July 12, 2012

In defense of the social sciences

In the Los Angeles Times, Timothy D. Wilson, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and the author of "Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change", defends the the social sciences: 

"Are the social sciences perfect? Of course not. Human behavior is complex, and it is not possible to conduct experiments to test all aspects of what people do or why. There are entire disciplines devoted to the experimental study of human behavior, however, in tightly controlled, ethically acceptable ways. Many people benefit from the results, including those who, in their ignorance, believe that science is limited to the study of molecules."

Read the article here


  1. Thanks for posting this.

    These are tough times for social psychology.

    Recently, frauds and questionable research practices have been uncovered in social psychology.
    Even worse, it turns out that most psychological finding are barely statistical significant.
    See here: http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2012/08/phew-made-it-how-uncanny-proportion-of.html

    And finally, there is this: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2002636 with many social psychologists admitting they would devalue a paper if it espouses a "conservative perspective" (see here for an interesting table: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/08/08/survey-finds-social-psychologists-admit-anti-conservative-bias).

    Don't get me wrong: i love psychology and I am all for it, as you well know.
    I try to use the latest research findings in my work, and I cannot see anything else which can be a foundation for what we do.
    But it is time to clean house. so we can have stronger foundation.


  2. Hi Paolo,
    Thanks. I agree that certain things need iimprovement (see my post 'Improving Science' http://solutionfocusedchange.blogspot.nl/2011/06/improving-science.html).

    I think we should always apply a continous improvement approach to science. The ideas behyind science are great; scientific practice will always need improvement.


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