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The Politics of Psychology

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Megan McKee

on 1 December 2015

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Transcript of The Politics of Psychology

The Politics of Psychology
By Sophie Burren, Alyssa Cunnane, Liesha Goudswaard
Mike Horley, Megan McKee, Laura McWhae,Laura Nelson and Peta Veanes

Public Reaction
The article had a massive public reaction.

Snowballed into a formal denunciation of the American Psychological Association (APA) by the Unites States congress for publishing the article.

Taken up by the North American Man/Boy Love Association as justification for their cause.

The article in the reader, Lilienfeld (2002), argued that this incident raised a number of issues regarding academic freedom and research dissemination to the public.
When Science Goes Wrong: Limitations of Peer Review
The Limitations and Implications of Peer Review.
Today I will:
Discuss the limitations of the peer review process.

Examine two examples of when the peer review process has failed to prevent dubious research being published in the name of “science”.

Discuss the implications this has for the peer-review process and academic freedom in general.

Note: Although our talk is about politics in psychology, a lot of my discussion draws from the field of medicine. This is because the issue of peer review and publication bias are just as big of a problem in other science fields such as medicine. This inter-disciplinary perspective may help inform the debate

The Limitations of Peer Review:
Peer-review is the current gold standard in determining the legitimacy of scientific research. It is designed to select which studies deserve funding and publication over others (Smith, 2006).

However, peer review is operationally vague and the process, criteria, and quality of review vary dramatically between different journals (and different reviewers) (Smith, 2006).

In fact, as Bornstein (1991) argues, peer review as a ‘test’ fails “with respect to every technical criterion for establishing the reliability and validity of an assessment instrument” (p. 444-445).

Race, IQ and Genetics
Since the 19th century, some have attempted to use “science” to “prove” the superiority of the white race over others.

However this is not a figment of the past

Studies continue to be published in peer-reviewed journals (eg. Rushton & Jenson, 2005; Rushton, Skuy & Bons, 2004), that argue that racial differences in IQ are due to the genetic superiority of some races in intelligence compared to others.

They continue to be published, and taken up by the media and the public, despite widespread criticism by scientists on factual and ethical grounds (Sternberg,Grigorenko and Kidd, 2005).

When Science Goes Wrong:
MMR Vaccine and Autism
Another example of when research can have disastrous effects comes from the medical arena.

In 1998, an article by Andew Wakefield and 10 others was published in the prestigious medical journal, the Lancet. The article argued that the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine caused autism (Godlee, Smith, and Marcovitch, 2011).

Article spurred fears about vaccination. Led to many parents choosing not to vaccinate their children.(Eg. Friederichs, 2006).

Conclusions based on correllational data (Novella, 2007).

Wakefield later convicted of fraud due to meddling with the data used in his study (Godlee et al., 2011).

When Science Goes Wrong:
MMR and Autism
The majority of studies since have found no causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism (DeStefano and Thompson, 2004).

There are still lobby groups, including the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network Inc. who continue to believe that vaccinations cause autism (among various other ailments) and actively discourage parents from vaccinating their children.
So, based on cases like this, should there be more restrictions on the publication of certain types of research? Why or why not?
Should Social Politics have the Right to Place Constraints on the Freedom of Publication?
By Sophie Burren
The Debate
To publish or not?

This is a very controversial argument with more than just two sides to the argument

Who does this debate effect? Just to name a few:
1) Researchers
2) The public
3) The APA
4) The media
5) Government agencies influenced by the data
6) Minority groups
7) Majority groups

This is just an example of how many different groups have a vested interest in the outcome of this debate and the many different sides that are represented by it - which is why it is so controversial.
Freedom of Publication
What is freedom of publication? It is the right to publish empirical research irrespective of how controversial the topic or findings – Eisenberg (1988)

What about findings that negatively impact on social constructs, minority groups or cause further segregation and inequality?

1) These findings need to be properly managed and the findings should be presented in such a way that shows how they can benefit the group in question – e.g: Gender differences in intelligence and learning

2) It should never be ignored that publication always has the ability to cause harm when dealing with sensitive topics. Researchers still have a responsibility to be considerate in their conclusions and assumptions about the data and in any cases where the research comes to public attention need to advocate for the positive uses of the information

Gender Differences in Intelligence and Learning
The literature in this area was historically very one sided and caused gendered inequality and intelligence stereotypes.
Due to freedom of publication there is now vast amounts of research in this area which suggests girls and boys excel and fall behind in different areas – Halpern (1997); Haier et al (2005); Hegarty (2007) just to name a few.

By utilising girls and boys learning inequalities and teaching them differently we are able to bring the different genders closer to an educational equality.

This would not have been possible if we put constraints on this literature originally due to it being controversial in nature

The Impact of the Gender Difference Literature and Examples of how Freedom of Publication can Actually Help
Learning environments have drastically changed as a result of this research, some examples of these changes as suggested by Halpern(1997; 2000) are:

School texts can and are now examined for biases and assigned based on their different messages - instead of adopting a one fit for all ideal

Teachers can and should adopt flexible assignment
criteria in young primary years with the biggest learning differences – especially reading assignments

The consideration of sex – segregated learning for subjects in early years that have shown to be vastly different between genders – such as reading time

How Homosexuality Literature has Changed Over Time - With the Help of Publication
Historically the literature surrounding homosexuality referred to it as an ‘illness,’ a ‘disorder,’ or ‘disease’ that required treatment and discussed the possibilities of a cure - King, Smith & Bartlett (2004).

In the present literature homosexuality is discussed in terms of it being a normal part of humanity and researched as any other social construct would be, such as Herek (2004).

These changes, which majorly took part due to a move in 1973 for Homosexuality to be removed from the DSM, are a testament to how far society and research has come in a positive way – something that could not have happened if research in this area was restricted and never allowed to progress.

Seen and Not Heard?
If we withhold research from publication simply because of fear of public backlash or insult, we are at risk of returning to a time where hierarchy outweighs information; a time when if we could not understand it, it simply did not exist.

Should the findings of psychological research be seen but not actually heard? Is it simply for show?

Can People Outside of Psychology
Truly Understand its Research?
Should the right to publish be dictated by someone who does not understand the process?

By allowing people outside the field to ascertain what is suitable or not for publication we are essentially taking away our own right as a specialty field to guide our own practitioners.
The public does not have a say in what the medical field does, so why should they have a say in an area they similarly don’t understand, Psychological research.
Psychological research is a lot more complicated than people tend to think and in a majority of cases is not written for people outside of the profession, so can be somewhat above their level of complete understanding
This is not to say they can’t grasp the general gist of research, but there is a lot of room for error in interpretation and large misunderstandings – so why should they be allowed to hinder publication of empirical research?
Who is Responsible for Mediating the Findings of Controversial Literature and the Public?
To date it is typically unclear who is fundamentally responsible for bridging the gap between the public and psychological research - especially controversial research.

The two main responsible parties are the APA and the researchers themselves. However, as was evident in the case of Rind et al (1998), the responsibility ultimately lies with the researcher.
Who is Responsible for Mediating the Findings of Controversial Literature and the Public?
To date it is typically unclear who is fundamentally responsible for bridging the gap between the public and psychological research - especially controversial research.

The two main responsible parties are the APA and the researchers themselves. However, as was evident in the case of Rind et al (1998), the responsibility ultimately lies with the researcher.
In Conclusion
Whilst freedom of publication is the ultimate ideal, it does not come without its difficulties. Psychological research ultimately deals with issues surrounding society and humanity and as such attracts a certain level of attention. As such, researchers hold a responsibility to their own research and also to the field when dealing with sensitive topics – but ultimately freedom of publication is not only beneficial to all involved, but imperative.
Research Psychologists and The Public
Why important to communicate findings?

Some challenges involved with communicating findings

Philosophical Training may help overcome these

Future direction

Knowledge Transfer
No large platform transfer knowledge from psychologist to the public and practice setting

Legislation to encourage this change

Economic and Social Research Council

Major funding agency of social science
Plans making research impactful must be stated in grant application

University of Melbourne:Triple Helix

Public Engagement

(Hagger-Johnson, Hegarty, Barker, & Richards, 2013)
Knowledge Utilisation
How can research be impactful?

