I had the impression that, since recognition of [problem] dates back at least to [person from a long time ago], there was a voluminous literature and [statistics to deal with the problem] was a solved problem, so I’m a little troubled that you seem to be trying to invent your own methods and aren’t citing much in the way of prior work.

This anonymous critique is saying that I’m not building on top of what there already is but instead re-inventing the wheel, perhaps even a square one. Underlying the criticism is a view of scientific progress as accumulating knowledge over time. We know more stuff now than we used to (but some things we think we know now we still get wrong!) and this is because new scientists don’t just start finding out how everything works (the goal of science) from scratch, but instead read what research has already been done and try to build on top of that. At least that is the general idea. However, we know from actual scientific practice that scientists often don’t build on top of prior work, perhaps because the body of prior work is already so large that having an overview of it is beyond current human cognitive capacity. Alternatively, because the prior work is often inaccessible, badly structured, not searchable, etc. Othertimes scientists are just lazy.

The first problem is in principle unsolvable because improving human cognitive ability/capacity will accelerate the accumulation of knowledge. However, we will (very soon) improve upon the present situation (Shulman & Bostrom, 2014).

The second problem is faster to fix, requiring either ubiquitous open access or guerrilla open access. The first option is coming along fast for new material, but won’t solve it for old material already locked down by copyright. Probably Big Copyright is going to lobby for extending copyright protection further, which means that even just waiting for copyright to expire is not a legal option.

A delicious example of scientists not building on top of relevant prior works is the concept of construct proliferation (Reeve & Basalik, 2014), which is when we invent a new word/concept to cover the same region in conceptual space as previous concepts already covered. This is itself a redundant copy of the earlier term construct redundancy. This meta-problem is fairly obvious, so my guess is that there is a long list of terms for it, thus illustrating itself.

Yet I argue the opposite…

Given the above, why would one willingly want to not read the earlier literature/build on top of prior work on a topic before trying to find solutions? There are some possible reasons:

One reason is personal. Perhaps one just really likes the experience of finding an interesting problem and coming up with solutions. This is closely related to a couple of concepts: openness to experience, typical intellectual engagement, need for cognition, epistemic curiosity (and more), see (Mussel, 2010) and (Stumm, Hell, & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2011). Incidentally these also show strong concept overlap (this is yet another term to refer to the situation where multiple concepts cover some of the same area in conceptual space, however it is different in that it is explicitly continuous instead of categorical).

A career reason to invent new constructs is a desire to make a name for yourself and get a good job. A well-tested way to do that is to introduce a new concept and accompanying questionnaire that others then hopefully use. This can result in hundreds or thousands of citations. For instance, the original paper for need for cognition has 5063 on Scholar since 1982 / 153 per year, the original paper for typical intellectual engagement has 410 citations since 1992 / 18 per year, and that for epistemic curiosity has 156 since 2003 / 13 per year. The later papers do have lower citation counts per year, perhaps indicating some conceptual satiation, but the papers are still way above the norm. To put it another way, since it is clearly unnecessary to read much of the relevant prior work to get published, one may as well skip this.

Scientifically speaking, neither of the above two reasons are relevant. The first has more to do with personality disposition towards solving new problems, whereas the second is due, to some degree, to perverse incentives.

Exploratory bridge building

Are there any good scientific reasons to sometimes start from scratch? I think so. Think of it this way: Many scientific questions can be approached in multiple ways. We can build a large analogy out of that idea.

Imagine a many-dimensional space where some regions are impassable or slow to pass, and where there are one or more regions or points from which useful resources can be extracted. We, the bridge engineers, start somewhere in this space (all in the same place) and have to find resources but we don’t know exactly where they will be found, so we don’t know exactly which directions to move in. Furthermore, imagine that we can build bridges (vectors) in this space by adding them together and that we can only move on the bridges (or in them). This means that one can now travel in a particular direction, at least slowly. If the resources are far away from the beginning position, it is easy to see that one could never reach them without adding vectors together. This forms the basis of the general preference for building on prior work.

How do we know which direction to build bridges in if we don’t know where the resources are? We can expand the analogy further by saying that no one has the ability to see further than a short distance. Instead, what engineers have is a noisy measure of how close their current position is to the nearest resource, and their measures don’t even agree perfectly with each other. Noisy here meaning that they is only roughly correct, to varying degrees and with different biases. Sometimes what appears to be a good general direction towards a resource ends up in a resource poor dead end, i.e. all directions to move closer to the nearby resources thru impassable or difficult to pass regions.

Those familiar with evolutionary biology should now see where I’m going with this. If we reduce my analogy, we can say that approaches to answers in science can end up in local maximums in the science fitness landscape. When this happens, one has to go back and move in a new direction somewhere.

Still, this leaves us with the question of how far we should move back. Often it may be necessary to go back only some of the way and start a new branch of the same root bridge from that point. Sometimes, however, a very early part of the bridge moved into a regional that can only result in slow progress or even a dead-end. When this happens, one has to start over entirely.

Decision making

Because all engineers are short sighted, it is impossible for them to know when it is time to start over. Worse than that, engineers have a kind of tunnel vision such that when they have once traveled out on given bridge from their homeland, they will be less capable of spotting good directions to build other root bridges from. In other words, once one has learned of a particular approach to a problem, it can be difficult to go “back to basics” and start over with new ideas. One needs a pair of fresh eyes. The only way to do this is to get an engineer who has never been to this space before, avoid informing him of the already built bridges and let him choose where to build his first bridge and let him work on it for some time to see if he ends up in a dead end or a previously unknown resource rich area. Even if the engineers have already found one good resource region, they might wonder whether there are more. Finding more resources probably requires moving in a new direction from the beginning or at least from an early part of the bridge.


It is clear that as a large team project neither extreme solution is optimal: 1) always building on prior work, or 2) never building on prior work. Instead, some balance must be found where some, probably most, engineers are dedicated to building on top of the fairly recent prior work, but some engineers should try to backtrack and see if they can find a better route to a currently known resource area or identify new areas.

Who should start new bridges? We may posit that the engineers vary in their psychological attributes in ways that have an effect on their efficiency of building on prior bridges or starting their own root bridges/branches. In that case, engineers who are particularly good at spotting new directions and working on their own bridge alone would be good for the role of pioneer/Rambo engineers. Even if there are no differences between the efficiency of the engineers re. building new branches/roots or building on top of prior work, if only a few engineers are inclined to working alone perhaps finding new resources (reason #1), the team is in the optimal situation where most build on fairly recent prior work but some don’t.


