Free Will is Bad for (the Study of) Psychopathology?

I clicked the title of this piece, despite it being in Psychology Today, which doesn’t always report as scientifically as I would like. Because I am interested in thinking and research about “free will.” I expected another piece saying what most of them say, but did not expect the very insightful discussion of how a belief in free will might play into mental illness–how we conceptualize it, how we study it, how we talk about it, and how individuals experience it.

Kudos to Stankevicius, for exploring a rarely-considered but perhaps very important implication of the “do we have free will?” issue.

Notes to students:

  1. This is written by a psychiatrist (i.e., an MD), not a psychologist. You might see a different style of thinking, and you will definitely see some psychiatry-specific terminology.
  2. Read the article at your own risk. The philosophical and scientific question of whether we have “free will” is a very deep rabbit hole. You don’t necessarily come out feeling comfortable.

Placebos everywhere

I found this article about placebos kind of charming. Placebo elevator buttons (I knew it!) and placebo “walk” buttons at intersections (I suspected it!). But I wonder: is this really the placebo effect? Shouldn’t a true placebo somehow provide part of the benefit that the real thing is supposed to give? Placebo ≠ faking it.

Placebos via Slashdot


This morning, I got an email that seemed initially to confirm my most secret suspicions about the pedantry and insecure elitism of the professional organization to which I belong. It called for a vote on whether we should start pronouncing the “p” in “psychology.” Then, according to the email, “…how you pronounce psychology will be like a badge of loyalty: are you a scientist, or are you… something else?” There was also a jab at “other organizations” who would continue to leave the “p” silent.

Well, coming as this did from the APS, who have at times behaved like the punky kid with a chip on his shoulder at the birthday party, it was just barely believable.

Until I got to the part that suggested that, with the trend toward phoenetic pronunciation of English words, “psychology” may soon be spelled “sykolojy,” with the result that “Our acronym would then become ASS. Nobody wants that.”

And then, finally, I checked the date on the email. 🙂

I made a jpeg (below). Click for full-size.