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“Haunted by an astronomical ghost” – Why Psychology is such an average science

Professor Neville Blampied, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

This talk builds on two invited addresses I gave in 2017, one to ABAI in Denver, the other to the School of Psychology at VUW. It starts from the obvious fact that since approximately the 1940’s (i.e., for the past 80 years), research in Psychology has been overwhelmingly concerned with computing group mean differences and testing for statistical significance of these differences using Null Hypothesis Statistical Tests. I first will briefly review the history of how this came about in the century from 1835 – 1935, show how our modern practices are still haunted by old ideas whose origins we are largely unaware of, try to expose a number of more or less implicit assumptions derived from these ideas that underpin our continuing use of this tradition of research, and consider some of the potentially adverse effects of these on our discipline. Finally, I will consider, in a very preliminary way (preliminary, because I have only just begun to think about them) some of the steps we might take to improve our methods by at least acknowledging, if not exorcising, our methodological ghostly hauntings.

Blampied, N.M. (2017). Analysing therapeutic change using modified Brinley plots: History, construction, and interpretation. Behavior Therapy, 48, 115 – 127. DOI 10.1016/j.beth.2016.09.002.
Blampied, N.M. (2013). Single-case research and the scientist-practitioner ideal in applied psychology. In G. Madden (Ed.). Handbook of Behavior Analysis Vol 1. (pp 177 – 197). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Professor Neville Blampied has been a staff member at the University of Canterbury for 47 years, and was Head of Department (2005 – 2012). He teaches learning and behaviour change processes and researches novel interventions for psychological problems. He is a Fellow of the NZ Psychological Society, received the Society’s Adcock Award in 2008, was made a Life Member of the NZ Association for Behaviour Analysis in 2017, and was President of Division 6 (Clinical & Community Psychology) of the International Association of Applied Psychology (2010 – 2014). His research includes conceptual and applied behaviour analysis, single-case research designs and wider methodological issues, behavioural and cognitive behavioural therapies, sleep throughout the lifespan (especially in infancy), nutritional influences on wellbeing, and family interventions. He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and has supervised 130 theses, dissertations, and research projects.

Date Monday, 8 October 2018
Time 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Audience Public
Event Category Sciences
Event Type Seminar
DepartmentCancer Society Social & Behavioural Research Unit, Radiation Therapy (Wellington), Psychology

William James Seminar Room 103, William James Building, 275 Leith Walk, Otago Campus



Contact Name

Norma Bartlett

Contact Phone

+64 3 479 7644


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