Fun Experiment

Mind Hacks blog Googles the phrase "psychologist says", with headesky results. The problem: "Psychologist" doesn't always mean what you think it means. Some stories quoted from peer-reviewed research, others turned to therapists with little-to-no academic or research experience, and everything in between.


  1. Should this headline be Mind Hacks blogger says ‘psychologist’ is overused by sensationalist media or the more direct Media exploits reverence given to arbitrary title, says psychologist?

  2. Once I broke my collar bone, and urgently needed to see a doctor. Luckily, I thought fast, and googled the phrase “orthopedic surgeon says.” Thanks to what google says orthopedic surgeons say, I saved money AND have more collar bone pieces for free!!!

  3. Compare this to “says mechanical engineer” — the range of claims is dramatically smaller, and less wild. And here we see the difference between the hard and “soft” sciences…

    1. I think you’ll find it has more to do with who can call themselves a psychologist than whether you think psychology is a soft science.

      In the country I live, it is illegal to call yourself a psychologist unless you are a registered psychologist and have therefore met the training requirements (i.e. a minimum of a master’s degree). Then there are a few sub-classes, including educational psychologist and clinical psychologist which require specialist training in a recognised programme to obtain.

      At the end of my training I will be a registered clinical psychologist with a PhD and will have spent 9 years in total at university and the final internship. I am very well versed in science, I use it every day as I complete my PhD.

      Before this registration came into effect several years ago, anyone in this country could call themselves a psychologist – it wasn’t a protected term.

      You should find that quotes from registered psychologists should be based more on science as at least in New Zealand, psychologists have completed a master’s research degree.

  4. “Compare this to “says mechanical engineer” — the range of claims is dramatically smaller, and less wild. And here we see the difference between the hard and “soft” sciences…”

    None of us would want to live in a world where psychology is a hard science. Unpredictability is a good thing.

  5. Another thing that confounds this is that the term “psychologist” really does cast a very (very!) wide net—perhaps wider than most other sciences, soft/social or otherwise. As most (hopefully) folks realize, “psychology” as a general and non-specific term covers everything from talk therapy to behavioral neuroscience. And for anyone with even a few semesters of training in either discipline will tell you that those two hardly speak the same language. Both of those folks have just as much claim to the title “psychologist” but if you put a layperson into conversation with both of them, they would say they’re talking to two entirely (even radically) different types of scientists.

    This is in part a consequence of psychology’s young age as a science, and in part a consequence of its own (perhaps unfortunate) malleability. [And I say that as someone with a BA in a psychology who is married to a PhD in behavioral neuroscience…]

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