Science & Pseudoscience Review in Mental Health

Resource Archive hosted by The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice


The purpose of Science & Pseudoscience Review in Mental Health is to promote the understanding of the scientific study of mental health problems and the empirically supported treatments available. In addition to promoting the understanding, training, and application of scientific methodology to human problems, The Review scrutinizes clinical services that appear to be at odds with scientific inquiry and evidence. By scrutiny, we mean an open-minded willingness to consider all novel and untested claims, but to insist on high standards of evidence before accepting them. Indeed, promotion and scrutiny go hand in hand in maintaining scientific rigor. The Review will gather and analyze information on potentially pseudoscientific and other questionable movements in mental health that may align themselves with the goals of science but lack the serious commitment to logical and empirical study that is the hallmark of empirically validated therapy and allied treatments. We believe The Review can accomplish these goals in a number of ways: by a) evaluating assessments and treatments for pseudoscientific content, b) offering to serve as resources to and evaluating media coverage of the scientific claims of mental health applications, c) advising the general public regarding evidence for and against mental health applications, d) developing materials for course work and continuing education programs, e) interfacing with other science organizations (AAAPP, APS, SSCP, ABA, AABT) that share similar interests and goals, f) generating potential remedies to the problem of pseudoscience in mental health.

In the past two decades we have witnessed an erosion in the perceived legitimacy of science as an impartial means of finding the truth. Many research topics are the subject of highly politicized dispute; indeed, the objectivity of the entire area of mental health assessment and treatment has been called into question. The reemergence of a vast array of patent nostrums, snake oil, and pseudoscientific "treatments" for mental illnesses have served to weaken the perceived value and reliability of the mental health scientific community. The Review is intended to facilitate an open and public debate and critique of all relevant claims to scientific standing regarding Mental health assessment and treatment methods. In the furtherance of that goal we have adopted some guiding principles to give focus to our mission. Robert Merton, the noted sociologist, argued for their being four norms of science that are widely viewed as essential for information claimed to be "scientific" to be of perceived value by both the public and other scientists. The first is Universalism, which stipulates that scientific findings must be judged by impersonal criteria; the personal attributes of the investigator are irrelevant. This does not mean that their training and preparation to undertake their research are irrelevant but that those personal factors such as race, creed, sex, etc. are never legitimate factors in reviewing an investigators research claims. The second norm is Communalism. This means that scientific information, to be accepted as an established part of the knowledge base, has to be publicly shared. The issue of open access to research information is expressed in the The American Psychological Association's Preamble to their code of ethics, which states that "Psychologists respect the central importance of freedom of inquiry and expression in research..." The third norm of science as laid out by Merton is Disinterestedness. This norm seeks to call all researchers to set aside personal biases, prejudices, and assumptions not founded on science. Finally, Merton called for what he referred to has Organized Skepticism on the part of the scientific community. The Review is one manifestation of Organized Skepticism wherein we seek to hold new findings in mental health to strict levels of scrutiny, through peer review, consumer education, replication, the testing of rival hypotheses, and a rigorous analysis of the methods and data offered for each claim.

Jeffery M. Lohr, Ph.D.

"Caveat Emptor"
(KAH-way-aht EMP-tawr)

From The Latin and liberally translated: let the buyer be ware

The rule of law warning potential purchasers of goods or services that they are not protected during a transaction against failure of the seller(s) to live up to the bargain except to the extent that the sales contract stipulates. By this rule, the purchaser, not the seller, is responsible for protecting the purchaser in the transaction. Caveat Emptor is the opposite of Caveat Venditor (WEN-dih-tawr). Whereas Caveat Emptor has a long history in common law, Caveat Venditor is just now coming into prominence as a result of the consumer rights movement. Under Caveat Venditor, the seller is assumed to be more sophisticated than the purchaser and so must bear responsibility for protecting the unwary purchaser. The purchaser, emptor, is like a child who must be protected against their own mistakes, while the seller, venditor, is the big bad wolf lying in wait.

We at The Review take the view that it remains in the best interests of every consumer to take a Caveat Emptor position!

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