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"Positive psychology is mainly for rich white people" - James C Coyne Aug 21 blogpost

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by Dolphin, Aug 21, 2013.

  1. Dolphin

    Dolphin Senior Member

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    (No direct relevance to ME/CFS)

    James C. Coyne is an interesting renegade psychologist, as I've said before. He has written many critical posts about other psychological research.


    His latest blog post is:



    It is a small bit ranty, but does provide various links to more information.

    I'm not 100% one way on the issue itself. I do think Barbara Ehrenreich has made many interesting points before about the problems of "positive psychology". Also, that the social circumstances can make a big difference. At the same time, I do feel one can at least sometimes do things to see the positive or not the negative, and gratitude (mentioned briefly) can be something useful to nurture as appropriate.

    However, I found it interesting to revise some concepts such as: "discriminant validity" and "content validity". In particular, I found this idea interesting:

    This idea had occurred to me before, but never had a name for it.

    Generally I do find it interesting to read his stuff, to read about methods of critique of psychological research.
    alex3619, biophile and Sean like this.
  2. Sean

    Sean Senior Member

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    Valentijn and biophile like this.
  3. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

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    Good to see him talking about how these psychological approaches serve the interests of power too. I think that these social aspects are really important, but difficult to talk about in a context where there's such respect for RCTs in which small groups of people are encouraged to believe different things, and if those encouraged to think 'positively' about themselves fill in a questionnaire more positively at the end, it's assumed that science has shown this is how we should think.

    We need a trial on two totally isolated societies, one of which is encouraged to believe empowering narratives about one's control over one's life, etc; while the other is encouraged to appreciate the extent to which good and bad luck shapes people's lives and opportunities. Then we could assess which society treated those in positions of hardship most reasonably.

    I'll put together a funding proposal!
  4. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    Logan, Queensland, Australia
    Looking at those questions cited as used for measuring positive thought, I can presume I am a very very positive thinker. I even put emphasis on big picture thinking! Gold! Yet the reality is something else entirely. Don't these questions ever get validated? I had presumed such questions would indeed be tested against patient cognition for validation, and that those questionnaires that did not were bad practice. Silly me. It seems much more of it is bad practice than I thought.

    Bright-Sided is now on my reading list.

    Indeed as I was reading this article it occurred to me that this kind of thinking is used to support an agenda of social denial, and social engineering, which Bright-Sided apparently talks about. Whereas the happy-smiley people were using positive thinking, the UK government is currently using punishment to try to make the change ... kind of a flip side version, being driven by BPS ideology. However all of this I still think goes back to the shift in emphasis in economics post 1970. People are rational agents. They do what is best for their circumstances - rational optimization. Where reality does not fit the model, its people who are to blame, its not that the model is wrong. They don't want to get well, have the wrong agenda, don't want to work, have the wrong attitude ... etc. Yet considerable research has gone on in economics to show that people are not rational, and that even if they were they do not have all the information to make rational decisions.

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