Psychology in Crisis – Sail On


‘Psychology in Crisis’ by Brian M Hughes has much in its favour. Like a knife through soft butter, it cuts through the huge swathes of BS that permeate Academic Psychology.  Brian Hughes addresses many different crises in Academic Psychology:

the Replication Crisis

the Paradigmatic Crisis (aka as the Theory Crisis or Fragmentation)

the Measurement Crisis 

the Statistical Crisis

the Sampling Crisis

the Exaggeration Crisis

None of these crises is new. The problem is the different crises are all getting bigger and more insoluble over time.

In his delightful book,  Psychology in Crisis, Hughes explains that there is little momentum to change because the discipline has taken over a century to build the mould. “The fact that the majority of those who teach psychology see no problem with the status quo, and so say nothing about it, does not indicate that their discipline is healthy. If anything, it implies the presence of groupthink. One might even consider it an instance of a mass delusion.” (p. 148, my italics).

A ‘mass delusion’! Strong words, but fully justified. The biggest delusion of all is the claim that Academic Psychology is a Science. There is no justification for this claim if Hughes’ allegations are true. Which they are.

As an academic discipline, Psychology continues to grow. The American Psychological Association reports that in 2012 – 2013, 1.84 million bachelor’s degrees were awarded to students. Of those, 6.2 percent of the degrees (or 114,080) went to psychology majors. The psychology major is the fourth most popular college major after business, health-related majors, and social science and history. In the 2013 academic year, 6,496 psychology doctorates were awarded in the U.S., a 32 percent increase from 2004.

One of simplest measures of Academic Psychology’s growth is publications numbers. The figures are plotted below for each quarter century since 1900. I got these numbers from Google Scholar.  Bearing in mind that the current quarter century still has 6 years to run, the increases are huge. The dotted line is an estimate for 2000-24 based on current trends. The line goes way off the chart.

Number of Publications about Psychology

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As the Psychology enterprise continues to grow, it becomes ever more difficult to turn it around. To use a nautical analogy, the radius of the Turning Circle widens. The momentum to ‘Sail On’ becomes ever greater.

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