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(Guardian)   Postgraduate student brings the 'science' of positive psychology crashing down. Fark: By questioning the math used by psychologists to prove their claims. Ultra Fark: Which no one had done before   (theguardian.com) divider line 69
    More: Interesting, positive psychology, British Amateur, maths, computing, quantum gravity, psychologists, graduate students, psychology  
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5306 clicks; posted to Geek » on 19 Jan 2014 at 4:35 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-01-19 01:12:47 PM  
FTFA: "t all came down to a specific ratio of positive emotions to negative emotions. If your ratio was greater than 2.9013 positive emotions to 1 negative emotion you were flourishing in life. If your ratio was less than that number you were languishing.

It was as simple as that."

Why would anyone need to disprove anything so blatantly silly?

 
2014-01-19 03:50:56 PM  
I have three friends with doctorates in the "field" of psychology:

One in family counseling, who should be seeing a therapist, himself, because he's a gay Mormon atheist with a wife and four kids. Average intelligence.

One specializing in PTSD at a VA hospital, who believes that marijuana is the devil's weed. Also gay, Mormon, 40 years old, and engaged to a 21-year-old boy. Not the brightest bulb in the box.

One with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. This is the only one with an actual science degree, also gay, and he left his life of fun and drunken debauchery, moved away, joined the Catholic church, and severed all contact with family and friends. Last I heard, he's studying for the priesthood. Extremely intelligent. otherwise.

Just in my narrow anecdotal evidence, I believe that psychologists are completely farked in the head and a PhD means fark-all when it comes to intelligence.
 
2014-01-19 03:56:19 PM  
If I read "the maths" one more time I might have to go in hospital.
 
2014-01-19 04:44:09 PM  
I have a psych degree and I've never heard of that. Sounds like crap to me.

Psychology relies on the scientific method but there's only so much you can do with trying to quantify things that are subjective.
 
2014-01-19 04:46:47 PM  

ecmoRandomNumbers: and engaged to a 21-year-old boy.


21 years old is still "boy" to you?
 
2014-01-19 04:57:08 PM  
According to the graph, it all came down to a specific ratio of positive emotions to negative emotions. If your ratio was greater than 2.9013 positive emotions to 1 negative emotion you were flourishing in life. If your ratio was less than that number you were languishing.

How does a field as inherently flaky as psychology arrive at a number with five significant figures?  Hell, how do you measure 0.9013 positive emotions?
 
2014-01-19 04:57:32 PM  

ArcadianRefugee: ecmoRandomNumbers: and engaged to a 21-year-old boy.

21 years old is still "boy" to you?


It is when you're 40. They're not much smarter than junior high kids, really.
 
2014-01-19 04:58:38 PM  
Isn't Psychology something we made up to give the slow and useless members of society something to do so they don't bother the rest of us? It's the "make work" project of Academia.
 
2014-01-19 05:09:52 PM  

Bondith: According to the graph, it all came down to a specific ratio of positive emotions to negative emotions. If your ratio was greater than 2.9013 positive emotions to 1 negative emotion you were flourishing in life. If your ratio was less than that number you were languishing.

How does a field as inherently flaky as psychology arrive at a number with five significant figures?  Hell, how do you measure 0.9013 positive emotions?


I admit I tend to treat anything over 4 significant figure (or even 3..3.14 is good enough for most things!) with suspicion.

...Granted this is in part due to grading labs a lot, and going "Nooooo, sorry, unless you are superman you cannot measure on the nanometer scale with a ruler...." when students have a measurement/calculation of 5.4311004533221 cm in a lab report...
 
2014-01-19 05:09:56 PM  

thismomentinblackhistory: If I read "the maths" one more time I might have to go in hospital.


Same here. I had to skip the last four feet or so of the story.
 
