Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why research backed advice?

This question comes from James in Raleigh, North Carolina:

Hi Dr. Pandit, I am wondering why your blog and research-based advice is so much better than what my mom and grandma taught me about raising kids. I mean, isn’t research just a bunch of hooey? What about some common sense?

If we consider how we know what we know - we can easily compare the ways and see why it is best for parents as well as health professionals to use the findings of sound research. The following is a list of ways of knowing - I am not sure if all people could keep abreast of the research in every field - but certainly as professional psychologists, we would not want to base our therapies on common sense alone.

From all of the data we collect, we want to be able to predict someone's thoughts, feelings, and behavior in psychology. This gives us the ability to formulate interventions and therapies based on typical human behavior. Some of the ways we know things are by: word of mouth (folklore), personal experiences, expert opinion, and research evidence.

Some advantages of research evidence are:   

1. Often based on observations of many people

2. Observations made by a less biased observer than by the friend or acquaintance

3. Attempt to use reliable, valid methods of measurement

4. May allow for unambiguous specification of causal factors

Research in psychology is science. After data is collected it is put through statistical analysis which are mathematical procedures.  Nothing is based on opinion - with the exception in some cases of the original hypothesis. So the hypothesis or prediction to be tested,  might be driven by common sense, but it must be subjected to vigorous testing.

Consider the ways we know things:

Breaking a mirror leads to 7-years bad luck.
A black cat crossing your path signifies bad luck.
I have a feeling that something bad is going to happen on my trip next week.

You read in the newspaper that more Americans are overweight now than ten years ago.
You recently saw a TV commercial for a new diet product that was endorsed by a very slim soap opera star.

You have heard the Slim Fast slogan so many times that you believe it must be true.

SUVs use more gas and spew more emissions than many other vehicles. Because emissions contribute significantly to air pollution, those who drive SUVs must be less concerned about polluting the environment.

I have observed that using note cards can be an effective means of studying for an exam.
I have observed that using note cards can be an ineffective means of studying for an exam.

Studies have shown that smoking has been linked to lung disease.
Studies have shown that elaborative rehearsal leads to better retention than rote rehearsal.

Warm regards,
Dr. Pandit

Got questions? Please email me your questions about kids from birth to adulthood:

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