A blog about problems in the field of psychology and attempts to fix them.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holiday Special 2 - More Scandals

I have gotten a few emails noting new information about some older scandals. Nikita Kharlamov sent a really great analysis of the infamous Tuskegee experiments, and Rossella Traversa reminded me about what Ian Nicholson's has been digging out of the recently opened Milgram archives. Here is the quick background, and the highlights of the new information....

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Special - A Year of Scandals in Psychology

Feeling a bit of the holiday spirit, I wanted to reflect a bit about the three public scandals in scientific psychology this year, and on some of the responses to the scandals. The first was a carry over from last year, accusations of fraud that culminated in Marc Hauser's resignation from Harvard. The second was the high profile publication of Daryl Bem's article arguing for "Psi" (i.e. psychic) Phenomenon. The third was the exposure of Diederik Stapel's serial data forgery. Each of these cases has its nuances, and individual morals, but I think there is an overarching moral we might all meditate on as the new year begins.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"But what about the brain?"

I received an email inquiry a few days ago from Eric Haaland, who has studied with John Shook. We met during the neuropragmatism conference in DC last summer, and he is hoping to be a kinesiology grad student next semester with Tom Stoffregen at the University of Minnesota. He gave me permission to post his email, lightly edited, to the blog along with a reply. He said....


I have been reading as much Holt and Skinner as I can find recently as well, and I knew that you were one I could get useful information from.  I know that they both insisted that the [mind] is not 'internal' to the organism, that there is no 'internal' - there is only organism as a process over time.  But I'm failing to put their interpretations of education into descriptive terms.  As animals, we are obviously learning beings, beings that have an innate understanding of our sensorimotor repertoire and how to manipulate the world around us to achieve goals (i.e. affordance perception); but this still seems to fall into the neural network, brain-activation paradigm, which I don't think is the case.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Beyond the Brain: Anti-Anthropomorphism

As luck would have it, my semester is wrapping up, and my philosophy colleague just returned my copy of  Beyond the Brain. He agreed it was excellent and has ordered his own copy. I have two or three more topics I wanted to write about in my extended review of Louise Barrett's excellent book. The first two chapters of the book deal with the problem of anthropomorphizing the behavior of animals, and the topic reappears several times in the later chapters. Barrett is convincing that anthropomorphism causes serious trouble when we try to explain behavior (even human behavior) and she advocates a system in which anthropomorphic terms are acceptable when they refer to evolutionary processes rather than immediate happenings. This is all good, but I think psychology can push further, and use mental terms in a way that refers to immediate happenings, while still avoiding the pitfalls of naive anthropomorphism.