How can we increase the public engagement with research ?

Lilienfeld (2010) article gives examples how articles can be misinterpreted.
Philosophy in Psychology
Object Language:
What we are measuring and how it can be manipulated
Governed by maths and algebra
Measurements do not lie

Psychology and Philosophy

cientific statements about our objects
There are no set rules
Observe Fact A Infer Theory B

(Meehl, 1993)
Theory B Implies Fact A can Lead to Errors
Metatheoretical Topics:

Examination of Metalanguage
Rationale argument?

Identity Error in Logic
Better Understanding of Research

Two Examples:

Order of dispositions
Surplus meaning of theoretical

(Meehl, 1993)
Order of Dispositions
In order to understand one concept you must under
the concepts above it

First order disposition:
Trait - Extraversion
Second order disposition:
Acquisition of the trait - Extravert
Third order disposition:
Being the centre of attention

Example Rind et al study:
Higher order disposition:
Lower order disposition:
Child Sex Abuse

Benefits of analysis
Thorough examination all evidence
Misinterpretation of results

Surplus Meaning of Theoretical Terms
Appraisal of use of words which have multiple meanings

Rind et al (1989) Example
“family environment problems with CSA prevents definite conclusions regarding the casual role of CSA with maladjustment.” (pg. 23)

Does not define maladjustment

Merrell and Walker (2004) – Deconstructing a definition of social maladjustment
Social Maladjustment Clause:
Exclusionary clause for children who are emotionally disturbed
Definition of Social Maladjustment is created by the individual or organisation

Unstable platform for future research
Can lead to misinterpretation and confusion

Future Directions
Lilienfeld (2004):
Bare minimal be able to correct interpretation errors in the public

A focus on converting scientific literature into lay terms
Philosophy Metathoretical topics
Rationale arguments
Putting aside our Ego’s

Knowledge Transfer
Development of a platform allows psychologists to share knowledge with the public in lay terms
Practice setting where research can be utilised

The importance of research as a tool for knowledge transfer

Challenges associated with Knowledge Transfer

Philosophy can aid in knowledge transfer

Future directions

The Politics of Over-Diagnosis:
An ADHD Case Study
By Liesha Goudswaard
By Mike Horley
Over Diagnosis - What is it?
Greatly increasing the number of diagnosed cases of a disorder

Diagnosing a disorder when an individual does not actually fit criteria

Using Behavioural indicators which actually fall under normal limits
Pressure Groups
An organisation of people who impact policy and decision making.
- Advertising, Lobbying
- Research Funding

Pressure Groups in the Diagnosis and Treatment Debate
Media/Public Opinion

Pharmaceutical Companies



What About ADHD Specifically?
ADHD has risen to become one of the most reported conditions in today’s society
Official APA statistics estimate 2-7% prevalence
Australian estimates are as high as 13%
Cotuono (1993) found only 22% of cases were clinically able to be diagnosed
78% were found to be over-diagnosed

ADHD Medication Increase
ADHD medication prescription such as Dexamphetamine has sky-rocketed
From 10,000 in 1993, to 250 000 in 2004 and beyond
Recommended daily dose is also rising

What is Causing These Figures To Rise?
Pressure groups

Media effecting public opinion

Clever marketing from the Pharmaceutical companies

APA changing the rules

Government favouring medical treatment

Media Affecting Public Opinion
Media is the primary form of mental health information

Only 30% of people receive mental health information directly from an expert

The Media reports medication is effective at raising focus levels for ADHD

They fail to mention the same increase is shown in non-affected individuals

If you go off the medication, the ADHD symptoms return

This misinformation influences the public to seek an easy and ‘effective’ medical treatment over a psychological intervention

Clever Marketing from Pharmaceuticals
Pharmaceutical companies are able to fund research which aids their agenda

Due to this research, the medical model of ADHD is now winning the debate

Parents are now acting as a pressure group

Actively seeking out ADHD diagnoses and the medication intervention

The APA Changing The Rules
The APA has redefined ADHD as a lifetime disorder in the DSM-V
Medical research is suggesting an unofficial lifetime prevalence of 8%

