Clear Language, Clear Mind

March 19, 2013

Comparing onanism with child sexual abuse

Filed under: Science — Tags: — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 18:53

Onanism and child sexual abuse – A comparative study of two hypotheses


For some decades now in the West, there has been
a growing social anxiety with regard to a phenomenon which
has become known as child sexual abuse (CSA). This anxiety
is fed by scientific theories whose cornerstone is the assess-
ment of these experiences as necessarily harmful, due to their
presumed serious consequences for the present and future
lives of the minors involved in them. This principle, widely
held by experts and laypersons alike,was also part and parcel
of the danger presumably posed by Onanism, a phenomenon
which occupied a similar position in society and medical
science in the West during the eighteenth through twentieth
centuries. The present work is a comparative review of these
two hypotheses and the central objective was to compare the
evolution and fundamental elements of the two hypotheses
in light of what history tells us about Onanism theory. This
comparative analysiswill allow a critical look at the assump-
tions of the CSA hypothesis in order to make evident the
similarities to the conceptual model that enabled the Onan-
ism hypothesis in the past.
Keywords Child sexual abuse  Masturbation  Onanism

January 13, 2013

Review: Science and pseudoscience in clinical psychology (Lilienfeld et al)

Filed under: Psychology,Science,Science — Tags: — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 21:26

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:

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;

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 (

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 (

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

therapy is $2,600 per week (

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 ( He believes that “ dol­

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

(. In addition, supporters of

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

respond to the needs of special people” (


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, where 137 self-help books were

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

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




August 16, 2012

Thoughts and comments: Is psychology a science? (Paul Lutus)

Filed under: Psychology,Science — Tags: , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 12:39


In order to consider whether psychology is a science, we must first define our terms. It is not

overarching to say that science is what separates human beings from animals, and, as time goes by

and we learn more about our animal neighbors here on Earth, it becomes increasingly clear that

science is all that separates humans from animals. We are learning that animals have feelings,

passions, and certain rights. What animals do not have is the ability to reason, to rise above feeling.



The point here is that legal evidence is not remotely scientific evidence. Contrary to popular belief,

science doesn’t use sloppy evidentiary standards like “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and scientific

theories never become facts. This is why the oft-heard expression “proven scientific fact” is never

appropriate – it only reflects the scientific ignorance of the speaker. Scientific theories are always

theories, they never become the final and only explanation for a given phenomenon.


Meh. Sure is phil of sci 101 here.

Besides the confusing word usage “become facts” (wat), a scientific fact is just something that is beyond reasonable doubt and enjoys virtually unanimous agreement among the relevant scientists.

Apart from being filtered through all possible explanations, scientific theories have another

important property – they must make predictions that can be tested and possibly falsified. In fact,

and this may surprise you, scientific theories can only be falsified, they can never be proven true

once and for all. That is why they are called “theories,” as certain as some of them are – it is always

possible they may be replaced by better theories, ones that explain more, or are simpler, or that

make more accurate predictions than their forebears.


No, that is not why they are called “theories”, they are called “theories” because thats the word for “explanation” in science.


Nothing can be “proven true once and for all” with absolute certainty. This is not specific to science.

It’s very simple, really. If a theory doesn’t make testable predictions, or if the tests are not practical,

or if the tests cannot lead to a clear outcome that supports or falsifies the theory, the theory is not

scientific. This may come as another surprise, but very little of the theoretical content of human

psychology meets this scientific criterion. As to the clinical practice of psychology, even less meets

any reasonable definition of “scientific.”


Nonsense. There have been many scientific theories that we could not figure out how to test to begin with, but we later did, and the evidence either test either confirmed or disconfirmed the theories.

Human psychology and the related fields of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy achieved their

greatest acceptance and popularity in the 1950s, at which time they were publicly perceived as

sciences. But this was never true, and it is not true today – human psychology has never risen to the

status of a science, for several reasons


Derp. Conflation of psychoanalysis crap with good psychology.


Although, to his defense, he did somewhat announce this in the beginning:

Since its first appearance in 2003, this article has become required reading in a number of college-

level psychology courses. Because this article is directed toward educated nonspecialist readers

considering psychological treatment, students of psychology are cautioned that terms such as

“psychology,” “clinical psychology” and “psychiatry” are used interchangeably, on the ground that

they rely on the field of human psychology for validation, in the same way that astronomy and

particle physics, though very different, rely on physics for validation.

But as to the study of human beings, there are severe limitations on what kinds of

studies are permitted. As an example, if you want to know whether removing specific

brain tissue results in specific behavioral changes, you cannot perform the study on

humans. You have to perform it on animals and try to extrapolate the result to humans.


Eh. One can just look at case studies of people with brain injuries.


Besides, there are lots of studies that are allowed, and in the past we did some studies that probably would not be allowed today, say Milgram Experiment or perhaps Stanford Prison Experiment.

One of the common work-arounds to this ethical problem is to perform what are called

“retrospective studies,” studies that try to draw conclusions from past events rather than

setting up a formal laboratory experiment with strict experimental protocols and a

control group. If you simply gather information about people who have had a certain

kind of past experience, you are freed from the ethical constraint that prevents you from

exposing experimental subjects to that experience in the present.


