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Hunting down the cause of ME/CFS & other challenging disorders - Lipkin in London
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PLos Article: Most published research wrong?!?

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by Lesley, Mar 20, 2010.

  1. Angela Kennedy

    Angela Kennedy *****

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    Maarten - with regard to anonymous peer review being ludicrous, it DOES also apply in logic, mathematics and physics. These academics are not above academic politics and conflicts of interest. No matter how few of them there are - they should be prepared to stand up and be accountable for their reviews.

    With regard to 'social science' not being a science, yes there is an irony. But often sociological theories cannot (yet, and maybe never) be tested. Some can. But more stuff cannot. Psychology has pretty much the same situation, again, depending on branches etc.

    Yes I am someone who attempts to use coherence, comprehensiveness and empirical adequacy in my own work. That makes me an empiricist sociologist and yes, I guess in many ways I do find Wright Mills 'sociological imagination' useful. But I'm also a feminist methodologist as well.
    My work lately has been to critique science when bad, that makes me an empiricist feminist sociologist! There's all sorts of methodological debates as, I'm sure you know, about this in social science (and that includes psychology, at least for this discussion). Which is good. Psychiatrists should do more of that.
     
  2. CBS

    CBS Senior Member

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    Angela (and Gerwyn),

    I am not going to get into a protracted debate on these issues but I will respond once to the questions you propose.

    Elegance is often characterized by simple and clear goals in what a study purports to demonstrate (as in - not convoluted). A lot of elegant research is part of a larger program of research designed to systematically answer discrete questions related to an area of interest culminating in a nuch broader understanding of an entire discipline rather than a relatively random series of studies meant to increase the thud value of a vita.

    Did you mean Stress: Myth, Research and Theory? Nope.

    Im sure that you are familiar with the history of the Type A Behavior Pattern construct. Drs. Friedman and Rosenman, both cardiologists, noticed unique behavior patterns within their heart patients. They teamed with Dr. Carl Thoreson, a psychologist, to develop the original construct. The construct was simplistic but did have some utility. However, there were far too many exceptions to whom the construct predicted would and would not develop coronary heart disease (CHD).

    Dr. Sapolsky, had a very good understanding of these limitations and was interested in learning more about the effects of social dynamics and stress on CHD (retaining an interest in the primary tenant of Type A but wanting to know more about how and why it was inadequate).

    Sapolsky found a non-human primate model with complex social dynamics and a cardiovascular system similar to humans. He studies them for years, recording and tracking social hierarchy, behavior patterns including conflict, passivity and dominance behaviors of individual pack members. At the same time hes darting the baboons and measuring CHD correlates such as cortisol and measuring arterial plaques.

    The bottom line was that in Sapolskys baboon colonies, stress (or the required adaptation to change/threat), not dominance, was the prevailing correlate of CHD risk. The Type A construct had posited that dominance and striving (Type A behavior pattern) was the primary cause of CHD. Alpha male and female baboons did not necessarily show the elevated levels of CHD risk (or the physiological changes) that were apparent in striving but less dominant pack members. Striving, disruption of social hierarchy (for better or worse) and or other threat to a member of a stable colony were the primary CHD risk factors.

    This was a significant improvement in the understanding and predictive utility of models of CHD risk in humans. Is it the last word on CHD risk, I hope and expect not.

    As for my understanding of stress, I alluded to it above. I dismiss the unnecessarily dualistic concept of stress being either mental/emotional or physical. Nor do I believe that elevated levels of cortisol are stress. They are a marker of response to physiological demand. Stress is anything in the environment (physical cold temperatures, lack of food or shelter, physical activity - or emotional; changes in relationship status, threat to standing in community, aggression in environment, etc.) to or with which an organism must adapt/change or cope. Not all stress is detrimental. Stress can result in increased levels of physical, behavioral and emotional resilience.

    Ive skimmed over some of the details for the sake of brevity. As for defining stress, thats a topic that has been made far more complex than necessary. The range of consequences from excess levels of stress are a more complicated topic.
     
  3. Gerwyn

    Gerwyn Guest

    please tell me that you are not a member of the"critical" tradition
     
  4. Angela Kennedy

    Angela Kennedy *****

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    Thank you CBS. I was concerned when you mentioned 'Type A' that you were about to try and convince people it's some sort of proven, unproblematic construct, because of the tone of your response, ironically! I am aware of the construct and its problems.

