Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Psychology - A True a Psuedo Science

Disclaimer. I have paid for therapists at various times in my life. I have learned from them, and gained advantage from going to therapy sessions. I have a degree in psych from UCLA, and have studied it continuously for 35 years since graduation. Having said that, the science is mostly bunk. Check out this article about the Block Study that just goes to prove it. It is hard to incapsulate this story, so bear with me.

The Blocks have been paid a handsome sum each year for the last 25 to study 100 individuals starting at age three. A scientist dream assignment to be sure. The Block Study is described as one of the most highly regarded longitudinal studies in the field of psychology. Up until here, we are ok with the concept.

What goes wrong is that an element of the study will turn out to be contra indicated. For instance, there is general agreement that divorce is hard on kids and can result in emotionally disabling behavior. Many studies have shown this. Common sense and most common folks observation would confirm it. However,

"But our study showed that up to eight years before the divorce, boys in these families were antagonistic, difficult, and impulsive."

Suddenly, researchers had reason to consider the impact of raising a difficult child on divorce rates. "Raising a difficult child puts pressure on parents and may itself contribute to divorce," says Gjerde. "So it may not be divorce alone as much as the circumstances prior to divorce that affected these boys."

What happens next is that this study of 100 kids, half of which (we assume) were boys, and only half of those were from broken families (we would guess), and all of whom were not agressive 8 years before... So now we are talking 12 kids? less? ...
will create a headline: Kids cause divorce says study.

You think I'm kidding. The headline that led me to this study was from the Toronto Star (HT Hugh Hewitt)

How to spot a baby conservative
KID POLITICS | Whiny children, claims a new study, tend to grow up rigid and traditional. Future liberals, on the other hand ...The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests.

Now, again we have 100 kids. We will assume 30 end up conservative and 30 liberal with 40 in the middle. Now I haven't seen the raw data, but I would be shocked if all thirty conservatives were whiney and all 30 liberals were outgoing. Therefore, we are very likely creating a lead article about how 20 kids or so ended up in one study of 100. YIKES! In addition. Does this square with anyones' common sense impression? In fact, if anything, I would have thought the opposite. What about you?

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