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Debunking the Lorentz System As a Framework For Human Emotions

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the two-point-nine-oh-one-three-huh dept.

Stats 124

New submitter Enokcc writes "In a series of research articles it was claimed that a famous system of nonlinear differential equations originally used to model atmospheric convection can also be used to model changes in human emotions over time. It took an amateur in psychology with a computer science background to notice how extraordinary these claims were, and with the help of experts on psychology he has now published a critique. The latest of the questionable research articles (with 360 citations) is now 'partially withdrawn.'" Notably, skeptic Nick Brown's paper is co-authored by Alan Sokal, famous for exposing nonsense by less diplomatic means.

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124 comments

Modeling (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180139)

Considering how poorly atmospheric conditions and climate are modeled, it's no wonder they can't model human emotions.

Having spent my career working on modeling various physical phenomena, I attest it's easy to fudge the results to produce any outcome you want, if you know how.

Re:Modeling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180419)

My PhD advisor had a saying... basically ended up calling any model that wasn't working and fully validated on a bunch of benchmarks was just a "piece of science fiction".

Re:Modeling (1)

SomeKDEUser (1243392) | about 9 months ago | (#45180685)

Funny, this is the expression I use for certain grants...

Sad fact: because the code is not demanded by the journals (and worse, the reviewers) many times, the results published are simply not reproducible. Not even by the guy who ran the code. Typically because under pressure from whoever is above them, researcher will produce shitty MATLAB code (you can always tell a numerics paper is shitty when it obviously uses MATLAB and small problems) which happened to yield the "right" result. Heck, most of them don't understand what a source repository is...

If you review papers, it is your duty to reject marginal stuff if it is not implemented in a code which can solve "real" problems (millions of unknown, non-linear, complex geometry).

Re:Modeling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45181085)

If you review papers, it is your duty to reject marginal stuff if it is not implemented in a code which can solve "real" problems (millions of unknown, non-linear, complex geometry).

No, it's not. Well, unless it's JCP or something.

I've reviewed papers that used good codes (which are open-source that I've used) that did a crappy analysis, and I've reviewed papers that used so-so codes that did amazing bits of research, even if they didn't use the coolest algorithms. You know, there are some subjects where analytic solutions to linearized problems are still important.

Re:Modeling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45181589)

modeling convection ----> convection is hot air rising---> a troll produces hot air ---> how could the original article have been anything but trolling?

Lorentz? no (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180145)

It's Lorenz

Re:Lorentz? no (4, Funny)

Noughmad (1044096) | about 9 months ago | (#45180385)

So they didn't just debunk the Lorentz-Lorenz law [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Lorentz? no (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 9 months ago | (#45180661)

Nope, it's just that when you skim through the text very quickly, as usual, the name relativistically contracts.

Researcher (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180153)

A noted psychological researcher (can't remember his) during a TED Talk said (to paraphrase) "ignore all psychological and neurological research in your lifetime because they more than likely got it wrong.'

For decades, we were taught that the brain doesn't grow new neurons and then neurogenesis was discovered.

Bravo for your sarcasm! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180215)

We have an uncited researcher giving a speech that discredits his own scientific field with a vague statement on the probability of the validity of research in his field. This is followed by a statement on how "we" were taught something about a field that was on the cutting edge of research (which of course reminds us on how "we" were taught that in the 15th century that everybody thought the Earth was flat), and then using that to draw conclusions on areas of the field that are considered established.

Mods, we have a winner! Mod this up to +5. The immense sarcasm in this post points to how many people talk about a subject they have no firsthand expertise in while drawing a broad conclusion with uncited or perhaps misinterpreted statements from the experts. It is a damning critique of kneejerk thinking. It is the most insightful post on Slashdot in months.

No need for the sarcastic snark (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180623)

I saw that TED talk (and searching TED talks suck and can't find it, although found a wonderful talk by Russel Foster about sleep and our misconceptions about that and how researchers got that all wrong for centuries.) and the person was talking about lay people - lay people taking current studies as fact.

His point was that it takes about a generation for science to really get down to the truth - trying to duplicate results of studies, improved technology in research, more research, etc ...

How many people still believe the non-sense that we only use 10% of our brains?

Of course, someone IN the field would use previous research - even in his own generation. But a lay person shouldn't take too much stock in current findings until it has run it's scientific course.

Anyway, go back to insulting people and getting your silly mod points.

Re:No need for the sarcastic snark (2)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 9 months ago | (#45180671)

Exactly. It constantly bugs me how educational theorists jump on the latest thing from neuroscience and then use it to justify anything and everything when even the neuroscientists haven't nailed down the consequences of the discovery yet.

Re:Bravo for your sarcasm! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45181069)

yeah, it's uncited except I've not only heard that it was wrong but I know someone who was a computer science major who used to generate data for a bunch of psychology "studies" that were never conducted. He then went on to talk about how he still sees many of those "studies" cited to this day.

Re:Bravo for your sarcasm! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45181139)

That's because neuroscience and psychology arn't hard sciences. In real science (like computer science and mathematics), you look to generate proofs. In pseudosciences, such as phrenology, psychology and neuroscience, you just kinda bull shit some ideas out and publish. They rely on impossible to reproduce experiments that can change day to day, and use comparatively small sample sizes. Even if you are proven wrong, like Sigmund Freud, you still are touted as a hero.

See, that's how you troll them.

Re:Bravo for your sarcasm! (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 9 months ago | (#45182281)

(which of course reminds us on how "we" were taught that in the 15th century that everybody thought the Earth was flat)

Had you not been so intent on being a sarcastic ass, you might have done a little reading. This is one of those dumbshit factoids that aren't true.

"The immense sarcasm in this post points to how many people talk about a subject they have no firsthand expertise in"

Irony, thy name is Anonymous Coward.

Re:Bravo for your sarcasm! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45182465)

Whoosh!

The "sarcastic ass" put in a statement that your took at face value. Think closely how this statement compares with the rest of the sentence.

Re: Bravo for your sarcasm! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183109)

I don't know about you, but I was certainly taught that factoid, and heard it repeated many times since. The claim is complete nonsense, but it's absolutely correct that many of us were taught it.

Re:Bravo for your sarcasm! (1)

Boronx (228853) | about 9 months ago | (#45182643)

In other words, TED is stupid. This is known.

Re:Researcher (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 9 months ago | (#45180257)

1) We have a lot of fundamental misunderstandings about shit, but that doesn't invalidate all our research. Bla bla Newton Einstein archetype;

2) Psychological research has done immense harm, but it's also brought mental healthcare out of the stone age of arbitrary, cruel punishment - since 1 in 4 people will suffer a mental health problem at some time in their life, this is seriously significant shit;

3) Neurological research has helped to treat my overworked wrists, turning me from someone barely able to write for 15 minutes without a break to someone approaching normal function below the elbows. So, there you're just talking shit.

The word "shit" in this post was brought to you by The Dude.

Re:Researcher (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180285)

Just a quick correction...you need to broaden your understanding of 'psychological research'. Some elements have done harm. Some deal with very fuzzy though important concepts, while others are a bit closer to the metal.

For the OP, 'yes', all of those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases can bypass the neurologist and head straight for the first engineer with DeVry credentials.

Re:Researcher (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 9 months ago | (#45180305)

Maybe it's a language matter. If I say, "Guns have done immense harm," I don't mean all guns have done immense harm. Psych research has involved and led to some brilliant and some atrocious shit. For the former, I gave the example of advances in mental healthcare. For the latter, I'd highlight applied psychometrics, which is really eugenics with delayed effect.

Re:Researcher (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180381)

Before The Dude, there was Fritz Perls, you might enjoy his taxonomy of shit --
    http://isthisshit.com/ [isthisshit.com]
"According to Fritz Perls (1893–1970), founder of the Gestalt school of psychology, there are three kinds of shit you are likely to run into while talking with people"

Re:Researcher (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180871)

turning me from someone barely able to write for 15 minutes without a break to someone approaching normal function below the elbows

And nothing of value was gained.

Re:Researcher (2)

akinliat (1771190) | about 9 months ago | (#45181157)

2) Psychological research has done immense harm, but it's also brought mental healthcare out of the stone age of arbitrary, cruel punishment - since 1 in 4 people will suffer a mental health problem at some time in their life, this is seriously significant shit;

Scatological references aside, it's probably important to note that psychological research, with it's emphasis on "normal" human mental activity, and psyhciatric research, which deals specifically with mental illness, are really not the same thing anymore (if they ever were). While neither field has made much headway in understanding the causes of mental illness, psychiatry has at least managed to evolve some forms of treatment based on purely empirical data.

Psychology, on the other hand, has probably done more harm than good at this point. Insisting on its continuing relevance, psychologists have supported the mental illness advocacy groups in their largely successful attempts to dismantle our mental health institutions. Even the few remaining hospitals that are left are encumbered by the focus on "active" treatments (sitting around talking), that leave doctors with little time to see their patients each day.

I suppose it's like a lot of other social programs (welfare, food stamps, etc), where attempts to make them more "efficient" or "accountable" or "respectful" of the participants have resulted in a an actual decline in the program's efficacy.

Re:Researcher (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45181297)

Um, yeah they are the same field (psychiatry, the medical science is an applied form of psychology). Many mental disorders are learned behaviors and many treatments need to deal with learning appropriate coping mechanisms.

As far as your statement on dismantling mental health institutions, I'd like to point out that it is bullshit. The mental health institutions that were dismantled were just warehouses for people with mental illnesses. They were dismantled because they were ineffective and because gross human rights violations were occurring within their walls. It has been studied over and over again and it is clear that treatment in an outpatient setting for a person who is not a threat to themselves or others is the most effective type of treatment. This should be common sense: the behaviors you learn in a total control environment to deal with your problems don't necessarily apply in the real world. It was simply a prison for the mentally ill (and like our current prisons, it didn't prepare its inmates for release to society). But dealing with your problems in the real world can help you survive in the real world. This is why outpatient treatment is preferred and more effective. Seriously, there is this myth that these mental hospitals that locked people up for years without due process were somehow helpful and the doctors were treating their patients. They weren't. They were even more underfunded than they are today. Patients would simply be medicated and forgot, which was cheap.

Let's not be too angry (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180163)

At least some psychologists are trying to use math beyond statistics. It looks like they screwed up, by I give them credit for trying. Social scientists have historically sucked at using rigorous mathematics to describe the phenomena they observe. I for one, don't want more social scientists scared off by a backlash on this.

Re:Let's not be too angry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180227)

Naw, we better stone them to be sure their ideas dies with them.
Pseudoskeptics and pathological scepticism is the one and only way forward!

Re:Let's not be too angry (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 9 months ago | (#45180267)

Surely it's better to scare off any social "scientists" that try to use maths in a cargo-cult kind of way? If you're going to use maths, don't just throw in random equations that have no bearing on the actual topic - that's basically just lying.

