Sophistry versus Science: On Further Efforts to Rehabilitate the Proximity Model



There are three principal grounds for comparing directional and proximity theory—their predictions of evaluation, choice, and party system structure. When the theories have been compared on each of these criteria, the results have favored directional theory. Westholm's defense of the proximity model relies on replacing the formal models he purports to be testing with analytic models that incorporate subjective party placements. Subjective placements violate the assumptions of both theories and are known to have a proximity bias. Further, Westholm focuses exclusively on predictions of choice, rejecting other grounds for comparing the theories.

In our response, we show that the test Westholm devises does not put proximity theory at risk. Even in an entirely directional world, a world in which proximity theory is irrelevant to behavior, Westholm's test will still favor the proximity model. The fact that Westholm pays homage to the idea of falsifiability, and yet produces only this evidence in support of the proximity model, testifies to the power of directional theory for explaining this Norwegian case, and to the gulf between rhetoric and reality in Westholm's defense.