#257 – The Slippery Slope of Reality (1) with Jerry Trumbule

Jerry Tumbule, M.S, ABD and I have another one of our wide ranging conversations. As usual, it is both personal and psychological. Among the topics we discuss in this first episode of a three-part series is an article that appeared in the December 13, 2010 issue of The New Yorker, titled “Is There Something Wrong with The Scientific Method” by Jonah Lehrner. Jerry and I discuss this troubling article which suggest much of science may rest on a shaky foundation.

This is Jerry’s 14th appearance on Shrink Rap Radio. The other 13 episodes were titled The Dave and Jerry Show. Jerry and I have led remarkably parallel lives. We met during our freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania and hit it off immediately. We were both there on scholarship. We both won scholarships through the U.S. Navy (but I didn’t accept mine). We both began in electrical engineering. Independently, we both switched out of engineering into creative writing. Circumstances forced Jerry to leave Penn after his freshman year but we stayed in contact. Independently, we both ended up getting M.A. degrees in psychology and later getting into doctoral psychology programs– me at the University of Michigan and him back at the University of Pennsylvania. We did diverge inasmuch as I studied clinical psychology and he was into physiological psychology. There have been other parallels since those days but I won’t burden you with them. This background may help you to understand the comfort with one another that you will hear in our conversations.

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A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.



  1. Vanamonde
    Posted February 13, 2011 at 2:00 am | Permalink

    I really enjoyed listening to this weeks episode.

    I would recommend checking out

    The Golem: What Everyone Should Know about Science by Harry M Collins and Trevor Pinch,

    Which covers the problems with replication and selecting data in scientific experiment use several case studies.

  2. Matthew Van Nuys
    Posted February 21, 2011 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Loved this episode. Very much looking forward to installments 2 and 3!

  3. Jason Haycock
    Posted February 22, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Great episode, David! Matt and I have a long running hobby of pondering such topics and this issue has been of particular interest to me as of late. I am fascinated by the notion that the line between science and religion begins to blur when the foundations of each are honestly parsed–at the epistemological level, the “distinction” between the two is often a false one in that we tend to find that, regardless of the system to which we subscribe, what we think we know is little more than a matter of “belief.” I very much look forward to the next installment!

  4. John Knight
    Posted February 27, 2011 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    Oh my goodness, it’s like someone looked inside my head and made a podcast just for me! This covers ground a fellow psych friend and I were discussing in those long correspondences typical to psychology, and I’ll be recommending it to him as soon as I’ve typed this. My favourite podcast thus far, and I’ll check out #2 as soon as I’ve finished my assignments for the month. I’m particularly looking forward to #2, because quantum mechanics is an issue I’ve been meaning to bring up on the forum.

    Regarding the drop-off in results and your mentioning the Rhine ESP experiments, I was wondering if you’ve been through Jung’s Synchronicity papers in the last few years (CW8)? It’s wacky stuff, but particularly Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Priniciple deals with the idea that we’ve lost the ability to think outside of causal terms, and need to re-explore acausal events.

    The Rhine experiments were dealt with quite heavily, and if I interpreted things correctly, it seems that in regards to the statistically significant results (didn’t one patient guess all of the cards?), the subjects were psychologically pre-disposed in a positive way to getting the cards. One testing element was a professional clairvoyant who *should* have got decent results – assuming she had some actual kind of power – but failed, due to the dull nature of the cards.

    Numerous other cases were mentioned, and it seems the only link between events – synchronistic – was psychological pre-disposition. You may be discussing this in #2, but interpreting the Double-Slit Experiment and Schroedinger’s Cat, it appears the observer (and thus their pre-disposition) determines realities.

    If this is the case, could it be that negative feelings (perhaps relating to the unconscious influence you covered) particularly on Rhine’s part, but other experiments as well be a determining factor in positive and negative results?

    Could the initial results of these wowing experiments been influenced by the observing tester’s enthusiasm, and the decline in statistical results later on be influenced by different observers and/or different pre-dispositions?

    The observer affecting realities sounds like hocus-pocus to most, but delve into Quantum Mechanics, and one’s belief systems start to become drastically altered.

    “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.” – Niels Bohr

  5. Rick V
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    i love it when you and Jerry get together, what a great discussion. I am a true devotee of science and the methods used to make discovery but am also very aware of how fallible the whole process is. The most important philosophical point about science is that in its pure expression it is the search for truth. With that said I have done enough work in research to confirm everything that Jerry said about the shenanigans that are routinely pulled in the laboratory.

    It should be noted that with respect to human behavior there will be significant changes in effect because of fundamental changes in culture. Perhaps verbal overshadowing’s decreased effect size can be attributed to the drastic increase in the use of social media. It’s one possible explanation other than bad science or poor internal validity.

    What I don’t like is that many studies are done that show no effect and are quietly stuffed into the file cabinet of the researcher who conducted the pilot study. I find null results to not only be important but very interesting and useful because the help us poor bastards in the trenches not waste our time and discard our own preconceived notions about how the world works.

    The important thing is to remain open minded, to be not only receptive to the idea that may be wrong but enthusiastic about the prospect of being relieved of our most precious delusions. My God, those of us who do this incredibly difficult work can become so full of ourselves. God help me to remain humble and teachable. A great show, I posted the article on my facebook account.

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