Dr Stuart Ritchie | Psychology in a crisis

Dr Ritchie is a psychologist with research interests in a variety of areas, including intelligence, individual differences in cognitive abilities, behavioural genetics, and more recently in the replication crisis. In 2014, he completed his PhD at the university of Edinburgh, staying on to become a postdoctoral research fellow investigating difference in intelligence, working on the world renowned Lothian Birth Cohort dataset. In 2018, he became a lecturer in the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at King’s College London. In his recent book, Science Fictions, Stuart examines fraud, bias, error, and hype in scientific research, and the incentives that undermine scientific integrity. More recently, Stuart focused his energies on cross-examining scientific claims relevant to the coronavirus pandemic, and in pursuit of this has set up a Myth Busting website. About the talk At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, psychologists and other behavioural scientists sprung into action, writing high-profile papers that described the application of their research findings to the crisis. Since changing people’s behaviours is a big part of controlling a pandemic, they saw many opportunities to use their research to help out. As we know, though, the behavioural sciences have been going through their own crisis over the past years – a crisis of confidence in the quality, replicability, and generalisability of their findings. How appropriate was it to try to apply these findings to a completely unprecedented scenario – and one where lives were at stake? What are the pitfalls in doing so? In this talk, I’ll discuss what’s happened with psychology and the pandemic, and propose a new scheme—partly stolen from NASA—to assess how ready any given piece of research is for translation to a crisis.

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