The Perils of Pop Psychology

In response to Jane O’Grady’s Open Democracy article critiquing the ‘neuro-social-sciences’, Julian Sanchez outlines his thoughts on the perils of pop psychology:

There are arguments that simply can’t be made in the span of even a longish newspaper or magazine article. If one is writing for a lay audience, in fact, I feel pretty confident that it’s not even possible to clearly lay out the contested questions, or what precisely the various positions on them are, in that allotment of space. At best, an untrained reader of O’Grady’s piece would come away simply befuddled and unsure what she was getting on about. Some, to judge by the comments, appear to believe they have learned something from it, which suggests that O’Grady has given them the unhealthy illusion of knowing something.

Pop psychology and philosophy succeed only in furthering confirmation bias and the Dunning-Kruger effect among readers, Sanchez believes:

This brings us around to some of my longstanding ambivalence about blogging and journalism more generally: “Discourse at this level can’t possibly accomplish anything beyond giving people some simulation of justification for what they wanted to believe in the first place.”

[…] People who actually know something are more likely to be fairly tentative and circumspect, while people ill-informed enough to think everything is quite simple will be confident they know all they need to.

1 thought on “The Perils of Pop Psychology

  1. Marc

    This notion is similarly applicable to politcal discourse. It is one of the reasons why people like Noam Chomsky refuse to be interviewed for news programs. How can one possibly explain the entire context for a series of events in the course of a few minutes.

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