[ExI] In defense of psych; was Re: aeon article - you have no memory

William Flynn Wallace foozler83 at gmail.com
Mon May 23 14:45:40 UTC 2016

Really good deception is hard.

Our college got all het up about research in education so some of us did
some and went to the state educ. research convention.  It was appalling.

Now in psych conventions, you get up and give a paper and they will try to
tear you apart and no slack for grad students.  In the educ. conference
they practically stood up and applauded.  It was a feel good thing.  I
could have criticized every paper I heard.  The quality of papers at a
sectional psych conference - maybe about 1/4 worth putting in a good
journal.  At the educ. - well, that's not my area and so who am I to judge,
but I thought the quality was poor, esp. as compared to my psych

This would be just laughable except for the fact that grad depts. of
education are the go to people for designing what is taught in K-12.  They
never saw a new theory they didn't like.  Did you like the "New Math" of a
couple of decades ago?  Math teachers I knew hated it, but all the same it
went into effect in the public schools.  What are legislators to do?  They
have to listen to the educ. people because they will say that only they can
know what is good for kids because that's their area, whereas the math
people may know math but don't know teaching. etc. etc.

At least poor quality psych papers don't affect the public at all.  When I
first starting teaching college I learned that there was a big prejudice
against the education dept. and wondered why.  Ph.D.s ought to be smart
people and all that.   Nope - not in educ.

One more anecdote:  a fellow grad student of mine in psych decided he
needed a course taught in the grad counseling (educ.) dept.  One night a
week.  He came back from his first meeting looking grim.  He said it was
going to be all kinds of work - not what he expected.  So he took his list
of readings, did them all, and went to class the next week, only to find
that he had done the outside readings for the semester, not the week.
Needless to say he breezed through that course.

bill w

On Sun, May 22, 2016 at 5:21 PM, John Clark <johnkclark at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Sat, May 21, 2016  William Flynn Wallace <foozler83 at gmail.com> wrote:
> ​> ​
>> Good experiments with people is hard work and very creative work and I
>> wasn't very good at it.  Cut out to be a teacher.  Test yourself:  try to
>> come up with a creative way to test for jealousy other than to give people
>> questionnaires.
> ​When test subjects walk into a psychology lab I don't understand how
> they can take anything the experimenter says ​at face value. When I was in
> school I took a physiology course and as part of the course I had to be a
> test subject. I always looked at it as a game where I tried to outwit the
> experimenters and figure out what they were really testing for.
> One time they put me in a small room and told me the experiment was about
> how people solved algebra problems, so I knew that whatever the experiment
> was really about it wasn't about how people solved algebra problems. They
> gave me a paper with 10 problems on it and said "you have 10 minutes to
> solve these, we don't expect anyone to solve them all but do as many as you
> can". But the questions were easy, really really easy, after 5 minutes I
> solved all 10, checked them twice and give them to the experimenter. He
> only glanced at my paper and then said in a flat voice as if he'd recited
> the same canned speech many times " I can see that you're extraordinarily
> good at this". Why on earth would he say that? I never found out for sure
> but my hunch at the time was that he flipped a coin and if it was heads he
> said I was extraordinarily good and if tails he said I stink to high
> heaven. I must have been heads.
> Then he said he wanted to test me again, this time with 20 problems and
> I'd have 20 minutes. He brought out a egg timer and set it for 20 minutes
> and said, "I have things to do so I'm going to leave you now, but when the
> timer rings stop working. Oh and to make sure you're not disturbed lock the
> door after I leave, in about half an hour I'll come back and knock on the
> door and then you can unlock the door and let me back in". Hmm.
> I soon found that these 20 problems were MUCH more difficult than the
> previous 10, real ball busters. I was still struggling to finish problem #4
> when the timer went off, so I immediately put the pencil down and just
> stared at the suspiciously placed mirror built into the wall directly
> across from me for another 20 minutes until I heard a knock on door and I
> let the experimenter back in. He then asked me if I cheated and continued
> to work after the timer went off and told him what he undoubtedly already
> knew that I hadn't cheated. Looking back on it now I wish I'd lied and told
> him I cheated, I wonder what he would have made of that.
>  John K Clark
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