Shravan Vasishth writes:
At least people like Amy Cuddy are just doing bullshit research that’s harmless (after all, raising your arms up high before an interview is unlikely to hurt society much). But check out this MIT “Professor” explaining the “statistically significant” autism-vaccine “connection”:
She even takes a notorious, fraudulent, and retracted Lancet article as her starting point. The author of that article has been banned from practising medicine in the UK.
I think that the psychologists are getting a hard time for doing what they do, whereas people doing real harm to society are happily roaming around like free range chicken. How come people like her are not being put out of business?
I replied that a “Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory” is certainly not a professor of biology! I actually think that legitimate news organizations know this sort of thing, hence you’ll only see this sort of person on fringe websites (such as what Shravan linked to above) or hack outlets such as Daily Mail or whatever.
And Shravan wrote:
She also produces a great quote in the interview:
I mean, I’m a computer scientist, so I can go and look at . . . what’s the statistical distributions, and what not.
And what not indeed.
I strongly feel that people like her cause so much harm that they need to be fired, they are on the same level as that Dutch fraudster. How can she open her interview by mentioning that retracted Lancet study by Andrew Wakefield. If she is not aware that that paper has no credibility, she cannot work as a research scientist because she lacks basic research skills. If she knew it was retracted and mentioned it anyway as a credible study, that is fraud and she has to pay a price for that.
On NPR you hear these impassioned mothers calling into SciFri and confidently telling the doctor being interviewed that they will never vaccinate their kids because of all the toxic chemicals in the vaccine. So now we have a new generation of children paying a heavy price for the kind of ignorant misuse of statistics that people like this “research scientist” propagate.
I find it hard to get angry at such people because they’re so clueless, they just don’t know any better. In contrast, many of the people doing bad research who I criticize, I feel like, sure, they’re not the world’s most competent scientists, but they should be able to take criticism that is ultimately technical and incorporate it into their research.
I guess what I’m saying is: if you take someone like this MIT scientist, OK, she’s just a crank, offering opinions on important topics on which she has no expertise. I can’t get mad at her for being a crank, that’s just who she is. I guess I can get mad at her for misleading people about her expertise. But somehow I get more irritated by people who do things wrong in their own field.
Regarding Shravan’s more general point that health misinformation is more important than social-psychology misinformation: Sure, after all these are kids’ lives we’re talking about. But I do think these social psychology studies make a difference too, in that they feed the idea that people are shallow and capricious, that we make all sorts of decisions based on our animal instincts etc. Sure, some of that is true but not to the extent claimed by those clueless researchers.
To erroneously connect fat arms or monthly cycles to political attitudes is to trivialize political attitudes, and I think that’s a mistake, whatever your politics.