    I think the term 'elegant' is over-used, and never take it at face value. For example, I once read a highly convoluted (and ultimately vague) discussion of Nietzsche once which was described as 'elegant'. There was nothing clear or simple about it, unfortunately. It sometimes is used more as a subjective compliment than a clear description of a study.

    I'm also glad you have elucidated a fuller account of 'stress'. As you may well be aware, 'Stress' studies on 'CFS' are often pre-occupied with 'psycho-social' stress. Sometimes lip service is paid to the points you've raised above about stress also being physical. However the focus then quickly becomes on psycho-social stress, and then alleged personality problems that make CFS sufferers unable to deal with 'stress' (i.e not 'resilient' enough). These claims form the most asinine of 'stress' explanations as aetiological for 'CFS'. As you've already indicated, 'stress' is a ubiquitous experience for animals. 'Personality' is itself a construct, and we could certainly discuss at length about the methodological problems in assigning 'personality traits' and claiming they are stable through lifetime, let alone all the other problems around 'stress' explanations for somatic conditions. Personally, I also think assigning personality traits to other animals is even more fraught with conceptual problems (!), bearing in mind its problems with regard to humans, but that's my opinion.
     
  5. Angela Kennedy

    Angela Kennedy *****

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    Well, I guess I'd also be seen as a critical realist, so yes, part of both a 'critical' tradition, and indeed a conflict theorist.

    And I'm pretty proud of that! Don't tell me you are a member of the 'uncritical' tradition...
     
  6. Gerwyn

    Gerwyn Guest

    There are few if any methodological debates within science as the issues can be objectively resolved.There are many such disputes within the branches of psychology who forswear the scientific approach

    Psychology is not a social science for the purpose of any discussion. Social science is just a socially constructed label bearing no objective relationship between the label and the activities undertaken within the labelled disciplines.

    I would argue that it is a misnomer as so many practitioners operating under this banner reject the scientific approach.

    How do you objectively assess good or bad science from your perspective i have always been curious
     
  7. CBS

    CBS Senior Member

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    Angela,

    Thank you for your reply to my latest post. I could not agree more with your points about the importance of carefully defining stress and it's role in CFS. I've posted a number of times on the unnecessarily complicated gyrations that the CAA repeatedly goes through in efforts to hang on to the CBT and GET labels. Why?

    As for good science and the counseling relationship, one of the best examples I have come across is a book entitled "Impact and Change: A Study of Counseling Relationships" Kell, 1966 - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0134517997?tag=openlibr-20. Again, a simple and straight forward look at both the counselor and the client and how each approaches various stages of the counseling relationship and how and when things go astray (with discussion about what may be driving movement towards and away from a therapeutic relationship for both parties). There is a lot of qualitative research in this book but it is combined with good early quantative analysis.
     
  8. Gerwyn

    Gerwyn Guest

    critical realist is rather a contradiction in terms is it not
     
  9. Angela Kennedy

    Angela Kennedy *****

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    Ok- well, as I've always understood it, 'social sciences' are concerned with interpretation of human (social) responses, which most often cannot be falsified. Tentative theories can be put forward, however. 'Social science' is not an ideal construct, but it is about advancing theory about human responses on macro and micro level etc. It is different to, say, a 'humanities' subject. But psychology is often involved with interpreting human responses, which often cannot be falsified. It makes its status as a 'science' tenous at best. Most universities have their psychology departments in the 'social science' faculty for that reason.

    And just because someone claims to be adopting a scientific method doesn't mean they are doing that correctly. Sometimes, in those circumstances, 'science' then becomes a "socially constructed label bearing no objective relationship between the label and the activities undertaken within the labelled disciplines". And no matter how badly done the science, no matter how many methodological problems, most branches of psychology do NOT openly forswear a scientific approach: they claim they do it!

    Personally I think sociologists 'objectively assess good or bad science' pretty much the same as other people! You either adopt a scientific method, or you don't. Claiming scientific authority is another matter - that gets done a lot. But 'scientific' authority is itself a social construct, subject to claims to power and power relations generally, and sociology is good at identifying that sort of thing.