Over-diagnosis rates are likely to rise
People previously exempt from diagnosis will now be included

Pharmaceutical companies are able to gain new customers and keep them for life
16 million adult ADHD medication prescriptions in 2012, compared to 5.7 million in 2007
The Australian Government Favouring Medical Treatment
Australian psychologist fees can range from $100-160 and beyond
ADHD medication can sell for as little as $4.70 (Pirani, 2006)

Medicare allows direct psychiatric or paediatric consultation rebates.
Psychologist consultations only receive this rebate if they hold a Medicare number and are given a referral by a GP, Psychiatrist or Paediatrician (Graham, 2006).
Each is more likely to offer the medical treatment first
Over-diagnosis has accounted for a 2400% or more rise in ADHD since 1993 – Studies are finding many of these are invalid diagnoses.

Medication has become the dominant treatment method.
Rates are increasing rapidly

These concerns are products of:
Media influencing public opinion by misrepresenting the efficacy of ADHD drugs
Marketing pressure and research funding from pharmaceutical companies
APA changing the disorder from childhood to lifetime
Australian government, through their policies, favouring medical intervention
The Gap Between Academic Psychology, Popular Psychology and the Public
An Argument FOR Bridging the Gap
By Alyssa Cunnane
Presentation Overview
Brief overview of Lilienfeld’s argument

Identification of the gap and problems caused

How the gap became

Possible approaches to bridging the gap


Summary of Reading
APA sacrificed the opportunity to inform the general public about the nature of research

The peer review process should be publicised

APA should recognise and monitor potentially controversial issues

Psychologists should acknowledge the popularisation of psychology

Identification of the Gap and Problems Caused
People are ideologically motivated when interpreting research findings

People prefer long explanations or explanations that contain neuroscience terms (Weisberg, Keil, Goodstein, Rawson, & Gray, 2008)

Prevents people from seeking help

Threatens the credibility of science

Limits freedom of scientific research

Prevents development of intervention strategies
Popular Psychology
Popular Psychology
Popular Psychology
Popular Psychology
Popular Psychology
How the Gap Became:
Dislike of findings that contradict one’s ideology

The media

The internet

The explanations used to communicate findings

Lack of consideration of the study’s methodology and limitations

The APA and academic psychologists

Possible Approaches to Bridging The Gap
Publicise peer review process

Distinguish science from politics

Role of the APA:
Identify and monitor potentially controversial issues
Manage debates

Role of the academic psychologists:
Acknowledge the popularisation of psychology
Provide better communication of findings

Common misinterpretation of psychological findings

Many implications of the gap for society and scientific psychology

Several contributors to the gap

Possible solutions include:
Educating the general public
APA: identify and monitor potentially controversial issues
Academic psychologists: be involved in the popularisation of psychology and improve communication of findings

Lilienfeld's Arguments For Bridging the Gap
The Peer Review Process should be publicized to the government.

The APA should bridge the gap between the public and the field of psychology by addressing potentially controversial issues.

To bridge the knowledge gap, the APA should have used this opportunity to educate politicians on psychological research.

Popularisation of the field of psychology has largely been ignored by academic psychologists.

The Gap Between Academic Psychology, Popular Psychology and the Public
An Argument AGAINST Bridging the Gap
By Megan McKee
Explanation of the Peer Review Process
Why should psychologists and researchers need to justify their methods to Politicians?
Peer review process is successful in publishing scholarly articles of merit that have undergone rigorous scrutiny by experts in their field (Rojewski & Domenico, 2004).
Academic Experience of Australian Politicians
Tony Abbott:

Bachelor of Economics

Bachelor of Laws

Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics and Economics

John Howard:

Bachelor of Law
Kevin Rudd:

Bachelor of Arts (Asian Studies)

Julia Gillard:

Bachelor of Law

Bachelor of Arts
The Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology FIRST) Act, 2014
Attempting to change the peer-review process of the National Science Foundation, one of the largest research funding agencies in USA.
The Act proposes that research be focused in areas that drive economic growth.
Funding will be cut to social, behavioural and economic sciences unless the research contributes directly to National Security or Job Creation.
Should Potentially Controversial Issues Be Addressed?
The peer-review process acts to manage the publication of potentially controversial issues by ensuring research has been conducted to the highest standards.

