Friday, October 12, 2012

Psychology is poster child for bad science

I sometimes post evidence for the sorry state of psychology, even if it does not involve the family court. Even many of its most respected leaders are quacks. The UK journal Nature reports:
Nobel prize-winner Daniel Kahneman has issued a strongly worded call to one group of psychologists to restore the credibility of their field by creating a replication ring to check each others’ results.

Kahneman, a psychologist at Princeton University in New Jersey, addressed his open e-mail to researchers who work on social priming, the study of how subtle cues can unconsciously influence our thoughts or behaviour.
Kahneman's email says:
As all of you know, of course, questions have been raised about the robustness of priming results. The storm of doubts is fed by several sources, including the recent exposure of fraudulent researchers, general concerns with replicability that affect many disciplines, multiple reported failures to replicate salient results in the priming literature, and the growing belief in the existence of a pervasive file drawer problem that undermines two methodological pillars of your field: the preference for conceptual over literal replication and the use of meta-analysis. ...

For all these reasons, right or wrong, your field is now the poster child for doubts about the integrity of psychological research. ...

I am not a member of your community, and all I have personally at stake is that I recently wrote a book that emphasizes priming research as a new approach to the study of associative memory – the core of what dualsystem theorists call System 1. Count me as a general believer.
Kahneman's book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, has been the biggest selling science-related book of the last several years.

The book's main thesis is that there are two kinds of thinking, system 1 (fast) and system 2 (slow). His favorite example is that G.W. Bush is a fast thinker while B. Obama is a slow thinker. His book details examples of how both thinking styles can give wrong answers to trick questions.

So now Kahneman complains that his book is based on priming research that has never been replicated, except by fraudulent research? The book makes a big deal out of studies that people will pay more for life insurance after they have been "primed" by a salesman emphasizing the possibility of a terrorist attack. Kahneman considers this an example of irrational thinking, because the chance of a terrorist attack is small.

Even some of the most highly respect work in psychology is crap. I don't know how a million people could buy Kahneman's book and praise it so highly. It should be obvious that his analysic of the difference between Bush and Obama is nonsense, and his examples are silly. Now he admits that he relied on bogus research.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

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