Fifty psychological and psychiatric terms to avoid?

I added the question mark, the subtitle of that article is: “Fifty psychological and psychiatric terms to avoid: a list of inaccurate, misleading, misused, ambiguous, and logically confused words and phrases.”  It is by Scott O. Lilienfeld,  Here is one excerpt:

(11) Gold standard. In the domains of psychological and psychiatric assessment, there are precious few, if any, genuine “gold standards.” Essentially all measures, even those with high levels of validity for their intended purposes, are necessarily fallible indicators of their respective constructs (). As a consequence, the widespread practice referring to even well-validated measures of personality or psychopathology, such as ) Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, as “gold standards” for their respective constructs () is misleading (see ). If authors intend to refer to measures as “extensively validated,” they should simply do so.

(14) Influence of gender (or social class, education, ethnicity, depression, extraversion, intelligence, etc.) on X. “Influence” and cognate terms, such as effect, are inherently causal in nature. Hence, they should be used extremely judiciously in reference to individual differences, such as personality traits (e.g., extraversion), or group differences (e.g., gender), which cannot be experimentally manipulated. This is not to say that individual or group differences cannot exert a causal influence on behavior (), only that research designs that examine these differences are virtually always (with the rare exception of “experiments of nature,” in which individual differences are altered by unusual events) correlation or quasi-experimental. Hence, researchers should be explicit that when using such phrases as “the influence of gender,” they are almost always proposing a hypothesis from the data, not drawing a logically justified conclusion from them. This inferential limitation notwithstanding, the phrase “the influence of gender” alone appears in over 45,000 manuscripts in the Google Scholar database (e.g., ).

It is difficult to use words properly, they don’t even want me to say “operational definition” again!

For the pointer I thank Denis Grosz.


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