Re:Let's not be too angry (1)

fatphil (181876) | about 9 months ago | (#45180523)

Compare Taleb's "We Can Start Exposing Economists" gauntlet-flinging earlier this year. He's highly mathematical, and he abhors the misuse of mathematics. And what I like about him is that he's prepared to take on big targets, compared with the relatively indignificant target attacked by the TFA.

Re:Let's not be too angry (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 9 months ago | (#45180349)

Given that even classical medicine has a horrible habit of misapplying hypothesis testing, that quantitative macroeconomics is almost pure voodoo, and that weather prediction leaves a lot to be desired, I'd say the problem is not a lack of mathematics, but that the American model (unlike the European model) is to put numbers before logic.

Re:Let's not be too angry (2)

nomadic (141991) | about 9 months ago | (#45180379)

Yet the European model has not produced better medical researchers, quantitative macroeconomists, or weather predictors.

Re:Let's not be too angry (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 9 months ago | (#45180659)

A bit of a pedantic point here, the European Center for Medium Range Forecasts [ecmwf.int] weather prediction models are the most accurate of the current bunch. That said, I am not sure if this represents a sea change in how they ginned up the model or just the fact that they did it somewhat better than others (at present, anyway).

Further, I'm not sure that there is a substantive difference between European and American scientists in most scientific and engineering fields. There are roughly similar levels of Nobel Prizes, screwball research, entertaining products and outright failures on both continents. Cross your eyes a bit (or take off your glasses), and a Boeing plane looks just about like an Airbus.

In particular, European medical research is just as crappy as American attempts. But we are making progress, that's all that the scientific method gets you - moving in the 'right' direction. Slowly at times, but inexorably.

We're all bozos on this bus.

Re:Let's not be too angry (1)

siride (974284) | about 9 months ago | (#45183885)

The ECMWF model is fairly beefy. It's almost American in how many extra layers and grid details it has (bigger is better!). It runs on good hardware and has good data assimilation. It still screws up with regularity, but it's not as bad as the American models. It's not clear that the methodology is significantly different, though. The model uses the same kind framework as the American and other global models. That is, it's not built spectacularly differently, or in a way that signifies that a different underlying philosophy was used.

Re:Let's not be too angry (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180437)

Weather prediction? Are you kidding me? There have been enormous gains in weather prediction. A 300 nmi zone for a hurricane 3 days out 20 years ago is now a 100 km zone. A 5 day forecast today is as accurate as a 2 day forecast 20 years ago.

http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/which-hurricane-forecast-model-should-you-trust [wunderground.com]
http://www.timeanddate.com/weather/forecast-accuracy-time.html [timeanddate.com]

Re:Let's not be too angry (0)

SomeKDEUser (1243392) | about 9 months ago | (#45180741)

Now, I know what you mean about the American vs the European models, but weather prediction is improving all the time, if slowly (amusingly, the European models _are_ better than the American ones). Also, medicine is not a science. biology is, and its main problems is too many bloody doctors messing things up.

As for macroeconomics... Well, if your model is not built on political belief (markets are efficient! self-correcting! wages adjust! government investment can only be wasted!) you can actually make predictions and guide your policies. People actually thinking/using models are just not listened to...

Re:Let's not be too angry (1)

Arker (91948) | about 9 months ago | (#45181185)

I am not so sure this is insightful.

Much use of Mathematics in human/social science, in my experience, has more to do with Physics-envy than with real science. Another related function is to give a scientistic seal of approval on what amounts to modern witchcraft - this is particularly prevalent in the region of applied psychology I have found. It does not have to make sense, just be slightly denser than your grad students (and patients/clients) can parse, in order to give you the full and wondrous benefits of the holy placebo.

Re:Let's not be too angry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45182497)

People who use math that they don't understand should be scared off.

They should go back to studying something that they are qualified for like ...
Well, I can't think of anything.

debunking the easily debunkable (4, Interesting)

stenvar (2789879) | about 9 months ago | (#45180217)

You can bet that if there had been a strong lobby or interest group invested in the results of this paper, there would be strong counter-claims and attacks on people trying to debunk it. That's the case in many papers in economics, for example: their data is shaky, their models arbitrary, and their conclusions absurd, but one or the other political party uses it to justify its economic policy, it acquires a lobby, and becomes unassailable.

But even in papers where merely a lot of scientific careers and reputations are at stake, you can't overturn established dogma until the proponents of that dogma have retired or died.

Debunking pointless papers like this, papers that don't do any harm, actually is itself harmful, because it gives the erroneous impression that "the system works" and errors get corrected. The only errors that get corrected in science are those that don't have a lobby.

Re:debunking the easily debunkable (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45182555)

This is an argument for complacency, convenient when you want a one-size-fits-all argument against any current orthodoxy. The very idea that error correcting papers should not be published because it's evidence that "the system works" is completely nuts. So we should just allow every crackpot theory to go unchallenged? Only a crackpot would argue that.

Re:debunking the easily debunkable (3, Informative)

complete loony (663508) | about 9 months ago | (#45183483)

Case in point; Steve Keen's Debunking Economics [amazon.com] contains many examples of economic theories that are either provably false, or run counter to the empirical evidence, or both.

Re:debunking the easily debunkable (2)

stenvar (2789879) | about 9 months ago | (#45183773)

Of course, Keen is actually not debunking economics, he is debunking a left wing caricature of economics.

