On the Crisis of Reproducibility in Psychology

As we might expect, most results in psychology are not reproducible. As the authors who obtained these results say, ‘reproducibility is a defining feature of science’. From this, we could conclude, as have many in the field, that the answer is more experiments, tweaked statistics, metholodogical tinkering and the like. Or, we could make a point that is not so much epistemically radical as it is blatantly obvious, and that is that psychology is not a science at all. It does not resemble science except in the most superficial of respects. It isn’t just the failure of replication documented here, but the complete impossibility of findings in psychology ever being abstracted into formulae for precise prediction. Continue reading

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Longer Chains and Bigger Cages

A reply to Peter Kinderman:

 

For me, a psychologist is bound to run into problems if s/he wishes to jump paradigms without proper consideration of epistemology, or if s/he wishes to consider the ethics of forensic intervention whilst completely ignoring Foucault (among others). This article exemplifies such an approach. Continue reading

Biomarkers and Dualism (after Nietzsche)

To criticise the dominant, bioreductionist paradigms in psychiatry and psychology risks is to invite to supposedly scandalous epithets –  ‘anti-psychiatrist’ and ‘Cartesian dualist’.

Yet to distinguish between disciplines – on the one hand, those with historical, discursively-constructed objects (such as linguistics, or history) as against the ‘hard’ sciences (such as mathematics, or physics) – implies nothing in the order of mind/body dualism. Notwithstanding any biological correlates, psychiatric phenomena fall clearly within the first category of disciplines.

The irony is that those who trumpet their materialism and monism with an emphasis on biological correlates – or, better yet, the search for elusive ‘biomarkers’ (neural or genetic) – are in fact far more dualistic than their allegedly anti-psychiatric opponents. What is the search for biomarkers other than an attempt to look beyond the materiality of discourse to invent a kind of ding an sich, that would serve as the truth of a subjective complaint?

Supposing this quest for a psychiatrist’s El Dorado came to fruition, and biomarkers were found by our closet dualists. The clinician could conceivably ignore a subject’s speech and history, and come straight to a diagnosis by way of a biological test. In this way, the biological test would serve as the subject’s supra-sensible ‘reality’, beyond any subjectivity.

Yet what could such a biomarker (eg. for depression, or anxiety) possibly mean in the absence of a corresponding complaint? To borrow from Nietzsche: such knowledge would be as inconsequential as a chemical analysis of water must be to a boatman facing a storm.

Project for an Unscientific Psychology: Critique of CBT as Ideology (Part 7)

In undertaking the negative task of criticism, it has been with the view to identifying the shortcomings of CBT (and psychology), not merely to point them out, but to avoid them in constructing a better psychology. To create an alternative psychology is no easy task, but there are some useful starting points. Continue reading