Prof. James E. Alcock about “Psychology Led Astray”

Its my great pleasure to inform you that my new book have been highly evaluated by one of the most outstanding skeptics of the 20th Century – prof. James E. Alcock who wrote a review of it:

This is a well-written book, and the extensive documentation that is provided makes it an excellent source of reference material as well. Every psychologist, every psychology student, and every layperson with an interest in psychology or with need for its services will benefit immensely from reading it. And although it is largely devoted to decrying the egregious departures from scientific rigour that afflict much of our discipline and to skewering the many false and exploitative therapies and techniques that are huckstered to a hungry public, it is ultimately a book that honours and defends science-based psychology. I highly recommend it.

Prof. James E. Alcock  is a noted critic ofJames_Alcock parapsychology and is a Fellow and Member of the Executive Council for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He is a member of the Editorial Board of The Skeptical Inquirer, and a frequent contributor to the magazine.  In 1999, a panel of skeptics named him among the two dozen most outstanding skeptics of the 20th Century. In May, 2004 CSICOP awarded Alcock CSI’s highest honor, the In Praise of Reason Award.

 

This is a full text of the review:

Psychology Led Astray: Cargo Cult in Science and Therapy

by Tomasz Witkowski

Reviewed by James Alcock

This is a very important and valuable book, both for the social scientist who values rigourous scientific inquiry and for the layperson interested in the state of modern psychology. Its value lies in part because Tomasz Witkowski has summarized so succinctly and so powerfully the many problems that plague modern psychological research and its application, and in part because he has done so in such an engaging manner. Although dealing with material that could by its nature constitute a dry and boring read, he has enlivened his critical commentary by weaving through it entertaining and informative strands of storytelling, both literary and historical.

But this is also likely to be a disturbing book for that same social scientist who values rigourous scientific inquiry, as well as for the layperson who may at some point seek psychological assistance. It is disturbing because it holds a mirror up to psychological research and practice, and much of what is reflected is not very pretty. Witkowski begins with reference to physicist Richard Feynman’s characterization of social science as a cargo cult, and he makes a compelling case that is there is much about modern psychology that fits with that pejorative analogy: He points to the persistence of inappropriate and misleading statistical practices that underlie much of psychological research, practices that have endured despite decades of criticism and condemnation. He addresses the essentially parochial nature of much of psychological research that, for the most part, has been conducted with participants who are representative of only a small segment of the populations of a few nations that in turn represent only a small segment of the world at large. He skewers the many fads and crazes that seem to sweep regularly through applied psychology (and in some cases, that stop sweeping and become firmly entrenched). He targets the proliferation of untested varieties of psychotherapy; the overgeneralization and exaggeration of findings from neuroscience; the creation from whole cloth of “disorders” such as the Adult Children of Alcoholics syndrome in the absence of any appropriate evidence; the continuing use of discredited treatment approaches such as Trauma Debriefing, Attachment/holding therapy, Facilitated Communication, and Dolphin Therapy. And for the layperson, he augments his critical examination of psychological therapies with guidance for anyone seeking psychotherapy.

However, Witkowski does not throw out the baby with the bathwater; he concludes his penetrating criticism by challenging Feynman’s “cargo cult” appraisal and pointing out that evidence-based psychology has made very  significant contributions to both understanding and improving the human condition.

This is a well-written book, and the extensive documentation that is provided makes it an excellent source of reference material as well. Every psychologist, every psychology student, and every layperson with an interest in psychology or with need for its services will benefit immensely from reading it. And although it is largely devoted to decrying the egregious departures from scientific rigour that afflict much of our discipline and to skewering the many false and exploitative therapies and techniques that are huckstered to a hungry public, it is ultimately a book that honours and defends science-based psychology. I highly recommend it.

Blind

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