Tipping point (2)

jamesl (106902) | about 9 months ago | (#45180237)

So then what was this? A butterfly graph, the calling card of chaos theory mathematics, purporting to show the tipping point upon which individuals and groups âoeflourishâ or âoelanguish.â Not a metaphor, no poetic allusion, but an exact ratio: 2.9013 positive to 1 negative emotions. Cultivate a âoepositivity ratioâ of greater than 2.9-to-1 and sail smoothly through life; fall below it, and sink like a stone.
  [ ... ]
But Brown smelled bullshit. A universal constant predicting success and fulfillment, failure and discontent? "In what world could this be true?" he wondered.

One step closer to the tipping point where tipping points will become ... not so tipsy.

The definition of amateur... (1)

Apothem (1921856) | about 9 months ago | (#45180279)

This wouldn't be the first time that someone who was an amateur made some kind of major progress. It seems that the definition of amateur needs a rewrite. The guy in the article sounds like he's more stating the obvious at this point.

how to get an addvanced psychology degree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180297)

walk into the bathroom of any engineering facility and take a sheet of toilet paper. You are now a doctorate of psychology.

Re:how to get an addvanced psychology degree (1)

Dthief (1700318) | about 9 months ago | (#45180391)

only if its 2-ply

Re:how to get an addvanced psychology degree (1)

lgw (121541) | about 9 months ago | (#45181865)

walk into the bathroom of any engineering facility and take a sheet of toilet paper. You are now a doctorate of psychology.

Stop taunting education majors with the impressive academic pedigree of psychology majors!

not much news (2, Informative)

rubycodez (864176) | about 9 months ago | (#45180301)

Psychology is not a science. It attempts to use methods and analysis from science but that is as far as it can go. Of course most of it can be debunked.

Re:not much news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180321)

Can you please elaborate with examples cutting across the whole domain. Thanks.

Re:not much news (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 9 months ago | (#45180383)

Yes. Trivial. Consider any "experiment" in psychology. Using people who are unique and different in both experimental and control group. what can you prove with no true control? nothing, that's what.

Re:not much news (1)

nomadic (141991) | about 9 months ago | (#45180447)

That's silly. Research psychologists seek to find common mental processes, and while there are some whose methodology can be challenged, that's true for any research area. Have you ever read a single psychology study?

Re:not much news (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180453)

You need to learn something about sample size, the central limit theorem, and a bit about experimental design. You might even want to learn something about repeated measures designs where the same sample can serve as their own control. While we're at it, consider the last point in combination with variance.

To answer your question, and this applies to any experimental domain, by systematically varying the conditions you can learn whether these conditions are same. You simply insure that you have a sufficiently large sample in the 'observers', be they machines, humans, or animals. The same principal applies when we test drugs on a large scale or perhaps assess any trait as a function of time of day. The control is in the design and from the design we can begin to systematically build a model of the observer or participants.

Your criticism really is answered with reference to sample size. In the human research world because groups may add imaging techniques (e..g, EEG, fMRI) doesn't change the underlying approach.

Re:not much news (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 9 months ago | (#45181667)

Ah, so you understand nothing. Thank you for showing your ignorance so that everybody can safely disregard everything you say on the topic.

Re:not much news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180515)

There is zero etiology and the interrater agreement for some of the most commonly treated disorders, such is depression, is shockingly low. Despite being unable to agree on who actually has depression, for instance, powerful drugs make it through clinical trials and are used to medicate tens of millions of people. Every day, people in our Justice system lose their freedom, children, or just their life savings based on voodoo like the MMPI.

It is very important to study the brain/mind but many people believe psych has gotten way ahead of itself in "treating" things it doesn't understand.

Re:not much news (1)

fa2k (881632) | about 9 months ago | (#45180973)

Psychology can be a science. What the paper in this story is discussing is a form of phenomenology (a term which unfortunately has many meanings): determining an empirical relationship between two observables. The best would be to predict a relationship from a set of axioms or more fundamental hypotheses, but it's hard to come by such things in psychology, so doing phenomenology is the only way forward so far. This is not worthless. It is equivalent (for example) to determining how the magnetic field around a wire changes with the current. A lot of such measurements were done before we got Maxwell's equations.

The problem with the model which was critisized is not that they used a specific set of differential equations to describe the problem. It is perfectly valid in science to determine an empirical formula based only on data. (the paper in TFA does make some convincing points about why differential equations can't describe the problem, but they are mainly rooted in the mathematical theory, and can't rule out the case that the formulae work by chance) The problem is that they did not rigorously define neither their input variables, their methodology nor the result of their test. This is also mentioned in the paper, in the context that the parameters must be dimensionless, but it is IMO far more important that they are well defined. If they had specified in detail what they measured, how they transformed the data, etc., then their works could be seen as two parts: 1) a descriptive study, and 2) a hypothesis about how the outputs can be predicted by the inputs. If the inputs and the methodology was well defined, then this hypothesis could be tested. One could compute the "positive / negative" quotient and check with more data. If the hypothesis is confirmed, psychological theorists could attempt to find a consistent explanation for the correlation.

Experiment leading theory is not unusual in science, and in psychology there is not much else to grasp for so far.

Re:not much news (1)

fa2k (881632) | about 9 months ago | (#45181051)

Actually, I may have misunderstood the objection. One could say that approaching psychology with scientific methods is the same as applying those methods to astrology or homeopathy. I.e. one could reject the possibility of causal relationships between the observables used in psych. I think this is wrong, and there exists well tested theories which prove that it's not all BS.

Rosenham Experiment (5, Interesting)

gallondr00nk (868673) | about 9 months ago | (#45180329)

Whenever there's an enormous new "objective" trend in psychology or social science, I always think of the Rosenhan experiment.

