Thursday, August 28, 2014

Evidence-Based Medicine Actually Isn’t

In medical practice, the concept of evidence shares a lot with Saint Augustine’s understanding of time. He understood time perfectly well, of course, until somebody asked him to explain it. Medical evidence is similar. Everybody thinks they know what evidence means, but defining what counts as evidence is about as easy as negotiating peace in the Middle East. As a result, demands for “evidence-based medicine” pose some serious practical problems. In fact, the label “evidence based” applied to medicine has been confused, abused and misused so much lately that some experts suggest that the evidence-based medicine movement is in a state of crisis. more

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Managing to Results Isn’t Enough; Focus on Behaviors

In a results-only culture, managers do whatever is necessary to achieve the desired outcomes. That can include doing things that are illegal or unsafe, such as at GM, or, as at the VA changing numbers to boost results while endangering the lives of veterans. In these situations, employees made choices to avoid the consequences of failing to meet set results. Meanwhile, leaders put their organizations at risk because they managed only to outcomes instead of attending to the underlying employee behavior. Unfortunately, results often mangle the truth, putting blinders on the people who should be in charge. Managing to results alone is like managing by looking at last month’s newspaper. The old newspaper doesn’t tell you what is happening, only what has happened...Leaders and managers need to understand the underlying behaviors involved in achieving results, good or bad. Then they must know how to effectively use positive reinforcement for the behaviors involved in directly improving performance. more

Monday, August 25, 2014

Apps that Help You Help Yourself: Do Incentives Work?

The ‘help me help myself’ concept is nothing new. Humans have always sought to improve themselves. We vow, again and again and especially on New Year’s Day, to quit smoking, take up running, go green, save more cash, consume fewer calories—in short, to nix bad habits and establish good ones. Until recently, we relied mostly on willpower to keep those New Year’s resolutions. But now, consumers are discovering new ways to nudge themselves toward better habits. The behavioral psychology approach by B.F. Skinner developed in the 1920’s suggested that by repeatedly rewarding good choices and punishing bad ones, it’s possible to condition permanent behavior change. This concept endured some harsh criticism and fell out of favor for several decades, but it’s enjoying a renaissance today—only with a few twists. This time, participants are willingly choosing to have their behaviors modified. Moreover, they’re relying on modern tools to do so, particularly through the use of digital apps. Brands can get in on the action by developing the ‘nudges’ they need to stay on track. more

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Memory Factory

For those of you who missed The Amazing Meeting 2014, we present another lecture from that event, by Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, an expert on memory in the field of cognitive psychology. One of the biggest myths in the history of psychology is that memory is like a video tape that can be played back for everyone to see what “really happened.” In this lecture, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, one of the world’s leading experts on memory, shows how we all edit our memories from the moment they are formed to the last time we recall them. That editing process is based on a number of emotional, psychological, and social factors that shape our memories. more

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The End of Dyslexia?

In 2005 Julian Elliott contributed to a television programme, The Dyslexia Myth, that highlighted the many misuses and misunderstandings of the dyslexia construct and the corresponding failure of professional services to cater for all who encounter reading difficulties. In the subsequent fallout he was repeatedly accused of undermining efforts to help children with dyslexia and setting back years of hard-fought-for advances. Indeed, in the programme itself he was criticised by a number of teachers on the grounds that parents who have fought for their children for years will be rendered puzzled and distraught by such arguments. Here Julian Elliott and his collaborator Elena Grigorenko ask, What is understood by the term dyslexia? and Is there really any value in the construct? To what extent is it professionally acceptable for psychologists to use diagnostic labels that they know to be scientifically questionable on the grounds that discontinuing their use would reduce the salience of very real difficulties that many people experience, and undermine the influence of lobby groups in highlighting the need for action? In essence, this is a key question that has occupied our thinking since The Dyslexia Myth was broadcast in 2005. more

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tortoises Master Touchscreen Technology