    But looking for rationality in claims, analysing the coherence of the chain of reasoning, the range and depth of the claims, the empirical adequacy (i.e what evidence is presented in support of the claims) etc. is what is done to assess claims made in any area of knowledge. It shouldn't be mystified. Otherwise we might be saying psychologists shouldn't be analysing retrovirology or psychiatric projects - now that would be ludicrous!

    Anyway - we could discuss this sort of thing all night. Harry Hill would probably like psychology, but also sociology. But which is best? There's only one way to find out - F I G H T !!!!!!! Out they come. Go-on sociology...
     
  10. Hope123

    Hope123 Senior Member

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    My suggestion for those interested is to look into the Journal of the American Medical Associations series "Users' Guide to the Medical Literature" which is now available as a book. It may be a bit complex for the general public but is generally pretty clear.

    http://www.jamaevidence.com/public/about_jamaEvidence

    For those in Europe, check out stuff by Oxford's group: http://www.cebm.net/index.aspx?o=1001

    Interestingly, although my training is in the natural sciences some of my best grad school teachers were sociologists teaching about situations where randomized double-blind control experiments were not possible. The go-to book we used was from the 1960s by Campbell and Stanley (although I was in school not too long ago) which is deceivingly short but jam-packed with useful advice. May be hard to read/ understand with CFS though.

    http://www.amazon.com/Experimental-Quasi-Experimental-Designs-Research-Campbell/dp/0395307872


    For the general public, I haven't looked much but haven't come across anything good yet.

    Also, more scientists now are trained in stats than in decades past so I think it will get better as time passes.
     
  11. Gerwyn

    Gerwyn Guest

    Ok- well, as I've always understood it, 'social sciences' are concerned with interpretation of human (social) responses,

    Psychology is concerned about various aspects of the human psyche how minds function how a mind is constructed. The effects of early relationships on pathology cognitions thoughts and attitudes the origin and efect of subectivity.How we can confuse fact and belief and treat both as one and the same.How evolution has shaped our minds how different physical and social environments shape the development of the mind and affect the representational networks therein.I could go on but we would be here all night

    Psychology does explain why and how a person makes interpretations and creates her or his own reality. Explanations also centre around how people internalise beliefs and understandings as fact when they are merely subjective constructs

    .Cognitive psychology adheres strictly to the scientific method as does the experimental and biological perspectives

    The psychodynamic perspective is consistent with the experimental work produced by neuropsychology and neural network research.This also explains the self organising aspects of the mind and how changes occur in response to different social amd physical environments.

    it does not get much more scientfic than that.

    Experimental work also explains the origins of human subjectivity and the production of the various forms of conciousness.

    The social constructivist perspective expresses a belief that human beings are socially constructed as viewed from a third party perspective.

    Translated this means that it appears as if human beings are socially constructed.This is what interpreting observations according to fixed preconceptions can achieve

    Some people can be psychologists and microbiologists of course

    Rationality and coherence chain of reasoning range and depth which are linguistic constructs with multiple meanings may or may not be useful in assessing qualitative work which is essentially a subjective construction of subjective constructs.

    Science deals with objects and properties which exist independently of a subjective human labelling system Application of subjective socially constructed labels cannot reveal anything objective about mind independent phenoma

    I agree that if someone claims to adopt the scientific method they may not do it perfectly and thus produce flawed results.That of course is not the fault of the method or any excuse not to use it

    Understanding belief and fact are not the same things but are easily confused as such
     
  12. Angela Kennedy

    Angela Kennedy *****

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    I wouldn't have said so. What do you mean?
     
  13. Gerwyn

    Gerwyn Guest

    Have I confused you with being a member of the "critical" perspective and the extreme position of relativism adopted within,. If so I apologise for my mistake, the plethora of subjective labells becomes confusing.

    This tradition ,with several ammendments, originated from the work of Hagel,Marx and more latterly The Frankfurt school.

    This perspective is responsible for the creation of political correctness , positive discrimination(what a contradiction in terms), the wanton destruction of creative thought within the educational system and a myriad of other social ills.

    The forte of this perspective is to criticise anything which does not comply with their totally arbitary dogmatic positions.They deny the existence of objective truth yet treat their viewpoints as objective fact.

