Episode 10: Applied Thinking

Episode 10: Applied Thinking

“Lives at stake … Conversation with Scott Allen (Part 1) … What’s the harm? … Conversation with Scott Allen (Part 2) … Clever hands … Conversation with William Thompson … Evidence-based evidence … Conversation with Stephan Lewandowsky … Belief in conspiracy theories … Uncut conversations”
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Summaries

  • Episode 10 - Applied Thinking > Lives at stake > Lives at stake
  • Conversation with Scott Allen (Part 1)
  • Episode 10 - Applied Thinking > What's the harm? > What's the harm?
  • Conversation with Scott Allen (Part 2)
  • Episode 10 - Applied Thinking > Clever hands > Clever hands
  • Conversation with William Thompson
  • Evidence-based evidence
  • Conversation with Stephan Lewandowsky
  • Episode 10 - Applied Thinking > Belief in conspiracy theories > Belief in conspiracy theories
  • Uncut Conversations

Episode 10 – Applied Thinking > Lives at stake > Lives at stake

  • We’ve been dealing with cognitive processes, heuristics, and biases that people use to help them navigate the complexity that they see and interact with in the world.
  • The idea here is, “Okay. Well, let’s help them to communicate by tapping letters out on a keyboard or touching pictures, then they’ll be able to communicate,” but autistic individuals, for example, get stuck when they’re typing.
  • With the help of a facilitator-that is, a person helping them by guiding their hand-they can help initiate the action of an autistic child, and then help pull them back so they don’t get caught in that loop, and then help them push forward again.
  • They’re just guiding the autistic child to where they want to go.
  • Now, all of a sudden, with the help of a facilitator, these autistic individuals can communicate in ways they couldn’t before, in full sentences.
  • Previously, you’d have these children-imagine being a parent of an autistic child.
  • I mean, they’re trapped, in a sense, but finding out with the aid of a facilitator that they have this rich inner life, that they can in fact communicate, that they want to communicate, all of a sudden, they’re telling you about how their day was.

Conversation with Scott Allen (Part 1)

  • Sounds like Facilitated Communication then would be quite useful.
  • The two people involved have different pieces of information, and then if you interrogate that pair-so you ask them to type something with the help of the facilitator-if they each have different information in their heads, you can tell by which information you get out of the pair who it came from.
  • If the autistic individual sees something else, say, a pair of keys, and so you have these two differences; they’re seeing two different things, and then you see what comes out in terms of the communication.
  • Across all the experiments, there were different denominators in terms of the results that came out-that is, over different numbers of trials on which you could get information or evidence of information from the client.
  • There’s 140, say, of these trials on which you could have gotten information coming from the client, and they got information clearly coming from the client on zero of those trials.
  • The denominator may change-maybe 60 trials, maybe just 30 trials, maybe it’s 45 trials-but the number of trials where we actually get solid evidence of information coming from the client in all those cases is zero.
  • What happened? I mean, what’s the fallout of this? Did they just stop doing Facilitated Communication? What happened after these experiments came to light? I think some of the steamroller effect of this procedure dissipated, but it’s still the case that people are using Facilitated Communication these days, and this is 20 years after the bulk of the really unequivocal evidence has come in to say the technique is not working.
  • To their credit, they stopped using Facilitated Communication.
  • I think it’s a real testament to their integrity, of the therapists at this place, that they said, “We’re going to have to go back to square one.” Someone might argue then that: what’s the harm in that kind of case, particularly with Facilitated Communication? I mean, you have parents who are-they haven’t communicated with their children.
  • The first is, we lost I don’t know how many person years of research time into the causes, the procedures, the what-goes-on-in-autism because, remember-well, at the time, people were saying, “Look, if this Facilitated Communication is working, then we have to fundamentally rethink what autism is. It’s not at all what we thought that was. It’s something completely different. It’s not this maybe withdrawal from the world and those sorts of things. It’s a communication problem, and that’s all it is. We just need to allow people to communicate.” Well, people went off and started studying this stuff, and it was a wild goose chase.
  • There are costs to the individuals involved because if you focus on this bogus communication, you may miss communication that they actually are able to do.
  • There’s a lovely description of that in the report on that study by Wheeler and his colleagues from the Heck Center, where they said at one point there’s one kid who was shown an item-let’s say it was a car-and the child pointed at the car, made a manual sign for the car-this kid knew sign language, so he made a manual sign for the car, whatever that is-and uttered the first consonant.
  • He’s going, “Ca-ca-ca,” and the facilitator who is watching the kid’s hand on the keyboard completely ignored that information, and he typed out balloon or something instead. So you have these legitimate attempts to communicate that are missed because people are focused on the bogus stuff.
  • You’re blocking the real communication with the bogus stuff, with the stuff that’s not real.
  • I think there’s a sense in which this bogus belief that there’s some more intact individual inside the person that you’re able to access denies the validity of the person who actually is in there, who may not be able to communicate, who may not have in some sense anything to say, in the sense of being able to write poetry and so on.