In a nutshell, volunteers went to different psychiatric hospitals in the US, complaining that they all suffered from (made up) voices in their heads. They were all admitted under different psychological disorders. At this point, they all acted completely normally and told staff they no longer heard voices. In all cases, they were only released once they'd submitted to treatment, and "made better".

In a follow up after the original paper, psychiatric hospitals challenged Rosenhan to send more volunteers, and the hospitals asserted they would spot them easily. He agreed, and after three months the participating hospitals said that they had weeded out 42 imposters.

Rosenhan hadn't sent a single person to the hospitals.

It's a perfect example of how inaccurate psychology is once it relies on distinct catagories like "insane" and "sane". A "positivity ratio" as created by Fredrickson is absolutely no different.

Like in any field the "experts" are often anything but.

Insights are one thing, but constantly trying to hammer objectivity into something so complex as human behaviour is always going to be flawed.

Re:Rosenham Experiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180387)

You cite an example to make a specific yet at the same time demonstrate a profound lack of understanding of the thing you're criticizing. You don't even possess a working definition.

I'm sure you'll fail to understand the point. Carry-on.

Re:Rosenham Experiment (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180587)

I doubt very seriously I would be able to fool my GP into believing I have a broken arm, strep throat, or hepatitis when I don't actually suffer from any of those conditions. Yet here we have real psychiatrists that were fooled by regular people that didn't really say anything more than they heard voices saying "thud." Then they were fooled again by suspecting that people who went to them for treatment were malingerers when they were not. What is there to not understand? Given the professions refusal to reproduce or address Rosenhahn and the current complaining about the very low kappas for many of the disorders in the DSM-V, it doesn't look like things have improved much since then.

Re:Rosenham Experiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180665)

I doubt very seriously I would be able to fool my GP into believing I have a broken arm, strep throat, or hepatitis when I don't actually suffer from any of those conditions. Yet here we have real psychiatrists that were fooled by regular people that didn't really say anything more than they heard voices saying "thud."

Well, the issue is that mental disorders we put more faith in what the patients say. When I go to my GP and ask about some bump, I may be able to feel very well where it is, but unless he can as well (and more than just "yea, that's a bump"), he's not going to treat it, because it's clearly not cancerous, and anything less than that is more of a "just live with it, it'll probably go away, and if it gets bigger come back" kind of situation.

For a mental disease, you pretty much have to use what comes out of someone's mouth as the primary reference, as opposed to a secondary source.

Re:Rosenham Experiment (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180695)

For a mental disease, you pretty much have to use what comes out of someone's mouth as the primary reference, as opposed to a secondary source.

After the volunteers were committed they were unable to get out even though they said they were just fine. In some cases, Rosenhan had to call in the lawyers. Apparently, these psychiatrists were relying on something other than what the patients were saying, perhaps a Ouija board?

Re:Rosenham Experiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180675)

First, you understand you're talking about psychiatry and not psychology, right. Second, only a segment of psychology deals with such clinical issues.

That said, fooling a psychiatrist doesn't actually mean that treatable psychiatric disorders do not exist. I suspect you've never had to develop solutions for the very ill nor have you ever been witness to the care of those who fall under any number of psychiatric conditions. Long term. At the extreme, how do you manage individuals who can never be a part of society? Are they managed? Do you have evidence that benefit is not generally being conferred? Or do you simply have a black and white view of the world.

I'm curious, why didn't you start with an estimate of what percentage of the population will in their life time require some treatment for a psychiatric disorder then systematically invalidate psychiatry.

Now, indeed, the NIMH recently criticized psychiatry/DSM for not utilizing enough, ironically, cognitive psychology, imaging (fMRI), and genetic approaches.

Re:Rosenham Experiment (1)

jakibadr (3396405) | about 9 months ago | (#45180749)

it's be more clear right now

Re:Rosenham Experiment (1)

openfrog (897716) | about 9 months ago | (#45180807)

Insights are one thing, but constantly trying to hammer objectivity into something so complex as human behaviour is always going to be flawed.

Granted, and Sokal and others do very well here debunking the spurious claims of Fredrickson and Losada. However, let's not be carried over in the same generalities about human sciences that surrounded his original hoax, and let us by reminded of the Bogdanov affair, where two clowns managed to get PhDs in physics and in mathematics, and published articles in peer-reviewed journals IN THOSE FIELDS on topics such as what happened just after the Big Bang (see Wikipedia article: Bogdanov Affair). Neither you or I would claim that these hoaxes invalidate in any way, serious or otherwise, our current understanding of physics and mathematics... but they are indeed a nuisance and more seriously, can be used by interested parties to cause damage in public opinion.

I would really wish to read Alan Sokal on the Bogdanov Affair...

Re:Rosenham Experiment (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45181031)

Me too. Whenever there are discussions about computer science and engineering I'm reminded of Space Shuttles and rockets exploding, bridges collapsing, buildings toppling or crumbling when they shouldn't, satellites taken off course, cars catching fires, brakes failing, and so on. Then I start thinking about cold fusion all the illicit drugs destroying society, the legal medications, thalidomide. Then I retreat to my cave and paint.

Re:Rosenham Experiment (2)

venicebeach (702856) | about 9 months ago | (#45181241)

The conclusion you have drawn from this study is an extreme overreaction. It does not follow from this single study of how psychiatric staff in the 1970s responded to malingering patients that any attempt at quantifying human behavior objectively is flawed.

