Dr. Scott Lilienfeld, professor of psychology at Emory University in Atlanta, visited Belmont on Feb. 11 and 12 and gave a talk titled “Science and Pseudoscience in Everyday Life: A Field Guide for Evaluating Extraordinary Claims.” Lilienfeld is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and a recipient of the 1998 David Shakow Award for Early Career Contributions to Clinical Psychology from Division 12 of the American Psychological Association. His research interests include personality disorders, psychiatric classification, and pseudoscience in psychology. The author of numerous scientific articles and books, his most recent book, a co-authored volume titled 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior (2010, Wiley-Blackwell), is widely acclaimed for its ability to communicate complex ideas to the public.
In his formal talk on Friday, Lilienfeld highlighted the challenges of telling the difference between scientific and pseudoscientific claims in everyday life. In a world saturated with pop psychology ideas, it is increasingly important to distinguish truth from fiction, he argued. By adopting an attitude of open-minded skepticism, Lilienfeld encouraged the audience to become scientifically literate and offered rules of thumb for distinguishing scientific from pseudoscientific claims. Using examples such as the Rorschach Inkblot Test, extra-sensory perception, and UFO sightings he illustrated how pseudoscientific claims masquerade as scientifically sound ideas, when in fact they do not hold up under scientific scrutiny.