    They use obscure paragidm specific terminology in order to confuse.

    They also repeatedly use words outside their normal conrtext but imply normal meaning.yet will not define or explain anything.

    In my opinion they are purveyors of dogma and prejudice and nothing else

    Unless you haven,t noticed I am not very keen on this approach and belief system!
     
  14. Angela Kennedy

    Angela Kennedy *****

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    @ Gerwyn,

    Psychology ATTEMPTS to explain why people might make interpretations, 'create one's own reality' (a problematic construct if ever there was one) how 'the mind' (an abstract concept denoting the action of thinking) is structured etc. It doesn't mean they HAVE adequately done so, of course. What is more, human responses can be socially constructed (the belief that women cannot lead, for example, anger responses), and therefore, sociology often provides explanations of human behaviour, beliefs, etc. pointing to external structures. And yes, sociology-informed critiques of psychological claims about human behaviour abound. I'm not saying they are necessarily correct (though I think they very often are), but I'm trying to show how psychology does not have some sort of privileged, 'scientific' insight into human behaviour or even beliefs, attitudes, or responses.

    Interestingly, a psychologist/psychotherapist, David Smail, takes a more sociological approach (around power effects, for example).

    Now - it's interesting that you've said this: "Science deals with objects and properties which exist independently of a subjective human labelling system Application of subjective socially constructed labels cannot reveal anything objective about mind independent phenoma". Psychology does suffer from this problem! It's labels are socially constructed themselves! The term 'catastrophizing', used in psychological research on 'CFS' is a classic case of a socially constructed interpretation of human behaviour, for example. 'Neuroticism' is another one. Even the constructs of what constitutes 'child trauma' in the CTQ are socially constructed, because they are made according to researcher interpretation of what 'trauma', 'abuse' etc is. Exactly the same as if a sociologist identifies race, gender, and class stratification in a social system, or theorises that there is a moral panic process going on around a subject, for example.

    And William James himself was aware of this problem, hence his comments about the snare of the 'psychologist's fallacy'.

    I'm aware of the idea that "Rationality and coherence chain of reasoning range and depth which are linguistic constructs with multiple meanings may or may not be useful in assessing qualitative work which is essentially a subjective construction of subjective constructs." The problem applies equally to quantitative measurement of 'subjective construction of subjective constructs'- and these are abundant in psychiatric paradigms of somatic illness.

    'Scientific' method, as in cognitive psychology, can still be done incorrectly. It's hypotheses can be generated by psycologists fallacies, for example

    In fact, psychologists are aware of and addressing the problems I've outlined above. A good book on this issue is Nightingale and Cromby's 'Social Constructionist Psychology: A Critical Analysis of Theory and Practice'. David Smail's 'Power, Interest and Psychology' I think is essential reading (even where I don't always agree with him). Paula Caplan' ;They say you're crazy' is another useful book.

    From a more sociological point of view, Kirk and Kutchins 'Making us Crazy' deals more with psychiatry - but it shows some of the problems of people thinking psychological and psychiatric constructs are 'fact'.

    Hell - even biological science can be subject to the problematic social construction of 'facts' - Ann Fausto Sterling and Lynda Birke, both biologists, have shown this with regard to how female reproduction is linguistically constructed.

    And here I'm including Marten in my response- feminist sociologists AND psychologists (and biologists even) have dealt with the above issues in a highly reflexive, useful manner. They (we) are really not all 'postmodern' (that's only a proportion of the whole feminist academic discipline). There's a whole range of books that address the problems I've raised and others around claims to objectivity, methodology, power in the research relationship etc. etc. which I will list if anyone is interested. Logical and rational feminist academic work does exist thank you very much!

    But I feel we are going around in circles here. I've been using my sociological training and knowledge of logic and scientific research methodology to analyse the problems of psychiatric paradigms of illnesses like CFS very effectively. I'm sure psychologists out there think they are doing the same, and maybe they are. Various lay persons are also analysing the above effectively. It depends on what's important to you I guess: trying to construct feminist academic sociology as some mickey mouse subject compared to some great scientific pillar of psychology seems futile to be honest.

    By the way- my research methodology postgraduate qualification is in psychological research methodology as well as sociological research methodology: both seen as social sciences for the purpose of university accreditation.
     