Given the abstractness of the space bridge engineer analogy, one should probably do a visualization, or maybe even a small computer game. The last is beyond my coding ability at the time being and the first requires more time than I have.


I had my first Twitter controversy. So:

I pointed out in the reply to this, that they don’t actually charge that much normally. The comparison is here. The prices are around 500-3000 USD, with an average (eyeballed) around 2500 USD.

Now, this is just a factual error, so not so bad. However…

If anyone is wondering why he is so emotional, he gave the answer himself:

A very brief history of journals and science

  • Science starts out involving few individuals.
  • They need a way to communicate ideas.
  • They set up journals to distribute the ideas on paper.
  • Printing costs money, so they cost money to buy.
  • Due to limitations of paper space, there needs to be some selection in what gets printed, which falls on the editor. Fast forward to perhaps 1950’s, now there are too many papers for the editors to handle, and so they delegate the job of deciding what to accept to other academics (reviewers). In the system, academics write papers, they edit them, and review them. All for free.
  • Fast forward to perhaps 1990 and what happens is that big business takes over the running of the journals so academics can focus on science. As it does, the prices rise becus of monetary interests.
  • Academics are reluctant to give up publishing in and buying journals becus their reputation system is built on publishing in said journals. I.e. the system is inherently conservatively biased (Status quo bias). It is perfect for business to make money from.
  • Now along comes the internet which means that publishing does not need to rely on paper. This means that marginal printing cost is very close to 0. Yet the journals keep demanding high prices becus academia is reliant on them becus they are the source of the reputation system.
  • There is a growing movement in academia that this is a bad situation for science, and that publications shud be openly available (open access movement). New OA journals are set up. However, since they are also either for-profit or crypto for-profit, in order to make money they charge outrageous amounts of money (say, anything above 100 USD) to publish some text+figures on a website. Academics still provide nearly all the work for free, yet they have to pay enormous amounts of money to publish, while the publisher provides a mere website (and perhaps some copyediting etc.).

Who thinks that is a good solution? It is clearly a smart business move. For instance, popular OA metajournal Frontiers are owned by Nature Publishing Group. This company thus very neatly both makes money off their legacy journals and the new challenger journals.

The solution is to set up journals run by academics again now that the internet makes this rather easy and cheap. The profit motive is bad for science and just results in even worse journals.

As for my claim, I stand by it. Altho in retrospect, the more correct term is parasitic. Publishers are a middleman exploiting the the fact that academia relies on established journals for reputation.

Perhaps the easiest way to convince yourself is by scanning the literature of soft psychology over the last 30 years and noticing what happens to theories. Most of them suffer the fate that General MacArthur ascribed to old generals—They never die, they just slowly fade away. In the developed sciences, theories tend either to become widely accepted and built into the larger edifice of well-tested hu- man knowledge or else they suffer destruction in the face of recalcitrant facts and are abandoned, perhaps regretfully as a “nice try.” But in fields like personology and social psychology, this seems not to happen. There is a period of enthusiasm about a new theory, a period of attempted application to several fact domains, a period of disillusionment as the negative data come in, a growing bafflement about inconsistent and unreplicable empirical results, multiple resort to ad hoc excuses, and then finally people just sort of lose interest in the thing and pursue other endeavors.



Very interesting book!


Game Theorists. The rivalry between Sherlock Holmes and the evil

genius Professor Moriarty illustrates how indeterminacy can arise as a

natural by-product of rational agents second-guessing each other. When

the two first met, Moriarty was eager, too eager, to display his capacity

for interactive thinking by announcing: “All I have to say has already

crossed your mind.” Holmes replied: “Then possibly my answer has

crossed yours.” As the plot unfolds, Holmes uses his superior “interac-

tive knowledge” to outmaneuver Moriarty by unexpectedly getting off

the train at Canterbury, thwarting Moriarty who had calculated that Paris

was Holmes’s rational destination. Convoluted though it is, Moriarty

failed to recognize that Holmes had already recognized that Moriarty

would deduce what a rational Holmes would do under the circum-

stances, and the odds now favored Holmes getting off the train earlier

than once planned.23


Indeterminacy problems of this sort are the bread and butter of behav-

ioral game theory. In the “guess the number” game, for example, con-

testants pick a number between 0 and 100, with the goal of making their

guess come as close as possible to two-thirds of the average guess of all

the contestants.

24 In a world of only rational players—who base their

guesses on the maximum number of levels of deduction—the equilib-

rium is 0. However, in a contest run at Richard Thaler’s prompting by

the Financial Times,

25 the most popular guesses were 33 (the right guess

if everyone else chooses a number at random, producing an average guess

of 50) and 22 (the right guess if everyone thinks through the preceding

argument and picks 33). Dwindling numbers of respondents carried the

deductive logic to the third stage (picking two-thirds of 22) or higher,

with a tiny hypereducated group recognizing the logically correct answer

to be 0. The average guess was 18.91 and the winning guess, 13, which

suggests that, for this newspaper’s readership, a third order of sophisti-

cation was roughly optimal.





Our reluctance to acknowledge unpredictability keeps us looking for

predictive cues well beyond the point of diminishing returns. 39 I witnessed

a demonstration thirty years ago that pitted the predictive abilities of a

classroom of Yale undergraduates against those of a single Norwegian

rat. The task was predicting on which side of a T-maze food would ap-

pear, with appearances determined—unbeknownst to both the humans

and the rat—by a random binomial process (60 percent left and 40 per-

cent right). The demonstration replicated the classic studies by Edwards

and by Estes: the rat went for the more frequently rewarded side (getting

it right roughly 60 percent of the time), whereas the humans looked hard

for patterns and wound up choosing the left or the right side in roughly

the proportion they were rewarded (getting it right roughly 52 percent of

the time). Human performance suffers because we are, deep down, de-

terministic thinkers with an aversion to probabilistic strategies that ac-

cept the inevitability of error. We insist on looking for order in random

sequences. Confronted by the T-maze, we look for subtle patterns like

“food appears in alternating two left/one right sequences, except after

the third cycle when food pops up on the right.” This determination to

ferret out order from chaos has served our species well. We are all bene-

ficiaries of our great collective successes in the pursuit of deterministic reg-

ularities in messy phenomena: agriculture, antibiotics, and countless other

inventions that make our comfortable lives possible. But there are occa-

sions when the refusal to accept the inevitability of error—to acknowledge

that some phenomena are irreducibly probabilistic—can be harmful.


