Psychology and Psychiatry: Any Progress?

Over at PsychCentral’s World of Psychology John Grohol quotes David Barker’s take on the question of just how much project the two disciplines have made. [Much longer source article at the New York Times’ Freakonomics blog.] The basic take is that the progress has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary:

Psychological science continues to show that our thinking is prone to a host of errors. Consider the phenomenon of illusory correlation. Illusory correlation is seeing a relationship between two events where none exists. The debates over Iraq offer plenty of examples. Not that long ago many Americans believed that Iraq played a role in the attacks of 9/11, a relationship that George Bush denied. Understanding and counteracting distortions of our thinking and reasoning can provide a powerful antidote to many of the ills that beset us.

Psychology has offered a better understanding of our behavior and its relationship to our well-being. The leading causes of death in America, heart disease, and cancer, have strong behavioral components. Encouraging healthy behaviors (diet, exercise) and eliminating unhealthy ones (smoking) are activities that psychologists are well suited to address.

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Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.

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