2014-01-19 05:10:45 PM  
While I know enough of positive psychology and the foundation of this, I have not heard of this ratio... and the explanation of the tipping point seems to suggest this was an arbitrary number or needlessly complex and poorly devised method, or both, used simply to not say the research provided no clear answers. Wouldn't this be simple analysis to say there appears to be sudden acceleration in a trend around a specific point? Basically just exponential growth. Get an instrument to measure positive or negative emotions and an instrument to measure flourishing or not... and compare...
 
2014-01-19 05:11:37 PM  

Felgraf: Bondith: According to the graph, it all came down to a specific ratio of positive emotions to negative emotions. If your ratio was greater than 2.9013 positive emotions to 1 negative emotion you were flourishing in life. If your ratio was less than that number you were languishing.

How does a field as inherently flaky as psychology arrive at a number with five significant figures?  Hell, how do you measure 0.9013 positive emotions?

I admit I tend to treat anything over 4 significant figure (or even 3..3.14 is good enough for most things!) with suspicion.

...Granted this is in part due to grading labs a lot, and going "Nooooo, sorry, unless you are superman you cannot measure on the nanometer scale with a ruler...." when students have a measurement/calculation of 5.4311004533221 cm in a lab report...


"Just because your calculator gives you 8 decimal points doesn't mean you have to write them all down."
 
2014-01-19 05:17:18 PM  
I thought the meaning of life was 42
 
2014-01-19 05:21:15 PM  

ecmoRandomNumbers: I have three friends with doctorates in the "field" of psychology:

One in family counseling, who should be seeing a therapist, himself, because he's a gay Mormon atheist with a wife and four kids. Average intelligence.

One specializing in PTSD at a VA hospital, who believes that marijuana is the devil's weed. Also gay, Mormon, 40 years old, and engaged to a 21-year-old boy. Not the brightest bulb in the box.

One with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. This is the only one with an actual science degree, also gay, and he left his life of fun and drunken debauchery, moved away, joined the Catholic church, and severed all contact with family and friends. Last I heard, he's studying for the priesthood. Extremely intelligent. otherwise.

Just in my narrow anecdotal evidence, I believe that psychologists are completely farked in the head and a PhD means fark-all when it comes to intelligence.


Umm so are u a closet homo as well??? Nttawwt
 
2014-01-19 05:22:41 PM  

thismomentinblackhistory: If I read "the maths" one more time I might have to go in hospital.


I noticed that too, I usually am not anal about things like that but I felt like stabbing someone everytime I read that..
 
2014-01-19 05:23:57 PM  

ecmoRandomNumbers: I have three friends with doctorates in the "field" of psychology:

One in family counseling, who should be seeing a therapist, himself, because he's a gay Mormon atheist with a wife and four kids. Average intelligence.

One specializing in PTSD at a VA hospital, who believes that marijuana is the devil's weed. Also gay, Mormon, 40 years old, and engaged to a 21-year-old boy. Not the brightest bulb in the box.

One with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. This is the only one with an actual science degree, also gay, and he left his life of fun and drunken debauchery, moved away, joined the Catholic church, and severed all contact with family and friends. Last I heard, he's studying for the priesthood. Extremely intelligent. otherwise.

Just in my narrow anecdotal evidence, I believe that psychologists are completely farked in the head and a PhD means fark-all when it comes to intelligence.


The field is saturated, as are many other fields.  You can find terrible sysadmins and wonderful sysadmins, that doesn't mean all sysadmins are farking insane.  Additionally, it's one of those 'intelligent sounding' degrees, so folks who have absolutely no business getting into the field, seek it out - or get into the wrong application of the field.

There are some folks who lack the ability to interact directly with patients, but are very good at applying psychological theory.  Those folks should be in corporate settings (yes, they use psychology in corporate settings).  However, they'll end up in a strip mall trying their hand at counseling, creating a negative experience for their patients as well as digging themselves into a financial hole, "My psychology degree is useless!".
 
2014-01-19 05:24:46 PM  
If Barbara Fredrickson, a top person in that field, writes "Just as zero degrees celsius is a special number in thermodynamics the 3-to-1 positivity ratio may well be a magic number in human psychology."   can't the whole field be discounted as far removed from scientific knowledge?

