Brief Thoughts on: “That’s right.  Psychology isn’t science.”

My hunch that this opinion is common was finally clinched after reading a dated piece a microbiologist wrote for the LA Times who claims: “That’s right.  Psychology isn’t science.”  

I will not, however, be critiquing the author’s article until the next post but will briefly discuss tactics and motivation.

My Take on “That’s right.”

When we embed emotion within our claims, as the above clearly does, then we are using rhetorical devices meant to persuade and thus give others reason for skepticism.  This does not of course preclude us from being correct, but it does tell others we are determined to win an argument.

This claim panders to the ego since the slanter (i) used for effect is the inflated variant of pride known as hubris.  Hubris shows when we self-aggrandize and pride shows when we achieve for its own sake.  So do we think the microbiologist will be fair when evaluating psychology against the five criteria if he is driven to impress and use motivated reasoning (ii)?

Underneath it all, however, there is most certainly contempt and this is the prime motivator as you need a strong catalyst to fuel a diatribe.  The secondary motivator is to impress and dazzle his audience which is reinforced by feelings of hubris upon reflecting how his finished product will come across to others (iv).

I could be wrong on intentions, but we still end up with a finite sample space (iii) on motivations: he is either motivated to impress and win or motivated to be objective and fair.  These two motivations aren’t compatible, so he can’t be both but could still be right regardless of motivation.


i) A slanter is figurative speech meant to manipulate the reader by appealing to our emotions.

ii) Motivated reasoning is when we focus on what we want the conclusion to be and are not objective and fair with the evidence nor do we consider alternative explanations.

iii) The expanded sample space includes two more possibilities: motivated to impress and be fair and objective or motivated to win and be fair and be objective.  This is unlikely based on the content though.

iv) This is not meant to be a definitive and exhaustive list as it is just my first impressions.  Claiming to know someone’s intentions is a cognitive distortion labeled as “mind-reading”, and I don’t have that power.

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