Skip to main content


Showing posts with the label Psychological science

The Social Fabric of Scientific Trust: A Review of Naomi Oreskes' Why Trust Science?

    The Social Fabric of Scientific Trust:  A Review of Naomi Oreskes' Why Trust Science ?   Reviewed by Geoffrey W. Sutton   Recently, I have reconsidered a problem that emerged early in my career as a psychologist. By the time I was in graduate school, I began to hear clergy and other evangelicals attacking my profession. My graduate work was at the University of Missouri, was during the 1970s. The issue of psychology and Christianity was not discussed in my classes. Psychology is a science. We learned how to conduct experiments before we learned how to apply principles to the assessment and treatment of people struggling with various problems in living.   I soon learned from clergy and church friends of the low esteem they accorded my profession. Oreskes’ book offers some helpful thoughts on the general issue of trusting science and scientists. Her examples include psychology so, I found her ideas particularly helpful and think others interested in the cultural rejection of

Beyond Freedom and Dignity - A Review

  Beyond Freedom and Dignity Author: B.F. Skinner Reviewer   Geoffrey W. Sutton   B.F. Skinner's Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971) challenges traditional ideas about human autonomy and self-determination. Skinner asserts that our behaviors are not driven by an inherent sense of freedom or dignity, but rather by environmental contingencies. I observed a somewhat humorous example of Skinner’s influence on psychology in the 1970s when I was in graduate school. A colleague in school psychology relied heavily upon reinforcement theory as he helped teachers with classroom management and identified himself as a behavioral engineer.   In Beyond Freedom and Dignity , Skinner argues for a more orderly structuring of society, especially through the implementation of psychological research. As a proponent of radical behaviorism, he posits that humans are controlled by their environment and their DNA. He suggests that if society wishes to improve its collective habits, it must

Walden Two - Review

  Walden Two by B.F. Skinner Reviewed by   Geoffrey W. Sutton Walden Two by B.F. Skinner   Walden Two is a utopian novel that presents an experimental community where life is drastically simplified and happiness is obtained through a scientific approach to behavioral engineering. The story begins with two young men, Rogers and Steve, who visit Professor Burris after returning from World War II. They inquire about a man named Frazier and the new society he is trying to build.   Frazier, a former classmate of Burris, has created a community named Walden Two based on principles of behaviorism. This community, home to about a thousand people, operates on the idea that human behavior can be controlled by manipulating contingencies of reinforcements and punishments. The inhabitants live in communal dwellings, eat in common dining spaces, raise their children in a communal nursery, and grow and build much of what they need. The standard workday lasts only four hours, and no one ear

Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition

Believing in Magic:  The Psychology of Superstition Updated Edition     By   Stuart A. Vyse Reviewed by    Geoffrey W. Sutton Are you superstitious? In Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition    Stuart Vyse provides a highly readable, informative, and even entertaining look at superstition. Vyse covers a wide variety of superstitions used by children and adults in many cultures but focuses on the charms, beliefs, and rituals prevalent in the United States.   We also learn from experiments and observations how superstitious behavior develops in children and continues into adult life. Animal studies reveal uncanny resemblances to the superstitious behavior of humans. We also learn by imitating others thus; social influence is a factor associated with superstitious beliefs and rituals. Those who play professional sports, gamblers in casinos, and college students taking exams, serve as prime examples of people who engage in superstitious behavior. Is superstitious beha

Quiet – The Power of Introverts - A Book Review

  Quiet The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking   By   Susan Cain Reviewed by   Geoffrey W. Sutton As the subtitle explains, Quiet is about introverts in an extroverted culture. As a psychologist, I appreciate Cain’s exploration of personality psychology, which included interviews with experts and an awareness of the differences between her broader view of introversion and extroversion compared to the less encompassing features that comprise the personality construct in psychology. As a person favoring many features linked to introversion, I can identify with her stories and affirm the effort required to adapt to the demands of an extrovert-driven culture. In fact, American culture was a bit of a shock to us when we first came to the United States from England where the norm seems to be a polite reserve punctuated with copious amounts of saying “sorry” when we perceive we may have offended someone. What I did not realize as a child is that entire c

Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment

  Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment By:    Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass R. Sunstein Reviewed by   Geoffrey W. Sutton   We are constantly exposed to opinions. Some of those opinions are judgments. And some of those judgments affect our opportunities to work, obtain healthcare, receive fair treatment by government entities, and earn fair evaluations in school. Some people are paid to make informed judgments. Unfortunately, some judgments are noisy—they vary. Noise is about the differences in judgments that affect our lives. When the authors provide examples of variation in judgments, they are writing about variability in a statistical sense. As a retired professor who taught research and statistics to undergraduate and graduate students, I’m not sure the authors were entirely clear—at least not clear enough for readers who are either new to the concept or haven’t drawn on their statistics knowledge for some years. In any event, I think the book deserves a look be

The Seven Sins of Memory- Book Review & Resources

  The Seven Sins   of Memory By Daniel L. Schacter        Reviewed by   Geoffrey W. Sutton Schacter’s Seven Sins of Memory is like a fine seven course meal. Each course serves up an interesting collection of research that’s easy to read by the general public and pleasantly presented, yet rich with enough details to appeal to scholars and practitioners. I left feeling satisfied. Every mental health clinician and all who work with people should read about the seven sins of memory and come back to it when they wonder about memory complaints or detect discrepancies in recall. Students will find it helpful too as Schacter weaves psychological science into meaningful stories—a good example of how to write about psychological science for nonpsychology majors. I must say that I found the notion of “sins” strange—is this a psychology of religion book? I suppose it could be. Afterall, religious scholar Craig Keener included a discussion of memory in his book about the Gospe