This may promote and generate more public outcry and media attention than the current process.
Educating Politicians on Psychological Research
Political agenda's are created outside of the realm of academic research.

Political rhetoric becomes embedded in the everyday language of Australians (Pedersen, Watt & Hansen, 2006).

Popularisation of the Psychology has been Ignored by Academic Psychologists
Technological Advances - Internet

Research and knowledge is available to those who can afford it:
Internet Access = academia.edu, journal articles
Higher education = access to all areas of academia, not just those relevant to our degree.
Anyone willing to pay for journal access

The Role of The APA with the Media, Public and Politicians
By Laura Nelson
The Role of The APA with the Media, Public and Politicians
The APA and the Rind et al.(1998) Study
Joseph Pitts, “the authors write that paedophilia is fine...as long as it in enjoyed.”

Misunderstanding can occur due to the APA not playing a big enough role in judging what research should be published

Remained relatively quiet.

At a press conference, the media and politicians demanded the APA to condemn the Rind et al. (1998) study.

Initially defended the study arguing that it was well conducted and survived a peer review process.

Still believes child sex abuse is wrong and harmful to victims.

The APA and the Rind et al.(1998) Study
After continued pressure, the APA finally gave way.

The article included opinions of authors that were not consistent with APA beliefs.

Sexual activity between adults and children should never be considered harmless and children cannot consent to sexual activity with adults.

They should have evaluated the article based on its potential for the public, and in the future journal editors should consider social policy implications of articles on controversial topics.

What responsibilities does the APA have on the publication of research?
“Seeks to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.”

“Our strategic plan goals are to maximise the association’s organizational effectiveness, expand psychology’s role in advancing health and increase recognition of psychology as a science.”

Kardash & Scholes (1996)
Examined consequences of student’s initial beliefs about the HIV-AIDS relationship.

Two passages presenting strong arguments of the debate of whether HIV causes AIDS.

Students evaluated the research more positively when it agreed with their existing beliefs.

The less students believed in certain knowledge, the less extreme their initial beliefs, and the higher their need for cognition, the more likely the were to write conclusions that reflected the inconclusive nature of the mixed evidence they read.
Lord, Ross & Lepper (1979)
People who hold strong opinions on complex social issues are likely to examine relevant empirical evidence in a biased manner.

2 studies – one confirming and one disconfirming their existing beliefs about the efficacy of the death penalty.

Study which confirmed their beliefs was rated to be more convincing.
The public can misinterpret findings, especially when they contradict their beliefs.

Look for methodological flaws and other downfalls.

The misinterpretation and refusal to believe data that does not conform to ideology can lead to inaccurate assessments, faulty treatment recommendations and misallocation of resources (Sarnoff, 1999).
Lord, Ross & Lepper (1979)
“If people of opposing views can each find support for those views in the same body of evidence, it is small wonder that social science research, dealing with complex emotional and social issues and forced to rely upon inconclusive designs, measures, and modes of analysis, will frequently fuel rather than calm the fires of debate.”

The APA and The Media
If the APA were to enforce tougher regulations on what could be published, and who had access to what was published, many of these controversies could be avoided.
Bias' Towards Interpretation
Biased Assimilation Effect:
People evaluate more positively the research evidence that is consistent with their initial beliefs than the research that is not.

Attitude Polarization or Polarization Hypothesis:

People report that their attitudes have become more extreme in the direction of their initial beliefs when mixed or inconclusive evidence is presented in their opposite beliefs.

Confirmation Bias:
The tendency to seek out evidence consistent with one’s views and to ignore, dismiss or selectively reinterpret evidence that contradicts them. Psychologists should make combating confirmation bias a priority (Lilienfeld, Ammirati, & Landfield, 2009).

Myside Bias:
The tendency to be more active in generating arguments on the side you believe in and to evaluate those arguments as more superior to those of the other side.