0°C is special for water at standard pressure. 0° Kelvin has nothing colder.
 
2014-01-19 05:26:11 PM  
tl;dr
 
2014-01-19 05:28:00 PM  
I find it interesting that he wrote Sokal, and Sokal ended up involved.
 
2014-01-19 05:35:37 PM  

ecmoRandomNumbers: ArcadianRefugee: ecmoRandomNumbers: and engaged to a 21-year-old boy.

21 years old is still "boy" to you?

It is when you're 40. They're not much smarter than junior high kids, really.


I'm 53, and any woman younger than 35 counts as a 'girl'.
 
2014-01-19 05:50:18 PM  

baconbeard: Isn't Psychology something we made up to give the slow and useless members of society something to do so they don't bother the rest of us?


No.
 
2014-01-19 05:56:37 PM  

HairBolus: If Barbara Fredrickson, a top person in that field, writes "Just as zero degrees celsius is a special number in thermodynamics the 3-to-1 positivity ratio may well be a magic number in human psychology."   can't the whole field be discounted as far removed from scientific knowledge?

0°C is special for water at standard pressure. 0° Kelvin has nothing colder.


Elegy: I find it interesting that he wrote Sokal, and Sokal ended up involved.


With an homage to Sokal...
Obviously, you are thinking in a simple, one-dimensional way with your understanding of a scientific analogy when it comes to psychology.  Just because she has no understanding of basic physics or chemistry when it comes to thermodynamics and absolute zero, her analogy is nevertheless valid under Jacques Lacan's multi-dimensional thinking in respect to topology and the three-dimensional homological toroidal thinking that modern psychology requires, which easily can be extended to Kaluza-Klein theory and heterological M-Brane string theory and Calibi-Yau shapes folding the extra six dimensions into a point that cannot be seen by scientific equipment.  Of course, analogies can be wrongly extended into fields that do not seem likely, but again, an analogy to gauge invariance and Yang-Mills allows us to successfully connect said ideas together.
/Personally, I think that it's a load of crap and that the abuse of specific scientific/mathematical terms by psychology and new age twaddle is crap as well.
 
2014-01-19 05:58:59 PM  

eyeq360: HairBolus: If Barbara Fredrickson, a top person in that field, writes "Just as zero degrees celsius is a special number in thermodynamics the 3-to-1 positivity ratio may well be a magic number in human psychology."   can't the whole field be discounted as far removed from scientific knowledge?

0°C is special for water at standard pressure. 0° Kelvin has nothing colder.

Elegy: I find it interesting that he wrote Sokal, and Sokal ended up involved.

With an homage to Sokal...
Obviously, you are thinking in a simple, one-dimensional way with your understanding of a scientific analogy when it comes to psychology.  Just because she has no understanding of basic physics or chemistry when it comes to thermodynamics and absolute zero, her analogy is nevertheless valid under Jacques Lacan's multi-dimensional thinking in respect to topology and the three-dimensional homological toroidal thinking that modern psychology requires, which easily can be extended to Kaluza-Klein theory and heterological M-Brane string theory and Calibi-Yau shapes folding the extra six dimensions into a point that cannot be seen by scientific equipment.  Of course, analogies can be wrongly extended into fields that do not seem likely, but again, an analogy to gauge invariance and Yang-Mills allows us to successfully connect said ideas together.
/Personally, I think that it's a load of crap and that the abuse of specific scientific/mathematical terms by psychology and new age twaddle is crap as well.


Couldn't have said it better myself
 
2014-01-19 06:08:48 PM  

ecmoRandomNumbers: Just in my narrow anecdotal evidence, I believe that psychologists are completely farked in the head and a PhD means fark-all when it comes to intelligence.


Small sample size.  Also, heterogeneous sample.  There's a real difference between therapist-psychology and researcher-psychology.
 
2014-01-19 06:08:50 PM  
Psychology is only one small step above philosophy and there's hardly anything less useful in this world than a philosopher.
 
2014-01-19 06:13:30 PM  

eyeq360: HairBolus: If Barbara Fredrickson, a top person in that field, writes "Just as zero degrees celsius is a special number in thermodynamics the 3-to-1 positivity ratio may well be a magic number in human psychology."   can't the whole field be discounted as far removed from scientific knowledge?

0°C is special for water at standard pressure. 0° Kelvin has nothing colder.

Elegy: I find it interesting that he wrote Sokal, and Sokal ended up involved.

With an homage to Sokal...
Obviously, you are thinking in a simple, one-dimensional way with your understanding of a scientific analogy when it comes to psychology.  Just because she has no understanding of basic physics or chemistry when it comes to thermodynamics and absolute zero, her analogy is nevertheless valid under Jacques Lacan's multi-dimensional thinking in respect to topology and the three-dimensional homological toroidal thinking that modern psychology requires, which easily can be extended to Kaluza-Klein theory and heterological M-Brane string theory and Calibi-Yau shapes folding the extra six dimensions into a point that cannot be seen by scientific equipment.  Of course, analogies can be wrongly extended into fields that do not seem likely, but again, an analogy to gauge invariance and Yang-Mills allows us to successfully connect said ideas together.
/Personally, I think that it's a load of crap and that the abuse of specific scientific/mathematical terms by psychology and new age twaddle is crap as well.


+1

however I found this announcement and good discussion of the semi-retraction of their paper at Retraction Watch.

What she is referring to is the phase change of water at 0°C, however she thinks she can refer to this with the fancy sounding "thermodynamics" to make it more "scientific" and I doubt that "phase change" is a very deep metaphor here.
 
2014-01-19 06:21:01 PM  

Bondith: According to the graph, it all came down to a specific ratio of positive emotions to negative emotions. If your ratio was greater than 2.9013 positive emotions to 1 negative emotion you were flourishing in life. If your ratio was less than that number you were languishing.

How does a field as inherently flaky as psychology arrive at a number with five significant figures?  Hell, how do you measure 0.9013 positive emotions?


I work in neuropsychology and most of my coworkers don't even know what significant figures are.
 
2014-01-19 06:24:02 PM  
People pick up psychology degrees so they can justify their abnormal behavior as normal while blaming everyone else for getting it wrong.
 
2014-01-19 06:28:29 PM  

ecmoRandomNumbers: I have three friends with doctorates in the "field" of psychology:

One in family counseling, who should be seeing a therapist, himself, because he's a gay Mormon atheist with a wife and four kids. Average intelligence.

One specializing in PTSD at a VA hospital, who believes that marijuana is the devil's weed. Also gay, Mormon, 40 years old, and engaged to a 21-year-old boy. Not the brightest bulb in the box.

One with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. This is the only one with an actual science degree, also gay, and he left his life of fun and drunken debauchery, moved away, joined the Catholic church, and severed all contact with family and friends. Last I heard, he's studying for the priesthood. Extremely intelligent. otherwise.

Just in my narrow anecdotal evidence, I believe that psychologists are completely farked in the head and a PhD means fark-all when it comes to intelligence.


You do know you basically just explained that you make friends with people you think are f*cked up and worthless right? Really is nothing more than a commentary on you.
 
2014-01-19 06:30:14 PM  
Shocked, SHOCKED that stats would be waterboarded using dubious methods that anyone with a math background could easily smash like a citadel made of rotten popscicle sticks.
 
2014-01-19 06:41:20 PM  

kwame: ecmoRandomNumbers: I have three friends with doctorates in the "field" of psychology:

One in family counseling, who should be seeing a therapist, himself, because he's a gay Mormon atheist with a wife and four kids. Average intelligence.

One specializing in PTSD at a VA hospital, who believes that marijuana is the devil's weed. Also gay, Mormon, 40 years old, and engaged to a 21-year-old boy. Not the brightest bulb in the box.