indeed, but generally it is wise to not accept the unpredictability hypothesis about some fenomena. many things that were thought unpredictable for centures turned out to be predictable after all, or at least to some degree. i have confidence we will see the same for earthquakes, weather systems and the like in the future as well.


predictability (and the related determinism) hypothesis are good working hypotheses, even if they turn out to be wrong some times.


this is what i wrote about years ago on my danish blog here. basically, its a 2×2 table:


What we think/what is true Determinism Indeterminism
Determinism We keep looking for explanations for fenomena and in over time, we find regularities and explanations. We waste time looking for patterns that arent there.
Indeterminism We dont spend time looking for patterns, but there actually are patterns we that cud use to predict the future, and hence we lose out on possible advances in science. We dont waste time looking for patterns that arent there.


The above is assuming that indeterminism implies total unpredictability. This isnt true, but in the simplified case where were dealing with completely random fenomena and completely predictable fenomena, this is a reasonable way of looking at it. IMO, it is much better to waste time looking for explanations for things that are not orderly (after all), than risk not spotting real patterns in nature.


Finally, regardless of whether it is rash to abandon the meliorist search

for the Holy Grail of good judgment, most of us feel it is. When we weigh

the perils of Type I errors (seeking correlates of good judgment that will

prove ephemeral) against those of Type II errors (failing to discover

durable correlates with lasting value), it does not feel like a close call. We

would rather risk anointing lucky fools over ignoring wise counsel. Radi-

cal skepticism is too bitter a doctrinal pill for most of us to swallow.





But betting is one thing, paying up another. Focusing just on reactions

to losing reputational bets, figure 4.1 shows that neither hedgehogs nor

foxes changed their minds as much as Reverend Bayes says they should

have. But foxes move more in the Bayesian direction than do hybrids and

hedgehogs. And this greater movement is all the more impressive in light

of the fact that the Bayesian updating formula demanded less movement

from foxes than from other groups. Foxes move 59 percent of the pre-

scribed amount, whereas hedgehogs move only 19 percent of the pre-

scribed amount. Indeed, in two regional forecasting exercises, hedgehogs

move their opinions in the opposite direction to that prescribed by Bayes’s

theorem, and nudged up their confidence in their prior point of view after

the unexpected happens. This latter pattern is not just contra-Bayesian; it

is incompatible with all normative theories of belief adjustment.8


beyond the hoax – alan sokal

Much of the material is the same as in Sokal and Bricmont’s earlier book. But there is some new material as well. I especially found the stuff on hindu nationalism and pseudoscience interesting, and the stuff on pseudoscience in nursing. Never heard of that before, but it wasnt totally unexpected. All health related fields hav large amounts of pseudoscience. It is unfortunate that the most important fields are those most full of pseudoscience!


Part III goes on to treat weightier social and political topics using the

same lens. Chapter 8 analyzes the paradoxical relation between pseudo­

science and postmodernism, and investigates how extreme skepticism can

abet extreme credulity, using a series of detailed case studies: pseudosci­

entific therapies in nursing and “alternative medicine”; Hindu nationalist

pseudoscience in India21; and radical environmentalism. This investigation

is motivated by my suspicion that credulity in minor matters prepares the

mind for credulity in matters of greater import — and, conversely, that the

kind of critical thinking useful for distinguishing science from pseudoscience

might also be of some use in distinguishing truths in affairs of state from

lies. Chapter 9 takes on the largest and most powerful pseudoscience of all:

organized religion. This chapter focusses on the central philosophical and

political issues raised by religion in the contemporary world: it deplores the

damage that is done by our culture’s deference toward “faith”, and it asks

how nonbelievers and believers can find political common ground based

on shared moral ideas. Finally, Chapter 10 draws some of these concerns

together, and discusses the relationship between epistemology and ethics as

they interact in the public sphere.


surely this is true.



#115 The idea that theories should refer only to observable quantities is called operationalism.-, far

from being postmodernist, it was popular among physicists and philosophers of physics in the first

half of the twentieth century. But it has severe flaws: see Chapter 7 below (pp. 240-245) as well as

Weinberg (1992, pp. 174-184).


i thought this was a part of logiclal positivism, and it seems that it was. i knew about operational definitions.





When all is said and done, the fundamental flaw in Merchant and Hard­

ing’s metaphor-hermeneutics is not exegetical but logical. Let us grant for the

sake of argument that some of the founders of modem science consciously

used sexist metaphors to promote their epistemological and methodological

views (this much is probably true, even if Merchant and Harding have exag­

gerated the case). But what would that entail for the philosophy (as opposed

to the history) of science? Apparently the critics wish to claim that sexism

could have passed from metaphor into the substantive content of scientific

methods and/or theories. But if modem science does in fact contain sexist

assumptions, then surely the feminist theorists ought to be able to locate and

criticize those biased assumptions, independently of any argument from his­

tory. Indeed, to do otherwise is to commit the “genetic fallacy”: evaluating an

idea on the basis of its origin rather than its content.


Putting aside the florid accusations of rape and torture, the argument of

Merchant and Harding boils down to the assertion that the scientific rev­

olution of the seventeenth century displaced a female-centered (spiritual,

hermetic, organic, geocentric) universe in favor of a male-centered (ratio­

nalist, scientific, mechanical, heliocentric) one.21 How should we evaluate

this argument?


