Psychology and science: 6 keys to identify pseudoscientific products

Science is a beacon in the fog of the noise of chance

—Nassim Taleb

While browsing the “information monster”, the Internet, they will surely have noticed that when looking for topics related to psychology or other sciences, they always come across various documents related to things like psychoanalysis, aromatherapy, constellations, psychomagic, conspiracy theories. .. and that, of course, people who know nothing about psychology, science, who have no common sense and even professionals and students in training fall into the nets of the tempting “pseudoscience”.

For this reason and to take away any doubts about this issue, I decided to post this article on some tips and definitions that will help us figure out who to trust and who not to trust.

Finding reliable sources of information

To begin with I want to mention, the work of American philosopher Charles Sanders Pierce in classifying four methods of belief fixation[1]. The first is the authority method, Wherein the easiest way to fix a belief is to blindly believe a person’s word without questioning it; an example could be that of the fixation of religious beliefs.

The second method is that of tenacity, It is a question of clinging to a stereotype, even in the presence of a good counterexample; this method is observed among fanatic racists.

The third is the a priori method it refers to a belief in which no reference or analysis is made to accept it. Finally, there remains the method which is the only valid form of accepted knowledge, the scientific method (Kantowitz, RoedigerIII, & Elmes, 2011; Kerlinger & Lee, 2002) which is defined as a serious process by which the sciences obtain answers to their questions (McGuigan, 2011), and that it has the characteristic of self-correction and therefore has intrinsic checkpoints along the path of scientific knowledge. These controls are designed and used in such a way as to guide and verify scientific findings and activities so that they can be invoked … ”(Kerlinger and Lee, 2002).

Keys to detect pseudoscientific texts or articles

Having clarified the way in which we fix our beliefs on something, can we say that there are theories which “disguise” themselves as science when they are not, but how to avoid them?

It will be given below a list of some tips to avoid falling into the trap of some charlatans:

1. make sure the source is reliable

Check what you read or consume for some the media have valid and reliable sources of consultation. For example, peer-reviewed articles published in indexed scientific journals (because in order for an article to be published it has to go through various processes of validity and reliability), citations from important people in science …

2. Get rid of the confirmation stocking

Don’t fall for confirmation bias. Don’t believe everything you think, what the other person thinks, besides, better not believe it and question everything. People, by psychological principles, always seek to confirm our ideas (Gazzaniga, Heatherton & Halpern, 2016).

3. Trust numbers more than beliefs

he thinks focus on statistical data, rather than intuitively or based on own experience. Reality is much larger than what we experience or think we perceive. Many times we put logical reasoning aside to pay more attention to what common sense dictates to us.

4. Remember: not all factors are easily explained

Not everything has easily identifiable meaning or causes that can be reduced to a simple statement like “homosexuality is produced by child abuse”. In reality, all phenomena are multicausal, Although some variables are more important than others and their study can better predict what will happen.

5. Validity

Remember that science, so to speak, must meet certain criteria and one of them is the validity, What is the degree to which something, instrument, or method actually measures the variable that one seeks to measure.

6. Reliability

This concept is, together with the above, very important and refers to the extent to which a measuring instrument or method of therapy … produces produces consistent results and consistent.

In conclusion, remember, the next time you consume a product of “real psychology”, which it is enough to remember from the scientific study of the mind, brain and behavior, keep all of these tips in mind. mind and avoid being duped by charlatans. Each product, in the media, on the Internet or on television, put it under the microscope of science, Find out if there are any articles that meet strict publication criteria and reliable sources and avoid being duped.

Bibliographical references:

  • Gazzaniga, MS, Heatherton, TF and Halpern, DF (2016). Psychological sciences. United States of America: WWNORTON.
  • Kantowitz, BH, RoedigerIII, HL and Elmes, DG (2011). Experimental psychology. Mexico: CENGAGE Learning.
  • Kerlinger, FN and Lee, HB (2002). Behavioral research. Mexico: McGrawHill.
  • McGuigan, FJ (2011). Experimental psychology. Mexico: threshing.

[1] For more information on the four methods, see the references in Experimental Psychology by Barry H. Kantowitz, p. 6-8 and research on the behavior of Fred N. Kerlinger. p. 6-7.

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