Re: Emotional Intelligence Quackery [was Re: Mensa]

Anders Sandberg (
12 Aug 1999 16:08:29 +0200

Darin Sunley <> writes:

> [And don't get me started on the tendency in psychological theories
> to divide human behavior into arbitrary, well defined "stages",
> either. These people aren't doing science. Don't get me wrong. Many
> psychologists ARE doing real science, but the not wannabe
> philosophers who write some of this stuff.]

Exactly. This is why I'm awfully critical of a lot of personality psychology and other fluffy areas of psychology. And psychoanalysis is IMHO not much better than witch doctors (that doesn't say it doesn't work, it is just that the exorcisms used by witch doctors are usually more interesting). Fortunately there is good scientific psychology with empirical ambitions, unfortunately the whole field is dragged down by having the baggage of much pseudoscience that it can't get rid of.

> Anders, It IS entirely possible that my perceptions on psychology
> were badly warped by the intro class I took in it. Everything the
> professor taught, and everything the text said (and I studied it
> very carefully) painted a fairly complete picture of theoretical
> psychology as a bizarre form of philosophy. The text gave lip
> service to cognitive science and biology, but didn't seem to take
> them too seriously. I guess the moral is never trust a "science"
> taught by the Faculty of Arts :)]

:-) Yes, this sounds like a rather bad psychology intro. Mine involved one part general psychology, one part statistics, one part cognitive psychology, one part personality psychology and one part social psychology; most was fairly reasonable, with some exceptions in the general and personality parts.

Of course, the original issue still remains: what should go into the intelligence bin? I don't feel much for debating it, but overall it might be of transhumanist relevance - if it is an unitary phenomenon, then we need to improve on the root, if it consists of different independent abilities then each can be furthered, if it is some complex combination we need to figure out which parts can be improved how, and how they interlock with other parts.

> Mr. Badger, my psychology textbook was Psychology: Themes and
> Variations, Fourth Edition, by Wayne Weiten. It concentrates a lot
> on the above mentioned arbitrary "stages" psychological models, and
> has a large section on "intelligence" testing and models of
> intelligence. One of the major problems I have with psychology as
> presented by this text is that absolutely no effort is made to
> "ground" psychological theories in neural structures and
> matter. Alleged "psychology" that does not ground in neural
> structures is, in my humble opinion, not science, but a branch of
> philosophy.

I agree. And a lot of psychologists do not concern themselves much with the brain (just like some software people never think of hardware). But overall modern psychology seems to be moving towards a more brain-directed view, or rather, the parts of psychology that really are flourishing these days are flourishing just because they can use the wealth of new brain information to develop themselves.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y