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When will psychology finally be recognized as a pseudoscience?
#71
RE: When will psychology finally be recognized as a pseudoscience?
(May 14, 2021 at 10:09 am)John 6IX Breezy Wrote:
(May 14, 2021 at 8:17 am)polymath257 Wrote: "Tade-offs in Choice' and 'The Cultural Foundation of Human Memory', and 'The Origins and Psychology of Human Cooperation' are the most likely candidates based on the abstracts. The one you mention seems to be the least alchemic.

My next question would be, what about them seemed pseudoscientific to you? And I suppose we could narrow down on the one Nudger linked to if you want to be specific.

I don't think he's going to answer this. The studies may or may not be good ones, but based just on the abstracts there's no reason to call them pseudoscientific. They aren't going to be as quantifiable and as cut-and-dried as some areas of science, but that doesn't mean they're pseudo. 

The analogy to alchemy is too simple, and breaks down pretty much immediately. Alchemy is used here just as a symbol for the thing that came before the thing we like. It was supposedly based on bad methods, while the thing we like is based on good methods. That's a caricature. 

I don't think we can make any judgement about the papers in that journal until we see the methodologies used. That's what determines whether they're sufficiently scientific or not. Not the abstract or the fact that they seem to be dealing with unquantifiable topics. 

And insulting the one about the cultural foundations of human memory is particularly narrow-minded. We all know that memory is extremely unreliable, edited and constructed over time. We can remember things that never happened or forget things that did. And all of this is -- to a large degree -- influenced by what our culture teaches us. So that is a fascinating and probably important field of research. I'm sure the paper doesn't settle anything big about the issue once and for all, but very few scientific papers do that in any field. Perhaps certain purists will insist that until researchers can explain memory completely through chemistry and physics no research about it will be valuable, but I think that's a category error, as well as incurious.
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#72
RE: When will psychology finally be recognized as a pseudoscience?
(May 16, 2021 at 5:19 am)Belacqua Wrote: I don't think we can make any judgement about the papers in that journal until we see the methodologies used. That's what determines whether they're sufficiently scientific or not. Not the abstract or the fact that they seem to be dealing with unquantifiable topics. 

And insulting the one about the cultural foundations of human memory is particularly narrow-minded. We all know that memory is extremely unreliable, edited and constructed over time. We can remember things that never happened or forget things that did. And all of this is -- to a large degree -- influenced by what our culture teaches us. So that is a fascinating and probably important field of research.


Yes; and for context here is the first paragraph of the conclusion of that paper, and the link to the full paper: The Cultural Foundations of Human Memory

"Culture pervades human memory. It supplies the content and context of memory and the meaning and purpose of remembering. Rather than merely being a neurocognitive faculty within the individual, human memory functions as an open system thoroughly immersed in cultural contexts, in which cultural elements constitute and condition mnemonic processes and constructs in producing our experiences of remembering."

One point of clarification is that these are review articles not research articles. Their function is to summarize the current state of understanding for a given topic. But they do so by presenting all the relevant research and placing them within an overarching theoretical framework. Think of them as chapters in a textbook. Here is the link to one of the studies they presented in the review: Attending Holistically v. Analytically: Comparing the context sensitivity of Japanese and Americans

One would need to look at these individual studies to find a methods section. There's more I could say but I'll give you the opportunity to skim through the links first.
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#73
RE: When will psychology finally be recognized as a pseudoscience?
(May 14, 2021 at 10:09 am)John 6IX Breezy Wrote:
(May 14, 2021 at 8:17 am)polymath257 Wrote: "Tade-offs in Choice' and 'The Cultural Foundation of Human Memory', and 'The Origins and Psychology of Human Cooperation' are the most likely candidates based on the abstracts. The one you mention seems to be the least alchemic.

My next question would be, what about them seemed pseudoscientific to you? And I suppose we could narrow down on the one Nudger linked to if you want to be specific.

Not so much pseudoscientific, but pre-scientific. There is an important data collecting aspect and the beginnings of theorizing, but it seems like there is little actual testing and rejection of hypotheses based on those tests.

(May 16, 2021 at 5:19 am)Belacqua Wrote:
(May 14, 2021 at 10:09 am)John 6IX Breezy Wrote: My next question would be, what about them seemed pseudoscientific to you? And I suppose we could narrow down on the one Nudger linked to if you want to be specific.

I don't think he's going to answer this. The studies may or may not be good ones, but based just on the abstracts there's no reason to call them pseudoscientific. They aren't going to be as quantifiable and as cut-and-dried as some areas of science, but that doesn't mean they're pseudo. 

The analogy to alchemy is too simple, and breaks down pretty much immediately. Alchemy is used here just as a symbol for the thing that came before the thing we like. It was supposedly based on bad methods, while the thing we like is based on good methods. That's a caricature. 

I don't think we can make any judgement about the papers in that journal until we see the methodologies used. That's what determines whether they're sufficiently scientific or not. Not the abstract or the fact that they seem to be dealing with unquantifiable topics. 

And insulting the one about the cultural foundations of human memory is particularly narrow-minded. We all know that memory is extremely unreliable, edited and constructed over time. We can remember things that never happened or forget things that did. And all of this is -- to a large degree -- influenced by what our culture teaches us. So that is a fascinating and probably important field of research. I'm sure the paper doesn't settle anything big about the issue once and for all, but very few scientific papers do that in any field. Perhaps certain purists will insist that until researchers can explain memory completely through chemistry and physics no research about it will be valuable, but I think that's a category error, as well as incurious.

The stage of alchemy was when a LOT of basic methods were developed and new instruments were formed. A tremendous amount of data was collected and even a fair amount of theorizing. But it was ultimately not scientific because it didn't rely on the testing of its hypotheses and using those tests to modify theories as needed.

it isn't just the religious mumbo jumbo that made alchemy pre-scientific.

In regard to the paper on cultural differences in memory, what actual methods were used? What data was collected to test which hypotheses? I can see the *topic* being very interesting, although close to impossible to collect the relevant data. it would also take a team of hopefully multilingual researchers collecting and tabulating the data across several different cultures to a precision that I doubt anyone can yet do in any single culture as yet. Given the scale of the described article, it is NOWHERE close to being able to even start to address the relevant issues *unless* it is picking up from another large scale study that covers that material.

Sort of like trying to do chemistry prior to having good methods for dealing with purity and measurements.
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#74
RE: When will psychology finally be recognized as a pseudoscience?
(May 16, 2021 at 8:31 pm)polymath257 Wrote: In regard to the paper on cultural differences in memory, what actual methods were used? What data was collected to test which hypotheses? 

It would be good to know the answers to these questions before passing judgment.
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#75
RE: When will psychology finally be recognized as a pseudoscience?
(May 16, 2021 at 8:31 pm)polymath257 Wrote: In regard to the paper on cultural differences in memory, what actual methods were used? What data was collected to test which hypotheses? I can see the *topic* being very interesting, although close to impossible to collect the relevant data.

I linked to the full paper above. And including one of the studies referenced in the article: "Attending holistically versus analytically."

Quote:It would also take a team of hopefully multilingual researchers collecting and tabulating the data across several different cultures to a precision that I doubt anyone can yet do in any single culture as yet.

Right, that's what psychologists are trained in. For example, in the "attending holistically vs analytically" study there were two researchers: Takahiko Masuda (Japanese) and Richard Nisbett (American). And their study contrasted recognition in American and Japanese participants.

Quote:Given the scale of the described article, it is NOWHERE close to being able to even start to address the relevant issues *unless* it is picking up from another large scale study that covers that material.

Yes, review articles are building on many other studies, such as the "attending holistically vs analytically" paper.

However, to be clear, a study only has to be as large as it needs to be so that it is adequately powered. Power refers to the probability that a study will give statistically significant results. And things like sample size, effect size, and significance level affect the power of a study. I say that because you seem to imply that only studies with the largest of scales will suffice, but psychologists already have ways of calculating how large the study needs to be.
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#76
RE: When will psychology finally be recognized as a pseudoscience?
(May 16, 2021 at 7:31 pm)John 6IX Breezy Wrote: One point of clarification is that these are review articles not research articles. 

Yes, that's important, I think. Each of the individual research papers will be at best a tiny tile in a mosaic, and this kind of review is necessary. Building the big picture from the largest possible set of results.

Quote:Here is the link to one of the studies they presented in the review: Attending Holistically v. Analytically: Comparing the context sensitivity of Japanese and Americans

This was very interesting to me, largely because I'm an American who's lived in Japan most of my life and often discuss cultural differences with people. 

There were two concerns that came to mind when I saw the abstract of the paper: 

1) It is an extremely strong cultural cliche -- a received idea -- that Americans are individualists and Japanese are group-oriented. My experience has been that this is true in some ways and not in others. In some situations the pressure to conform is stronger in America than it is here. So I read carefully to see if the researchers had built this assumption into the methodology. 

As far as I can tell, they didn't assume this conclusion. They expected it, but they also designed that test in such a way that if the Japanese subjects had responded in an object-oriented way (rather than a context-oriented way) as much as the Americans did, that would have shown up in the results. Then they might have had to say "we were surprised to find...." So they avoided begging the question. 

2) As always, the number of test subjects is small, and they are all university students. So that's a limitation. Kyoto University is extremely difficult to get into, and the psych department is pretty famous -- which means that the subjects in the study are pre-selected to have a high level of ambition and a certain kind of testable intelligence. Ideally, you'd give the same test to cohorts of Japanese rock musicians, road workers, and criminals and see if the results were similar. But in part this is taken care of by comparing the results with American college students, who will be more or less of the same type. I don't know how U. of Mich. compares with Kyoto academically. 

So I think it's an interesting study that will add one tile to that big mosaic. If we keep in mind that it's a very large and always-shifting mosaic, we won't conclude too much from just the one study. But I don't think anybody is expecting some kind of enormous proof. With the results of the study in mind, though, it can have some bearing on our interpretations when we encounter Japanese things. For example, if you think about The Tale of Genji, events are always embedded in such a wealth of aesthetic and atmospheric detail that we could take it as nicely consistent with the study's research results. Not that this is proof of anything, but it enriches our interpretation.

(Anecdotally, I can say that my experience also supports the study. When my wife -- who is Japanese -- comes home and tells me about something that happened that day, her narration will include so much context and so many long dependent clauses, colorful asides, and digressions, that I may not be able to pick out what the main event was.)
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#77
RE: When will psychology finally be recognized as a pseudoscience?
(May 16, 2021 at 10:56 pm)Belacqua Wrote: 1) It is an extremely strong cultural cliche -- a received idea -- that Americans are individualists and Japanese are group-oriented. My experience has been that this is true in some ways and not in others. In some situations the pressure to conform is stronger in America than it is here. So I read carefully to see if the researchers had built this assumption into the methodology. 

I recently began reading a book about "tight" and "loose" cultures (groups that have strong or weak norms). I wonder if this framework helps make sense of your observations. For example, the book shows that states within the U.S differ in their tightness. Tightness also differs by location: libraries are tight, but parks are loose. And activities: funerals might be tight and weddings might be loose. So perhaps the situations you have in mind are differing on this front.

Quote:2) As always, the number of test subjects is small, and they are all university students. So that's a limitation.

Yes, there's a few things I could mention here. First, you're right about the group demographics. There's an acronym in psychology called WEIRD, which stands for western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic. It sums up the kinds of undergraduates that are often used in studies. It wouldn't invalidate the study necessarily, but it does affect its generalizability. And secondly, the sample size is probably fine. They used around 40 participants on average. There is this unofficial (and often critiqued) rule that a sample size of 30 is the magic number. The number is obviously inaccurate, and there's ways of calculating the right number (which I assume the researchers did). But 30 is a good anchor to know because people tend to overestimate the number of participants thats needed.

That said, I do want to add something important—this is what we do in my graduate classes. Every week we are assigned one or two research papers, and we spend about three hours discussing and critiquing them in class. We talk about what the study did wrong or right, or could have done better (including all the critiques you mentioned). Science is a conversation, and in my classes we are learning to have that conversation. But its clear to me that being scientific and being right are not synonymous. Everyone is still "doing science" even when improvements could be made.
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#78
RE: When will psychology finally be recognized as a pseudoscience?
(May 17, 2021 at 12:12 am)John 6IX Breezy Wrote: I recently began reading a book about "tight" and "loose" cultures (groups that have strong or weak norms). I wonder if this framework helps make sense of your observations. For example, the book shows that states within the U.S differ in their tightness. Tightness also differs by location: libraries are tight, but parks are loose. And activities: funerals might be tight and weddings might be loose. So perhaps the situations you have in mind are differing on this front.

This looks good! Just reading the summaries, I think the concept is more useful in some ways than the group-oriented vs. individual-oriented thing I was talking about. 

What I was thinking about in Japan was that in certain kinds of prescribed areas, eccentricity or individuality is accepted very easily. Maybe we can say it's a tight society, with pockets of looseness. The overall tightness means that how people respond to oddballs is also restricted, which makes them more secure. 

So for example the gay subculture in Tokyo was tolerated and safe for a long time, more than in the US. I've read memoirs from gay Americans and Europeans who came to Japan with the post-war occupation, and decided to stay when they discovered that as long as they stayed within certain well-known boundaries, they were freer than back home. Like you wouldn't come out to your boss at Mitsubishi, but you also wouldn't have any fear of getting beaten up or arrested on the street where the gay bars are. 

In my city bullying is a problem in junior high schools, but there's also a middle-aged man who wears miniskirts all over town, whom I see at my supermarket once in a while. He smiles and enjoys the stares, and nobody gives him any trouble. So the boundaries about conformism seem clear. 

I also think that in America much of the image of freedom and individuality is play-acting. Like the old joke about how everybody in the world wears blue jeans to show that they're nonconformist. A large set of the rugged individualists use the same set of social symbols (motorcycle, pickup truck, gun collection, goatee) to show that they are individualists. It is a tight culture with strict rules as to how you pretend it's loose. Individualists who individualized outside the dress code would be in danger in a lot of the country. (Maybe not Brooklyn.)

I should read that book.

Quote:Yes, there's a few things I could mention here. First, you're right about the group demographics. There's an acronym in psychology called WEIRD, which stands for westerneducatedindustrializedrich and democratic. It sums up the kinds of undergraduates that are often used in studies. It wouldn't invalidate the study necessarily, but it does affect its generalizability. And secondly, the sample size is probably fine. They used around 40 participants on average. There is this unofficial (and often critiqued) rule that a sample size of 30 is the magic number. The number is obviously inaccurate, and there's ways of calculating the right number (which I assume the researchers did). But 30 is a good anchor to know because people tend to overestimate the number of participants thats needed.

I didn't know this. This is good to learn. 

I had assumed that more always meant better, but maybe not. 

And the WEIRD idea makes sense. Of course Freud was criticized in this way, too. The things he took to be universal rules, other people say, may only have applied to well-off Viennese ladies in 1910 Vienna. But as long as the methodology makes clear who the subjects were and, as you say, one is careful about generalizing, it doesn't invalidate results. 

Quote:That said, I do want to add something important—this is what we do in my graduate classes. Every week we are assigned one or two research papers, and we spend about three hours discussing and critiquing them in class. We talk about what the study did wrong or right, or could have done better (including all the critiques you mentioned). Science is a conversation, and in my classes we are learning to have that conversation. But its clear to me that being scientific and being right are not synonymous. Everyone is still "doing science" even when improvements could be made.

This absolutely sounds like real science to me, with all the care and attention necessary. The critique class sounds very valuable. 

I suppose that "science" gets idealized a lot, to the point where people might imagine it's all like the purest clockmaking. I'm glad that the people doing the science are wiser about that. 

Are you involved in any research of this type? Probably you don't want to be too specific in public here, but I'm curious if this is part of your grad school so far.
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#79
RE: When will psychology finally be recognized as a pseudoscience?
(May 17, 2021 at 6:33 am)Belacqua Wrote: What I was thinking about in Japan was that in certain kinds of prescribed areas, eccentricity or individuality is accepted very easily. Maybe we can say it's a tight society, with pockets of looseness. The overall tightness means that how people respond to oddballs is also restricted, which makes them more secure. 

Yes, that's exactly right. I remember reading something about that in the book. Here's an excerpt:

"For example, even tight nations have select domains where anything goes—where citizens can let off normative steam. The looseness of these contexts tends to be carefully designated. Take Takeshita Street in Tokyo. Within the confines of this narrow pedestrian shopping street, Japan’s cultural demands for uniformity and order are completely suspended. On Takeshita Street, people stroll and preen in zany costumes, ranging from anime characters to sexy maids to punk musicians."

Quote:I had assumed that more always meant better, but maybe not. 

More is definitely better, but it isn't always significantly better. It might be analogous to increasing the resolution of an image; you get more clarity with more data but there isn't a sudden overhaul of information. Here's an excerpt form one of my textbooks:

"If you take a look at some studies on perception and memory, you will see that they include sample sizes of between 20 and 50 subjects per condition. However, if you are only collecting one measurement per subject or are asking subjects to complete surveys and questionnaires, you may need to include a larger sample. Many such studies include sample sizes in the hundreds. If you are sampling from a small population (e.g., autistic children), you may need to use a small sample of only 10 to 20 subjects due to lack of availability of individuals in this population and the difficulty you may have in recruiting such subjects."

Quote:Are you involved in any research of this type? Probably you don't want to be too specific in public here, but I'm curious if this is part of your grad school so far.

I'm not currently involved in research, but many people are, and I hope to be next year. So far my courses involve seminar discussions a final research proposal at the end of the course, in which you have to design or propose your own research/theory paper.
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