One with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. This is the only one with an actual science degree, also gay, and he left his life of fun and drunken debauchery, moved away, joined the Catholic church, and severed all contact with family and friends. Last I heard, he's studying for the priesthood. Extremely intelligent. otherwise.

Just in my narrow anecdotal evidence, I believe that psychologists are completely farked in the head and a PhD means fark-all when it comes to intelligence.

You do know you basically just explained that you make friends with people you think are f*cked up and worthless right? Really is nothing more than a commentary on you.


But I bet he's not wearing superhero pajamas.
 
2014-01-19 06:44:24 PM  
I wish I had some superhero pajamas.
 
2014-01-19 06:44:24 PM  

ArcadianRefugee: ecmoRandomNumbers: and engaged to a 21-year-old boy.

21 years old is still "boy" to you?


As someone who deals with 18-22 year olds on a daily basis in my job, let me tell you that although they may legally be considered adults, American 21 year olds are almost universally childish, ignorant, petulant morons. As a group, they are very much "boys and girls."

/They're not all bad.
//Some 21 year old girls make up for it by being incredibly hot...
 
2014-01-19 06:51:06 PM  

HairBolus: If Barbara Fredrickson, a top person in that field, writes "Just as zero degrees celsius is a special number in thermodynamics the 3-to-1 positivity ratio may well be a magic number in human psychology."   can't the whole field be discounted as far removed from scientific knowledge?

0°C is special for water at standard pressure. 0° Kelvin has nothing colder.


0 K. Kelvin does not include theo symbol
 
2014-01-19 07:00:13 PM  
Marquis de Sod:
I work in neuropsychology and most of my coworkers don't even know what significant figures are.

It's not just the softer sciences.

With the common use of canned statistics packages with all of the bells and whistles built in, a heckuva lot of scientists have fallen to the "experiment for a bit, get some numbers, and torture them with the stats package until I get a graph that looks correct" style.

I've seen too many scientific papers and presentations with lots of numbers into the fourth or fifth decimal place, when the experiment only went to one or two - and the higher sig figs "inherit" to the final results, instead of the lower ones.

You'd surprised at how many of the "hard" sciences only require one semester of statistics - the intro course.
 
2014-01-19 07:00:43 PM  

kwame: I wish I had some superhero pajamas.


i.imgur.com
 
2014-01-19 07:11:25 PM  

baconbeard: Isn't Psychology something we made up to give the slow and useless members of society something to do so they don't bother the rest of us? It's the "make work" project of Academia.


I thought that was sociology.  Or anthropology. Or maybe literary criticism, or theology, or philosophy. Basically harmless but you get to wear elbow patches and lots of people assume you're smart.

OTOH Business and PoliSci are dangerous, and then there's Law.

But the worst are Education majors.
 
2014-01-19 07:12:40 PM  

Vangor: Get an instrument to measure positive or negative emotions and an instrument to measure flourishing or not... and compare...


I keep one of those in my pants.
 
2014-01-19 07:14:15 PM  

dionysusaur: I'm 53, and any woman younger than 35 counts as a 'girl'.


But the age of consent is only 16.
 
2014-01-19 07:17:31 PM  

ReverendJynxed: People pick up psychology degrees so they can justify their abnormal behavior as normal while blaming everyone else for getting it wrong.


Ha. I do that and I'm an 8th grade dropout.

But my mommy tells me I'm very bright.
 
2014-01-19 07:19:21 PM  

baconbeard: Isn't Psychology something we made up to give the slow and useless members of society something to do so they don't bother the rest of us? It's the "make work" project of Academia.


In my experience back in University, Psychology was the major all of the "I want to be a marine biologist so I can swim with dolphins" marine biology majors switched to after discovering that real science is hard. ;)

/of course, when psych. turned out to be too hard for them, too, many then switched to Business majors
 
2014-01-19 07:25:47 PM  
*reads tfa, drops to knees and screams:* neerrrrddddsssssss!
 