But, because of intrinsic problems, retrospective studies produce very poor evidence

and science. For example, a hypothetical retrospective study meant to discover whether

vitamin X makes people more intelligent may only “discover” that the people who took

the vitamin were those intelligent enough to take it in the first place. In general,

retrospective studies cannot reliably distinguish between causes and effects, and any

conclusions drawn from them are suspect.


Think about this for a moment. In order for human psychology to be placed on a

scientific footing, it would have to conduct strictly controlled experiments on humans,

in some cases denying treatments or nutritional elements deemed essential to health (in

order to have a control group), and the researchers would not be able to tell the subjects

whether or not they were receiving proper care (in order not to bias the result). This is

obviously unethical behavior, and it is a key reason why human psychology is not a



He is just wrong. It is possible to distinguish between cause and effects. One has to do more studies of different kinds. Etc. It is difficult but not impossible.

The items listed above inevitably create an atmosphere in which absolutely anything

goes (at least temporarily), judgments about efficacy are utterly subjective, and as a

result, the field of psychology perpetually splinters into cults and fads (examples

below). “Studies” are regularly published that would never pass muster with a self-

respecting peer review committee from some less soft branch of science.


Another dumb conflation of psychology as a whole with some specific subfield, and the most dodgy of them all.

In an effort to answer the question of whether intelligence is primarily governed

by environment or genes, psychologist Cyril Burt (1883-1971) performed a

long-term study of twins that was later shown to be most likely a case of

conscious or unconscious scientific fraud. His work, which purported to show

that IQ is largely inherited, was used as a “scientific” basis by various racists and

others, and, despite having been discredited, still is.


1) The case against him seems rather weak.

2) His conclusions are very consistent with modern studies of the same thing.


See, John Philippe Rushton – New evidence on Sir Cyril Burt His 1964 Speech to the Association of Educational Psychologists

In the 1950s, at the height of psychology’s public acceptance, neurologist Walter

Freeman created a surgical procedure known as “prefrontal lobotomy.” As

though on a quest and based solely on his reputation and skills of persuasion,

Freeman singlehandedly popularized lobotomy among U.S. psychologists,

eventually performing about 3500 lobotomies, before the dreadful consequences

of this practice became apparent.


At the height of Freeman’s personal campaign, he drove around the country in a

van he called the “lobotomobile,” performing lobotomies as he traveled. There

was plenty of evidence that prefrontal lobotomy was a catastrophic clinical

practice, but no one noticed the evidence or acted on it. There was — and is —

no reliable mechanism within clinical psychology to prevent this sort of abuse.


Ah yes, lobotomies. He seems to have missed ECT on his example list.


The last claim is clearly wrong.

These examples are part of a long list of people who have tried to use psychology to

give a scientific patina to their personal beliefs, perhaps beginning with Francis Galton

(1822-1911), the founder and namer of eugenics. Galton tried (and failed) to design

psychological tests meant to prove his eugenic beliefs. This practice of using

psychology as a personal soapbox continues to the present, in fact, it seems to have

become more popular.


What these accounts have in common is that no one was able (or willing) to use

scientific standards of evidence to refute the claims at the time of their appearance,

because psychology is only apparently a science. Only through enormous efforts and

patience, including sometimes repeating an entire study using the original materials, can

a rare, specific psychological claim be refuted. Such exceptions aside, there is ordinarily

no recourse to the “testable, falsifiable claims” criterion that sets science apart from

ordinary human behavior.


Galton was a very cool guy, and eugenics is well and alive today, we just call eugenic practices, like prenatal screening, something else (well, most people do).


Intelligence does actually seem to have fallen from when Galton and others measured reaction times to modern reaction time measurements, cf. this post.

Some may object that the revolution produced by psychoactive drugs has finally placed psychology

on a firm scientific footing, but the application of these drugs is not psychology, it is pharmacology.

The efficacy of drugs in treating conditions once thought to be psychological in origin simply

presents another example where psychology got it wrong, and the errors could only be uncovered

using disciplines outside psychology.


It’s neither. It’s psychopharmacology.

To summarize this section, psychology is the sort of field that can describe things, but as shown

above, it cannot reliably explain what it has described. In science, descriptions are only a first step

— explanations are essential:

• An explanation, a theory, allows one to make a prediction about observations not yet made.

• A prediction would permit a laboratory test that might support or falsify the underlying


• The possibility of falsification is what distinguishes science from cocktail chatter.


A labaratory test? Perhaps geology isn’t science either? Surely, it has a history of crazy theories as well, try Expanding Earth theory.

As with most professions, scientists have a private language, using terms that seem completely

ordinary but that convey special meaning to other scientists. For example, when a scientist identifies

a field as a “descriptive science,” he is politely saying it is not a science.


No… It means that is isn’t a causal science. Say, grammar is a descriptive science/subfield within linguistics.


Depending on whather we include non-empirical fields in science, there is also logic and math, which are formal, descrptive and noncausal fields.


But in another use of the word, it means something else, namely, descriptive as opposed to applied.

This seems an appropriate time (and context) to comment on psychology’s “bible”: the Diagnostic

and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and its companion, the International Classifications of

Diseases, Mental Disorders Section (hereafter jointly referred to as DSM). Now in its fourth edition,

this volume is very revealing because of its significance to the practice of psychology and

psychiatry and because of what it claims are valid mental illnesses.


These comparisons with religion (“bible”) are not very impartial. He would have helped his case if he was more neutral in his word choice.