Episode 10 – Applied Thinking > What’s the harm? > What’s the harm?

  • Now Facilitated Communication is really interesting, but it’s quite difficult to get your head around, and I think one of the tools that we can use is one that we saw last week.
  • Again, there two ways of being right, and two ways of being wrong in this case.
  • You can say that the communication is coming from the client, or you can say that the communication is coming from the facilitator.
  • In reality, what actually is the case, the communication can actually be coming from the client, or it can actually be coming from the facilitator.
  • You can say that the communication is coming from the client when it actually is.
  • You can say that the communication is coming from the facilitator when it’s actually coming from the client.
  • We’re saying that the facilitator is communicating, not the autistic individual, even though they have the capability of doing it.
  • This technique is useful, but it’s the facilitator who is essentially putting the words in the mouth of the autistic individual.
  • They show this technique of the facilitators, and it really put some flesh on the bones of this topic that we’re talking about.
  • You can say that the communication is coming from the facilitator when it actually is coming from facilitator.
  • This is the case where you say that the communication is coming from the client when it’s actually coming from the facilitator.
  • It’d be tempting to say, “What’s the harm in this case if we do make that kind of mistake,” but I don’t think that’s good enough.
  • Scott alluded to those costs as well during the conversation, of going down this path, of treating clients, using this technique when in fact there’s nothing there to be had, the cost of shifting an entire line of research to Facilitated Communication, where it was completely ineffective, putting money into the research, getting the hopes of parents up, in a sense, and saying, “Well no. In fact your child isn’t communicating at all. It was the facilitator all along.” Imagine that.
  • You could do it with something as big as Facilitated Communication.
  • I don’t think it would have been outside the realm of consideration for anyone who’s taking this course to be able to design an experiment to determine whether it was the facilitator who was communicating or whether it was the client.
  • In the case of Facilitated Communication, there were accusations that autistic children were being abused.
  • Yes, arguing the other side of that-so it’s a response bias, in a sense, a response bias to say that the thing is working, regardless whether it is or not, whether that thing, be it psychic phenomena, or homeopathy, or chiropractic treatment, “What’s the harm? I’ll give it a go and actually see.” Well, that website exactly shows you what the harm is.
  • It shows you that people are now paralyzed from using this particular alternative treatment, or, again, allegations of sexual abuse, when in fact it was the facilitator who was communicating, and on and on and on.
  • Pick your case, and you can see what the harms actually are.
  • In the case of Facilitated Communication, do you-it’s quite clear in the case of Facilitated Communication that the communications were coming from the facilitators and not the clients.
  • What does that mean for the facilitators? Were they aware that they were influencing these communications? I really don’t think so.
  • Again, going back to the cases of sexual abuse, to the allegations of sexual abuse, I can’t imagine anybody in their right mind that would do that, that would actually say, “Your child is being abused,” when in fact they weren’t.
  • I think what-well, we know what’s actually happening in this case is something called the Experimenter Expectancy Effect.
  • Let’s let Scott tell the story of exactly what was happening in the case of Facilitated Communication.

