Barriers to Critical Thought in Psychological Practice

First, consider some developments within psychology itself that are working against us. One is the growth of nonscientific approaches to psychological problems. When psychology was established as a formal discipline in the late 1800s, psychologists hoped to replace explanations of behavior based on whim or wishful thinking with explanations based on rigorous standards of evidence and reasoning.

Scientific psychology was designed as an antidote to superstition and a way to test the worthiness of one’s hunches. It was aimed at helping people, including scientists, overcome what is probably the most entrenched bias in human thinking, the confirmation bias: the tendency to seek and remember information that confirms what we already believe, and to ignore or forget information that challenges our beliefs

From the beginning, of course, scientific psychology had many pseudoscientific competitors to contend with, ranging from astrology to graphology. In the 20th century, with the growth of technology, we saw the introduction of nonprofessional therapies that added scientific-sounding language neurolinguistic programming, right-brain training programs, the Transcutaneous Electro-Neural Stimulator, the Brain Super Charger, the Whole Brain Wave Form Synchro-Energizer. The appeal of such psychobabble is not surprising; people have a great need for easy answers that promise escape from uncertainty and that do not require them to think too hard.


Positive relationships with parents are linked to friendly, caring relationships between siblings, while negative relationships between parents and children are associated with sibling hostility. Children who have secure attachment relationships with their parents are reported to have positive relations with their siblings [5]. But causal conclusions cannot be drawn from these associations

while such links are often interpreted as evidence for parental influence, it could well be that children’s temperamental qualities contribute to difficulties in relationships with both sibling and parent. While a sunny, easy-going child’s temperament may contribute to positive relationships with both parents and siblings, constant quarrelling between siblings may contribute to difficult parent child relationships, and indeed to difficulties in the relations between parents.


A further point about the complex patterns of links between relationships within the family concerns the consistent evidence that in families in which there are differential relations between parents and their various children  where more affection and attention, or more negativity or harsh discipline is shown towards one sibling than to another there is more hostility and conflict between the siblings. These links are particularly clear in families that are under stress.

Causal inferences cannot be made, however, if the studies are cross-sectional. Recent evidence has shown that children’s interpretation of differential parental behaviour is important. When children interpret their parents’ differential behaviour as evidence that they are less worthy of parental love than their siblings, the sibling relationship is particularly likely to be compromised. These findings remind us how important it is to recognize the context of multiple family relationships within which siblings grow up. From the second year on, children monitor the interactions between their parents and siblings with vigilance

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