I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are ideally suited to giving another public lecture at the invitation of a student psychological society. This time it’s at the behest of the Psychology Society at my own university, NUI Galway. Ah, how I enjoy the cloistered life.
Here is the abstract…
Starting Positions: How value systems affect the Science of Psychology
People who consume scientific psychology (for example, policy makers, commentators, journalists, and educators) frequently permit their personal values to trump their objectivity. They have a starting position on controversies even before they learn about the research evidence. In one sense, this is their right.
On the other hand, as (behavioural) scientists, psychologists are supposed to remain objective. But just like ‘ordinary’ people, psychologists too have personal views on all sorts of matters, as well as personality characteristics and ethical dispositions that affect their production and interpretation of data. Some psychologists are liberal, some are conservative; some are free-thinking, some conform to dogmas; and some are of one gender, while some are of the other.
This lecture will consider the impact of value systems on psychology, focusing on the pressures placed on scientific objectivity by the simple fact that psychologists, in the main, are human. Examples from both mainstream psychology and from the way psychological topics are reported in the media will be considered.
Some feel that all this awkwardness means psychology should just give up trying to be a proper science. However, I will argue that these challenges to objectivity in fact have the opposite effect. They illustrate the urgent need for promoting even greater scientific standards in psychology, in order to respond to the woolly-mindedness, naive optimism, and epistemological complacency that seem to have taken over psychology’s asylum.
I can’t promise any excitement, but I will have some colouredy slides. The lecture takes place next Monday, 18 February, at 7:00 p.m. in room AC201 in the main Arts/Science concourse, NUI Galway.
I expect further details will be posted on the NUI Galway Psychological Society Facebook page.
Brian Hughes is an academic psychologist and university professor in Galway, Ireland, specialising in stress, health, and the application of psychology to social issues. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, medicine, and politics.