That’s not to say that the DSM’s, psychiatry and the various diagnosis aren’t dodgy.

Putting aside for the moment the nebulous “phase of life problem,” excuse me? – “Sibling rivalry”

is now a mental illness? Yes, according to the current DSM/ICD. And few are as strict about

spelling as I am, but even I am not ready to brand as mentally ill those who (frequently) cannot

accurately choose from among “site,” “cite” and “sight” when they write to comment on my Web

pages. As to “mathematics disorder” being a mental illness, sorry, that just doesn’t add up.


Eh, they are refering to dyslexia probably, not the inability to distinguish various English homophones.

[table with the number of different diagnoses in the DSM over the years]

Based on this table and extrapolating into the future using appropriate regression methods, in 100

years there will be more than 3600 conditions meriting treatment as mental illnesses. To put it

another way, there will be more mental states identified as abnormal than there are known, distinct

mental states. In short, no behavior will be normal.


This doesn’t follow. It might be that the diagnoses are simply getting more and more specific. For instance, there are now quite a few different eating disorders diagnosed, and quite a few diferent schizophrenic disorders. These are just splitting the diagnoses into more without covering more or much more behavior.


There is also the possibility that the future diagnoses will be more and more niche related, covering less and less behavior. In that case, there won’t be any sharp increase.

Many conditions have made their way into the DSM and nearly none are later removed.

Homosexuality was until recently listed as a mental illness, one believed to be amenable to

treatment, in spite of the total absence of clinical evidence. Then a combination of research findings

from fields other than psychology, and simple political pressure, resulted in the belated removal of

homosexuality from psychology’s official list of mental illnesses. Imagine a group of activists

demanding that the concept of gravity be removed from physics. Then imagine physicists yielding

to political pressure on a scientific issue. But in psychology, this is the norm, not the exception, and it is nearly always the case that the impetus for change comes from a field other than psychology.


Meh. Extrapolating much.

Does research honor the null hypothesis? The “null hypothesis” is a scientific precept

that says assertions are assumed to be false unless and until there is evidence to support

them. In scientific fields the null hypothesis serves as a threshold-setting device to

prevent the waste of limited resources on speculations and hypotheses that are not

supported by direct evidence or reasonable extrapolations from established theory.


Does psychology meet this criterion? Well, to put it diplomatically, if psychiatrist John

Mack of the Harvard Medical School can conduct a research program that takes alien

abduction stories at face value, if clinical psychologists can appear as expert witnesses

in criminal court to testify about nonexistent “recovered memories,” only to see their

clients vigorously deny and retract those “memories” later, if any imaginable therapeutic

method can be put into practice without any preliminary evaluation or research, then no,

the null hypothesis is not honored, and psychology fails Point B.


That’s not how the null hypothesis works. From Wiki:

The practice of science involves formulating and testing hypotheses, assertions that are capable of being proven false using a test of observed data. The null hypothesis typically corresponds to a general or default position. For example, the null hypothesis might be that there is no relationship between two measured phenomena[1] or that a potential treatment has no effect.[2]

In response to my claim that evidence-based practice is to date an unrealized idea, a

psychologist recently replied that there is “practice-based evidence.” Obviously this

argument was offered in the heat of the moment and my correspondent could not have

considered the implications of his remark.


Practice-based evidence, to the degree that it exists, suffers from serious ethical and

practical issues. It fails an obvious ethical standard — if the “evidence” is coincidental

to therapy, a client will be unable to provide informed consent to be a research subject

on the ground that neither he nor the therapist knows in advance that he will be a

research subject. Let me add that a scenario like this would never be acceptable in

mainstream medicine (not to claim that it never happens), but it is all too common in

clinical psychology for research papers to exploit evidence drawn from therapeutic



What? Practice-based evidence is common in medicine. The reason is that we simply don’t know how well many often used treatments work. Cf. Bad Science.


Case studies are also very common, and useful.


Let’s compare the foregoing to physics, a field that perfectly exemplifies the interplay of

scientific research and practice. When I use a GPS receiver to find my way across the

landscape, every aspect of the experience is governed by rigorously tested physical

theory. The semiconductor technology responsible for the receiver’s integrated circuits

obeys quantum theory and materials science. The mathematics used to reduce satellite

radio signals to a terrestrial position honors Einstein’s relativity theories (both of them,

and for different reasons) as well as orbital mechanics. If any of these theories is not

perfectly understood and taken into account, I won’t be where the GPS receiver says I

am, and that could easily have serious consequences.


Yes, let’s compare it to a very disimilar field. Psychology is a social science. The fields are very different.

I offer this mini-essay and this comparison because most of my psychological

correspondents have no idea what makes a field scientific. Many people believe that any

field where science takes place is ipso facto scientific. But this is not true — there is

more to science than outward appearances.


But physics is not a good field to compare with. The epistemology of physics is EASY compared with social science, including psychology.

But this is all hypothetical, because psychology and psychiatry have never been based in science,

and therefore are free of the constraints placed on scientific theories. This means these fields will

prevail far beyond their last shred of credibility, just as religions do, and they will be propelled by

the same energy source — belief. That pure, old-fashioned fervent variety of belief, unsullied by

reason or evidence.



