Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

October 22, 2017

The backlash against social psychology was pent up demand

Filed under: Psychology,Social Psychology — Razib Khan @ 12:02 pm

Both Slate and When the Revolution Came for Amy Cuddy, have pieces deconstructing the fall from grace of an idea like “power posing.”

This is all obviously wrapped up in the “replication crisis”, which is impacting most sciences which use some statistics and are generally characterized by modest and complex causal effects (social and biological sciences in particular then).

Obviously, I am no social psychologist, but can I just say that everyone knew there was a problem in the field. By everyone, I mean psychologists. I had friends who worked in related fields who told me as early as 2006 not to trust anything coming out of social psychology. Others described how p-hacking and “unconscious” data manipulation was relatively common in psychological experimentation, and the personal stands they had to take.

When everyone knows that something is wrong, but no one says anything, you have a coordination problem. But once the snowball starts rolling down the hill…everyone decides to speak their mind.

Finally, there’s the demand-side problem: ideas like power posing, implicit bias, and stereotype threat, offer neat, clean, and powerful explanations and oftentimes solutions for social problems. Wonkish Left-liberal publications and pundits in particular literally mine the literature to “show what the science says” (don’t worry, it overwhelmingly confirms prior beliefs).

As a testament to power of the likely wrong (not robust) viewpoints, consider that John Bargh has a book out, Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do. Bargh’s work was one of the first research programs to be critiqued in the early 2010s. Of course he doesn’t agree with the critics, but it does strike me that the field as a whole (e.g., people like Daniel Kahneman) believe that these subliminal effects are much weaker than originally claimed, at best. Nevertheless Bargh is going to sell his books, and people in coffee shops and airports all over the country are going to eat it up.

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