Thursday, November 3, 2011


I have a grudge against psychology.  I am biased against it by my experiences and I would like to put that disclaimer up front.  I have debated this several times with Boyfriend and I will admit before I start with what I find objectionable that: 
1) Psychology is a valid science 
2) Psychology can give us valuable insights into the human mind 
3) Counselors can genuinely help people

Now.  Psychology's approach is what I have a problem with frequently.  People are all different, so making generalizations is very very dangerous.  Many psychological studies have flaws in their methods which will lead to flawed or incomplete conclusions.  This is particularly true in regard to the field of gender.

Boyfriend's biggest (valid) criticism of my view of psychology is when I read studies about how women and men are inherently and biologically different (battle of the sexes and so on) and my first, immediate reaction is denial.  I honestly do believe that studies like this have some flaws.  Frequently inconclusive results are taken (generally by the media) as something very conclusive, and it drives me crazy.  I also am loathe to admit that there are biological differences between men and women (beyond basic anatomy).  And the reason I am loathe to admit it is that any slight difference is going to be used as an excuse for blatant sexism.

There probably are biological differences, but how are you ever going to be able to prove that they're biological and not societal?  How are you going to prove to what extent they're biological and to what extent they're societal?

Also, while I do believe counselors can be a lot of help, I've also seen them do a lot of damage to people I know personally.  I object to the belief that everyone should be "normal" because so often "normal" implies homogeneity and I like to celebrate our differences.  And I know, I really do, that not all of psychology conflicts/conforms to what I've said, but I've ran into a lot of times when it does. 


  1. Man, I had a super-long comment going and then my browser crashed :/

    Anyways, on the topic of psychology research, people will generally refuse to question their own assumptions, especially when their data supports their biases (Men want more sex than women? Of course! Women are bad at math? I already knew that!). The fact is that it's hard for people to internalize that social assumptions are always changing and were a lot different just a few hundred years ago than they are now. In the European Enlightenment, for example, it was taken for granted that women always had a much higher sex drive than men.

    In this case, I think we need to bring more attention to how much societal pressures can shape how people act and what they perceive. If we as a society expect different genders/races/orientations/classes/whatever to act in certain ways, we shouldn't be surprised when they conform to those expectations, and we really shouldn't attribute it to biology.

    Even if there are biologically determined differences between groups, they really aren't significant enough to justify treating individuals differently. This slideshow on math ability is a good example of what I mean: the ability curves overlap too much to really predict whether any given individual will be good at math based on their gender alone.

    As for practicing psychologists, they should really be held to higher standards. Because they often help their patients with personal thoughts and matters, things the patient might not share with anyone else, the psychologist can essentially become a part of that patient's inner dialogue. This can be wonderful for correcting unhealthy thought patterns, but can also introduce unhealthy patterns if the psychologist disapproves of the person they're supposed to be helping.

    Really, I think psychologists need to be, for the health of their patients, accepting of any and everything that their patients are that is not actively hurting them.* Loss of self confidence is a problem. Having lots of sex or being gay should never be.

    Sorry for writing blog posts in the comments of your blog ^_^;;

    * By "actively hurting them" I don't mean things that people get bullied for by society, like being gay or trans. The bullying is the problem here, not the person.

  2. Damn, why are you way more eloquent than I am about this? I have to agree I say with all your points and I always run into the problem that I mean to say a lot of things but just forget to while writing, especially since my posts are verging on the TL;DR side of the spectrum already.