Friday, January 21, 2011

Adventures in Psychology 100 and Human Development 129

So, because this inferno infused mother didn't have enough on her plate [insert sarcasm], she decided to go back to school this month. And of course, because I live in a house of psycho-babble, it was a natural choice to select Psychology as my focus.

What I've found in just a couple weeks of study is pretty interesting. First of all, we can pretty much write off all those surveys and correlation studies we see everyday. Correlation does not equal causation. What a simple concept that is so completely ignored by modern media. You might find it reassuring knowing that our children's TV viewing habits likely did not "cause" ADHD and divorce probably does not cause our children to commit suicide. Correlation does not equal causation!

As far as surveys are concerned, it is clear that wording can lead the participant to select a premeditated answer. For instance, a question such as "Did your child experience any Autistic symptoms after receiving the MMR vaccine?" could lead a lot of parents to answer "yes" despite showing any correlation. The question didn't ask if parents noticed those Autistic symptoms before the MMR vaccine and doesn't note how long after they noticed. The end result might show 100% of parents noticed their child was Autistic after the MMR vaccine. Yet, perhaps 95% noticed symptoms before or only years later. Surveys are easily manipulated using wording strategies.

So, I'm thinking that 5th dentist may have really been onto something. I mean 4 out of 5 chose Trident for their patients who chew gum. But what about those who don't chew gum? And what was the other choice? Ju-Ju Fruits? Sugar Cubes? Broccoli? I can only imagine that dentist #5 may have thought that chewing gum with saccharine(as it was back then) was worse for your body than the other choices. Who knows?

But more intriguing to me is how infantile the study of human development and psychology is. Psychological theories are changing every few years. Even more fascinating, is how some of the antiquated theories are still in practice today.

Behaviorism and Psychoanalytic theories are old school. We now know that a persons personality has multidimensional influences such as biological, cognitive, social, and cultural. But today we still see behaviorism in practice in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). While behaviorism does gives us some insight to purposeful behavior, it nowhere comes close to understanding the cognitive, environmental, social and cultural aspects of behavior. Nor does it take into account actual neurobiological differences in cognition. For this reason, it's no longer a current theory. But it still being used on Autistic's everyday.

Psychoanalytic is mostly associated with Freud. You know, "Tell me about your mother". But even more so, it's about looking backward to figure out the beginning. Freud's theory was based on Adults he studied. Yet the theory was that these adults were "ruined" by their parents during infancy and preschool years just by how the parents reacted to the young child's sexuality. Yeah, you read that right. Infantile sexuality. Moving on.

Yet today, we do hear some claim Autism is a form of an attachment disorder - Mom didn't hold the baby enough, Dad wasn't responsive to baby's needs...blah blah blah. While attachment disorders do exist and some symptoms overlap, most people with Autism do not have this disorder. Attachment disorders are primarily found in children who were orphaned during infancy. Most children who are adopted at birth, attach to the adopted parent.

So why are we so backward? Why is science moving forward, yet the common implementation is years, sometimes decades behind? I can only speculate that "old habits die hard." I, for one, plan to use my newfound knowledge of what is considered scientifically useful, for good.

1 comment:

KWombles said...

:-) The science doesn't percolate down to the public very well, and the common myths that we hear on a daily basis are constantly reinforced. That wins out. Scott Lilienfeld's 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior is an excellent book.

I hope you continue to enjoy your psychology courses; they are some of my favorite courses to teach.