This essay feels like it was written by a physicist or something like that who is disppointed that the same evidence standard is not used in other fields. He chose some kinda of mix of psychology and psychiatry to blame. Unfairly blaiming the entire field of psychology, when the problems are mostly within certain subfields.


He also displays a lack of knowledge about many of the things he mentions.


Mix it with a poor understanding of phil of sci, yeah.


So what is he? Well, read for yourself.

June 20, 2012

More Wikipedia stuff+more

Filed under: Politics,Psychology,Science — Tags: — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 05:41

Wikipedia links of interest

A snuff film is a motion picture genre that depicts the actual murder of a person or people, without the aid of special effects, for the express purpose of distribution and entertainment or financial exploitation.[1] The existence of for-profit snuff films is generally considered an urban legend. Some filmed records of executions and murders exist but have not been made or released for commercial purposes.[2]

Alexithymia ( /ˌlɛksəˈθmiə/) is a term coined by psychotherapist Peter Sifneos in 1973[1][2] to describe a state of deficiency in understanding, processing, or describing emotions. The word comes from the Ancient Greek words λέξις (lexis, “diction”, “word”) and θυμός (thumos, “soul, as the seat of emotion, feeling, and thought”) modified by an alpha-privative, literally meaning “without words for emotions“.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no G-spot.

In addition to general skepticism among gynecologists, doctors and researchers that the G-Spot exists,[1][6][8][36] a team at King’s College London in late 2009 suggested that its existence is subjective. They acquired the largest sample size of women to date – 1,800 – who are pairs of twins, and found that the twins did not report a similar G-Spot in their questionnaires. The research, headed by Tim Spector, documents a 15-year study of the twins, identical and non-identical. Identical twins share genes, while non-identical pairs share 50% of theirs. According to the researchers, if one identical twin reported having a G-Spot, it was more likely that the other would too, but this pattern did not materialize.[15][37] Study co-author Dr. Andrea Burri believes: “It is rather irresponsible to claim the existence of an entity that has never been proven and pressurise women and men too.”[14] Burri stated that one of the reasons for the research was to remove feelings of “inadequacy or underachievement” for women who feared they lacked a G-Spot.[15] Dr. Beverly Whipple dismissed the findings, commenting that twins have different sexual partners and techniques, and that the study did not properly account for lesbian or bisexual women.[37]

In a July 2001 article for Scientific American titled “The Truth and the Hype of Hypnosis”, Michael Nash wrote:

…using hypnosis, scientists have temporarily created hallucinations, compulsions, certain types of memory loss, false memories, and delusions in the laboratory so that these phenomena can be studied in a controlled environment.[53]

Pain management

A number of studies show that hypnosis can reduce the pain experienced during burn-wound debridement, bone marrow aspirations, and childbirth. The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis found that hypnosis relieved the pain of 75% of 933 subjects participating in 27 different experiments.[53]

In 1996, the National Institutes of Health declared hypnosis effective in reducing pain from cancer and other chronic conditions.[53] Nausea and other symptoms related to incurable diseases may also be managed with hypnosis.[63][64][65][66] For example, research done at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine studied two patient groups facing breast cancer surgery. The group that received hypnosis reported less pain, nausea, and anxiety post-surgery. The average hypnosis patient reduced treatment costs by an average $772.00.[67][68]

The American Psychological Association published a study comparing the effects of hypnosis, ordinary suggestion and placebo in reducing pain. The study found that highly suggestible individuals experienced a greater reduction in pain from hypnosis compared with placebo, whereas less suggestible subjects experienced no pain reduction from hypnosis when compared with placebo. Ordinary non-hypnotic suggestion also caused reduction in pain compared to placebo, but was able to reduce pain in a wider range of subjects (both high and low suggestible) than hypnosis. The results showed that it is primarily the subject’s responsiveness to suggestion, whether within the context of hypnosis or not, that is the main determinant of causing reduction in pain.[69]

Other medical and psychotherapeutic uses

Treating skin diseases with hypnosis (hypnodermatology) has performed well in treating warts, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis.[70]

The success rate for habit control is varied. A meta-study researching hypnosis as a quit-smoking tool found it had a 20 to 30 percent success rate, similar to other quit-smoking methods,[71] while a 2007 study of patients hospitalised for cardiac and pulmonary ailments found that smokers who used hypnosis to quit smoking doubled their chances of success.[72]

Hypnosis may be useful as an adjunct therapy for weight loss. A 1996 meta-analysis studying hypnosis combined with cognitive-behavioural therapy found that people using both treatments lost more weight than people using CBT alone.[73] The virtual gastric band procedure mixes hypnosis with hypnopedia. The hypnosis instructs the stomach it is smaller than it really is and hypnopedia reinforces alimentary habits.

Controversy surrounds the use of hypnotherapy to retrieve memories, especially those from early childhood or (alleged) past-lives. The American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association caution against repressed memory therapy in cases of alleged childhood trauma, stating that “it is impossible, without corroborative evidence, to distinguish a true memory from a false one.”[74] Past life regression, meanwhile, is often viewed with skepticism.[75]

Military applications

A recently declassified document obtained by The Black Vault Freedom of Information Act archive shows that hypnosis was investigated for military applications.[76] However, the overall conclusion of the study was that there was no evidence that hypnosis could be used for military applications, and also that there was no clear evidence for whether ‘hypnosis’ actually exists as a definable phenomenon outside of ordinary suggestion, high motivation and subject expectancy. According to the document,

The use of hypnosis in intelligence would present certain technical problems not encountered in the clinic or laboratory. To obtain compliance from a resistant source, for example, it would be necessary to hypnotise the source under essentially hostile circumstances. There is no good evidence, clinical or experimental, that this can be done.

