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Paul Everett Meehl (3 January 1920—14 February 2003) was an American psychology professor.

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota Meehl attended University of Minnesota, earning his bachelor's degree in 1941 and his doctorate in 1945. He went on to teach there throughout his career, with faculty appointments in psychology, law, psychiatry, neurology and philosophy.

Meehl was a leading philosopher of science. He was a follower of Sir Karl Popper's Falsificationism and a strident opponent of using statistical null hypothesis testing for the evaluation of scientific theory. He believed that null hypothesis testing was partly responsible for the lack of progress in many of the "soft" areas of psychology (e.g. clinical, counseling, social, personality, and community).

Meehl helped develop the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), specifically the "k" scale. His 1954 book Clinical vs. Statistical Prediction: A Theoretical Analysis and a Review of the Evidence, analyzed the claim that mechanical (formal, algorithmic) methods of data combination outperformed clinical (e.g., subjective, informal, "in the head") methods when such combinations are used to arrive at a prediction of behavior. The analysis favored mechanical modes of combination and caused a considerable stir amongst clinicians for the following reason. Meehl (1954) argued that mechanical methods of prediction would, used correctly, make more efficient decisions about patients' prognosis and treatment. Still today, however, clinicians make such decisions based on their professional judgment, that is, they combine all kinds of information "in their head" and arrive at a conclusion/prediction about a patient. Meehl (1954) theorized that clinicians would make more mistakes than a mechanical prediction tool created for a similar decision purpose. Mechanical prediction methods are simply a mode of combination of data to arrive at a decision/prediction concerning the emission of behavior. Notice that mechanical prediction does not disclude any type of data from being combined. Indeed, mechanical prediction tools often incorporate clinical judgments, properly coded, in their predictions. The defining characteristic is that, once the data to be combined is given, the mechanical tool will make a prediction that is 100% reliable. That is, it will make the exact same prediction for the exact same data every time. Clinical prediction, on the other hand, does not guarantee this. A meta-analysis comparing clincal and mechanical prediction efficiency by Grove, Zald, Hallberg, Lebow, Snitz and Nelson (2000) has finally vindicated Meehl's (1954) claim that mechanical data combination and prediction outperforms clinical combination and prediction. [1]

Meehl was elected president of the American Psychological Association in 1962. That year, he theorized that schizophrenia has a genetic link. In 1995, he was a signatory of a collective statement titled "Mainstream Science on Intelligence", written by Linda Gottfredson and published in the Wall Street Journal. [2] Meehl published about 200 articles in his career and was honored with several prestigious awards by his peers.

In 1996 he was given the APA Award For Outstanding Lifetime Contribution To Psychology

In 2005, Donald R. Peterson, a student of Meehl's, published a volume of their correspondence.[3]

Preceded by:
Neal E Miller
Paul E. Meehl elected APA President
Succeeded by:
Charles E. Osgood


Grove, W.M., Zald, D.H., Hallberg, A.M., Lebow, B., Snitz, E., & Nelson, C. (2000). Clinical versus mechanical prediction: A meta-analysis. Psychological Assessment, 12, 19–30.

See also


  1. Grove, W.M., Zald, D.H., Hallberg, A.M., Lebow, B., Snitz, E., & Nelson, C. (2000). Clinical versus mechanical prediction: A meta-analysis. Psychological Assessment, 12, 19–30.
  2. Gottfredson, Linda (December 13, 1994). Mainstream Science on Intelligence. Wall Street Journal, p A18.
  3. Peterson, Donald R. (2005). Twelve Years of Correspondence With Paul Meehl: Tough Notes From a Gentle Genius. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.



Book Chapters


  • Meehl, P.E. 1978) Theoretical Risks and Tabular Asterisks: Sir Karl, Sir Ronald, and the Slow Progress of Soft Psychology [Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology]], Vol. 46, pp. 806-834. Full text
  • Meehl, P.E. (1962) Schizotaxia, schizotype, schizophrenia. American Psychologist, 17,827‑838.
  • Meehl, P.E. (1989) Schizotaxia revisited. Archives of General Psychiatry, 46,935‑944.

External links

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