Disappointment with Psychology Today

Wanting to broaden my personal horizons, I recently purchased a bi-monthly magazine out of America- Psychology Today. The front cover looked interesting enough, a woman with hair covering most of her face, a promise at looking at bilingualism, introverts, body language and so on. I shrugged at the $10 charge (slightly less than the Economist that I recently purchased- my second thus far) and sat down at the train station for a quick read.

It is my profound regret that this is not a magazine that I would consider worthy of the title “Psychology“. The first few pages start off innocently enough. Anyone who has been exposed to Men’s Health would find similar themes- small, article-based blurbs on new discoveries and interesting factoids. Nothing wrong with that. To an extent, that was what I was looking for.  I ignored the somewhat ham-fisted report that “false” equates to “more research is needed” on a small pop quiz regarding autism and moved on.

Most articles are not within a scientific Psychology vein. Typifying self-help that you could come across in the glossies, most are about how loss affects us in some way, or how to cope with people who died who were bad people. The introvert article I eagerly anticipated was little more than the same- a couple of social mores, an ‘expert’ in the field making some broad strokes about what defines an introvert and a brief stab at introvert self-empowerment (seriously, does anyone know an introvert who is not self-empowered? It takes a lot of effort to be counter-social). Dejectedly I squizzed through the pages. Quoting Maslow is fine in correct circumstances. Relying on him for a major article is not- the man was a genius but a humanist (subscribers know my feelings about them) and it sullies the hard-earned good name of Psychology to use him as such. In short, the taint of humanism is everywhere, and it pushes out what could have been interesting, scientifically-based data out the window. Take an article entitled “Blinded by Biochemistry” and a quote therein: ” But stuck in a biochemical view of addiction, [the DSM-V] wound up creating a new category for pathological gambling- behavioral addiction”. Stuck in a biochemical view? We should be so blessed and funded to have a capacity to measure psychology at the level of biochemistry- with complexity, precision and certification. This article makes other heinous jabs at science and good Psychology.  Its criticism to the DSM-V (and priors) as adding and removing various substances as addictive exposes an anti-scientific sentiment that refuses to accept change in light of evidence-based discoveries. The suggestion that addiction is “the search for emotional satisfaction- for a sense of security, a senses of being loved, even a sense of control over life” reveals a staunch, pig-headed, know-it-all holistic arrogance that should have been left in the 60s.

The magazine seems aimed at women a fair deal, not the least because of all the feminine-geared beauty products that are advertised. Advertising in general reflects poorly throughout the magazine. Self-help books are obligatory I suppose, god knows I see them in the Psych sections at bookstores. What I was not counting on is the amount of spiritualist claptrap on offer, from autobiography of a Yogi (not the bear unfortunately), to “Manual for Living” to BodyMind Boundaries for Beginners. Other horrifying advertisements sell sex-appeal pheromones (scientifically validated according to the ad) , income earning through hypnotherapy, websites design, and the one that takes the bullshit cake, HOLLYWOOD PSYCHIC FREE 5 MINUTE LOVE READING. Damn it all! We are Psychologists, it is our responsibility to get rid of this tripe, not advertise it.

Not an MRI, not a breaking development in understanding nocireceptors, barely a mention towards mental disorders, not a discussion on statistical validity, Psychology Today is almost the epitome of why other sciences do not take Psychology seriously. It’s a glossy Woman’s Day wolf trussed up in Psychology frock, and don’t be surprised if the dress comes back wrinkled and tattered. Why aren’t we moving  past this?

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~ by freeze43 on November 9, 2010.

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