Furthermore, the document states that:

It would be difficult to find an area of scientific interest more beset by divided professional opinion and contradictory experimental evidence…No one can say whether hypnosis is a qualitatively unique state with some physiological and conditioned response components or only a form of suggestion induced by high motivation and a positive relationship between hypnotist and subject…T.X. Barber has produced “hypnotic deafness” and “hypnotic blindness”, analgesia and other responses seen in hypnosis—all without hypnotizing anyone…Orne has shown that unhypnotized persons can be motivated to equal and surpass the supposed superhuman physical feats seen in hypnosis.

The study concludes:

It is probably significant that in the long history of hypnosis, where the potential application to intelligence has always been known, there are no reliable accounts of its effective use by an intelligence service.

Research into hypnosis in military applications is further verified by the MKULTRA experiments, also conducted by the CIA.[77] According to Congressional testimony,[78] the CIA experimented with utilizing LSD and hypnosis for mind control. Many of these programs were done domestically and on participants who were not informed of the study’s purposes or that they would be given drugs.[78]

The full paper explores the potentials of operational uses.[79]


In 2003, a meta-analysis of the efficacy of hypnotherapy was published by two researchers from the university of Konstanz in Germany, Flammer and Bongartz. The study examined data on the efficacy of hypnotherapy across the board, though studies included mainly related to psychosomatic illness, test anxiety, smoking cessation and pain control during orthodox medical treatment. Most of the better research studies used traditional-style hypnosis, only a minority (19%) employed Ericksonian hypnosis.

The authors considered a total of 444 studies on hypnotherapy published prior to 2002. By selecting the best quality and most suitable research designs for meta-analysis they narrowed their focus down to 57 controlled trials. These showed that on average hypnotherapy achieved at least 64% success compared to 37% improvement among untreated control groups. (Based on the figures produced by binomial effect size display or BESD.)

According to the authors this was an intentional underestimation. Their professed aim was to discover whether, even under the most skeptical weighing of the evidence, hypnotherapy was still proven effective. They showed conclusively that it was. In fact, their analysis of treatment designs concluded that expansion of the meta-analysis to include non-randomized trials for this data base would also produce reliable results. When all 133 studies deemed suitable in light of this consideration were re-analyzed, providing data for over 6,000 patients, the findings suggest an average improvement in 27% of untreated patients over the term of the studies compared with a 74% success rate among those receiving hypnotherapy. This is a high success rate given the fact that many of the studies measured included the treatment of addictions and medical conditions. The outcome rates for anxiety disorders alone, traditionally hypnotherapy’s strongest application, were higher still (though a precise figure is not cited).(Flammer & Bongartz, “On the efficacy of hypnosis: a meta-analytic study”, Contemporary Hypnosis, 2003, pp179 – 197.)[citation needed]

In 2005 and in 2007, systematic reviews from the Cochrane Collaboration showed no proper evidence that hypnotherapy was useful in the treatment of smoking addiction or in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) [18][19]

The last part here is important. Cochrane Collaboration reviews are the most reliable sources of information in medicine.

Yet, i was still skeptical. Hypnosis is way too often associated with bogus ideas. So i looked into these links as well:

In general, there seems to be something to it. I’m still somewhat skeptical. The future will tell.

I think i may have posted this one before, but i searched a bit and cudn’t find a post with it.

his article classifies types of rape by the sex of both the rapist and the victim. The scope of the article includes both rape and sexual violence more generally.

Since only a small percentage of acts of sexual violence are brought to the attention of the authorities, it is impossible to compile accurate statistics. There are nevertheless statistical estimates published by some official bodies. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (1997) estimated that 91% of United States rape victims were female and 9% were male, with 99% of the offenders being male and 1% of the offenders being female.[1] Several studies argue that male-male and female-female prison rape are quite common and may be the least reported form of rape.[2][3][4]

Rape of males by males

Several studies argue that male-male prisoner rape, as well as female-female prisoner rape, might be the most common and least-reported forms of rape, with some studies suggesting such rapes are substantially more common in both per-capita and raw-number totals than male-female rapes in the general population.[2][3][4]

Research from the UK suggests that almost 3% of men reported a non-consensual sexual experience as adults and over 5% of men reported sexual abuse as a child.[18] This does not take into account the possibility of exaggeration or false reports nor of underreporting. Recognition of male on male rape in law has historically been limited; the first successful prosecution for attempted male on male rape in the UK was not until 1995.

Male on male rape has historically been shrouded in secrecy due to the stigma men associate with being raped by other men. According to psychologist Dr Sarah Crome fewer than one in ten male-male rapes are reported. As a group, male rape victims reported a lack of services and support, and legal systems are often ill-equipped to deal with this type of crime.[19]

The rape of men by men has been documented as a weapon of terror in warfare.[20]

See also

I read this becus of my upcoming review of another book. Might as well post it here. Note that not all effects claimed to be halo effects are actually so. Some are true generalizations/correlations. Intelligence and attractiveness DOES correlate, even surprisingly strongly.

