Monday, October 21, 2013

Blinded By Science

When I'm not annoyed by it, I'm marginally entertained by the quaint view that holds that "scientists" are entirely neutral people who seek out only the truth; that they have no biases, or egos, or any of the other foibles that we mere mortals have; that when they speak about "science" they speak some form of absolute truth.

The Global Warmers sure have the market cornered on that!

Here, though, are two stories that I came upon just today, both from the field of psychology:
“I SEE a train wreck looming,” warned Daniel Kahneman, an eminent psychologist, in an open letter last year. The premonition concerned research on a phenomenon known as “priming”. Priming studies suggest that decisions can be influenced by apparently irrelevant actions or events that took place just before the cusp of choice. They have been a boom area in psychology over the past decade, and some of their insights have already made it out of the lab and into the toolkits of policy wonks keen on “nudging” the populace.

Dr Kahneman and a growing number of his colleagues fear that a lot of this priming research is poorly founded. Over the past few years various researchers have made systematic attempts to replicate some of the more widely cited priming experiments. Many of these replications have failed. In April, for instance, a paper in PLoS ONE, a journal, reported that nine separate experiments had not managed to reproduce the results of a famous study from 1998 purporting to show that thinking about a professor before taking an intelligence test leads to a higher score than imagining a football hooligan.
A plucky amateur dared to question a celebrated psychological finding. He wound up blowing the whole theory wide open.
I've written before about fake psychology, but the articles linked above are noteworthy for their detail.

1 comment:

pseudotsuga said...

Groupthink and ideology are far more important to getting and maintaining a job than actually being able to do the math which verifies the studies.
As Barbie says, "Math is hard!"