The main issue with this study is that psychiatric diagnosis relies heavily on self report, and the actors in this study created the illusion of a psychiatric disorder by lying about their hallucinations. How the staff responds once the patient no longer reports symptoms is interesting and revealing, but this is no indictment of the entirety of behavioral or psychological research.

There is a legitimate science of emotion, and we know quite a bit about emotion from studying it objectively. I think the issue with the theory in the OP is that it relied on a complex field of mathematics which emotion researchers were not in a position to understand or critique. This is more an issue with cross-disciplinary work than it is with behavioral science.

Re:Rosenham Experiment (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 9 months ago | (#45181687)

Ah, so every time you hear about something in psychology or sociology it makes you think of psychiatry which is part of medical science?

Perhaps you need to learn the difference between the two fields before you open your pie hole?

Re:Rosenham Experiment (2)

Diamonddavej (851495) | about 9 months ago | (#45182127)

Since the notorious Rosenhan experiment experiment, the diagnosis of mental illness and neurological conditions has vastly improved, your complaint pertains to the 1973 not today. That experiment was one of the reasons why the DSM was developed, that aims to rigorously categorises the symptoms of psychological and neurological conditions.

Admittedly, the DSM still relies on a symptom check list not objective tests but there are exciting recent developments where fMRI, EEG and genetics are beginning to aid diagnosis rather then subjective judgement alone.

Mental illnesses will be routinely diagnosed with the aid of medical scanning eventually.

Ref:

Duffy, F.H. & Als, H., 2012. A stable pattern of EEG spectral coherence distinguishes children with autism from neuro-typical controls - a large case control study. BMC Medicine, 10, 64.

Funai, A., Bharadwaj, H. & Grissom, W., 2009. Final Report: Improved Discrimination of Asperger Patients using fMRI and Machine Learning.

Nieuwenhuis, M., van Haren, N.E.M., Hulshoff Pol, H.E., Cahn, W., Kahn, R.S. & Schnack, H.G., 2012. Classification of schizophrenia patients and healthy controls from structural MRI scans in two large independent samples. NeuroImage, 61, 606–612.

Schnack, H.G., Nieuwenhuis, M., van Haren, N.E.M., Abramovic, L., Scheewe, T.W., Brouwer, R.M., Hulshoff Pol, H.E. & Kahn, R.S., 2014. Can structural MRI aid in clinical classification? A machine learning study in two independent samples of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and healthy subjects. NeuroImage, 84, 299

Re:Rosenham Experiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45183917)

Mental illnesses will be routinely diagnosed with the aid of medical scanning eventually.

Doubtful. And probably dangerous too, as the many science fiction stories on this subject agree.

It's Such a Beautiful Day - Isaac Asimov [readanybooks.net]

The Pedestrian - Ray Bradbury [typepad.com]

I mean sure, you have citations from actual research, and I have Science Fiction short stories, but I'm standing by this and let's revisit this in ten years' time.

Retraction Watch (main page) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180355)

Please find your way to the mainpage of Retraction Watch and note that dishonesty and bad science is more about the individuals rather than the endeavour. It's remarkable that during these witch hunts it appears that a substantial portion of the Slashdot readership jumps on board. Yet, this is a "geek" site ostensibly created to marvel and perhaps participate in creation of knowledge and things.

We simply cannot escape the belief (religious) mentality no matter the venue. Despite being transparent most often lacking details or facts the believers continue to post.

Oddly, we have individuals posting from a position of belief about a failed endeaviour in a scientific pursuit.

huh? (2)

nomadic (141991) | about 9 months ago | (#45180369)

The author is a graduate student in psychology, not an amateur. Graduate students are expected to write academic journal articles as part of their studies.

Re:huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180509)

In fact he's apparently a graduate student in the very fuzzy division of psychology that he's criticizing.

Re:huh? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 9 months ago | (#45180887)

I'm puzzled by Sokal's claim that the Brown "has no particular training in mathematics", when the article says that Brown has "a degree in computer science". I wonder what kind of degree in CS does not require training in mathematics. Perhaps not specifically with regards to non-linear system models, but that's not how it sounded to me.

Re:huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45181019)

At such levels, very minor distinctions in fields become important. There are things that I studied during my PhD work that I would say is 'not my field', even though it is a subfield of the thing I have many degrees in.

Also, if you ever read about yourself as told by a journalist, they will find a way to misunderstand the simplest of quotes. It's rather like the first time you hear your voice recorded and think it sounds awful.

Re:huh? (1)

nomadic (141991) | about 9 months ago | (#45182895)

Sokal's a physicist, maybe his view of the math CS majors have to learn is basic enough that it doesn't rise to the level of "particular training."

Hey, genius. Debunk something worthwhile. (3, Informative)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 9 months ago | (#45180439)

Why not actually make a big difference if we're going to have a team of "expert" psychologists debunk something? You know, like get the bogus Duluth Model [theduluthmodel.org] thrown out since it's used as the framework for almost all domestic abuse therapy / explanation. Since it presents abuse as gendered, but men and women are equally aggressive. [csulb.edu] Hell, there's plenty of evidence... So, Shouldn't be hard, eh?

Oh, that's right. It's fucking Psychiatry / Psychology -- Damn non-sciences. Whoopdee fucking do, let's debunk some shit everyone knows is bunk to begin with and doesn't fucking matter. I got a better idea: Let's throw out any and all existing shit about predicting why folks act certain ways and let the Neroscientists and Cyberneticians handle it -- You know, the actual sciences based on real evidence and repeatable observable physical phenomena linked to reality by more than uninformed guesses.

