Thursday, November 17, 2005

Pseudo or not

Today, I want to tell you about a paper by Finn, Bothe, and Bramlett. The title is Science and pseudoscience in communication disorders: criteria and applications. Their aim is to make sure that clinicians can distinguish between pseudoscience and science of treatments. Here are their 10 criteria:

1. Untestable: Is the Treatment Unable to Be Tested or Disproved?
2. Unchanged: Does the Treatment Approach Remain Unchanged Even in the Face of Contradictory Evidence?
3. Confirming Evidence: Is the Rationale for the Treatment Approach Based Only on Confirming Evidence, With Disconfirming Evidence Ignored or Minimized?
4. Anecdotal Evidence: Does the Evidence in Support of the Treatment Rely on Personal Experience and Anecdotal Accounts?
5. Inadequate Evidence: Are the Treatment Claims Incommensurate With the Level of Evidence Needed to Support Those Claims?
6. Avoiding Peer Review: Are Treatment Claims Unsupported by Evidence That Has Undergone Critical Scrutiny?
7. Disconnected: Is the Treatment Approach Disconnected From Well-Established Scientific Models or Paradigms?
8. New Terms: Is the Treatment Described by Terms That Appear to Be Scientific but Upon Further Examination Are Found Not to Be Scientific at All?
9. Grandiose Outcomes: Is the Treatment Approach Based on Grandiose Claims or Poorly Specified Outcomes?
10. Holistic: Is the Treatment Claimed to Make Sense Only Within a Vaguely Described Holistic Framework?

I think these ten criteria are useful tell-signs, and the more criteria a treatment approach fulfills the more suspicious the clinicians or patient should be about its claims. But I think it is also important to note that even if the research supporting a treatment approach can be considered scientific, this does not necessarily mean that the findings are correct. At the end of the article, they mention that they have tested several approaches and the SpeechEasy device and Fast ForWord qualify as pseudoscientific, and for example the Lidcombe approach as scientific. This is a bit ironic as I have pointed out here and here that their statistics is no quite right! But I guess the big big difference is that I am able to formulate arguments that question part of the outcome study for Liddcombe, were the study pseudo-scientific, I could not do so.

I need to read the article a bit more careful, and will report here.

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