Bias' Towards Interpretation
Whilst psychologists can make an effort to overcome these biases in their research and practice, the APA can also play a role in this.

Controversial research with the potential to be misinterpreted, the APA should consider ways to avoid this.

Limit the theories of bias in issues surrounding areas of controversy.

Conclusion and Thoughts...
The Role of the APA with the Media, Public and Politicians
Presentation Overview
By Peta Veanes
Forms of Media
Media Outlets
Possible ways the APA could avoid such controversial research being misunderstood by enforcing stricter regulations.

Focus on research articles and psychometric and psychological tests.







The fastest growing source of media outlet allowing easy accessibility of articles.

Easy accessibility allows anyone to read and interpret an article.

How Can APA Avoid Controversial Study Results from being Published?
APA could consider making stricter regulations by restricting what can be published.

Limiting who has access to what is published.

APA need to identify and monitor potentially controversial articles.
Why is this Important?
Specialised research topics require extra knowledge therefore restrict access to only expertise in the field.

Expertise know concepts.

Expertise know definitions in the particular context of interest.
Negative Outcomes if APA Restrict who has Access to their Publications
Limit the communication of research.

Limit growth in both science and society.

For example; Medical researchers have discovered a way to stimulate the brain's natural defense mechanisms in people with Alzheimer's disease. This major breakthrough opens the door to the development of a treatment for Alzheimer's disease and a vaccine to prevent the illness. If researchers stopped exploring at there is no cure as once thought, and didn’t challenge such findings this vaccine would not have been found.

Not only, research articles that can cause misinterpretations and misunderstandings in the public eye.

Psychometric Testing
Have you been online and completed a psychological test?
Issues Concerning Online Psychometric Testing
Item Security
Tests have been modified without appropriate permission or validation
Inappropriate for some groups
Psychometrically flawed
Poorly translated into a variety of languages
Public Access to Psychometric Tests
It is a concern the public has access to these forms of tests.



Do not follow APA guidelines in a way that is responsible, helpful and unlikely to cause harm.

Where individuals with varying degrees of intellectual resources and psychological strengths will have variable reactions to Internet assessment interpretations.

If Internet assessments are to be conducted in a manner beneficial to the individual, I believe APA need to aim at improving the clinical understanding of how such assessments should be carried out,with guidelines to protect the interests, rights, and overall mental and emotional state of the test taker.

Benefits of Online Psychometric Testing
Speed – results are given instantly.



Rapid communication of findings.

Allows individuals in rural settings to be tested.

More scalable than paper-and-pencil testing. –“Scalable” means that adding volume results in very little additional cost.
Concerns with the Availability of Psychological Internet Resources
The Internet has made it very easy for anyone to publish any kind of material into the public domain. This freedom has led many to assume that anything published in this public domain can be copied and used by anyone who chooses to do so. Whole tests, scales, and test items posted can be copied and used by unqualified people.

It is the responsibility of psychological test publishers and authors to keep their works under tight control and to report copyright violations.
APA should consider making greater restrictions on who has access to tests as they have the potential to harm individuals.

APA need to explain clearly that the results of such tests are not at all definite and do not define who you are.
Conclusion and Recap
Across the board, it is evident that science can go wrong as seen in Race, IQ and genetics, the MMR Vaccine and Autism, child sexual abuse and an over diagnosis of ADHD, just to name a few presented today.

How to avoid misinterpretations?

To bridge the gap in research to the general public.

Educate to the general public it is not written for them to understand and make assumptions about scientific findings as they are often never the final word on a phenomenon and are often subjected to scrutiny and criticism by others, some of whom may attempt to disprove findings by conducting further studies.

Academic psychologists - popularization of psychology by improving communication of findings, perhaps incorporating Philosophy to aid in knowledge transfer.

Politics and controversy research challenges audiences and therefore encourages future research. In research, freedom is needed as it allows the expansion of new findings and allows a growth of knowledge in society and science. But the APA must not ignore considering limitations and restrictions of publication.
Suggests that Psychologists should adapt a scientist – philosopher – practitioner role.
Psychological and other scientific research, when taken hold of by the public, can be misinterpreted and misused.

Eg. Rind et al.’s (1998) meta-analysis.