To begin with, one might wonder whether the gender associations claimed

for these two cosmologies are really as univocal as the feminist critics

claim.22 (After all, the main defender of the geocentric worldview — the

Catholic Church — was not exactly a female-centered enterprise, its adora­

tion of the Virgin Mary notwithstanding.) But let us put aside this objection

and grant these gender associations for the sake of argument; for the princi­

pal flaw in the Merchant-Harding thesis is, once again, not historical but log­

ical. Margarita Levin puts it bluntly: Do Merchant and Harding really “think

we have a choice about which theory is correct? Masculine or feminine, the

solar system is the way it is.”23


The same point applies not only to astronomy but to scientific theories

quite generally; and the bottom line is that there is ample evidence, indepen­

dent of any allegedly sexist imagery, for the epistemic value of modem sci­

ence. Therefore, as Koertge remarks, “if it really could be shown that patri­

archal thinking not only played a crucial role in the Scientific Revolution but

is also necessary for carrying out scientific inquiry as we know it, that would

constitute the strongest argument for patriarchy that I can think of!”24


true story :D



Of course, the feminist science-critics are not only archaeologists of

300-year-old science; some of their critique is resolutely modem, even post­

modern. Here, for instance, is what Donna Haraway, professor of the history

of consciousness (!) at the University of Califomia-Santa Cruz and one of

the most acclaimed feminist theorists of science, says about her research:


For the complex or boundary objects in which I am interested, the

mythic, textual, technical, political, organic, and economic dimensions

implode. That is, they collapse into each other in a knot of extraordinary

density that constitutes the objects themselves. In my sense, story telling

is in no way an ‘art practice’ — it is, rather, a fraught practice for narrat­

ing complexity in such a field of knots or black holes. In no way is story

telling opposed to materiality. But materiality itself is tropic; it makes us

swerve, it trips us; it is a knot of the textual, technical, mythic/oneiric,

organic, political, and economic.2


As right-wing critic Roger Kimball acidly comments: “Remember that this

woman is not some crank but a professor at a prestigious university and

one of the leading lights of contemporary ‘women’s studies.’ ”26 The saddest

thing, for us pinkos and feminists, is that Kimball is dead on target.


women’s studies is nearly completely trash. reminds me of the article about black studies in the US: chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/the-most-persuasive-case-for-eliminating-black-studies-just-read-the-dissertations/46346



This theory is startling, to say the least: Does the author really believe

that menstruation makes it more difficult for young women to understand

elementary notions of geometry? Evidently we are not far from the Victorian

gentlemen who held that women, with their delicate reproductive organs,

are unsuited to rational thought and to science. With friends like this, the

feminist cause has no need of enemies.


the worst enemy of women: women.



[after quoting Lacan]

Mathematicians and physicists are used to receiving this sort of stuff in

typewritten envelopes from unknown correspondents. Lacan’s grammar and

spelling are better than in most of these treatises, but his logic isn’t. To put it

bluntly, Lacan is a crank — an unusually erudite one, to be sure, but a crank



interesting. i will ask Sokal to expand on that theme.



So, if we look critically at realism, we may be tempted to turn toward

instrumentalism. But if we look critically at instrumentalism, we feel forced

to return to a modest form of realism. What, then, should one do? Before

coming to a possible solution, let us first consider radical alternatives.


surprisingly true.



[after quoting Plantinga]

Let us stress that we disagree with 90% of Plantinga’s philosophy; but if he is so eloquently on

target on this particular point, why not give him credit for it?


i was surprised they quoted him, but then, they make that comment. perfect play!



Let me stress in advance that I will not be concerned here with explaining

in detail why astrology, homeopathy and the rest are in fact pseudoscience;

that would take me too far afield. Nor will I address, except in passing, the

important but difficult problems of understanding the psychological attrac­

tions of pseudoscience and the social factors affecting its spread.28 Rather,

my principal aim is to investigate the logical and sociological nexus between

pseudoscience and postmodernism.


footnote 28:

For a shrewd meditation on the former question, see Levitt (1999, especially pp. 12-22

and chapter 4). The latter question is indirectly addressed by Burnham (1987), in the context

of a fascinating history of the popularization of science in the United States in the nineteenth

and twentieth centuries.


For my own part, I have been struck by the fact that nearly all the pseudoscientific systems

to be examined in this essay are based philosophically on vitalism: that is, the idea that living

beings, and especially human beings, are endowed with some special quality ( “life energy”,

elan vital, prana, q i ) that transcends the ordinary laws of physics. Mainstream science has

rejected vitalism since at least the 1930s, for a plethora of good reasons that have only become

stronger with time (see e.g. Mayr 1982). But these good reasons are understood by only a tiny

fraction of the populace, even in the industrialized countries where science is supposedly held

in high esteem. Moreover — and perhaps much more importantly — the anti-vitalism charac­

teristic of modem science is deeply unsettling emotionally to most (perhaps all) people, even

to those who are not conventionally religious. See again Levitt (1999). Of course, none of these

speculations pretend to any scientific rigor; careful empirical investigation by psychologists

and sociologists is required.


vitalism -.-



Sokal mentions the en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Rosa experiment.


the proponents must really feel bad… even a child can disprove their beliefs. how study are they??? hopefully, it was only a fringe idea, right, right?


When I first heard about Emily’s experiment, I admired her ingenuity but

wondered whether anyone really took Therapeutic Touch seriously. How

wrong I was! Therapeutic Touch is taught in more than 80 college and uni­

versity schools of nursing in at least 70 countries, is practiced in at least

80 hospitals across North America, and is promoted by leading American

nursing associations.32 Its inventor claims to have trained more than 47,000

practitioners over a 26-year period, who have gone on to train many more.33

At least 245 books or dissertations have been published that include “Thera­

peutic Touch” in the title, subject headings or table of contents.34 All in all,

Therapeutic Touch appears to have become one of the most widely practiced

“holistic” nursing techniques.





cited from pseudoscience source:

[0]ur intuitive faculty is nothing other than a source of sound premises about the

nature of reality…. [T]here exists within us a source of direct information about

reality that can teach us all we need to know.


top #1 reason not to teach Plato’s nonsense.



But of course, those who believe in Genesis or transubstantiation do not

consider these ideas to be crazy; quite the contrary, they think that they have

good reasons to hold their beliefs. Indeed, Harris argues convincingly that

whenever any person P believes any proposition X — at least in the ordi­

nary sense of the English word “believe” — this requires, first of all, that P

must believe X to be true, i.e. to be a factually accurate representation of

the world; and secondly, that P must think he has good reasons to believe

X, in the sense that he envisions his belief as caused, at least in part, by

the fact that X is true. As Harris puts it (p. 63), “there must be some causal

connection, or an appearance thereof, between the fact in question and my

acceptance of it.”


this kind of causal reliabilism will not work. cf. plato.stanford.edu/entries/platonism-mathematics/#EpiAcc




Science and pseudoscience in clinical psychology – edited by Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, Jeffrey M. Lohr.


