Forthcoming: Psychology’s optimistic bias and the undermining of science

Continuing my extremely gradual world lecture tour, I’ve been invited to speak at University College Cork next Monday evening, by the university’s honorable Psychology Society. Way hay! Everyone loves Cork. (For the benefit of people outside Ireland, Cork is a large-ish town to the south of the country. Nobody ever leaves.)

As usual, I am stating here that I will blog about the lecture afterwards. This may or may not be a lie. However, in the meantime here is the abstract

Psychology’s one-sided coin: Optimistic bias and the undermining of science

Much as psychologists like to engage in a form of epistemological self-loathing, the academic discipline of psychology is indisputably a ‘science’: not only does psychology meet all the standard philosophical definitions of science, but it does so to a much greater extent than several other disciplines which are referred to, without controversy (or self-loathing), as ‘sciences’.

However, psychology does suffer from distractions caused by the human tendency for self-indulgent optimism. As such, when considering the standard psychological literature on subjects such as social support, psychotherapy, altruism, religion, or mental health, it is common to see vague or weak empirical evidence subjected to unwarranted levels of optimistic (or, latterly, ‘positive’) interpretation.

Allowing prior assumptions about, say, the beneficence of humankind to dominate the evaluation of research evidence amounts to the wilful application of bias. This in turn subverts the central aim of scientific research, which is to resolve uncertainties on the basis of data as opposed to opinion. This lecture examines ways in which optimistic bias regularly creeps into psychology research and practice, and shows how this not only undermines the scientific ethos of psychology and confuses both public and media, but also threatens the well-being (and even lives) of the stakeholders that psychology purports to serve.

As you can see, pretty boring stuff. Anyway, I would like to tell you where and when the lecture is on. But I don’t know exactly. All I know is that it’s on next Monday “evening” in UCC. I await my instructions. That’s Cork for you!

I expect further details will be posted on the UCC Psychology Society Facebook page.

See you there!


UPDATE (19/1/13): Time and Venue have now been revealed! [Note latest updated time]
>> Time: 6 p.m., Monday 21 January
>> Venue: Kane Building, University College Cork

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