Professor Brian Hughes
Thursday 01 December
Robert Emmet Theatre (Arts Block), Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2
We have truly entered a golden age of psychology. Psychological subject matter receives daily mass media and popular attention. Professional psychologists are recognised as highly trained experts with wide-ranging skills. Psychology is one of the most sought-after science subjects in education systems around the world. And more psychology research is being conducted – and funded – than ever before.
But some psychologists argue that this unprecedented success now threatens to undermine the field. The problem is that despite its standing as a scientific activity – aimed at producing and using empirical evidence to resolve disputes and develop interventions – psychology frequently attracts interest from people who have ambivalent attitudes towards science. In essence, modern psychology faces a scientific crisis: it is hampered by widespread poor logic, sloppy scientific practices, unacknowledged bias, groupthink, and (worst of all, perhaps) blindness to its own faults.
Bad science has become a significant problem in modern psychology. This lecture examines the extent to which imperfect science threatens the impact and credibility of psychology, and argues that society at large stands to gain when psychologists promote and defend scientific standards.
Brian Hughes is a Professor of Psychology at NUI Galway, and a specialist in stress psychophysiology. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, and medicine. His recently published book 'Rethinking Psychology: Good Science, Bad Science, Pseudoscience' (2016, Palgrave) examines the relationship between psychology, science and pseudoscience, and explores the biases impeding many psychologists from being truly rigorous. He is a Fellow and former President of PSI.