Why do poor treatments sometimes get results?

by rickcolosimo on April 27, 2009

This Slate article talks about the Hawthorne effect, which basically says that positive interactions with people creates positive outcomes, at least for a while. It’s sort of like a placebo effect for behavior. Using facilitated communication as an example, the author details one reason why researchers in the softer sciences (as opposed to hard sciences where the investigator has much greater control over the parts of an experiment, such as chemistry) have to focus intently experimental design (such as double-blind studies) and on drawing precise conclusions from research. For example, saying that a teaching technique led to learning, by itself, doesn’t mean anything more than that the technique can, i.e., possibly, lead to learning. It doesn’t mean that a technique is particularly efficient terms of inputs and outputs, that it’s more effective than alternatives, or that using it over alternatives is now a “research-based” “methodology” decision that deserves special deference.

Parents and professionals serving the ASD community will find themselves needing to become more scientifically literate themselves or looking for unbiased sources of information to evaluate treatments, causes, and cures.

Science should be blind; it’s only bias should be the scientific method.

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