Conversation with Scott Allen (Part 2)

  • Then he came back to the teacher and said, “Little Jimmy and Jane and Ralphie,” and so on-they picked a little bunch of kids, and said, “They are due for an intellectual growth spurt.” The idea was these kids were about to blossom.
  • If you know little Jimmy is ready for intellectual growth spurt and he’s not quite getting something, well, you spend a little bit of extra time because you have these higher expectations of them.
  • We know if you have higher expectations of kids, they’re going to live up to them, or at least they’re going to attempt to live up to them.
  • A little bit higher expectations get a little bit higher results, a little bit higher performance.
  • You could ask him questions like, “If it’s 25 to 8, where is the little hand on the clock? What numbers is it in between,” and so on.
  • They had these big commissions of inquiry who came to check out Hans and make sure that that there wasn’t some fraud going on and so on.
  • I mean, Hans was very clever, but he couldn’t talk.
  • He wasn’t Mister Ed. What he would do is he would just tap his foot to answer a question.
  • What Oskar Pfungst established was that Hans could answer the questions if anybody in the audience knew what the answer was.
  • Von Osten didn’t need to be there, but someone had to know the answer to the question.
  • The way he tested this is he would ask one person to whisper a number in Hans’ ear, another person to whisper a number in the other ear, say, three and two, and then he would ask, “Hans, add those two numbers. What’s the sum of those two numbers?” Hans would go…and just keep going because no one was telling him when to stop.
  • As Hans started to approach the right answer, people would just lean forward a little bit in anticipation of that answer.
  • If he’s going to five, you know that the answer is five, you go, “One, two, three, four-is he going to make it there-five.” Not nearly as big, there were very subtle movements, but that’s what Hans was picking up on.
  • Once Pfungst figured this out, he’d get Hans to give whatever answer he wanted simply by making these movements deliberately.
  • Hans was picking up on these subtle cues from the people around him, none of them knew they were doing this.
  • There’s no reason to believe that von Osten, who is the guy who had trained Hans, knew that he was cuing Hans the answers.
  • He just thought Hans was as clever as he was and didn’t realize that he was doing the actual cuing himself or other people in the audience were doing the cuing when von Osten wasn’t there-because they’d often test without von Osten being there.
  • As you would think, maybe he’s up to something fishy, take him out of the room, and test Hans.
  • Hans’ work just fine, as long as somebody knows the answer because they’d give those subtle little cues as to where he should be going.
  • Do you have any other advice for the people who are taking the course on how to improve their everyday thinking? I think, at least part of the answer is a healthy skepticism.

Episode 10 – Applied Thinking > Clever hands > Clever hands

  • I have colleagues in Developmental Psychology, and they’re interested in measuring infant responses.
  • You might show them a picture of a face, for example, and measure how long they look at this face compared to this face on this side.
  • You simply measure how long the infant’s staring at one face, or you show them something odd and measure how long they look at it, compared to something else.
  • The people who were doing the analyses, the people who are scoring these videotapes for the looking time in infants don’t know a thing about the experiment.
  • You can actually see the person who’s measuring it, and all they’re doing is just measuring, “Okay left” with a stopwatch.
  • “Right, okay, now they’re on that side,” and so they can’t possibly be swayed to go to one side or another because they don’t know which hypothesis they’re supporting.
  • Now I won’t get into the specifics of why, but we were measuring how much time they spent on that either side of the cage.
  • They’d spend it on this side or this side, and I was there, literally with a stopwatch measuring how long they were on one side versus another and writing down the times.
  • I didn’t know which side of the cage they should have been spending their time on essentially.
  • By not knowing what’s happening or not knowing what to expect, you can’t possibly be swayed in the same way that you were, like the facilitators were in the Facilitated Communication, or sniffer dogs, or anything else.
  • That’s why we design them this way to be intentionally naive so you’re not going to sway or influence other people.
  • He’s interested in how people interpret forensic evidence like DNA, and here’s what he had to say.