Has a good discussion of the nature of science. som interesting discussions of varius dodgy and otherwise untested ideas in clinical psychology.



about the book:


As Bob Dylan wrote, “The times they are a-changin’ .” Over the past sev­

eral decades, clinical psychology and allied disciplines (e.g., psychiatry,

social work, counseling) have borne witness to a virtual sea-change in the

relation between science and practice. A growing minority of clinicians

appear to be basing their therapeutic and assessment practices primarily on

clinical experience and intuition rather than on research evidence. As a

consequence, the term “ scientist-practitioner gap” is being invoked with

heightened frequency (see foreword to this volume by Carol Tavris; Fox,

1996), and concerns that the scientific foundations of clinical psychology

are steadily eroding are being voiced increasingly in many quarters

(Dawes, 1994; Kalal, 1999; McFall, 1991). It is largely these concerns that

have prompted us to compile this edited volume, which features chapters

by distinguished experts across a broad spectrum of areas within clinical

psychology. Given the markedly changing landscape of clinical psychology,

we believe this book to be both timely and important.



Similarly questionable practices can be found in the domains of psy­

chological assessment and diagnosis. Despite well-replicated evidence that

statistical (actuarial) formulas are superior to clinical judgment for a broad

range of judgmental and predictive tasks (Grove, Zald, Lebow, Snitz, &

Nelson, 2000), most clinicians continue to rely on clinical judgment even

in cases in which it has been shown to be ill advised. There is also evidence

that many practitioners tend to be overconfident in their judgments and

predictions, and to fall prey to basic errors in reasoning (e.g., confirmatory

bias, illusory correlation) in the process of case formulation (Chapter 2).

Moreover, many practitioners base their interpretations on assessment in­

struments (e.g., human figure drawing tests, Rorschach Inkblot Test,

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, anatomically detailed dolls) that are either

highly controversial or questionable from a scientific standpoint (see Chap­

ter 3).


the cite is: Grove, W. M., Zald, D. H., Lebow, B. S., Snitz, B. E., &c Nelson, C. (2000). Clinical

versus mechanical prediction: A meta-analysis. Psychological Assessment, 12,




The process of making judgments and decisions requires a method for combining data. To compare the accuracy of clinical and mechanical (formal, statistical) data-combination techniques, we performed a meta-analysis on studies of human health and behavior. On average, mechanical-prediction techniques were about 10% more accurate than clinical predictions. Depending on the specific analysis, mechanical prediction substantially outperformed clinical prediction in 33%-47% of studies examined. Although clinical predictions were often as accurate as mechanical predictions, in only a few studies (6%-16%) were they substantially more accurate. Superiority for mechanical-prediction techniques was consistent, regardless of the judgment task, type of judges, judges’ amounts of experience, or the types of data being combined. Clinical predictions performed relatively less well when predictors included clinical interview data. These data indicate that mechanical predictions of human behaviors are equal or superior to clinical prediction methods for a wide range of circumstances.


seems interesting.





What are the primary sources of the growing scientist-practitioner gap? As

many authors have noted (see Lilienfeld, 1998, 2001, for a discussion),

some practitioners in clinical psychology and related mental health disci­

plines appear to making increased use of unsubstantiated, untested, and

otherwise questionable treatment and assessment methods. Moreover, psy­

chotherapeutic methods of unknown or doubtful validity are proliferating

on an almost weekly basis. For example, a recent and highly selective sam­

pling of fringe psychotherapeutic practices (Eisner, 2000; see also Singer &

Lalich, 1996) included neurolinguistic programming, eye movement desen­

sitization and reprocessing, Thought Field Therapy, Emotional Freedom

Technique, rage reduction therapy, primal scream therapy, feeling therapy,

Buddha psychotherapy, past lives therapy, future lives therapy, alien abduc­

tion therapy, angel therapy, rebirthing, Sedona method, Silva method, en­

tity depossession therapy, vegetotherapy, palm therapy, and a plethora of

other methods (see also Chapter 7).





The major criticism of the Smith and colleagues (1980) meta-analytic

study is that it is too inclusive; using all studies necessarily requires that

good and bad pieces of research are taken into account (e.g., Howard,

Krause, Sanders, & Kopta, 1997). Nevertheless, Smith et al. compared ef­

fect sizes on the basis of research quality. The rigor of the research had lit­

tle or no impact on effect size (Smith &c Glass, 1977; Smith et al., 1980).

The results, thus, were not artifacts of including methodologically weak in­

vestigations in the meta-analysis.


As efficacy research has burgeoned, so have the number of meta­

analyses. The primary findings of Smith and colleagues (1980) have been

repeatedly affirmed (Wampold, 2001). Not only does psychotherapy

appear to be effective, but there is little evidence that one therapy is signifi­

cantly better than another. The most comprehensive meta-analysis (Wam­

pold et al., 1997) and a meta-analysis of 32 meta-analyses (Grissom, 1996)

have corroborated the conclusion reached 65 years ago by Rosenzweig

(1936). He characterized the apparent uniform efficacy of psychotherapies

at the time as the Dodo bird verdict, after the Dodo’s observation at the

end of a race in Alice in Wonderland that “Everybody has won and all

must have prizes” (p. 412). This conclusion bears profound implications

for the field of psychotherapy, which for the past five decades has been pre­

occupied with unearthing the essential, specific findings of behavior

change in the form of the best therapy. The verdict so far is that psycho­

therapies appear to share common, not specific, therapeutic features.



Recovered memory therapy (RMT): Therapists operate on the as­

sumption that their client’s psychological distress, lack of success, failed re­

lationships, and so forth are due to traumatic experiences, typically under

the control of their parents. RMT often involves the belief that the inten­

sity of the childhood trauma was so great as to cause dissociative “ split­

ting” into multiple personalities, now known as dissociative identity disor­

der (see Chapter 5). In RMT, the process of therapy often consists of

diverse methods of recovering the “ lost memories,” including hypnotic in­

duction, administration of “ truth serum” (sodium pentathol), group ther­

apy, guided fantasies, religious-based prayer, and assertions by therapists

that the client’s symptoms could only have been caused by a traumatic

event (see Chapter 8, for a critique of these and related methods). Given a

New Age therapist’s belief in RMT, therapy becomes unending as the client

is taken back into earlier past lives, additional alien abductions, and addi­

tional split-off personalities (known as “ alters” ; see Chapter 5). Alien ab­

duction therapy, one variation of RMT, holds that extraterrestrials landed

on earth and abducted and then molested the individual, thereby causing

the past trauma. Past lives therapy, another variation of RMT, holds that

all of life’s travails are due having lived a series of past lives and having

“ unfinished business” from past lives invading one’s current life.


such ideas seem to dovetail beautifully with blank slate ideas. if it isnt genes or the persons own fault, it has to be somthing els. past traume fits the role nicely, yes?



