So apparently this is why we have positive psychology but not evidence-based psychological treatment

Here’s Marty Seligman, past president of the American Psychological Association (APA): 1

APA presidents are supposed to have an initiative and… I thought mine could be “evidence-based treatment and prevention.” So I went to my friend, Steve Hyman, the director of [National Institute of Mental Health]. He was thrilled and told me he would chip in $40 million dollars if I could get APA working on evidence-based treatment.

So I told CAPP [which owns the APA] about my plan and about NIMH’s willingness. I felt the room get chillier and chillier. I rattled on. Finally, the chair of CAPP memorably said, “What if the evidence doesn’t come out in our favor?”

…I limped my way to [my friend’s] office for some fatherly advice.

“Marty,” he opined, “you are trying to be a transactional president. But you cannot out-transact these people…”

And so I proposed that Psychology turn its… attention away from pathology and victimology and more toward what makes life worth living: positive emotion, positive character, and positive institutions. I never looked back and this became my mission for the next fifteen years. The endeavor… caught on.

My post title is sort-of joking. Others have pushed on evidence-based psychology while Seligman focused on positive psychology, and Seligman certainly wouldn’t say that we “don’t have” evidence-based psychological treatment. But I do maintain that evidence-based psychology is not yet as well-developed as evidence-based medicine, even given EBM’s many problems.

  1. From his chapter in Sternberg et al. (2016).[]


  1. Steve says

    This should not shock anyone who’s been in the fields of sociology, psych, poli sci, public policy. So much of these fields is predicated upon pre ordain outcomes driven by an ideological bent. There is so much pressure on researchers to conform which drives the publish-perish paradigm. There is such strict ideological rigidity that out academic institutions are losing the public’s confidence in our ability to produce objective, fact based research. It’s a very discouraging and perilous path modern academia finds itself in and, without significant self reflection and changes to the current state of affairs, will mark its demise

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