  • Overall, Spiegel and Cohen, 1975
  • Cramer and Appelbaum, 1980
  • Here are readings for February 9:

  • Raudenbush and Bryk, 1986
  • Goldstein, 1986
  • Goldstein and McDonald 1988
  • On February 9, we agreed that it would be useful to look back at some of the earlier papers cited by the authors we read. The first two readings, below, are two of those papers. (Warning: dense and difficult material.) The third is the famous paper on James Stein estimation that Raudenbush and Bryk cite. So the readings for February 16 are:

  • Lindley and Smith;
  • Fuller and Battese;
  • Efron and Morris.
  • Here are readings for February 23. (Please see my email regarding another reading I am trying to locate.)

  • Wright and Stone.
  • Wright (1977).
  • Adams, Wu & Wilson.
  • Here are readings for March 2. This is a somewhat arbitrary selection of papers that represent aspects of the beginnings of psychometrics, and some important figures are not included. There will be more next week.

  • Here is an early paper by Gustav Fechner.
  • Here, Charles Spearman argues for a single-factor model of general intelligence.
  • In this paper, L.L. Thurstone introduces his law of comparative judgment.
  • Here, Thurstone describes multiple factor analysis.
  • Our readings for March 9 follow up on some themes that emerged on March 2. First, we consider a survey paper Lydia found that discusses the history of thought about the dimensionality of intelligence. Second, we look at Larry Hedges' paper "How Hard is Hard Science, How Soft is Soft Science," which relates to our discussion about early thinking regarding legitimizing psychology as a science. Third, we consider a transcript of an address by Galton that Hope provided, in which he discusses eugenics. Finally, we'll look at Galton's book on "human faculty," in which his views on eugenics are expounded.

    For the Galton book, I would like each student to choose two chapters to present, summarize, and comment on in class on Tuesday. As soon as you have chosen your chapters, please email your selections to all four of us so that we don't have duplication.

    Here are the readings:

  • Benson (2019)
  • Hedges (1987)
  • Galton (1904)
  • Galton (1892)
  • (By the way, I listed them in that order partly because it's fun to have the list start with Benson and Hedges, a brand of cigarette.)

    Readings for March 16:

    This week, we are going to consider S.S Stevens' taxonomy of levels of measurement. Here is his original paper.

    Here are several papers that are critical of Stevens:

  • Lord (1953)
  • Anderson (1961)
  • Gaito (1980)
  • Velleman and Wilkinson (1993)
  • Finally, here are some papers criticising the critics:

  • Bennett (1954)
  • Scholton and Boorsboom (2009)
  • This week (week 9 of the class), we return to IRT, focusing on the problem of estimation. I'm going with only three items this week because the readings are a bit dense.

  • An early paper by Lawley describes problems with estimation of IRT models.
  • A chapter by Birnbaum from Lord & Novick describes the normal and logistic IRT models.
  • Bock and Aitkin figure out how to estimate IRT models using marginal maximum likelihood.
  • In Week 10 (4/6/2021), we will begin two week of readings on meta-analysis. First, the controversy:

  • Here is Smith and Glass's 1977 paper on psychotherapy outcomes.
  • Here is a scathing comment by Eysenck, along with Glass and Smith's reply.
  • Here is a more recent paper by John Ioannides, evidence that controversy about meta-analysis still continues.
  • Next, we'll consider another paper by Glass, and a paper by Hedges that represents one of the first attempts to inject statistical rigor into meta-analysis.

    In Week 11 (4/7/2021), we continue with week two on meta-analysis (of what will actually be a three-week sequence. Sorry, but I'm really interested in meta-analysis.)

    Here are the readings:

  • an early paper by DerSimonian and Laird on random-effects meta-analysis;
  • a paper by Hedges and Vevea that clarifies some questions about random-effects meta-analysis;
  • a paper by Borenstein, Hedges, Higgins, and Rothstein" that provides an overview of random-effects meta-analysis; and
  • a paper by Bonett that argues against the use of random-effects models for meta-analysis.
  • Here are readings for week 12:

  • an exchange between Hedges et al. and Hanushek on the question of whether money spent in the classroom improves educational outcomes: the the first paper, Hanushek's reply, and the reply to the reply. (A table is corrupt in the second paper.)
  • Simonsohn et al's paper on the p-curve method.
  • A paper by McShane et al that is critical of p-curve.
  • Here are readings for week 13:

  • the early Joreskog paper on SEM;
  • a relatively early paper on alternative estimation methods;
  • Bollen's 1996 paper on two-statge least squares; and
  • Depaoli's 2012 paper on class separation in mixture CFA.