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Podcast #697: Social Psychology Won’t Save Us

When it comes to proposed solutions to life’s problems, whether on an individual or societal scale, the four most commonly used words these days are “According to a study . . . ” This phrase is used by journalists and media outlets; we certainly use it a lot in AoM articles. And it’s used in the rationales that are forwarded for implementing some new program in a school or other institution. 

My guest, however, questions whether we really should be lending the research of social psychologists and behavioral scientists so much weight. 

His name is Jesse Singal and he’s the author of The Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can’t Cure Our Social Ills. Today on the show, Jesse explains how social psychology has come to such prominence in our culture, the role things like TED talks have played in its rise, and yet how the replication crisis calls into question the legitimacy of the field’s growing influence. We discuss why the solutions sometimes offered by behavioral science are both seductive and flawed, and how this dynamic played out in the self-esteem movement of the 1990s. We then discuss if another fad of social science, power posing, actually works, before turning to how the problems of positive psychology are exemplified in a program the military adopted to help soldiers with PTSD. We end our conversation with whether the idea of grit is all it’s cracked up to be, and how ultimately, there are no quick fixes to life’s big problems.  

If reading this in an email, click the title of the post to listen to the show.

Show Highlights

  • What caused the rise of social psychology in modern culture?
  • What is “prime world”?
  • Why the replication crisis is hurting psychology 
  • What was the premise of the self-esteem movement of the 80s and 90s? Why was the movement so powerful?
  • What’s the state of power-posing today?
  • Are researchers incentivized to publish bold claims?
  • Are scientists aware of the critiques of their claims? Are they combatting it?
  • The positive psychology trend 
  • Why psychologists have turned to helping people who are healthy to start with 
  • Social psychology and PTSD 
  • Why is the idea of grit coming under fire?
  • How the media and popular culture exacerbates social research 

Resources/Articles/People Mentioned in Podcast

Connect With Jesse 

Jesse on Twitter

jessesingal.substack.com

Blocked and Reported podcast

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