Conversation with William Thompson

  • I think what the shows miss is the extent of which a determination that something matches or is similar depends upon a subjective judgment by an expert.
  • The surprising thing is how often different experts can reach different conclusions when evaluating crime scene evidence.
  • Okay, when experts approach a task like that, just as any other human beings, they can be influenced by what they expect to see or to some extent by what they desire to see.
  • They’re more likely to interpret an ambiguous stimuli in a manner that’s consistent with what they think or want to see.
  • The problem for a forensic expert is how to prevent this process of what’s sometimes called Observer Effects, the tendency to see what one expects or desires to see, how to prevent that from coloring one’s interpretation of the evidence in ways that undermine the quality of the evidence that’s going to be presented to the jury.
  • I think the best way to do that is to try to minimize the amount of contextual information that the expert receives.
  • If the expert approaches the comparison not knowing whether it’s supposed to match or not supposed to match, or what the answer is supposed to be, then it’s more likely that the expert’s judgment will be determined just by the scientific data and won’t be colored by the surrounding contextual information that may create what we would think of as a bias.
  • I think it’s a good practice because it prevents the professor from being influenced by other information about the student that may lead the professor to think that this student is likely to perform well or not perform well.
  • This course is about the science of everyday thinking.
  • What advice do you have for people out there who want to think better and do better in their everyday lives? That’s a good question.
  • Boy, I’m not sure I’ve mastered how to think well myself.
  • I think we all struggle with thinking clearly, with marshaling our thoughts.
  • Sometimes when I have been benefited by trying to be very systematic and decompose problems into elements and think about them carefully, piece by piece, but the fact is I rarely make actual decisions that way.
  • I think a lot of our decision-making happens intuitively, through processes that we don’t fully understand and really can’t analyze.
  • If you’re a forensic scientist and if you want to avoid being influenced inappropriately by extraneous information, make sure you don’t know that information.
  • I think about proof that’s put forward that isn’t really proof.

Evidence-based evidence

  • Now Bill Thompson alluded to something that we’re going to talk about next, which is expertise in fingerprint identification.
  • Contrary to what you see on “CSI,” it’s not computers that match fingerprints and interpret DNA profiles.
  • It’s not simply a matter of going to a crime scene, dusting for prints, getting the bloody print, putting it into a computer, and up pops the… The driver’s license of the person who committed the crime.
  • Yes, it might work like that, in a sense, with the computer if it’s really high-quality fingerprints.
  • When you’re dealing with bloody crime scene prints, that’s when human judgment is involved.
  • With a bloody print, often it’s this partial print as well, so you only see just a little bit of it, and you have to match it to this fully rolled tenprint.
  • We can see in this figure actually the print on the left is from person A; the print on the far right is also from person A, and they look pretty similar, but the print in the middle is from person B, and that looks really close to person A. It doesn’t seem like all fingerprints are unique when you’re looking at these examples.
  • If I tell you, “The person confessed to the crime. Now analyze these prints, and tell me whether they’re from the same person or not,” you can’t look at them with new eyes.
  • You can’t look at them as though you don’t know that information.
  • Bill Thompson talked about how much ambiguity creeps in here, so when you’re looking at these DNA samples, it’s not clear that the sample that you have is from this person or not.
  • There’s a lot of information, when you’re dealing with mixed samples and so on, that points in one direction or another.
  • You’re filming this sort of fuzzy crime that happened, and you have to judge whether the person in front of you is in fact that person in this grainy footage.
  • Fingerprint examiners have claimed that they won’t be influenced by extraneous information about a case.
  • If they know that the person committed-later confessed to the crime, or if they know that their colleague has already said that these two fingerprints match, they have claimed that they won’t be biased or influenced by this information, but just as we saw in episode three “Know Thyself,” people have very little insight into what’s going on inside their heads.
  • In episode four “Intuition and Rationality”-this is essentially what I did my PhD in-I was looking at the influence of system one and system two on the judgments of fingerprint examiners, how much do they do really quickly and how much do they have to spend more time and analyzing.
  • In episode five “Learning to Learn,” we’re actually using-we’re trying to use distributed practice and interleaving to turn novice fingerprint examiners into expert fingerprint examiners more quickly.
  • Episode six “The Experiment,” now we did a trivial experiment on testing whether people can discriminate wines, but we’re using exactly the same tools when we do our research to find, I think, out more important things about whether fingerprint experts can discriminate between matching and non-matching prints.

