A highlight from Jesse Singal || Fad Psychology


Today it's great to chat with jesse single on the podcast. Jesse is a contributing writer at new york magazine and the former editor of the magazine science of us online vertical as well as the co host of the podcast blocked and reported. His work has appeared the new york times. The atlantic the chronicle of higher education sleep the boston globe the daily beast other publications. He was bosch. Fellow in berlin holds a masters degree from princeton university school of public international affairs. His book the quick fix why fads psychology can't cure social ills has just been published. Jesse wow man. I have so much i want to discuss with you today. read the book and feel like you condemned my whole field. So i i out there like i feel. You're a very good guy. Very fair guy but i definitely criticized a people so i'm happy to do it like some of my late dearest friends people like but anyway it's all good This spirit of openness and making the field of psychology better which. I'm all about So i want to kind of go back to kind of origin story of this. You're at science of us It's around two thousand fifteen like around. September two thousand fifteen or even before that you're getting lots of press releases you're kind of just taking them all face value like getting inboxes emails and you're like well. Here's the latest new press release. Here's the latest new study. That's we found. It's this better than sliced bread. You know we found. It's so exciting. It's so exciting. And then so can me. Like the pre jesse and the post jesse's the pre jesse would look at those kind of emails and be like well. I gotta write about it because obviously they know what they're talking about. I well a little bit. I do think i like notice. Something was afoot and we did a pretty good job at resisting. That sort of thing like there was this famous. Study about hurricanes versus mccain's where the the theory was Do some social primary effect hurricanes with female names. People didn't take as seriously and would leave from some more of them died. This ended up being widely martin. We actually My colleague melissa doll wrote a good article explaining my. This likely wasn't trooped. Not skeptical enough. And i felt like i was not actively debunking it and you know around that a lot of science outlets were very excited about social psychology. And i think didn't maybe apply enough critical thought to the pa- claims. I would pass along as you said that. Problem of like writing directly off of a press releases is pretty bad because a lot of science journalists Don't don't read. The actual studies in the press releases often misrepresent them for sure. But when did you kind of catch onto that because it was around september. Two thousand fifteen. I believe in The i liked the. It came on your radar. And then you're like wait a minute. The there might be something to this person's telling me about to look deeper into the it. Yeah i received an email from a guy with some training and psych. Who basically said like there's a story here the. It isn't as good as people say it is. That was when something really flipped in my head because he i think i had more or less taken at face value and i i wrote a headline for i think a slightly viral Study right up about how white people think. Black people are magical and that was based on some. It result where they forget what it was but they associated black people with magical words quicker. And i bet if i could go back now and look deeply into the methodology. I would Would not have written that study up in that way. But yeah you know i went from. I went for and who could resist. That headline white people magical absolutely but it's almost interest- interesting like what if you wrote the headline today. That much has changed in four and five years that i feel like it would just have a whole different reception reception to it. Yeah yeah exactly Once i think with the it the fact that it was hosted by harvard and and mother banacci is a really well respected. Harvard social psychologists. I started thinking like if a test with such big names behind it and such institutions behind. It is whatever else you think about it. And there's real debate over how useful it is. I'm not saying it's useless. But the very least i think most impressive early claims have not been borne out and if everyone can believe a test like that what else am i missing. What other ideas and my passing onto readers without fully vetting them am i part of the problem and i think that you know that led me down a path toward a little bit more of a donkey role most responsible view I remember. I remember those articles that you wrote. I i i remember that jesse vividly. I remember the jesse from the front. Yeah from that column. The science of us called jesse from the science of us. like i. remember that that incarnation of you. You know what i mean. Jessie from the block and Yeah and that's when you first came on my radar and And i i was impressed. I mean i was like wow. He's he's he's not doing what every other journalists in science journalists is doing thank you. Yeah yeah so. That was cool. So use this phrase fads psychology in her book. And what like can you define that. What does fad psychology. I wanna make sure that. I'm not doing fads. Psychology my research. Yeah i think we use it more in the title than the book. But but it's basically i've noticed this pattern where new idea will burst onto the scene via a ted talk or a book or some combination of them. It will suddenly attract a lot of media attention often. A lot of research funding a lot of interest within psychology. And then a few years later when we have more data it turns out that maybe there wasn't that much there in the first place. There wasn't that much speak cited about power posting. I think is one of the clear examples of this. Because i think there's a little bit of a. They're they're a little bit something where maybe can improve people's You know felt sense of power but nowhere near the claims that were accompanied. The original tedtalk so to me. that's a fad. It's like everyone chasing the shiny new idea without

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