The Frontal Cortex

The Daily Show on Psychology

Jon Stewart, interviewing Tal Ben-Shahar, who teaches a positive psychology class at Harvard:

“I was a psychology major, so I know a lot of it is bullshit.”

Watch the video here.


  1. #1 tekel
    August 13, 2007

    and you agree? What’s your point?

  2. #2 Jonah
    August 13, 2007

    I was just surprised that Jon Stewart was a psych major. I’m not eager to weigh in on the “bullshit” question.

  3. #3 tekel
    August 13, 2007

    aaaah. Well obviously, not ALL of psychology is BS… Maybe Stewart picked his major based on what classes the pretty girls were taking. Certainly psychology is less depressing than, say, PoliSci.

  4. #4 Jonah
    August 13, 2007

    I would note that many people, like Stewart in the segment, seem to believe that branches of psychology are BS because they aren’t inherently reductionist. I think that’s mistaken. Lots of uber-reductionist neuroscience is BS (ie, it’s utterly wrong and will be disproved in 5 years) but I think many of the core tenets of social psychology, for example, have aged very well. Just look at cognitive dissonance. That’s a fifty year old theory that is still as relevant and applicable as ever. So if it’s BS, then it’s BS that has stood the test of time.

  5. #5 caribbeanwaffle
    August 15, 2007

    There is not that much point in getting worked up over an entertainer, who wasn’t even totally dismissive. Psychology is just more bullshit-tolerant than other sciences. Objectivity is difficult and sometimes undesired when your subject is you. Psychological theories do not have the benefit of mathematically defined concepts like physics and chemistry. And unlike biology, the model system is a black box. And unlike all 3, its parameters are sensitive to social bias. In order to tell what is bullshit and what is not in psychology you have to be very critical and vigilant, things people are often not wont to be. And Jonah’s right, an important feature of a good theory is if the resultant airplane will fly, and certainly there are many examples from psychology.

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