Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mathematical masturbation over calculus porn will grow hair on your palms

I'm not an economist, but I certainly feel this is how psychology works. The author, an economist, argues:
I am shocked at the behavior of my fellow economists during this (financial) crisis. They are claiming to know much more than they do about causes and solutions. Rather than trying to understand and explain what is going on, they are engaged in a fierce battle over narrative.
He suggests a flaw with economics is that it focuses more on math models than useful statistics and research, with the following point (worded just wonderfully):
the economics profession for the past thirty years (has) focused on producing stochastic calculus porn to satisfy young men's urge for mathematical masturbation.
I see a similar flaw in psychology. As much as I love statistics, a lot of psychology statistics do seem to be mathematical masturbation (which might be great if you're trying to finish a dissertation by wowing your committee with stats, but potentially not so great for really learning important things). More importantly, whenever there is a crisis where psychology expertise might be involved, we're brilliant at claiming to know more than we do about causes and solutions. The author's last sentence could easily apply to psychologists following any school shooting or terrorist attack:
(Psychologists) ought to admit that we do not know much about what is going on today...Of course, the market demand is for "strong" leaders and for "strong" (psychologists), who can fool the public into believing that they have great knowledge. The ones who do this best are those who have fooled themselves.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's nice to be liked but it's better by far to get paid

The psychology research discussed in this article is quite interesting. It addresses the urge to punish, and how such an urge might have evolutionary advantages.

The urge to take revenge or punish cheaters,” said Michael McCullough, a professor of psychology at the University of Miami and author of the book “Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct,” “is not a disease or toxin or sign that something has gone wrong. From the point of view of evolution, it’s not a problem but a solution.

It also suggests that forgiveness might ultimately outweigh punishment as the basic human response to misbehavior.

“The forgiveness instinct is every bit as wired in as the revenge instinct,” he said. “It seems that our minds work very hard to get away from resentment, if we can.”

That's swell. My problem with the article, though, is that it purportedly is explaining why many Americans opposed the economic bailout (I'm sorry, I mean "rescue") plan.

The public urge for punishment that helped delay the passage of Washington’s economic rescue plan is more than a simple case of Wall Street loathing

There are two big flaws with this reasoning. The first is this: Many people, myself included, opposed the bailout (rescue) for reasons unrelated to punishment but instead related to basic economic principles. Basically, I feel a free market economic system works better than a government run system (unlike many with similar beliefs, I do not feel the government is malicious. I just feel it generally incompetent). The second flaw is more bizarre, and deals with the meaning of the word punishment. If failure to give somebody money is punishment, then I am constantly punishing people. Not only did I try to punish "Wall Street" last week by not giving them money, I also punished my nephew Joey, for I also failed to give him money. And unless you (whoever the hell you are) gave me money, you, by this reasoning, also punished me (you vindictive son of a bitch!). But that is ridiculous. "Giving money" is a reward. "Not giving money" is failure to reward. But it is not punishment. "Punishment" and "not rewarding" are not the same thing.

Title reference here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I walked into his office, I felt so self-conscious on the couch.

People can't keep up with their therapy due to the recession?

Across the country, psychiatrists and psychologists say they are seeing an increasing number of patients who are worried about paying for treatment. Some are reducing the amount of time they spend in therapy. Others are trying to negotiate a reduced fee. And, despite doctors' warnings that it can be detrimental, some patients are using tactics to make their medication last longer, such as taking half their dose.

Maybe it is for the best. It is not as though therapy is necessarily helpful. Seems it can even be harmful.

In fact, therapy can be harmful, with research showing that, on average, approximately 10 per cent of clients actually get worse after starting therapy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Freud lives!

But figuring out the underlying causes of my problems is just so much more difficult than swallowing a pill:

In a review of 23 studies of (psychoanalysis) involving 1,053 patients, the researchers concluded that the therapy, given as often as three times a week, in many cases for more than a year, relieved symptoms of ("some chronic mental problems, including anxiety and borderline personality disorder") significantly more than did some shorter-term therapies.