Satanic Ritual Abuse: The Case of Patricia Burgus, the

Satanic Princess”

The most widely publicized case of SRA is that of Patricia Burgus, who

won a $10.6 million settlement (Acocella, 1999; Ofshe & Waters, 1993b;

Pendergrast, 1996). In 1995, Frontline, a national TV documentary, aired

a program titled “The Search for Satan.” The program chronicled Ms.

Burgus’s treatment with Dr. Bennett Braun. She originally sought treatment

for postpartum depression, but was hospitalized for 3 years by Dr. Braun

in the Dissociative Disorders unit of Rush-Presbyterian Hospital in Chi­

cago. Ms. Burgus was labeled as a “ satanic princess.” At Braun’s sugges­

tion, her two sons, ages 4 and 5, were also hospitalized for over 3 years.

Each son was told that he was a multiple personality (see Chapter 5), that

he had been in his mother’s satanic cult, that he had eaten babies, and that

he had felt what it was like to bite into a baby while it was still alive. As

part of therapy, both sons “ learned” that they were practiced killers. Ms.

Burgus was led to believe that she had molested them. While in treatment

with Dr. Braun, she was led to believe that she (1) had 300 personalities,

(2) had been raised in a satanic cult, and (3) was a “ satanic princess” in

charge of a nine-state region, and (4) had eaten more than 2,000 dead bod­

ies per year in whole or part. Dr. Braun instructed her to have her husband

bring a hamburger from a family picnic to the hospital so that it could be

tested for human tissue. After 3 years, when her insurance was almost ex­

hausted, she was released from the hospital. The insurance carrier paid

over $3 million in hospitalization costs for Ms. Burgus and her two sons.

Acocella (1999) indicates that other patients of Dr. Braun initiated similar

lawsuits based on similar grounds.





Space Aliens: Myra

Myra was referred to a psychologist for relaxation training by her treat­

ing physician. The referral was to a psychologist who specialized in pain

relief. During Myra’s initial visits, the psychologist took virtually no his­

tory. Nevertheless, after hypnosis, the psychologist informed Myra that

her back problems were a result of her having been molested by her fa­

ther. The psychologist further informed Myra that she mentioned visiting

her favorite uncle while she was hypnotized. The psychologist shifted to

saying that her uncle had molested her. While in a normal waking state,

Myra had no memories of abuse, either by her father or her uncle and

took issue with the therapist’s claims of such abuse. At her next session,

the therapist indicated that, during another hypnotically induced state,

Myra had remembered being abducted by a UFO while at her uncle’s

home. The UFO descended into her uncle’s backyard and had taken her

onboard a spacecraft that looked like the white “ inside of an eggshell.”

There, she was reported to have been sexually examined by aliens. This

examination and subsequent examinations, performed while she was ly­

ing on an table, were the cause of her back problems. The psychologist

hypnotized Myra in each of her sessions, maintaining that hypnosis was

necessary with clients abducted by space aliens because the aliens hypno­

tized humans to force them to forget their alien encounters. Over the

next 3 years, the psychotherapist focused on uncovering all of Myra’s al­

leged encounters with aliens. Myra felt that the therapist only seemed in­

terested when she cooperated by producing information concerning these

purported encounters. She reported that she began “ to feel foggy, tired

all the time, and out of touch with my feelings about anything.” The

psychologist significantly enlarged the boundaries of the therapy, eventu­

ally seeing her in 3-4 hour sessions held 3 days a week. The psychologist

also forbade her from taking medications prescribed by her physician be­

cause the medications would interfere with her “ recalling all the experi­

ences on the UFOs which were central to the therapy.” When Myra’s

savings were depleted, she was forced to terminate therapy. After she re­

flected on what had occurred in her therapy, she sought out legal coun­

sel. After a lawsuit was filed, the therapist settled out of court.



ther ar mor cases than the abov, equally disturbing and insane.




Like many guided imagery procedures used in clinical situations, hypnosis

often involves eye closure and relaxation and, when used to recover memo­

ries, guided imagery or mental review of past events. Accordingly, many of

the concerns that have been raised with respect to guided imagery apply to

hypnosis. However, an added problem associated with hypnosis is the pop­

ular (Loftus & Loftus, 1980; Whitehouse, Dinges, Orne, & Orne, 1988)

yet mistaken belief that hypnosis can improve recall. This belief can result

in the tendency to overvalue the use of hypnosis for purposes of memory

recovery. Survey research (Poole et al., 1995) reveals that approximately

one third (29% and 34%) of psychologists in the United States who were

sampled reported that they used hypnosis to help clients recall memories of

sexual abuse. In contrast, this figure was only 5% among British thera­



USA -.- even their sycologists ar wors



Although the popularity of dream interpretation has, along with psy­

choanalysis, waned in recent years, survey research indicates that upwards

of a third of psychotherapists (37-44%) in the United States still use this

technique (see also Brenneis, 1997; Polusny & Follette, 1996). These statis­

tics are of particular interest given Lindsay and Read’s (1994) observation

that no data exist to support the idea that dreams accurately reveal auto­

biographical memories that fall outside the purview of consciousness.

When dreams are interpreted as indicative of a history of child sexual

abuse (Bass & Davis, 1988; Fredrickson, 1992), the fact that the informa­

tion is provided by an authority figure can constitute a strong suggestion

that abuse, in fact, occurred in “ real life.”


-.- dream interpretation.


The “ thought field” is posited to be both the locus of psychopatholo­

gy and the vehicle for therapeutic change. It has been described thus (I.

Callahan, 1998):

A “ field,” in scientific terms, is defined as “ an invisible sphere of influ­

ence” ; magnetic fields and gravitational fields being familiar examples. In

this case, when we think about a situation a Thought Field (a manifestation

of the body’s energy system) becomes active. Effectively, the Thought Field

has been “ tuned in” to that specific thought. The body responds to its in­

fluence by reproducing, to a greater or lesser extent, the nervous, hor­

monal, and cognitive activity that occurs when we are in the real situation.