Examined the relationship between child sexual abuse (CSA) and psychopathology.

Found those with prior CSA history only slightly more likely to experience mental health issues then those with no history of CSA.

No relationship once adverse family environment controlled for.

Controversially concluded that sex with a consenting child that did not cause harm should be labelled ‘adult-child sex’ instead of ‘child sexual abuse’.

Public Reaction
By Laura McWhae
Presentation Overview
Article Overview and
Implications and Limitations of the Peer Review Process
Laura McWhae
Sophie Burren
Liesha Goudswaard
Mike Horley
Alyssa Cunnane
Megan McKee
Laura Nelson
Peta Veanes
Why do we Need Academic Freedom?
How can we better communicate scientific findings to the public?
The Politics of Over-Diagnosis:
An ADHD Case Study
Bridging the Gap between Academic Psychology, Popular Psychology and the Public
Bridging the Gap between Academic Psychology, Popular Psychology and the Public
The Role of the Confirmation Bias and Motivated Reasoning in Interpreting Scientific Findings
The Role of APA with the Media, Public and Politicians.
What is peer review?

Why do we use it?

What are some of its limitations?

The Limitations of Peer Review:
Smith (2006) highlights the various ways in which peer review has failed to stand up as a valid or reliable discriminatory method for assessing research quality.

These include:
Prestige bias, and the difficulty in blinding manuscripts to prevent this.

Low inter-reviewer agreement (On average, inter-reviewer agreement has a Cohen’s kappa of less than .40)

Little evidence that the peer review process improving the quality of the papers published.

Peer review is not reliable in detecting fraud and the process can be abused.
Societal Implications of Peer Review
Can anyone think of an example of psychologiacl research that has had, or potentially could have, a negative influence on society?
Evidence Against the Genetic Basis of Racial IQ Difference
No biological basis for racial categories- far more within group differences in genetics then between group differences (Sternberg et al., 2005)

Flynn effect- counteracts Jenson, Rushmore, Herrnstein and Murray’s claims that the higher reproduction rates among those lower in intelligence will lead to dysgenics or the genetic deterioration of populations in intelligence. Also points to a large environmental influence on IQ (Sternberg et al.,2005).

Gap between African-American and non-Hispanic white test scores have diminished considerably from 1972 to 2002 (Cronshaw, Hamilton and Onyura, 2004).
Race, IQ and Genetics
Rushton’s articles are used on White supremist and neo-Nazi websites around the world in order to “prove” White racial superiority (Cronshaw, Hamilton and Onyura, 2004).

The fact that articles like Rushton’s have passed the peer review process despite multiple scientific and ethical flaws highlights some of the problems with peer review.

Nevertheless, some of the most influential works in this field such as Herrnstein and Murray’s (1994) book, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, which have not passed through any peer review, have nevertheless been widely publicised and used as justification for racist social policy.

This has implications for the ability of peer review to restrict ‘bad science’ being disseminated to the public.
Summary and Implications
There are many limitations to the peer review process

These limitations are evident when questionable studies have been allowed to get through that can have real (and disastrous) social consequences.

Perhaps there is an increased ethical responsibility in psychology (and science in general) to do a more thorough investigation of the scientific accuracy of controversial research on societally important topics before it is accepted for publication.

In addition, perhaps there should be more regulation regarding the publication of “scientific” books, to help avoid the spread of misinformation in the public domain.

However, there are many reasons why restrictions of academic freedom are inadvisable as will be discussed by Sophie.

Thankyou for listening.
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1. Politicians do not usually have a background in science and are motivated towards viewing psychological research in terms of economic output, rather than research as the pursuit of all knowledge.

2. Identification of controversial issues would create a black-list of publications and researchers. Potentially creating more public attention to such articles and negatively labeling researchers.

3. Political agendas only borrow from research when an aspect of the research can serve a particular political purpose.

4. Academics acknowledge the popularisation of psychology by allowing widespread access to information.
Defining "controversial issue" and developing a measure to identify research containing controversial issues.

Knowing whether or not media personalities, like Dr Laura, will identify research they feel needs public attention is hard to predict.
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