Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thinking critically example: Playboy model as vaccine expert

This article about the ABC nightly news "consulting" with Jenny McCarthy regarding the supposed "link" between vaccines and autism made me think about the potential power of research method training for our psychology students. (I found out about the article from Mark Breedlove's excellent Biological Psychology listserve)

Like other issues (e.g. facilitated communication, learning styles, etc.) the peer-reviewed, controlled research evidence clearly points to one conclusion, but very powerful anecdotal research (mostly from parents convinced that vaccines caused their child's autism) is emotionally compelling.

Students could examine the competing claims about the safety of vaccines and discuss which research methodologies were used for each "side" of the debate. This article from Wired does a good job tracing the history of the issue (although the article doesn't present the issue as open or unresolved - the author clearly concludes that the scientific evidence points to the safety of vaccines).

Getting students to think critically about these competing claims of truth is going to be increasingly vital (in my opinion), since folks are now faced with multiple competing truth claims from all our super-fast media sources.

No comments: