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

Friday, November 30, 2012

Psychchology Awards, November 2012

Previously I mentioned my long-unfulfilled plan to give monthly awards to papers that struck me as odd in top journals. CM made a great comment asking for clarification about my choices, and I tried to explain. I'm gonna give a shot at it for this month's journals in the last day of the month, with the hope to clarify the game, and encourage others to join in. Feel free to suggest other awards, and share things from other venues.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mind-Body Dualism is Bad for your Health!

Hey, you know all that pop-psych BS coming out of positive psychology and similar movements? Things like: "Try forgiveness, your cholesterol level will thank you!"*

Thanks to the good people at Psychological Science, I finally found a result I can support! October's issue brought us: "The mind is willing, but the flesh is week": The effects of mind-body dualism on health behavior by Forstmann, Burgmer, & Mussweiler from the University of Cologne. This clever little study found out that being a mind-body dualist is actually bad for your health. This is great! No more bothering with logical arguments or historic discussions, no more focus on incoherence, no more two part posts. You should all stop being dualist because it will make you gain weight and die young. Problem solved. And this isn't a all a joke, their methods were pretty clever, and the results pretty clear. The researchers start with a simple hypothesis:
Specifically, we hypothesized that the more people perceive their minds and bodies to be distinct entities, the less they engage in behaviors that protect their bodies.
In testing this hypothesis, they present six studies, with a few hundred participants between them. It all went something like this:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Psychological Science isn't all bad

When I first started this blog, one of my ideas was to digitize my "most absurd article" and "most incoherent title" awards for articles in Psychological Science. This was a game I played with office mates back in grad school. For example, I just jumped back to May 2003 and found: 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tautology Part 1: Cognitive psychology and going to hell

One of the many problems with cognitive psychology, as practiced, is the frequent use of tautological explanations - a 'tautology' occurs when a thing is used to explain itself, and it is often called a 'circular definition'. The problem was mentioned in the comments section on this other blog, and Mike Samsa said:

For example, positing that the impulsivity in ADHD is caused by an impaired executive function - this doesn't really tell us anything useful when we define the executive function as something which governs self-control and the ability to resist impulsive urges.

This is a great example! In class, however, I have a really hard time getting my students to understand the problem. Alas, no matter how many examples I provide from psychology, about half the class still thinks the tautological claims seem reasonable. However, I have come up with an example that seems to work for all the students. I live in a somewhat religious area, but I suspect this would work just about anywhere.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Templeton's brilliant application process

Alright, my final post about Templeton. Let's put aside discussion of what they fund, and focus on the application process itself. I don't know how much of this will be novel for my foreign readers, but Templeton's system is much, much better than any US Federal agency I have applied to, and better than the small number of other foundations I have applied to. Admittedly, it is better in ways that I found annoying in the moment, but only because I wasn't used to them. When I was finished, I felt confident that I had been asked to provide the information that mattered, in a format that made it easy for them to evaluate. How did this work? Well...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pinker should worry about things that exist! (Election Day Special)

In anticipation of today's election (with polls to open in 6 hours or so), I thought I would use this opportunity to complain about Stephen Pinker. Pinker wrote a recent editorial in the New York times that has been making the rounds. In it, he speculates about the causes for the "red state" vs. "blue state" segregation in our country - a familiar "T" shaped pattern in which the central and northern parts of the country vote solid conservative and the coasts vote liberal. The article is actually interesting... but it has one big problem.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Eco and Embodied Special Session

Continuing to try to organize interested people:
Next year ICPA will be in Lisbon and APA will be in Hawaii.

At ICPA I would love to try to work with people to put some special sessions together. I have heard some interest in putting together a session on ecological psychology and social psychology. Andrew and Sabrina (over at Two Scientific Psychologists) " have been making a compelling argument that ecological psychologists should "pull together" to attack a particular problem or set of problems, and a workshop/discussion on that might be very useful. I also think there would also be interest in a session on "allied approaches" (e.g., embodied cognition, enactivism, PCT). As many of the latter seem to have a stronger showing in Europe than in the US, Lisbon might be a particularly good opportunity.

At APA, the possibility of a massive number of official talks is slim. However, there is the possibility of doing some really innovative stuff in the Division Suit - on the scale of having in reserved for several hours each day for talks and discussion on embodiment issues, etc. This would effectively create a mini-conference. It could also be combined with some sort of formal session towards the end of the conference. Having just been teaching my class about Titchener's experimentalists and the Psychology Roundtable (both of which featured James Gibson, by the way), it would be really cool if people were interested in this.

If any of those possibilities sound interesting to you, reply below.