2014-01-19 07:35:57 PM  

ecmoRandomNumbers: a PhD means fark-all when it comes to intelligence


Depends on the field.   Getting a doctorate in the social "sciences" and the liberal arts just require perseverance, money, the ability to parrot the party line, and a willingness to suck up to your adviser.   

Getting a doctorate in a STEM subject generally requires some innate intelligence and natural ability.
 
2014-01-19 07:37:16 PM  

baconbeard: It's the "make work" project of Academia.


So what would that make Gender Studies?
 
2014-01-19 07:41:52 PM  

ArcadianRefugee: 21 years old is still "boy" to you?


I know 17 year olds who I consider to be mature adults, and 35 year olds who are children by any objective assessment.
 
2014-01-19 07:45:12 PM  

clyph: ecmoRandomNumbers: Getting a doctorate in a STEM subject generally requires some innate intelligence and natural ability.


Not nearly as much as you might think. Also, some people can be competent in a narrow range of intellectual skills while still being astoundingly stupid overall.
 
2014-01-19 07:46:34 PM  

cirby: Marquis de Sod:
I work in neuropsychology and most of my coworkers don't even know what significant figures are.

It's not just the softer sciences.

With the common use of canned statistics packages with all of the bells and whistles built in, a heckuva lot of scientists have fallen to the "experiment for a bit, get some numbers, and torture them with the stats package until I get a graph that looks correct" style.

I've seen too many scientific papers and presentations with lots of numbers into the fourth or fifth decimal place, when the experiment only went to one or two - and the higher sig figs "inherit" to the final results, instead of the lower ones.

You'd surprised at how many of the "hard" sciences only require one semester of statistics - the intro course.


Chemist here.  None of my degrees required any stats.  Fortunately none of my grad school work involved statistical analysis.
 
2014-01-19 07:53:21 PM  

Mad Tea Party: Also, some people can be competent in a narrow range of intellectual skills while still being astoundingly stupid overall.


It may be sample bias, but my experience is to the contrary.   The (not insignificant) number of people I know with advanced degrees in hard sciences and medicine are overwhelmingly intelligent and have broad, multi-disciplinary skill sets.   The social scientists I've met tend to have much narrower outlooks and experiences.
 
2014-01-19 08:02:48 PM  
Bondith:
Chemist here. None of my degrees required any stats. Fortunately none of my grad school work involved statistical analysis.

The really sad part is that so much of modern science relies on statistics - hard and correct - to be reliable.

So some poor schmo gets a degree in something difficult, finagles a job in a lab working on a critical bit of real-world science, and instead of hiring a guy who really, really knows how statistics works, the managers buy a couple of copies of some random stats package, and tell him to figure it out on his own. So he fiddles around for a few hours, gets a graph that resembles something he did as a PhD candidate, and runs with it.
 
2014-01-19 08:35:03 PM  

Marcus Aurelius: kwame: ecmoRandomNumbers: I have three friends with doctorates in the "field" of psychology:

One in family counseling, who should be seeing a therapist, himself, because he's a gay Mormon atheist with a wife and four kids. Average intelligence.

One specializing in PTSD at a VA hospital, who believes that marijuana is the devil's weed. Also gay, Mormon, 40 years old, and engaged to a 21-year-old boy. Not the brightest bulb in the box.

One with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. This is the only one with an actual science degree, also gay, and he left his life of fun and drunken debauchery, moved away, joined the Catholic church, and severed all contact with family and friends. Last I heard, he's studying for the priesthood. Extremely intelligent. otherwise.

Just in my narrow anecdotal evidence, I believe that psychologists are completely farked in the head and a PhD means fark-all when it comes to intelligence.

You do know you basically just explained that you make friends with people you think are f*cked up and worthless right? Really is nothing more than a commentary on you.

But I bet he's not wearing superhero pajamas.


I have no idea what this means.
 
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