Saturday, June 5, 2010


You know english majors get a lot of shit for what they do but god damn. No seriously, god damn psychology. I'll admit it. I am a lay person when it comes to science, political science, statistics, collating polling data, and experimentation set up. I am also aware that for each and every exparament that there are a certain number of budgetary concerns that we need to deal with so that all possible options can not be explored in the scope of a single exparement. I mean cool it is okay, I get that. The problem is that there is absolutely no self awareness what so ever about the situation. Instead they will take data that, even to a layperson, is incomplete or simply not collected very well and they shout from the rooftops that they have uncovered some sort of truth.

I find it endlessly frusterating because these people do have a scientific authority that the common public listens to. It isn't like they are studying the effect of gravityless environment on the inner ear of newts nor is it like me getting into an argument with someone else over the meaning of a passage in a book that maybe 4 other people have read. No psychology excists very close to the public sphere and as a result spamming poorly done experiments is a dangerous thing that actually sets back psychology as a whole. Oh well. This is something that ties back to the question, "does violent media cause violence in people". The public SO desperatly wants and A to B correlation between violence and violent media, or other things and for whatever reason psychology refuses to develop enough of a back bone to tell people that, except on the most basic of levels, people don't have gaurnteed cause and effect relationships with their stimulus.

In case anyone was wondering, what started all of this was this article. All in all it is a good article, it has some decent information in it and some lead offs to engaging thought. Of course when I started doing all that we have me bitching about data collection and exparamentation creation so what can you do. So where are the problems?

Well for one he lumps four very different leisure activities together under one banner. Reading books is increadibly diffrent than playing a video game, and playing a video game is hugely different than watching a movie. Furthermore the way a piece of media is absorbed is hugely diffrent. Me popping in Gundam Wing after a long day of work and just sort of zoning out is a lot diffrent than me hanging out with a friend and watching Gundam Wing over a game of netrunner. There is a massive diffrence between watching a TV program with a group of friends and talking about what is going on and the various issues raised then just turning on a movie with a group of friends so there are no awkward pauses in conversation. The article neglects looking a pictures, listening to the radio, or general story telling around a camp fire meaning it is axing a historical aspect to the whole argument.

Of course the article itself is talking in larger terms, why do we imagine at all, but it is using a nebulos frame through which to put the argument in.

It also claims that the emotional responses to imagination is very real which opens up some dangerous doors. Oh well.

I suppose when I have someone coming down off the mountain holding an exparament in his hand telling me that "This is how I think" I immeadiatly get suspicious especially when I think in a way contrary to his findings. The scary thing about psychology is that it is not a proper science at all. It works from the generalized assumption that there is a normal baseline behaviour and that most of the goals surrounding psychology is making data sets fit this sort of baseline behaviour and coming up with treatments so that deviant behavior will fit that baseline behavior.

This is diffrent than say physics where a physicist makes observations about the world and then uses math to try to explain what is going on. There isn't a baseline set of assumtions they are trying to make nor are they trying to fix things that don't work. A way to look at it is that when Newton's theory of gravity stopped explaining every situation ever they didn't start rebuilding the world to try and make it work. Instead they came up with a new theory of gravity.

Psychology doesn't do this. Psycologists make assumptions of how we are supposed to be (heterosexual) and when things deviate from that we have a mental disease that can be fixed with conditioning and treatment. The problem is that I don't think they ever really spent a long enough time collecting data about how we live without their meddling. They make assumptions about us without knowing the full story, or even half of the story. It is kinda scary actually.

Of course the quetion of imagination and aesthetics has been pondered over by authors and artists for hundreds of years. Glad to see psychology finally deciding to play catch up.

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