If that Thought Field contains perturbations then the body response is in­

appropriate.” (p. 2)

derp, fucking technobabble.

The discrepancy between the meager research support and the exten­

sive promotion of EMDR, TFT, and CISD may be due in part to improper

allocation of the burden of proof. McFall (1991) argued that the burden of

proof of positive effects should rest squarely on those who implement and

promote novel therapies (see also Chapter 1). Thus, it is reasonable to ex­

pect proponents of new treatments to answer clearly and convincingly such

questions as:

• “Does your treatment work better than no treatment?”

• “Does your treatment work better than a placebo?”

• “Does your treatment work better than standard treatments?”

• “Does your treatment work through the processes you claim it


decent overview of the perhaps four most important questions to ask and answer about any proposed treatment.

For both antidepressants and herbal remedies, the relatively small dif­

ferences between placebo and active substances do not necessarily mean

that these treatments are of little value. If we define the usefulness of a

treatment only in terms of (1) the difference between this treatment and

placebo and (2) the direct and indirect costs of the treatment versus the

costs of the untreated disease, as is implied by the conventional definitions

of efficacy and utility, then some could conclude that both antidepressants

and phytotherapeutic substances are only of relatively modest value. How­

ever, what matters is not only the relative size of the effect, but also the ab­

solute size compared with baseline, or, in other words, the magnitude of

specific and nonspecific effects combined. The provision of a good explan­

atory myth and a convincing therapeutic ritual are among the common fac­

tors of all efficacious therapies (Frank, 1987). Hence we can hypothesize

that for certain people, the potential for nonspecific effects is greater in

herbal treatments than in standard treatments. This is particularly true of

people who have a worldview compatible with the application of “ natu­

ral” products and who have a belief system favoring complementary and

alternative treatments. For others, who subscribe to a more rational and

mechanistic approach to diseases, conventional medical treatments are

likely to be more effective. For still others, psychotherapy might elicit the

greatest expectancy effects, and thereby the greatest therapeutic benefit.

It would be intriguing to determine whether patients requesting an

herbal treatment experience greater benefits than do those who are either

opposed or indifferent to this treatment. Our prediction is that the differ­

ence would be statistically and clinically significant, precisely because the

nonspecific effects can be better harnessed in believers. Indeed, this effect

has been demonstrated in a comparison of the use of hypnosis versus

nonhypnotic treatment with clients who either did or did not request hyp­

notic treatment (Lazarus, 1973).

this is an interesting idea. surely one shud check for correlations between g, five factor factors, and varius stated beliefs, and these outcomes. perhaps beliefs do play a mor activ role in placebo effects. perhaps it is just personality. who knows. lets find out! :)

Whereas the Feingold Diet implicates an entire class of food sub­

stances in the occurrence of ADHD, refined sugar is a specific substance

presumed to cause hyperactivity and other child behavior problems (Smith,

1975). Despite the popular support for this proposition among parents,

teachers, and some mental health professionals, well-controlled studies

have not demonstrated an effect of sugar on children’s behavior.

Milich, Wolraich, and Lindgren (1986) reviewed studies and found no

consistent, significant effects of sugar on a variety of behavioral measures

across studies, even among subjects who were thought to be “ sugar sensi­

tive.” Similar conclusions have been reported in controlled studies of

aspartame on behavior. As one example, Wolraich and colleagues (Wol­

raich, 1988; Wolraich et al., 1994) compared three controlled diets (high

sucrose-low sweetener, low sucrose-high sweetener, and placebo) in two

groups of children presumed to be especially vulnerable to the effects of

sugar ingestion (i.e., preschool and school-age children nominated by par­

ents as highly adverse to sugar). The diets were presented in 3-week blocks

using a counterbalanced, double-blind, crossover design. Results showed

no differences among the three diets on any of almost 40 behavioral and

cognitive measures. Shaywitz and colleagues (1994) also found no effect

on cognitive or behavioral measures with children with ADHD who con­

sumed unusually high amounts of aspartame over a 4-week period. There

is little evidence, then, that either sugar or aspartame ingestion have appre­

ciable effects on children’s behavior.

see also: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperactivity#Sugar_consumption

Proponents of FC claim that the experimental studies conducted are

inappropriately designed and do not accurately measure performance.

Silliman (1995) asserted that the studies were conducted out of the sub­

jects’ normal social context, creating an unfamiliar environment that hin­

ders performance. Duchan (1995) states that, “The context of interaction

is not a naturally occurring one, but one that is tampered with in a variety

of ways” (p. 208).

yes… thats what an experiment IS.

Dolphin-Assisted Therapy

Dolphin-assisted therapy (DAT) has attracted many parents of children

with autism. DAT received significant attention after it was presented on

Cable News Network (CNN, March 28, 1998; www.cnn.com/

HEALTH/9803/28/dolphin.therapy/index.html#op). The basic procedure

of DAT was depicted, with the child completing a one-to-one teaching ses­

sion with a therapist and then being given the opportunity to swim with a

dolphin. The child’s interaction with the dolphins was described as moti

vating the child to participate in therapy sessions (www.nextstep.com).

Dolphins are currently the only nondomesticated animals used regularly as

treatment partners with children with autism.

The website of the Human Dolphin Therapy Center in Miami reports

a success rate of 97%, which is not defined with respect to the assessment

instruments and measurements utilized (www.cnn.com/HEALTH/

9803/28/dolphin.therapy/index.html#op). The average cost for dolphin

therapy is $2,600 per week (www.nextstep.com/stepback/cycle9/

109/dolphin_therapy.btml). Families have reported raising over $10,000

for the small number of sessions. This cost excludes airfare and lodging


The time and cost of this treatment may foster an expectation of positive


According to Christopher Peknic, founder and executive director of

the Dolphin Institute, the use of dolphins as treatment partners for autism

and other childhood disorders is a natural and positive therapeutic tech­

nique (www.dolpbininstitute.org/text/cp.htm). He believes that “ dol­

phins have a very special bond,” and are “ attracted to young children”

(.http://www.dolphininstititute.org/text.cp.htm). In addition, supporters of

DAT suggest that dolphins possess an uncanny ability to “ understand and

respond to the needs of special people” (www.dolphininstitute.org/


what the fuck

If the 1970s represented a decade during which psychologists tried to “ give

psychology away,” unencumbered by concerns over the therapeutic value

of their gifts, then the following two decades represented a time when mar­

keting strategies were refined, programs proliferated, and data remained

sparse (Rosen, 1987, 1993). We found support for this appraisal by log­

ging on to the Web, at www.amazon.com, where 137 self-help books were

listed for just the letter “A.” Among the titles listed by www.amazon.com

were A.D.D. and Success, Access Your Brain’s Joy Center: The Free Soul

Method, Amazing Results o f Positive Thinking, and The Anxiety Cure: An

Eight-Step Program for Getting Well. There also were many titles with the

word “Art,” as in The Art o f Letting Go, The Art o f Making Sex Sacred,

and The Art o f Midlife. Findings were similar for the letters B through Z.

i really hate this use of punctuation INSIDE quotes! it makes no sense.