Tortoises have learned how to use touchscreens as part of a study which aimed to teach the animals navigational techniques. The research, which was led by Dr Anna Wilkinson, from the School of Life Sciences, involved red-footed tortoises, which are native to Central and South America. The brain structure of reptiles is very different to that of mammals, which use the hippocampus for spatial navigation. Instead, it is thought that the reptilian medial cortex serves as a homologue, however very little behavioural work has actually examined this...Dr Wilkinson carried out the initial training while at the University of Vienna, giving the tortoises treats such as strawberries when the reptiles looked at, approached and then pecked blue circles on the screen. more

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Secret To Productivity, In One Sentence

All behavior is a function of consequences. That's not my brilliant, original thought, although I wish it were. That idea belongs to B.F. Skinner, who some call the father of behavioral psychology. Eighty-some-odd years ago, Skinner was a professor at Harvard, trying to crack open the mysteries of human behavior. Much later, when I was trying to unlock the mysteries of starting up my own business, I read quite a bit on Skinner. I realized how much of his theories applied to entrepreneurship, and how much I was already practicing it from my career in football. Skinner was most noted for his studies of the power of positive reinforcement. Skinner realized, and proved through psychological experiments, one of the most basic functions of reinforcement: It's not so much about what happens before the behavior, but it's what you say after that makes all the difference in the world. more

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Open-Access Website Gets Tough

When Lars Bjørnshauge founded a website to index open-access journals in 2003, just 300 titles made the list. But over the next decade, the open-access publishing market exploded, and Bjørnshauge’s Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) along with it. Today the DOAJ comprises almost 10,000 journals — and its main problem is not finding new publications to include, but keeping the dodgy operators out. Now, following criticism of its quality-control checks, the website is asking all of the journals in its directory to reapply on the basis of stricter criteria. It hopes the move will weed out ‘predatory journals’: those that profess to publish research openly, often charging fees, but that are either outright scams or do not provide the services a scientist would expect, such as a minimal standard of peer review or permanent archiving. “We all know there has been a lot of fuss about questionable publishers,” says Bjørnshauge. The reapplication process will also create one of the largest ‘whitelists’ of acceptable open-access journals, helping the DOAJ to become a more useful tool for funders, librarians and researchers who want to look up information on a publication or import its metadata into their catalogues. Those journals meeting the highest criteria — expected to be about 10–15% of the total — will also be given a ‘seal’ of best practice. more

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dog Training, Animal Welfare, and the Human-Canine Relationship

Many people are concerned that aversive-based dog training methods can have side-effects. A new study by Stéphanie Deldalle and Florence Gaunet (in press in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior) observes dogs and their humans at training classes using either positive or negative reinforcement. The results support the idea that positive reinforcement is beneficial for the canine-human bond and better for animal welfare...The findings do not demonstrate causality, but are a valuable step in our understanding of the effects of different training methods on dogs. more

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Online Behavioral Intervention Improves Weight Loss Outcomes

While adding in-person group support sessions to a weight loss program produces the best results, adding just an online behavioral intervention can produce results nearly as good, at a much lower cost. Those are the findings from a 230-person trial from social wellness platform ShapeUp, recently published in the American Journal of Public Health. “The findings of this study are significant in that they reveal substantial progress in identifying cost-effective, scalable, online behavioral weight loss interventions that are capable of significantly improving outcomes,” Dr. Rajiv Kumar, founder and CEO of ShapeUp and one of the co-authors of the study, said in a statement. more

Monday, August 04, 2014

Why Thoughts Aren't Causes

There is a lot of rubbish spouted about behaviourism, often by people who should know better. Claims that behaviourists deny the existence of internal psychological events like thoughts and emotions might not be ridiculous if you’re thinking about the behaviourism of of John B. Watson, but virtually no behaviour analysts today are thinking about him. Watson’s behaviourism is often called methodological behaviourism and it stands in stark contrast to Skinner’s more recent radical behaviourism. Skinner explicitly was interested in thinking and feeling. Indeed, he wrote an entire book about it (which arguably lead to the falling out of favour of this school of psychology). Claims that behaviour analysts routinely punish their clients into compliance are simply bullshit. (I’m using the word here in the sense of Harry G. Frankfurt’s classic text where he defines bullshit as making knowledge claims when you have insufficient familiarity with the knowledge domain. So there.) more