Conversation with Stephan Lewandowsky

  • People tend to believe some pretty weird things, from NASA faking the moon landing to pharmaceutical companies conspiring with government departments to keep people sick, and climate change obviously.
  • Why does that happen? Why do people believe strange things like that? Well, again, what happens is that people tend to focus selectively on what they consider to be “The evidence”.
  • By focusing on just this one convenient piece of evidence that is protecting people’s worldview, they can be absolutely convinced that they’re right: “Look here, there is this one thermometer. It’s cooling,” and they’re ignoring absolutely everything else.
  • It is extremely difficult to get people to go beyond that one piece of evidence because doing so would imply that they have to perhaps change their opinion, and that’s a very difficult thing for people to do.
  • One of the major drivers in the maintenance of people’s beliefs and the formation of their beliefs is the role of the media.
  • That is a serious problem, especially now that we have the ability for people to choose their own media, in a sense, by focusing on certain sources on the Internet.
  • People have become more immersed in their own bubble of information they like, and that is what they are consuming to the exclusion of everything else.
  • There’s a lot of research done on that, that people have become more encapsulated, more polarized in general, for that reason because people follow their own instincts and they want to hear things that they like, and so they’re drifting further apart, depending on their initial preferences.
  • You don’t even have to read “Green Left Weekly.” Yes, very few people do, but they wouldn’t read the scientific literature and the scientific literature isn’t being reported accurately by certain media organsisations.
  • People seem to have a-I think we’ve called it an anti-establishment bias, in that sense that the government, the scientists-people are trying to conspire or are trying to further their own interests at the expense of the general public.
  • It’s just one way for people to reject a fact-is by making up a conspiracy surrounding it because that’s one way out.

Episode 10 – Applied Thinking > Belief in conspiracy theories > Belief in conspiracy theories

  • There’s a football game, football match that was happening, and you have fans watching exactly the same football game, and you ask people about their perceptions of dirty play during this football game, and each team reported that the other team was playing more dirty then then their own.
  • Yes, they’re watching exactly the same game, but they have completely different perceptions of what actually happened.
  • People who read Facebook are only exposed to information from their friends on Facebook, very like-minded individuals.
  • Our news is being shaped now that the information we get on the Web is being more and more encapsulated, so when you do a Google search, it’s catered to you, in a sense.
  • You have this perception that other people think the same way that you do.
  • We asked people whether they’ve had anything strange happen to them that science can’t really explain.
  • We asked people that question, and half of the people in the course, tens of thousands of people said yes.
  • Tens of thousands people said no, so roughly 50/50.
  • Half the people said, “Yes, something weird has happened to me that science can’t explain,” and half the people said, “No, nothing like that has happened to me.” Now that’s interesting in and of itself, but the very next question we asked people to guess what percentage of the class agrees with them.
  • Of the people who said, yes, that something weird has happened to them, they estimated that 69 percent of people agreed with them.
  • The people who said, “No, nothing weird has ever happened to me,” said that 64 percent of people agreed with them.
  • They think that, by virtue of being exposed to the same sort of information, that other people have the same sort of life experiences and other people around the world think the same way that they do.
  • Yes, and scale that up, so the influence of the media, the information you expose yourself to, the more narrowly you focus on where you get your information, the more and more you’re going to be reinforced and think that people agree with you; more and more people think the same way as I do.
  • I surround myself with like-minded people who also cite the same sort of evidence.
  • If the government or an official body releases some information and says, “Here are the data. This is what’s happening in the case,” well, that’s not just ignored.
  • It’s taken as evidence that the opposite is happening.
  • Unless somebody is helping you through the six leads to find out whether you are focusing on particular information, falling prey to the confirmation bias, it’s going to be really difficult to change your mind and get out of that sort of thinking.
  • A lot of people would argue in the case of climate change that’s exactly what’s happening.
  • On the other hand, when you’re covering this sort of thing in the media, you bring on a climate-change denier and the casual listener would say, “Well, it must be happening. Maybe, maybe not, somewhere in the middle.” That’s related to a second bias called “Be-fair-to-both-sides”.
  • If you’re being fair to both sides, then you feature both, and thinking about it in terms of availability, then you’re giving both of these things equal weight and people think they are much more common than they are.
  • Those are just three that we picked mostly because we’re actually interested in them, but I hope that people can see that the mechanisms that are operating here, the tools they now have, could be applied to any other area, anything, their pet project that they are particularly interested in.
  • All of these very relevant topics that are happening in their lives, something that’s important to them, and apply everything that we’ve been teaching them to these particular areas, and they’ll see it.
  • They will absolutely see what’s happening in each of these cases.

