Psychology has been taking a public beating. After l’àffaire Stapel, we now have l’àffaire Fredrickson. Stapel fabricated data and Fredrickson made extravagant claims about happiness being nonlinearly related to the balance of positive to negative emotions. She has squirmed but not recanted. It looks pathetic and it’s bad for the field. It’s even badder when blogheads with a limited understanding of science opine in much-visited venues and commit errors of reasoning that outmoronify the errors they criticize.
Mr. Will Wilkinson, who according to Wikipedia has a Masters degree in philosophy, “did work toward a Ph.D.” and writes for “The Daily Beast,” takes the Fredrickson fiasco to tear down all of psychological science. He asserts that “most work in the psychological and social sciences suffers from a lack of conceptual rigor. It’s a bit sloppy around the edges, and in the middle, too.” Without proof or even an attempt at corroboration, this statement must be regarded as an overgeneralization. Mr. Wilkinson, having a Masters in philosophy, ought to know this. Does he have reasons for claiming that his is just a generalization without the “over?” He thinks he does: “The problem is not that Fredrickson is a bad research psychologist. The problem is that she’s one of the best.” Now, if Fredrickson were one of the best, then she, by definition, would not blunder so egregiously. She may have been one of the most impactful psychology professors, but some of her work is now being reconsidered, and hence her reputation (it’s a Bayesian updating thing, Mr. Wilkinson). Do we still count Mr. Stapel among the best psychologists?