Re: thoughts on psychotherapy

From: Nigel Hammersted (
Date: Thu Jul 06 2000 - 09:13:08 MDT

--- "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <>
> Psychotherapy is bunk.
> Experiment demonstrates that psychotherapy produces
> results slightly
> worse than a control group in which patients just
> talk to a random
> person for an hour.

i am not familiar with the research you are referring
to, but i am not surprised to learn of these
experimental results after witnessing the results of
psychotherapy on friends and acquaintances.

what astounds me is the vast gap between the level of
sophistication exhibited by clinical psychology and
the psychology of advertising. my doctoral
dissertation, which for personal reasons i never
completed, was on the topic of decision making under
uncertainty. rather than approaching the question via
probability theory, i chose to look at the heurisitcs
people actually use in reaching decisioins. these
heuristics, though sometimes useful, can at other
times result in irrational decisions. strangely, it
appears that people are more likely to be rational
about small, inconsequential matters, such as what to
eat for lunch, and to use heuristics irrationally in
major, life-changing choices such as whom to marry.

this observation of irrational behavior led me deep
into the field of psychology. i quickly learned that
in order to find the cutting-edge of theory i must
look to the marketing and advertising journals.

I have a provisional hypothesis that there is a deeply
imbedded fear of "messing with" the psyche that
obstructs truly useful psychological research. the
current emphasis is on using drugs to effect changes.
i see this as a dangerous trend if neurological
research is not accompanied by psychological research.
 the effects of the drugs can be predicted in many
cases, and yet no one actually understands *how* they

nigel hammersted

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