Science writer Ed Yong has just posted the audio of a fantastic talk on problems in psychology research and how to fix them.
The talk was delivered at Bristol University but is remarkably direct and he pulls no punches in pointing out psychology’s scientific flaws.
Interestingly, Yong makes the point that this is not a problem of psychology specifically, because many of the problems – like publication bias and selective reporting – appear across the scientific board, but that psychology is a hot topic because the field is trying to do something about it.
Yong has been doing some fantastic work not only highlighting these difficulties but getting a public debate going about solutions to these problems of research culture.
His talk is an excellent round-up of his own work and the state of play in the fight to change science culture.
Link to post with audio of Ed Yong’s talk.
2 thoughts on “Human error in psychology research: a rough guide”
Of course, the real issue here is that Psychology is not actually a “science” at all. At best it is a sort of primitive form of Philosophy (or perhaps theology); at worse it is a sort of politicized, quasi-religious myth-making masquerading as actual, empirical Science– a conflation which has been the root of much woe in the modern world. In either case, it is a glaring example of both Scientism and pseudo-science.
It is absurd to imagine that the sort of things issues it deals with can be handled by science at all. To imagine otherwise is to not understand what actual science is about.
The fundamental human aspects and values it wishes to describe and “measure” ere not physical at all–they are fundamentally mental, moral and spiritual. They are best approached though philosophy (ethics and metaphysics), religion and, grasped tangentially and obscurely, the arts.
It is one thing to accurately predict the boiling point of water; it is quite another thing to put form certain beliefs, actions or world views as nominative absolutes. Science is valuable precisely because it limits its metaphysical aims. It does not attmpt to describe the meaning of water boiling in the human realm.
Psychologists are not possessed of this sort of humility (or, evidently, common sense, or breadth of education or culture)
The problem with “Physiological Research” is that it is not really research in any scientific sense at all–it should not be taken seriously at all in its current form. It is more like the sort of “research” a novelist of a screen-play author might make, which is to say it is mostly about shoring up fiction with some superficial reference to the external world and Man’s movement through it..
Where psychology interacts with neuroimaging there is a real cost to the problems Yong highlights. It’s quite easy to spend tens of thousands (of a currency of your choice) in a few weeks, then find a fundamental flaw in the experiment. That’s not true of many other scientific endeavors. Thus, in neuroimaging/psych, at least, it is incumbent upon us to fix the problems or we should expect funding agencies to start whittling down our budgets. We all have a horse in this race, like it or not.