The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice

Objective Investigations of Controversial and Unorthodox Claims in Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry, and Social Work


The Concept of Pseudoscience as a Pedagogical Heuristic

James D. Herbert, Department of Psychology, Drexel University.

Author Note:
Preparation of this paper was supported in part by Grant No. R01 MH052232 from the National Institute of Mental Health. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to James D. Herbert, Department of Psychology, Drexel University, Mail Stop 988, 245 N. 15th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102-1192. E-mail:

McNally criticizes the concept of pseudoscience and offers the idea of evidential warrant, or analysis of the empirical data bearing on a claim, as a simple alternative for evaluating the scientific status of mental health practices. Despite its appeal, there are both theoretical and practical problems with evidential warrant. Most importantly, it rests on the dubious assumption that nonscientists have the resources and skills to locate and interpret the scientific literature. The concept of pseudoscience has value as a heuristic device to encourage healthy skepticism among nonscientists regarding questionable practices in mental health.

You can read the full text of this article in
The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, vol. 2, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2003).
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