Uncut Conversations

  • You’ve done a fair bit of work in the past looking at a particular case that we’re interested in for this course, and that is Facilitated Communication.
  • The Facilitated Communication is an idea to facilitate their communication, to help them get their communication out.
  • The problem, according to this view, is-the biggest problem these kids have is they can’t initiate a conversation or they can’t initiate communication.
  • The argument for facilitated communication is, what you do is, with a little bit of help, you help them type on a keyboard, just move their arm a little bit to get them started.
  • The idea is if you can get them started, then they can type out messages that are sensible, that are full sentences, paragraphs and so on from these kids that you thought really had nothing to say, or in the past, people had thought they had very little to say; they weren’t capable of communicating.
  • The general logic of Facilitated Communication is if you can get the kids started, if you can get the movement started, and if you can stop them from just continuously hitting the same button once they have started-so they have this perseverative problem-or if you hit a “C”, then you hit a “C” again and again and again.
  • Sounds like Facilitated Communication then would be quite useful.
  • The fundamental question you have to answer, that you have to figure out the answer to is, “Who is the communication coming from?” Is it coming from the facilitator, or is it coming from the client? If you got this pair going to high school, going to the math courses, and writing essays in English, and all that sort of stuff, come graduation day, who do you give the diploma to? Do you give the diploma to the facilitator or to the client? How do you find out where the communication is coming from? Well, you have to-you can’t in that naturally occurring situation.
  • You have to get control over the situation so the two people involved have different pieces of information, and then if you interrogate that pair-so you ask them to type out something with the help of the facilitator-if they each have different information in their heads, you can tell by which information you get out of the pair who it came from.
  • That’s what a lot of the research-well, basically all the research that has been done, all the scientific research that has been done on Facilitated Communication uses that technique: make sure people have different pieces of information; the client has one piece of information; the facilitator has another piece of information and you interrogate the pair of them.
  • You ask them a question and see which one of those things comes out.
  • If the autistic individual sees something else, say, a pair of keys, and so you have these two differences; they’re seeing two different things, and then you see what comes out in terms of the communication.
  • There’s 140, say, of these trials on which you could have gotten information coming from the client, and they got information clearly coming from the client on zero of those trials.
  • The denominator may change-maybe 60 trials, maybe just 30 trials, maybe it’s 45 trials-but the number of trials where we actually get solid evidence of information coming from the client in all those cases is zero.
  • Wow! The denominator you’re referring to-just the number of opportunities that the autistic individual has to demonstrate that they’re the ones that are communicating, and under all of those circumstances, none of those opportunities have come to fruit.
  • What happened? I mean, what’s the fallout of this? Did they just stop doing Facilitated Communication? What happened after these experiments came to light? I think some of the steamroller effect of this procedure dissipated, but it’s still the case that people are using Facilitated Communication these days, and this is, what, 20 years after the bulk of the really unequivocal evidence has come in to say the technique is not working.
  • You come in to work, and you’re talking to these kids who, for the last four, five years, you haven’t been able to get a word out of, and now they’re telling you about what they did on the weekend; they’re joking with you; you’re having conversations with them.
  • To their credit, they stopped using Facilitated Communication.
  • Not in the way that people thought, but he was very tuned to very subtle movements of people.
  • As you would think, maybe he’s up to something fishy, take him out of the room, and test Hans.
  • If you think about Facilitated Communication, you got someone holding on to your sleeve, or holding on to your arm, helping you reach out, and point and touch the keyboard-very easy for that person, without meaning to, to be guiding your hand in a particular direction.