The halo effect or halo error is a cognitive bias in which our judgments of a person’s character can be influenced by our overall impression of them. It can be found in a range of situations—from the courtroom to the classroom and in everyday interactions. The halo effect was given its name by psychologist Edward Thorndike and since then, several researchers have studied the halo effect in relation to attractiveness, and its bearing on the judicial and educational systems.

On personality and happiness

Dion and Berscheid (1972) conducted a study on the relationship between attractiveness and the halo effect.[2] Sixty students from University of Minnesota took part in the experiment, half being male and half being female. Each subject was given three different photos to examine: one of an attractive individual, one of an individual of average attractiveness, and one of an unattractive individual.

The participants judged the photos’ subjects along 27 different personality traits (including altruism, conventionality, self-assertiveness, stability, emotionality, trustworthiness, extraversion, kindness, and sexual promiscuity). Participants were then asked to predict the overall happiness the photos’ subjects would feel for the rest of their lives, including marital happiness (least likely to get divorced), parental happiness (most likely to be a good parent), social and professional happiness (most likely to experience life fulfillment), and overall happiness. Finally, participants were asked if the subjects would hold a job of high status, medium status, or low status.

Results showed that participants overwhelmingly believed the more attractive subjects to have more socially desirably personality traits than either the averagely attractive or unattractive subjects. Participants also believed that the attractive individuals would lead happier lives in general, have happier marriages, be better parents, and have more career success than the unattractive or averagely attractive individuals. Also, results showed that attractive people were believed to be more likely to hold secure, prestigious jobs compared to unattractive individuals.[3]

Academics and intelligence

Landy and Sigall’s 1974 study demonstrated the halo effect on judgments of intelligence and competence on academic tasks. 60 male undergraduate students rated the quality of written essays, which included both well-written and poorly written samples. One third of the participants were presented with a photo of an attractive female as an author, another third were presented with a photo of an unattractive female as the author, and the last third were not shown a photo.

Participants gave significantly better writing evaluations for the more attractive author. On a scale of 1–9 with 1 being the poorest, the well-written essay by the attractive author received an average of 6.7 while the unattractive author received a 5.9 (with a 6.6 as a control). The gap was larger on the poor essay: the attractive author received an average of 5.2, the control a 4.7, and the unattractive a 2.7. These results suggest that people are generally more willing to give physically attractive people the benefit of the doubt when performance is below standard, whereas unattractive people are less likely to receive this favored treatment.[4]

In Moore, Filippou, and Perret’s 2011 study, the researchers sought to determine if residual cues to intelligence and personality existed in male and female faces. Researchers attempted to control for the attractiveness halo effect, but failed. They manipulated the perceived intelligence of photographs of individuals, and it was found that those faces that were manipulated to look high in perceived intelligences were also rated as more attractive. It was also found that the faces high in perceived intelligence were also rated highly on perceived friendliness and sense of humor.[5]

Effects on jurors

Multiple studies have found the halo effect operating within juries. Research shows that attractive individuals receive lesser sentences and are not as likely to be found guilty than an unattractive individual. Efran (1974) found that subjects were more generous when giving out sentences to attractive individuals than to unattractive individuals, even when exactly the same crime was committed. One reason why this occurs is because people with a high level of attractiveness are seen as more likely to have a brighter future in society due to the socially desirable traits they are believed to possess.[6]

Monahan (1941) did a study on social workers who are accustomed to interacting with people from all different types of backgrounds. The study found that the majority of these social workers found it very difficult to believe that beautiful looking people are guilty of a crime.[7]

The relation of the crime itself to attractiveness is also subject to the halo effect.[8] A study presented two hypothetical crimes: a burglary and a swindle. The burglary involved a woman illegally obtaining a key and stealing $2,200; the swindle involved a woman manipulating a man to invest $2,000 in a fabricated business. The results showed that when the offense was not related to attractiveness (in this case, the burglary), the unattractive defendant was punished more severely than the attractive one. However, when the offense was related to attractiveness (the swindle), the attractive defendant was punished more severely than the unattractive one. Participants may have believed the attractive person more likely to manipulate someone using their looks.

Halo effect in education

Abikoff found that the halo effect is also present in the classroom. In this study, both regular and special education elementary school teachers watched videotapes of what they believed to be children in regular 4th-grade classrooms. In reality, the children were actors, depicting behaviors present in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), or standard behavior. The teachers were asked to rate the frequency of hyperactive behaviors observed in the children. Teachers rated hyperactive behaviors accurately for children with ADHD; however, the ratings of hyperactivity and other behaviors associated with ADHD were rated much higher for the children with ODD-like behaviors, showing a halo effect for children with oppositional defiant disorder.[9]

Foster and Ysseldyke (1976) also found the halo effect present in teachers’ evaluations of children. Regular and special education elementary school teachers watched videos of a normal child whom they were told was either emotionally disturbed, possessing a learning disorder, mentally retarded, or “normal”. The teachers then completed referral forms based on the child’s behavior. The results showed that teachers held negative expectancies toward emotionally disturbed children, maintaining these expectancies even when presented with normal behavior. In addition, the mentally retarded label showed a greater degree of negative bias than the emotionally disturbed or learning disabled. [10]

