Thursday, October 10, 2013

Popular mind books are bogus

I have mentioned how weveral leading academic psychology researchers have been exposed as frauds.

The biggest-selling popularizers of how the mind works, in the last couple of years, are Jonah Lehrer and Rolf Dobelli. It turns out that both of these guys are plagiarists who make up quotes and grossly misrepresent the scientific evidence.

Then there are the TV clowns like Dr. Phil and Dr. Drew.

I mainly criticize the quacks who do forensic child custody evaluations. But it appears that the whole field of psychology is overrun with quacks at every level.

Here is a 1990 paper on Why summaries of research on psychological theories are often uninterpretable. More recently, a UK science reporter writes:
When a theory is shown to be incorrect or a publication in error, it is all too easy to think that the scientist who came up with this theory is a liar or a dishonest fraudster intent on misleading the public for personal gain. Or as Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, puts it:
Most scientific studies are wrong, and they are wrong because scientists are interested in funding and careers rather than truth.
Smith goes on to talk about this in the context of a talk given by the "brilliant" and "cuddly" John Ioannidis, professor of medicine at Stanford (while Smith assures us that he would never describe a woman as cuddly, even if she were). Ioannidis has published a report in PLOS Medicine entitled "Why most published research findings are false". Ioannidis' theory is that most scientific studies are wrong as a result of bias and random error, based on "simulations that show for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true".

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