I guess everyone's scratching their own itches, but I mean, if we're not going to do the right thing and declassify psychology as science, then if I were looking at making a positive impact I'd start at the Duluth Model since abuse is largely cyclic: Most rapists and abusers were themselves abused. So, the current most wide spread approach to domestic violence counseling creates more female victims in the next cycle. I mean, if we're going to debunk shit, why not take your pick of other crap that's sticking out like a sore thumb, is obviously blatantly wrong, and just plain ol' sexist? Oh, I think you know why... Because you're not fucking scientists.

Re:Hey, genius. Debunk something worthwhile. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180595)

Just a quick question or two...what groups make-up the domain of neuroscientists? And, why do you think psychology and psychiatry are largely about predicting behaviour at such a high level. Your (personal) rant demonstrates that you don't have much of a grasp of what is practiced experimental psychology. Rather your understanding is based on some airy definition associated with clinical psychology or even therapists (be they psychologists or not - most often not).

Incidentally, psychiatry and psychology are quite far apart. There is however some overlap between clinical psychology and psychiatry and psychiatry does deal with issues of personality. However, they are different. Save yourself some embarrassment in public and learn the differences.

Calm down. Read several books. Read many definitions. Maybe consume a bunch of research papers across disciplines. And for good measure, visit a few dozen Psych department webpages at major research universities. You'll find some crap but if you're not too closed minded you should discover that the planet is larger than current world view allows. Anyway, the books should include several that cover statistics and research design. This latter groups is critical often overlooked by Slashdot posters (can't burst the bubble that keeps esteem afloat). Those will help you formulate a better understanding of 'science' - in general.

Re:Hey, genius. Debunk something worthwhile. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45181001)

Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

Re:Hey, genius. Debunk something worthwhile. (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 9 months ago | (#45181717)

So you used science to determine it's not a science? No, so you're just accusing them of doing what you're doing except that of course they have to actually use science. Always nice when reality revolves around you right?

Not news (1)

NeverWorker1 (1686452) | about 9 months ago | (#45180639)

This was interesting...in August.

Re:Not news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45182101)

August? This was interesting... a year ago, for people in the field. There have been a lot of corrections made to models, papers, books, etc but of course that's not enough for the Debunkers because they have a political, not scientific, ax to grind. I've seen the data, it's very compelling and definitely implies a more complex relationship between positive and negative emotions than just simply, "BE HAPPY." Did they overreach by trying to distill it into a single ratio? Probably. But let's not forget the "scientists" the broke the speed of light awhile back. Obvious Physics isn't a science because somebody made a mistake.

Lorentz Pffft! (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | about 9 months ago | (#45180657)

Lorentz Pffft! I use fast Fourier transform to calculate my emotions, and right now my results show nothing but scorn for anyone who uses Lorentz.

Re:Lorentz Pffft! (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 9 months ago | (#45180723)

Bloody amateur. I use FFT to create my emotions. I've even got dedicated silicon for it!

Re:Lorentz Pffft! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45180985)

I use Old Grand Dad for same

Re:Lorentz Pffft! (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 9 months ago | (#45181511)

Lorentz Pffft! I use fast Fourier transform

Thus putting the "fft" in "Pffft!". Personally, I prefer the Lorentz–Lorenz equation [wikipedia.org] for these things.

So what (1)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | about 9 months ago | (#45180763)

So this amateur managed to "debunk" a paper based on his "intuitions". Quite frankly, I'm not impressed.

First of all, the field of psychology is vast and some parts of it shouldn't be called scientific. Given that, the approach criticized seems refreshingly precise.

Secondly, the amateur does not seem to be aware very much of mathematical psychology, because otherwise he wouldn't have had such clearcut "intuition" why in this particular case the model was wrong. As it has turned out often in the past, and much to the astonishment of mainstream psychologists, very simple ad hoc models sometimes predict psychological phenomena better than experts in the field. In fact, some simply analytic models have turned out to perform even better than experts who applied these formulas (meaning that the experts didn't trust them entirely and modified the results). A famous example is the comparison of predictions by experienced marriage counselors versus the formula number of sexual intercourses during last month-the number of fights/arguments between the partners - you don't want this number to be negative. Such simple models have also been successful in certain types of medical diagnosis, casting doubts on the expertise of practitioners and instigating a discussion about the ethics of using diagnostic formulas instead of assessment by a human expert. (For example, whom do you blame when the diagnosis by the formula is wrong, even though the formula statistically makes better predictions than humans?)

Overall, mathematical psychology has made tremendous advances during the past 30-40 years and so it's not as strange as the title story makes it appear when psychologists use modeling techniques, and it's actually a good sign if they take a look at other domains and attempt to find out whether modeling techniques from other domains can be used. It's also not uncommon for this to occur.

So I don't understand what is the alleged "bullshit" here. An approach turned out to be wrong, though probably not as wrong as, say, C.G. Jung's archetypes or Freud's notion of a "psychological force", but perhaps the author's were looking in the right direction and built relatively precise models. It's not as if all papers in theoretical physics are right and final for all eternity.

Re:So what (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 9 months ago | (#45181801)

Perhaps you should try and read the paper so you can realize just how wrong everything you wrote is?

As well, nothing wrong with Jung and Freud when you actually understand what they're saying. If you don't understand archetypes then you clearly haven't socialized a lot.

Re:So what (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45182119)

If you actually understand anything about modern psychology, then you'd never say " nothing wrong with Jung and Freud." It's pretty much a dead giveaway that someone is practicing armchair psychology.

Re:So what (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45182625)

As well, nothing wrong with Jung and Freud when you actually understand what they're saying.

