If Not Research, Then What?
A recent reference caught my eye while browsing Linked-in. Andy Kessler, who writes for the Wall Street Journal, proclaims: Studies Are Usually Bunk, Study Shows. His basic premise is that, well, most studies are bunk calling the “two most dangerous words in the English Language … studies show.”
While I share his views on the importance of replicating research and always having a healthy skepticism with everything we read, my basic question is, “If not research findings then what?” Are we then left to opinions like climate change isn’t real or the world is flat?
Good research always reports its limitations and encourages that the study be replicated. That after all is a high form of flattery to the initial researcher.
Kessler goes after Malcolm Gladwell (author of Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers among others) as the “Master” of reporting on what Kessler discredits as “pop psychology”. To be fair, Gladwell is not a scientist himself. He is a story teller and a good one. Just glancing through the end notes he lists in Blink, most are hardly “pop”. They include Scientific American, Science, Oxford University Press, Harvard University Press, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of the American Medical Association, Psychological Review, Journal of Comparative Psychology and that is just from the first two chapters.
Not only are Gladwell’s references well regarded and hardly “pop”, they are carefully annotated. I credit Gladwell for making an important contribution by carefully reading the original research and then recounting it in a highly readable and even entertaining fashion.
Thank you, Malcolm and I enthusiastically look forward to your next book. And, I challenge Mr. Kessler to read Gladwell’s references and still call them “bunk”.
Here is a link to my 2014 review of Gladwell’s David & Goliath. It includes a snapshot of Gladwell’s 2005 Blink
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