Archive for April, 2018

A powerful new Public Service Announcement

April 6, 2018

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On the staggering reluctance to correct an error

April 2, 2018

There is a lot of talk these days about the need for transparency, replication, and integrity in science. Dr. Stephen Lindsay, Editor in Chief of Psychological Science, is an admirable ambassador of these values. The journal holds itself out as the leading peer-reviewed journal publishing empirical research.

But is Dr. Lindsay willing to correct errors in his own work?

Lindsay (with co-author Deborah Poole) once wrote that Eileen Treacy, who testified for the state in the Michaels case, was a “unlicensed, self-proclaimed expert.” [1] In fact, she had significant qualifications: she had a master’s degree in psychology, she was advanced to candidacy in a doctoral program and writing a dissertation about sexually-abused children in foster case, and she was directing a licensed clinic that provided services to sexually-abused children.

More important, her expertise was not, by any measure, “self-proclaimed.” To the contrary, Dr. Treacy (who had earned her doctorate by the time Lindsay and Poole published this statement) responded to questions from both sides in a pretrial hearing and the judge made the decision that she qualified as an expert. The fact that her expertise was granted by the judge contradicts the claim that her expertise was somehow “self-proclaimed.”

I have pointed this out to Dr. Lindsay who, to his credit, took the matter under consideration and engaged in polite dialogue over email. His eventually told me that he thought his characterization was accurate because she was not a licensed psychologist. (She worked at a licensed facility, however, was practicing under the laws of New York, and had a license from the State Department of Education; but I agree that reasonable minds could differ on this point.)

But the meaning of the phrase “self-proclaimed” is not up for grabs. It means “without endorsement by others.” So the judge’s endorsement flatly contradicts Poole and Lindsay. I have pointed out to Dr. Lindsay that his characterization is flatly contradicted by the judge’s finding. 

His response today: he has “spent enough time” on this.

Really? Who lacks the time to make corrections when corrections are due? Apparently, the editor in chief of Psychological Science

[1] Poole & Lindsay, “Assessing the accuracy of young children’s reports: Lessons from the investigation of child sexual abuse,” Applied and Preventive Psychology, 7:1-26(1998).

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