Criticisms and limitations

Some researchers allege that the halo effect is not as pervasive as once believed. Kaplan’s 1978 study yielded much of the same results as are seen in other studies focusing on the halo effect—attractive individuals were rated high in qualities such as creativity, intelligence, and sensitivity than unattractive individuals. In addition these results, Kaplan found that women were influenced by the halo effect on attractiveness only when presented with members of the opposite sex. When presented with an attractive member of the same sex, women actually tended to rate the individual lower on socially desirable qualities.[11]

Criticisms have also pointed out that jealously of an attractive individual could be a major factor in evaluation of that person. A study by Dermer and Thiel has shown this to be more prevalent among females then males, with females describing physically attractive women as having socially undesirable traits.[12]

March 11, 2012

Alcoholism and LSD

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 01:46 (danish)

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) for alcoholism meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials


“Assessments of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in the treatment of alcoholism have not been based on quantitative meta-analysis. Hence, we performed a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials in order to evaluate the clinical efficacy of LSD in the treatment of alcoholism. Two reviewers independently extracted the data, pooling the effects using odds ratios (ORs) by a generic inverse variance, random effects model. We identified six eligible trials, including 536 participants. There was evidence for a beneficial effect of LSD on alcohol misuse (OR, 1.96; 95% CI, 1.36–2.84; p = 0.0003). Between-trial heterogeneity for the treatment effects was negligible (I² = 0%). Secondary outcomes, risk of bias and limitations are discussed. A single dose of LSD, in the context of various alcoholism treatment programs, is associated with a decrease in alcohol misuse.“

Ordinary language version: Studies show that LSD works for treating alcoholism on the short term with only taking it once. If u think that sounds interesting, then by all means, read the paper. It is not very technical (e.g. not full of medical jargon) and not long. It has some statistics that i didnt understand but most of it is understandable to people that understand correlations and p-tests.


Of minor importance to this post but much importance to me as a pet peeve. The journalist almost succeeded in linking to the source “Det skriver”. It is very scary that the broad population generally relies on such incompetent writers for their news. Even low quality blogs link to sources (at least some of the time)! The journalists are worse than low-quality bloggers, and they even get paid!

The study

… is pretty cool. It is a good example of good armchair science/meta-science. The authors didnt conduct any new trial. What they did was identify an area where meta-reviews of data was missing, they then found some studies that were useful to do a meta-review on, and then did one. This is the kind of science i wud very much like to do for a living. It fits well with my polymathic ideas of mastering or being very knowledgeable about many areas of science.

As for drug-related research, i hope that this opens up for more interesting research into an area that has been neglected for too long (thanks Nixon, you imbecile!).

January 16, 2012

Siekieatry, again

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 02:27

Dhis is a respons to dhe artikl:

“Kirsch’s conclusion is that antidepressants are just fancy placebos. Obviously, this is not what the individual tests showed. If they had, then none of the drugs tested would have received approval. Drug trials normally test medications against placebos—sugar pills—which are given to a control group. What a successful test typically shows is a small but statistically significant superiority (that is, greater than could be due to chance) of the drug to the placebo. So how can Kirsch claim that the drugs have zero medicinal value?” (mie boelding)

It does not wurk liek dhis. Dher is orlwaes a chans dhat dhe result is due to chans. Dhe signifikans level of such studys, bdw, is typikaly tuu low. A mear p<0.05 (i.e. 1 of 20 studys is bogus) is not enuf and does surtaenly show meen, as dhe rieter klaems, dhat it kud not be due to chans. Given his kredenshals, he shood hav noen beter.

“Depression is a good example of the problem this makes. A fever is not a disease; it’s a symptom of disease, and the disease, not the symptom, is what medicine seeks to cure. Is depression—insomnia, irritability, lack of energy, loss of libido, and so on—like a fever or like a disease? Do patients complain of these symptoms because they have contracted the neurological equivalent of an infection? Or do the accompanying mental states (thoughts that my existence is pointless, nobody loves me, etc.) have real meaning? If people feel depressed because they have a disease in their brains, then there is no reason to pay much attention to their tales of woe, and medication is the most sensible way to cure them. Peter Kramer, in “Against Depression” (2005), describes a patient who, after she recovered from depression, accused him of taking what she had said in therapy too seriously. It was the depression talking, she told him, not her.” (mie boelding)

Too simplified vuew of dhe distinkshon between diseeses and symptoms. Surtaenly, ‘mediseen’ (i.e., doktors and dhe liek) tries to do both: 1) Kuer dhe disees if posible, and (especialy) if not, dhen 2) remoov or redues dhe symptoms. Dhe furst egzampl of doktors trieing to redues symptoms dhat kums to mie miend is dhe ues of paen medikashon. Paen is a symptom most of dhe tiem (if not orlwaes?). In fakt, dhat is wie we feel paen: to alert us dhat sumthing is amis (e.g., ur hand is on dhe stoev). Dher is a raer kondishon wher peepl dont feel paen. Such peepl doent faer wel. Dhis relaets to sumthing he roet erlyer in dhe artikl.

