Does the scientific method apply to psychology?

imprisoned-2066638_640We’ve blogged about the problem in the field of psychology that so many of their research experiments can’t be replicated.  That means that, according to the scientific method, they are invalid.

The problem continues, and it’s compounded by the fact that the profession doesn’t seem to care!

The proliferation of peer-reviewed articles whose results can’t be repeated keeps building.  Despite these findings, nothing is changing in the way psychologists do their research, the way journals vet their articles, or in the articles that get published.

An article on the subject, quoted and linked after the jump, says that as many as two-thirds of psychology articles “can’t be trusted.”

But let me pose a different way to look at this problem.  Can it be that the same scientific method used for chemistry and biology is unusable in the study of the minds of human beings?  People are active agents, not inanimate objects that follow only natural laws.  So it’s no wonder human beings are unpredictable and inconsistent.  And different subjects and groups react in different ways.

After I quote the article, I quote a commenter, who points out that there may be other ways to design, evaluate, and learn from various kinds of research, in addition to strict application of “the scientific method.”

In fact, the view that the scientific method is the only way to know truth–not logical reasoning (as in philosophy) and certainly not revelation (as in theology)–is surely one of the more reductionist errors of the Enlightenment.

I have no problem jettisoning 2/3 of the published research in experimental psychology–though it would help to know which 2/3–and the lack of response of the professionals in the field is inexcusable.  But maybe what all of this proves, with an abundance of replication, is the protean quality of the human psyche. And that would be an important scientific finding.  It would even be empirical and replicable. [Read more…]

Bibliotherapy

Did you know that there is such a thing as bibliotherapy, in which counselors will prescribe a course of books to read as a way of working through emotional or mental problems? [Read more…]

Psychology experiments often can’t be replicated

There is currently what is being described as a “crisis” in the field of social/personality psychology.  It turns out, many psychological experiments, however heralded in the media and whose findings are made a big deal of, cannot be replicated by other researchers.  Is that due to fraud?  Statistical quirks? Or does it mean that psychology is not a science after all? [Read more…]

What Christians know about each other

Justin Taylor posts a startling quotation from Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Life Together, about what a Christian “who lives beneath the cross of Jesus” knows about sin, himself, and other sinners.   And how this knowledge of the human heart, as revealed by the Cross, goes deeper than that of any psychologist. [Read more…]

“Everything in our hearts and minds should be fixed”

As you have probably heard, Rick Warren’s 27-year-old son committed suicide.  That’s about the saddest thing I can imagine, both that someone would take his own life and that those who love him would have to go through that sorrow.  I pray for the Warrens and for others who have gone through this.  But that’s not what I want to post about.

The Washington Post published a follow-up story on Christians’ reactions to the suicide, focusing on the stigma often attached in evangelical circles to seeking psychological help.  Various church leaders are quoted, saying as how Christians in mental distress should, in fact, seek professional help and that churches should support them in that.  But that’s not what I want to post about either.

I was struck by this quotation:

“Part of our belief system is that God ­changes everything, and that because Christ lives in us, everything in our hearts and minds should be fixed,” said Ed Stetzer, a prominent pastor and writer who advises evangelical ­churches. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes need medical help and community help to do those things.”

via Suicide of star pastor Rick Warren’s son sparks debate about mental illness – The Washington Post.

Is that true, that “everything in our hearts and minds should be fixed”?  That we should expect either Christ or doctors or some combination of the two to “fix” every aspect of our lives that is out of whack?   Not just our moral failings but “everything in our hearts and minds”?

 

From risk-taking to risk-averse

Economics columnist Robert J. Samuelson says that the reason economic recovery is so slow in coming and the unemployment rate so high is a shift in the national psychology:

We have gone from being an expansive, risk-taking society to a skittish, risk-averse one. [Read more…]