Another reason psychology is difficult to do well

Ig Nobel Prize winner Dan Simons and colleagues point out one of the things that makes psychology so difficult to do well. Ed Yong writes about that, in his (Yong’s) blog:

For decades, we’ve known that our expectations can wield a huge influence over our behaviour and our bodies. This is why new medicines are tested in double-blind randomised trials, where neither doctors nor patients know who’s getting a drug and who’s just getting a placebo….

Running double-blind studies is easy enough when your medicine looks the same as a saline drip, but it’s usually impossible in psychology. “Psychology interventions aren’t like pills,” says Simons. “If you’re receiving an experimental treatment for depression, you know that you’re receiving treatment.” …

That’s the problem: It’s hard to run these interventions without revealing your hand to volunteers. The even bigger problem, according to Boot and Simons, is that psychologists have largely dealt with this issue by sweeping it under the rug…. Now, together with colleagues Cary Stothart and Cassie Stutts, Walter Boot and Simons have published a paper—more a manifesto, really—that outlines their gripes. (You can read the full details of their project hereincluding an FAQ and a blog post.).

BACKGROUND: Dan Simons and Chris Chabris were awarded the 2004 Ig Nobel Prize for psychology,  for demonstrating that when people pay close attention to something, it’s all too easy to overlook anything else — even a woman in a gorilla suit. [REFERENCE: “Gorillas in Our Midst,” Daniel J. Simons and Christopher F. Chabris, vol. 28,Perception, 1999, pages 1059-74.] Here’s video of that experiment: