July 8, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Is Psychology Adding Scientific Knowledge?

Psychologists have a knack for proving the obvious.  It leads to a question, though: do we really need their help?

  1. Broken relationships are bad:  A press release on PhysOrg about a study at the University of Queensland reported that “Separation has an enormous impact on both men and women.”
  2. Rudeness at work is bad:  According to Science Daily researchers at University of Aberdeen have demonstrated that rudeness at work leads to mistakes on the job.  Then came the sermon: “People concerned with patient safety should note that civility between workers may have more benefits than just a harmonious atmosphere.”
  3. TV and video game addiction is bad:  We have three Iowa State researchers to thank for informing us that too much TV and gaming leads to attention problems in children.  Science Daily said, “Parents looking to get their kid’s attention — or keeping them focused at home and in the classroom — should try to limit their television viewing and video game play.”
  4. Bullies have poor social skills:  Better keep an eye on those kids with poor social skills.  They might become bullies – or victims.  It would seem they would have to be one or the other, but this piece of wisdom was furnished by the American Psychological Association and published by Science Daily.
  5. Healthy mind makes a healthy body:  Researchers at the University of South Florida have proved that “A Healthy Mind Makes a Healthy Body in Teens,” reported Science Daily.  They found this out scientifically by asking 401 teens about their subjective feelings of well-being and physical health.  “Overall, perceived good physical health was strongly linked to life satisfaction and feeling excited, strong and proud,” the psychologists announced as “findings.”
  6. Out-of-wedlock birth leads to crime:  Believe it or not, science has found a link between children born outside families and crime.  Sure enough, Clemson scientists, reported PhysOrg, took the obvious to new levels: “While a number of previous studies have found that unmarried fertility is associated with unfavorable childhood outcomes, our analysis is one of the first to measure the long-run effect on crime when these children reach adulthood.”
  7. Need to psych out jailbirds:  PhysOrg wrote about “Revised standards for psychology services in jails, prisons, correctional facilities and agencies.”  Nothing was stated in the document about the thriving counseling services of Prison Fellowship and the many other churches and religious organizations that routinely minister to inmates, often with phenomenal success.

A related story on PhysOrg asked the question, “Do scientists understand the public?”  One assumption that came out in findings by the American Academy of Arts and Scientists is that “Scientists and technical experts sometimes take for granted that their work will be viewed as ultimately serving the public good.”  In fact, scientists and lay people have “very different perceptions of risk, and very different ways of bestowing their trust and judging the credibility of information sources.”

You should be grateful to psychologists.  You probably would never have thought to limit your children’s TV exposure before now.  You probably had no idea that separating from your spouse might have bad consequences.  And it’s so reassuring to know that your Mom and Dad’s commands to be nice and not rude has support from the scientific method.  Thanks to science, you will now support policies that encourage healthy families, because you just learned that kids born out of wedlock tend to be poor and attracted to crime, and kids with poor social problem-solving skills might become bullies or victims.  Isn’t it comforting to know that you no longer have to learn these things from church or parents.  Isn’t it relaxing that you no longer have to use common sense; you can just rely on press releases from the Universities.  After all, that’s where the Experts are.  They Know these things by using the Scientific Method.  You can trust them.  If you can’t trust them, whom can you trust?  Keep those grant funds flowing.
Trust experts’ say, for there’s no other way
To be happy in clich�s, but to trust them and pay.

You may have noticed we’ve added a new category in the Chain Links: “Mind.”  This will be for entries related to mind and brain, psychology, human intelligence, behavior, the mind-body problem, cognition, emotion, perception, thought, and human mental uniqueness.

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