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(2) Antidepressant medication. Medications such as tricyclics, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, are routinely called “antidepressants.” Yet there is little evidence that these medications are more efficacious for treating (or preventing relapse for) mood disorders than for several other conditions, such as anxiety-related disorders (e.g., panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder; Donovan et al., 2010) or bulimia nervosa (Tortorella et al., 2014). Hence, their specificity to depression is doubtful, and their name derives more from historical precedence—the initial evidence for their efficacy stemmed from research on depression (France et al., 2007)—than from scientific evidence. Moreover, some authors argue that these medications are considerably less efficacious than commonly claimed, and are beneficial for only severe, but not mild or moderate, depression, rendering the label of “antidepressant” potentially misleading (Antonuccio and Healy, 2012; but see Kramer, 2011, for an alternative view).
(3) Autism epidemic. Enormous effort has been expended to uncover the sources of the “autism epidemic” (e.g., King, 2011), the supposed massive increase in the incidence and prevalence of autism, now termed autism spectrum disorder, over the past 25 years. The causal factors posited to be implicated in this “epidemic” have included vaccines, television viewing, dietary allergies, antibiotics, and viruses.
Nevertheless, there is meager evidence that this purported epidemic reflects a genuine increase in the rates of autism per se as opposed to an increase in autism diagnoses stemming from several biases and artifacts, including heightened societal awareness of the features of autism (“detection bias”), growing incentives for school districts to report autism diagnoses, and a lowering of the diagnostic thresholds for autism across successive editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Gernsbacher et al., 2005; Lilienfeld and Arkowitz, 2007). Indeed, data indicate when the diagnostic criteria for autism were held constant, the rates of this disorder remained essentially constant between 1990 and 2010 (Baxter et al., 2015). If the rates of autism are increasing, the increase would appear to be slight at best, hardly justifying the widespread claim of an “epidemic.”
(5) Brainwashing. This term, which originated during the Korean War (Hunter, 1951) but which is still invoked uncritically from time to time in the academic literature (e.g., Ventegodt et al., 2009; Kluft, 2011), implies that powerful individuals wishing to persuade others can capitalize on a unique armamentarium of coercive procedures to change their long-term attitudes. Nevertheless, the attitude-change techniques used by so-called “brainwashers” are no different than standard persuasive methods identified by social psychologists, such as encouraging commitment to goals, manufacturing source credibility, forging an illusion of group consensus, and vivid testimonials (Zimbardo, 1997). Furthermore, there are ample reasons to doubt whether “brainwashing” permanently alters beliefs (Melton, 1999). For example, during the Korean War, only a small minority of the 3500 American political prisoners subjected to intense indoctrination techniques by Chinese captors generated false confessions. Moreover, an even smaller number (probably under 1%) displayed any signs of adherence to Communist ideologies following their return to the US, and even these were individuals who returned to Communist subcultures (Spanos, 1996).
(7) Chemical imbalance. Thanks in part to the success of direct-to-consumer marketing campaigns by drug companies, the notion that major depression and allied disorders are caused by a “chemical imbalance” of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, has become a virtual truism in the eyes of the public (France et al., 2007; Deacon and Baird, 2009). This phrase even crops up in some academic sources; for example, one author wrote that one overarching framework for conceptualizing mental illness is a “biophysical model that posits a chemical imbalance” (Wheeler, 2011, p. 151). Nevertheless, the evidence for the chemical imbalance model is at best slim (Lacasse and Leo, 2005; Leo and Lacasse, 2008). One prominent psychiatrist even dubbed it an urban legend (Pies, 2011). There is no known “optimal” level of neurotransmitters in the brain, so it is unclear what would constitute an “imbalance.” Nor is there evidence for an optimal ratio among different neurotransmitter levels. Moreover, although serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), appear to alleviate the symptoms of severe depression, there is evidence that at least one serotonin reuptake enhancer, namely tianepine (Stablon), is also efficacious for depression (Akiki, 2014). The fact that two efficacious classes of medications exert opposing effects on serotonin levels raises questions concerning a simplistic chemical imbalance model.
(27) The scientific method. Many science textbooks, including those in psychology, present science as a monolithic “method.” Most often, they describe this method as a hypothetical-deductive recipe, in which scientists begin with an overarching theory, deduce hypotheses (predictions) from that theory, test these hypotheses, and examine the fit between data and theory. If the data are inconsistent with the theory, the theory is modified or abandoned. It’s a nice story, but it rarely works this way (McComas, 1996). Although science sometimes operates by straightforward deduction, serendipity and inductive observations offered in the service of the “context of discovery” also play crucial roles in science. For this reason, the eminent philosopher of science Popper (1983) quipped that, “As a rule, I begin my lectures on Scientific Method by telling my students that the scientific method does not exist…” (p. 5).
(45) Scientific proof. The concepts of “proof” and “confirmation” are incompatible with science, which by its very nature is provisional and self-correcting (McComas, 1996). Hence, it is understandable why Popper (1959) preferred the term “corroboration” to “confirmation,” as all theories can in principle be overturned by new evidence. Nor is the evidence for scientific theories dichotomous; theories virtually always vary in their degree of corroboration. As a consequence, no theory in science, including psychological science, should be regarded as strictly proven. Proofs should be confined to the pages of mathematics textbooks and journals (Kanazawa, 2008).
(49) Mental telepathy. Telepathy, one of the three ostensible types of extrasensory perception (along with clairvoyance and precognition), is the purported ability to read other’s minds by means of psychic powers (Hyman, 1995). Hence, all telepathy is necessarily mental. The term “mental telepathy,” which appears to be in common currency in the academic literature (e.g., Lüthi, 2013; Sagi-Schwartz et al., 2014), implies erroneously that there are “non-mental” forms of telepathy.
originally posted by: TerryMcGuire
a reply to: Ismynameimportant
But he did. He did. Didn't you read the word 'pertinent"?