  • Someone might argue then that: what’s the harm in that kind of case, particularly with Facilitated Communication? I mean, you have parents who are-they haven’t communicated with their children.
  • The first is we lost I don’t know how many person years of research time into the causes, the procedures, the what-goes-on-in-autism because, remember-well, at the time, people were saying, “Look, if this Facilitated Communication is working, then we have to fundamentally rethink what autism is. It’s not at all what we thought it was. It’s something completely different. It’s not this maybe withdrawal from the world and those sorts of things. It’s a communication problem, and that’s all it is. We just need to allow people to communicate.” Well, people went off and started studying this stuff, and it was a wild goose chase.
  • There are costs to the individuals involved because if you focus on this bogus communication, you may miss communication that they actually are able to do.
  • He’s going, “Ca-ca-ca,” and the facilitator who is watching the kid’s hand on the keyboard completely ignored that information, and he typed out balloon or something instead. So you have these legitimate attempts to communicate that are missed because people are focused on the bogus stuff? That’s a cost to those individuals because they’re not able to communicate.
  • You’re blocking the real communication with the bogus stuff, with the stuff that’s not real.
  • Who should be doing these experiments? Is it Syracuse University who had developed Facilitated Communication, or should the experiments be up to us to conduct, to demonstrate, that there’s nothing to this technique? Should we be the police here, or should the people who are developing these techniques actually come up with some evidence that they in fact work, good scientific evidence that they work? I think it’s the people who are developing the techniques really should be doing this, but of course this is one of a whole series of these kinds of treatments where people have come up with these ideas; everybody jumps on the bandwagon; it looks at first blush like something wonderful is happening, and no one really stops to take a skeptical view.
  • What I’m suggesting is you need to take a skeptical view: “Okay, let me see some evidence. How can we make sure that this technique really is working?” When you’re doing drug studies, you’ve got to come up with some evidence that your drug is an effective drug before you’re allowed to market it and so on.
  • I think that’s less true of people coming up with therapeutic techniques as opposed to therapeutic drugs.
  • One of the things this research has done, I think, is to make people a little bit quicker to ask those questions about, “Is this really communication coming from this guy?” We know enough and there is enough people around now who can say, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute.” This guy may have been locked in; he may not have been locked-in, but that information that is coming from this facilitator doesn’t count as evidence that he can communicate.
  • It’s anecdotal evidence, and the situation is not controlled in such a way that you can tell who the communication is coming from.
  • I’m very sympathetic of the part of the autistic individuals and of the parents, that if there’s anything to this technique whatsoever, if they can communicate, then we should give them the benefit of the doubt, but I think some of the allegations that came out at first of this Facilitated Communication were fairly serious.
  • Now that’s a case where, legally as well as scientifically and morally, you really want to know where those allegations are coming from.
  • A communication expert came in to establish whether in Betsy’s case-the young woman was named Betsy-the information was coming from her or whether it’s coming from the facilitator.
  • Make sure the two of them see different pictures, and see which pictures come out.
  • He did another version of the test where he took Betsy out of the room and gave her something-a key, for example-and then brought her back into the room, and then asked her, “What did I show you out there?” He wasn’t able to get an answer.
  • When he just pulled out the key and said, “What’s this,” he was able to get an answer because the facilitator was present that second time when he pulled the key out.
  • If you controlled the situation properly so you could answer that fundamental question-remember, the fundamental question is who’s the communication coming from; that’s the legal question as well.
  • Do you have any advice for the people who are taking the course on how to improve their everyday thinking? I think, at least part of the answer is a healthy skepticism.
  • There’s no quick way of coming to the correct answer, but I think part of the way of being in your everyday thinking is look for evidence.

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