Thanks, but I prefer to read authors who are right even if I don't actually understand what they're saying...

A healthy academic field would debunk itself (5, Interesting)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about 9 months ago | (#45181077)

What's so sad for me about this whole story is that took an amateur and an outsider to debunk this research, and only after an ivy league school set up an entire institute for this snake oil. Now they're saying "oops, sorry, our bad for trusting the bunk we read in the peer-reviewed journals" but why weren't experts in psychology doing this debunking themselves? And why didn't it happen immediately upon the publication of this bunk? Why didn't UPenn take a second look at this crap before they devoted an institute to it? And why is the US government putting serious money into programs based on it?

All of this stuff will eventually get walked back in the coming backlash (one hopes), but the fact that psychologists themselves were not able to recognize the crap in their own journals should be a serious wake up call for that whole discipline. If a psychology department wants to have an elite faculty, I say that at least two should be highly skilled in data-analytic methods and devote most of their research activity to undercutting the work of others. Also, a lot more research money should go into replicating experiments that the field takes as significant. Unlike other people who post here, I do think that psychology is a real science, and one of the most valuable sciences we have. The fact that it's being done badly does not make it a pseudo-science. But it does highlight the urgency of drastic reform in the field. Like I said, this should be a wake-up call. Psychology departments of the world should all be resolved to never let this kind of disaster happen again.

Re:A healthy academic field would debunk itself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45181327)

What's so sad for me about this whole story is that took an amateur and an outsider to debunk this research, and only after an ivy league school set up an entire institute for this snake oil.

You think "ivy league" means something? I spent my master's, most of my PhD, and a postdoc fixing the work of some hot-shot Ivy league people who thought they knew what they were doing, but were clueless.

Re:A healthy academic field would debunk itself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45181487)

The "amateur" is a grad student in psychology.

http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/

An Age of Junk Science (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45181081)

As we make our inevitable journey into another World War, guided by all the true power brokers in the West, we see another of those phenomenon that accompany the build up to such a horror- the rise of Junk Science at the highest levels of government and mainstream media propaganda.

This happens for two main reasons. Firstly, propagandists looking for 'scientific' justification for the slaughter of millions that will sway the will of the more 'educated' sheeple. Secondly, of course, governments are on the look out for the sociopaths who will willingly craft the new generations of murder machines.

Above all, DEATH CULT ATHEISM arises again. Now, "death cult" is NOT an insulting adjectival phrase placed in front of the word "atheist". "Death cult atheism" is actually a philosophy all of its own that describes Human Life as inherently worthless. DCA promotes Eugenics, wars that 'cull' useless eaters, the idea that the planet would be better off without Man, the idea that 'masters' should use ANY means to control and manipulate the sheeple, the idea that man is 'inherently evil', the idea that the ends ALWAYS justify the means.

DCA was massively influential in the run up to WW1 and WW2. During WW2, obviously, official government 'science' in Japan, Germany and the USA (but NOT the UK or Russia) was entirely in the hands of monsters that self-identified as DCA. You know what the German 'scientists' did to their victims, but the Americans and Japanese were just as bad, if not worse. The Japanese referred to the 'sub-Human' women and children they dissected ALIVE and fully conscious as "logs".

"YOU ARE JUST A MACHINE" is the mantra of every death cult atheist. Conceptually, breaking a machine is like chopping into a log- there can, by definition, be no moral issue. The highest and best scientific minds ALWAYS celebrate the spirituality and uniqueness of Man and life itself. But the vast majority of scientists are very much BETAS, with very inferior minds, and are easily persuaded by many of the arguments put forward by DCA is positions of power and leadership.

Expect a lot more activity mirroring this JUNK pseudo science paper on Human emotion. The evil monsters that rule rule cannot use smart decent people to oversee their war machines, if these war machines are to be used for their intended purpose. So they must recruit self-promoting, psychopathic egotists who are as CERTAIN in their own 'scientific' understanding as the deranged serial murderer is certain that killing prostitutes is the 'work of god'.

Most people interested in science are NOT very smart, as this site proves over and over. And those that are smart have little interest finding psychological ways of manipulating the sheeple into taking an interest in fundamental scientific truths. Thus, those at the cutting edge of scientific-flavoured propaganda can be ruled out as true scientists, or people actually trying to improve the scientific awareness of the general population.

Fp 8igga (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45181083)

and building is clean for the next profits without Racist? How is United States. taken ov3r by BSDI with the laundry Users of BSD/OS. A abysmal sales and

Lorenz is not Lorentz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45181625)

Lorenz equations are not the same as Lorentz equations. Two different people.

Lorenz not Lorentz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45182655)

It's Lorenz system, named after Edward Norton Lorenz (May 23, 1917 – April 16, 2008), not Lorentz.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorenz_system

Calling BS with citations. (1)

Ralph Ostrander (2846785) | about 9 months ago | (#45182699)

Your lies will always be brought before reasonable people and you will be in the long run doomed. Thanks web.

Ouch (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 9 months ago | (#45183457)

"the interactions of a team of researchers whose journal articles are characterized by 'smoke and mirrors' could be modeled using the physics of airborne particulate combustion residues, combined in some way with classical optics."

This is what in scientific terms is referred to as a "sick burn".

And from the no-shit department (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 9 months ago | (#45183537)

Dr. Fredrick retracted the 2.9 claim, but defended the concept of positivity ratios:

positivity ratios were significantly higher for individuals identified as flourishing relative to those identified as nonflourishing

In other words, people who are happy tend to think more happy thoughts than people who are unhappy.

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