One of my classes this quarter is entirely about controversies in psychology. They’re pretty standard: is unconscious racism a thing? Does subliminal messaging work? And they’re interesting questions, to be sure. But I’m fairly familiar with the research already, and now I’m procrastinating on writing a paper for the class by thinking up other controversies in psychology–ones where I feel far less comfortable saying “here’s the answer!” or even “here’s where to start looking for the answer!”
I’ve got these four–and still no more headaway in the actual homework assignment–what are yours?
1) Why are we using p-values in psychology when they seem to be awful and allow people to fudge data more easily?
An interesting secondary question here is how do we make the switch? Hundreds of thousands of psych students will be trained in determining results by null-hypothesis testing. Research assistants and graduate students and precocious undergraduates with theses will all be doing research with the methods they’ve learned. How do we get all of them to change?
2) How should we be using social psychology findings when there seems to be only some evidence for mechanisms that would cause huge societal change?
Particularly since social psychology research tends to be done in labs, may not generalize to the outside world, and has the college sophomore problem. And it’s WEIRD.
3) What’s the best (or even just a better way) to categorize mental disorders? And while we’re at it, how do we fix our map-territory problem?
That is, are we expanding the definition of say, depression, to include more people with depression who went previously undiagnosed? Or are we considering more things to fall into the category of “being depressed”?
4) Willpower–how does it work? Is it a limited resource? How glucose-dependent is it?