“The conversion of stuff that people used to live with into disorders that physicians can treat is not limited to psychiatry, of course. Once, people had heartburn (“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”) and bought Alka-Seltzer over the counter; now they are given a diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease (“Ask your doctor whether you might be suffering from GERD”) and are written a prescription for Zantac. But people tend to find the medicalization of mood and personality more distressing. It has been claimed, for example, that up to 18.7 per cent of Americans suffer from social-anxiety disorder. In “Shyness” (2007), Christopher Lane, a professor of English at Northwestern, argues that this is a blatant pathologization of a common personality trait for the financial benefit of the psychiatric profession and the pharmaceutical industry. It’s a case of what David Healy, in his invaluable history “The Antidepressant Era” (1997), calls “the pharmacological scalpel”: if a drug (in this case, Paxil) proves to change something in patients (shyness), then that something becomes a disorder to be treated (social anxiety). The discovery of the remedy creates the disease.“

Perhaps we shood think of another kategory of mental staets insted of only symptom and disees. Perhaps “unwanted staet” wil do. Wedher depreshon is a disees or a symptom of sumthing els, it is an undesierabl mental staet to be in.

Other relevant reeding:

December 18, 2011

Rosenhan experiment etc.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 16:51
David Rosenhan – On being sane in insane places – 1973

Reed and weep. Think about it next time u watch one of the many films deeling with this problem, e.g.:

Sykopathy and its related konsepts: another term we shud taboo?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 11:30

Reeding Wikipedia’s entry on the subjekt very much gives me the impresion that this is another term that we shud do away with (taboo). I.e., we shud stop using it and use som other mor useful konsept. Primarily, two such konsepts has been popularized: anti-social personality disorder (aka. ASPD) and dissocial personality disorder.

Other reserchers seem to agree with my asesment. I serched a bit for relevant papers and found three, of wich i kud also get akses to one of them (eeven using my university akses):

John Gunn and Graham Robertson (1976). Psychopathic personality: a conceptual problem. Psychological Medicine, 6 , pp 631-634 doi:10.1017/S0033291700018274. PubMed.


“The concept of psychopathic personality is currently being called into question. Grendon prison has been established for the treatment of psychopaths. A recent study of Grendon prisoners enabled an examination of some characteristics commonly attributed to psychopaths to be carried out. It proved difficult to obtain good agreement in rating such phenomena as “conscientiousness”, “sexual deviation”, “impulsiveness”. Of ten reliable variables including “personal relationships”, “lying”, “alcohol problem”, only five bore a significant relationship one to another. It was concluded that whilst the term “psychopathic disorder” may be appropriate for a small handful of individuals the term is probably now used too widely and too loosely.”

Blackburn, R. (1988). “On moral judgements and personality disorders. The myth of psychopathic personality revisited.”. The British Journal of Psychiatry 153 (4): 505-12. doi:10.1192. PubMed.

Quote from the konklusion:

“It must be concluded that the current concept of psychopathic or antisocial personality remains ‘a mythical entity’. The taxonomic error of confounding different universes of discourse has resulted in a diagnostic category that embraces a variety of deviant personalities. Such a category is not a meaningful focus for theory and research, nor can it facilitate clinical communication and prediction. Indeed, a disorder defmed by past history of socially deviant behaviour is permanently fixed, and cannot provide a point of reference for clinical intervention. Such a concept is little more than a moral judgement masquerading as a clinical diagnosis.

Given the lack of demonstrable scientific or clinical utility of the concept, it should be discarded. This is not to arguethat sociallydeviant behaviouris unrelated to personality characteristics, but the nature of such a relationship is a question for theory and research. To define a disorder of personality in terms of socially deviant behaviour is to prejudge the issue. Our understanding of how the attributes of the person contribute to socially deviant or other problematic behaviour willonly progress when we have an adequate system for describing the universe of personality deviation. Focus on an ill-conceived category of psychopathic personality has merely served to distract attention from the development of such a system.”

Ogloff, JR. (2006), “Psychopathy/antisocial personality disorder conundrum.”. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Jun-Jul;40(6-7):519-28. PubMed.


“Psychopathy has traditionally been characterised as a disorder primarily of personality (particularly affective deficits) and, to a lesser extent, behaviour. Although often used interchangeably, the diagnostic constructs of psychopathy, antisocial personality disorder, and dissocial personality disorder are distinct. In this article, the relevant historical and contemporary literature concerning psychopathy is briefly reviewed. The diagnostic criteria for psychopathy, antisocial personality disorder, and dissocial personality disorder are compared. Consideration is given to the assessment, prevalence, and implications of psychopathy for violence risk and treatment efficacy. The DSM-IV-TR criteria for antisocial personality disorder, in particular, are largely behaviourally based. The ICD criteria for dissocial personality disorder, while paying more attention to affective deficits, also do not represent the broad personality and behavioural components of psychopathy. Since 1980, a great deal of research on these disorders has been conducted, using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, Revised (PCL-R). The PCL-R assesses both personality (interpersonal and affective) and behavioural (lifestyle and antisocial) deficits. As such, the research and clinical implications of psychopathy, as operationalised by the PCL-R, cannot be readily extrapolated to the diagnoses of antisocial personality disorder and dissocial personality disorder. As currently construed, the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder grossly over-identifies people, particularly those with offence histories, as meeting the criteria for the diagnosis. For example, research shows that between 50% and 80% of prisoners meet the criteria for a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, yet only approximately 15% of prisoners would be expected to be psychopathic, as assessed by the PCL-R. As such, the characteristics and research findings drawn from the psychopathy research may not be relevant for those with antisocial or dissocial personality disorder. “

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