There also were many titles with the word “Art,”

shud be:


There also were many titles with the word “Art”,


Unlike the self-help advisors who came on the market in the early and

mid-1990s, Gray is less scolding, more “ supportive,” and he found his

niche by smoothing out gender conflicts. His bromide is that conflicts be­

tween men and women arise from their inherent differences, which should

be honored. This more acceptance-based doctrine links him to earlier,

more “ therapeutic” incarnations of the self-help movement. This therapeu­

tic slant (along with its remarkable simplicity and spiffed-up sexism) is the

source of much of the controversy surrounding his popularity. In Mars and

Venus in the Bedroom (1995), for example, Gray gave advice about what

he believes to be effective communication skills: To “ give feedback in sex,

it is best for women to make little noises and not use complete sentences”

because “when a woman uses complete sentences, it can be a turn off” (p.

57). Additionally, he instructed readers about the meaning of women’s un­

derwear. He explained that when “ she wears silky pink or lace, she is ready

to surrender to sex as a romantic expression of loving vulnerability” (p.

106) and that a “ cotton T-shirt with matching panties . . . may mean she

doesn’t need a lot of foreplay” (p. 107). Moreover, according to Gray such

clothing indicates that the woman wearing it “may not be in the mood for

an orgasm” but rather might be “happy and satisfied” by feeling her part­

ner’s “ orgasm inside her” (p. 107). Offering such opinions is part of what

Gray states he does “ best,” which he believes is to “ save marriages, create

romance and passions and relationships” (Adler, 1995, p. 96).


seems legit lol




I recently came across an interesting journal: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perspectives_on_Psychological_Science_%28journal%29

It was becus of a recent issue about the status of psychology as a scientific field. Its both distressing and very interesting reading.

Here are the papers:

Editors Introduction to the Special Section on Replicability in Psychological Science A Crisis of Confidence?

Is the Replicability Crisis Overblown Three Arguments Examined

Replications in Psychology Research How Often Do They Really Occur

The Rules of the Game Called Psychological Science

A Vast Graveyard of Undead Theories Publication Bias and Psychological Science’s Aversion to the Null

Science or Art How Aesthetic Standards Grease the Way Through the Publication Bottleneck but Undermine Science

Low Hopes, High Expectations Expectancy Effects and the Replicability of Behavioral Experiments

The Psychology of Replication and Replication in Psychology

You Could Have Just Asked Reply to Francis (2012)

It Does Not Follow Evaluating the One-Off Publication Bias Critiques by Francis (2012a, 2012b, 2012c, 2012d, 2012e, in press)

Teaching Replication

Harnessing the Undiscovered Resource of Student Research Projects

Rewarding Replications A Sure and Simple Way to Improve Psychological Science

Scientific Utopia I. Opening Scientific Communication (not part of the issue, but is a must read! – from here)

Scientific Utopia II. Restructuring Incentives and Practices to Promote Truth Over Publishability

An Agenda for Purely Confirmatory Research

Psychologists Are Open to Change, yet Wary of Rules

The Nine Circles of Scientific Hell

Why Science Is Not Necessarily Self-Correcting

Introduction to the Special Section on Research Practices

An Open, Large-Scale, Collaborative Effort to Estimate the Reproducibility of Psychological Science

The Long Way From α-Error Control to Validity Proper Problems With a Short-Sighted False-Positive Debate

Scientific Misconduct and the Myth of Self-Correction in Science

DSM-5 Task Force Proposes Controversial Diagnosis for Dishonest Scientists

Steven Weinberg “Against Philosophy”

Great text. The beginning:

Physicists get so much help from subjective and often vague aesthetic judgments that it might be
expected that we would be helped also by philosophy, out of which after all our science evolved.
Can philosophy give us any guidance toward a final theory? The value today of philosophy to
physics seems to me to be something like the value of early nation-states to their peoples. It is only
a small exaggeration to say that, until the introduction of the post office, the chief service of nation-
states was to protect their peoples from other nation-states. The insights of philosophers have
occasionally benefited physicists, but generally in a negative fashion—by protecting them from the
preconceptions of other philosophers. I do not want to draw the lesson here that physics is best done
without preconceptions. At any one moment there are so many things that might be done, so many
accepted principles that might be challenged, that without some guidance from our preconceptions
one could do nothing at all. It is just that philosophical principles have not generally provided us
with the right preconceptions. In our hunt for the final theory, physicists are more like hounds than
hawks; we have become good at sniffing around on the ground for traces of the beauty we expect in
the laws of nature, but we do not seem to be able to see the path to the truth from the heights of
philosophy. Physicists do of course carry around with them a working philosophy. For most of us, it
is a rough-and-ready realism, a belief in the objective reality of the ingredients of our scientific
theories. But this has been learned through the experience of scientific research and rarely from the
teachings of philosophers. This is not to deny all value to philosophy, much of which has nothing to
do with science. I do not even mean to deny all value to the philosophy of science, which at its best
seems to me a pleasing gloss on the history and discoveries of science. But we should not expect it
to provide today’s scientists with any useful guidance about how to go about their work or about
what they are likely to find. I should acknowledge that this is understood by many of the
philosophers themselves. After surveying three decades of professional writings in the philosophy
of science, the philosopher George Gale concludes that “these almost arcane discussions, verging on
the scholastic, could have interested only the smallest number of practicing scientists.” Wittgenstein
remarked that “nothing seems to me less likely than that a scientist or mathematician who reads me
should be seriously influenced in the way he works.”