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.


'they don’t even want me to say “operational definition” again'

Wait, economists are now using psychological and psychiatric terms in their professional writing?

Will wonders never cease?

"science is not a method, it is an approach". Glad that's cleared up.

science has absolutely nothing to do with psychology or psychiatry -- they are in the same category as astrology & phrenology

It depends if you're talking about the DSM, which has a grand total of 0 scientific references, or more like areas of neuroscience and/or behavioural sciences, such as those related to (illegal, among other) neuro-experimentation.

The idea that claims of intelligence or the police or organized crime following and/or harassing or a person is evidence is madness is quite an unscientific one, as contrasted with scientific research making use of measured event-related potentials, neurostimulation or other (not exclusive of illegal human experimentation in history and/or present).

The writer is assuming that "gold standard" must only be used as to label the unquestioned "best." There is certainly less consensus among economists the gold standard was the best monetary regime, so he ought to at least concede that point while he is at it.

For an anti-PC crumuedgeon, I am strangely untroubled by (14). Possibly because I am mildly suspcious of the whole notion of causilty.

In any case, we could very come closer to our actual meaning by saying "fooness is a correlate of barness" instead of "fooness has an infuence on barness". And even if we did originally mean the latter, on reflection we usually find we that we don't know the direction of influence, or we suspect it is bidirectional.

It's pedantic to criticize the incorrect use of beg the question but OK to examine these.

11. It's all relative, so everything, and everyone, must be viewed in contrast to something, or someone, else; the "gold standard" is aspirational.

14. We are the combination of our influences; becoming someone one isn't is aspirational but unlikely.

Of course, 11 and 14 are two sides of the same coin. Can we teach, or will, ourselves to be someone else?

I think you have misunderstood 14, in order to veer off to discuss something else (the quite interesting aspirational stuff).

14 is about the fact that tens of thousands of empty slash spurious claims are made about the power of "gender" to be a causal force. And by tens of thousands, I mean that's just in the "reputable" literature of the (social) "sciences".

Yes, yes, yes to 14. But not just in Psychology/psychiatry. Too many times, associations are treated as causes. College graduates earn more, but that's probably because they are smarter, more conscientious, and more able to work in a system, not because of anything that college did to them. Married men live longer, are healthier and happier than unmarried men but that's probably because men who stay married are more likely to take care of themselves, have a better attitude on life, and have "better" genes.

Lawyers, doctors, engineers - clearly, college had nothing to do with their earning the qualifications to earn more money, did it?

Though if you ask an engineer about themselves, odds are quite good that they will declare themselves superior to the common run of humanity anyways.

You are absolutely right that lawyers, doctors, and engineers have to go to college to enter those fields. I would have been on safer ground if I had limited my statement to jobs that don't require a well-defined sequence of classes (often because of laws limiting entry to people who pass such classes).

Nevertheless, even doctors and lawyers and engineers will often tell you how relatively little they use of what they covered in school--and how much they had to learn on the job.

“better” genes: is "lesser mutational load" a more prudent, or perhaps cowardly, way to phrase that?

Come now, the daring term is 'Aryan.'

Spike Jones even wrote a song about it - With lyrics like these -

'Is he not the supermen?

Aryan pure supermen?

Ja we is the supermen

Super duper supermen'

'Aryan'? Are you delusional?

I like #19 as well. Point estimates are still the best guess even if they are not statistically significant.

Wow, that list packs a lot of education in a few pages.

When these buggers say "gender" do they mean what is more accurately termed "sex" or do they mean that fluctuating, self-identifying will-o'-the-wisp of modern, politically-correct feeling?

By convenyion
Sex = biological
Gender = fluctuating, self-identifying stuff

Women and GENDER studies = fluff.
Sex = real.

It's why Dr. Sheldon Cooper has no respect for the social sciences.

I'm seriously closed-minded about sex. In my mind, it's binary. Either I am getting it or not. All other applications pale in comparison.

It's not only jargon/nomenclature, it's principles. I'm old enough to remember when so-called transgenderism and homosexuality were defined as pathologies. Now, that only applies among antediluvian, non-PC practitioners.

mostly binary, but not always. is a person with XXY chromosomes male or female?

In other words, overwhelmingly binary. As for XXY, such people are so few that it should be trivially easy to accommodate them in society. Presumably society already accommodated them before the current brouhaha about "gender" occurred - accommodated them, that is to say, with less cruelty than homosexuals were treated until quite recently.

I think the converse is true: such people are so few that it should be trivially easy to ignore them and pretend they don't exist.

Given that they weren't on the list, does that mean it's okay to throw around terms like 'bonkers,' 'lunatic,' and 'bats@#$ crazy?'

Asking for a friend.

I think ‘bats@#$ crazy?’ is infra dig. "Not right in the head" is long-winded. "Mad" is ambiguous for Americans. "Insane" sounds OK to me but might be ambiguous among The Young.

Come to think of it, there's that charming old term "cuckoo".

Speaking of: does "eleutheromania" have its own entries in either the DSM-5 or the ICD-10?

If not: why not?

Note that the journal this is published is under the imprint of the Frontiers group.

I’m not in the psych field, but the Frontiers journals in my field aren’t exactly known for high-quality work.

So, opinion piece in a potentially crap journal = not news.

Another win for Sumner!

They claim that philosophers have determined operational definitions are incorrect, and as proof they cited a bunch of psychologists. Their argument against the term isn't very good although the other cited sources do a better job with the topic. If manipulating a variable (such as a wood or metal ruler) results in no change in the outcome, then clearly that variable is extraneous to the experiment, and should not be considered in defining terms.

14 - All they are saying is "don't say X influences Y, when you mean X is correlated with Y". I don't see what the problem with that is.

I suppose a clear statement to that effect admits to ignorance in a way that doesn't satisfy whatever careerist purposes the trick-cyclists aspire to.

At the end of the day, deep semantics don’t matter when you’re trying to help someone who is struggling with a mental illness. Furthermore, neither astrology nor phrenology have actually saved lives. Psychiatry has.

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