  15. Angela Kennedy

    Angela Kennedy *****

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    Hi Gerwyn,

    No, I'm not a relativist of member of the 'strong programme'. Not at all.
     
  16. Gerwyn

    Gerwyn Guest

    thank goodness
     
  17. Gerwyn

    Gerwyn Guest

    No Angela the modern work in neurocognitive psychology does explain why humans interpret their social and environmental encounters via a system of interrelated self biasing mental representations or schema ..This is neccessarily so because our minds are not in direct contact with the environment

    t's labels are socially constructed themselves!

    All labels are constructed.What matters is whether their meaning is consistant and invariate.So in terms of research everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet so that progress can be made.
    You are right however using socially created labels with multiple possible meanings makes any meaningful research impossible.

    The problem is no the use of the word catastrophying but the fact that its meaning changes with context and is not defined.

    The psychos know that if they defined their terms their argument would be dismantled in seconds..at the moment they can drown an objector in a sea of subjective terminology, with multiple possible meanings ,which they use interchangably

    'Scientific' method, as in cognitive psychology, can still be done incorrectly.

    The point with using the scientific method Angela is that you can tell if the method is used is incorrectly applied.with other methods you would not have a clue

    Social constuctionists create the problems in psychology whether existing or not They would point to problems real or otherwise that suits their agenda

    Interestingly, a psychologist/psychotherapist, David Smail, takes a more sociological approach (around power effects, for example).

    Yes a psychotherapist would particulary if he is talking about psychotherapy

    el rel - even biological science can be subject to the problematic social construction of 'facts' - Ann Fausto Sterling and Lynda Birke, both biologists, have shown this withgard to how female reproduction is linguistically constructed.

    Are you telling me that the biological processes involved in childbirth are socially constructed(the described) or the language relating to the processes are(the description) .We have the devide between the mind independent and the dependant

    But I feel we are going around in circles here

    yes this is what happens when we use ill defined terminology with multiple meanings The psychos thrive on the use of such language


    S
     
  18. Angela Kennedy

    Angela Kennedy *****

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    Gerwyn,

    "No Angela the modern work in neurocognitive psychology does explain why humans interpret their social and environmental encounters via a system of interrelated self biasing mental representations or schema ..This is neccessarily so because our minds are not in direct contact with the environment"

    Explanations may be given, it doesn't mean they are accurate - they need testing. What is meant by 'mind' in your discussion here? That's a crucial and problematic issue. Also - 'WHY' claims - always a problem. HOW I can live with- but WHY can easily become a just-so story (evolutionary psychology being a particular culprit here).

    "All labels are constructed.What matters is whether their meaning is consistant and invariate.So in terms of research everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet so that progress can be made."

    Right. So if 100 people construct black people as sexually voracious and less intelligent than whites, because everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, it must be progress and fact? No, of course not, yet this sort of assumption is often what happens in much psychological and psychiatric claims. My problem is about how much (or not) is meaning consistent and invariate. 'Catatrophisation' is confused in the way its used. But -also, when it's claimed to CAUSE illness for example (and psychologists are involved in that problem), it's not just the unstable use of language that's the problem, it's the circular reasoning ("You're in worse pain BECAUSE you believe the pain is bad" etc.)

    "The point with using the scientific method Angela is that you can tell if the method is used is incorrectly applied.with other methods you would not have a clue"
    Yes I get that. That's a problem with some - a lot - of 'psychology' as well though. Of course, you can only tell if the scientific method is correct/incorrect if you know about scientific method and reasoning, for which you have to know a bit about logic!

    "Social constuctionists create the problems in psychology whether existing or not They would point to problems real or otherwise that suits their agenda"
    I'm beginning to think you are defining 'social construction' differently to me. I (like many sociologists) am using 'social construction' to explain the way people define others according to BELIEFS that are socially constructed. So, the female SEX is biological, but GENDER is how others construct women in a social system. A gendered construction of women being irrational and intuitive per se, for example, sociologists would argue is a social construction. Biologists sometimes linguistically construct female animal sexuality in terms of 'submission to the male', for example. But the term 'submission' may not be accurate at all. Female animals might invite the male, but it was often written as 'submission'. But it was a social construction of female sexuality as 'submissive' that led to this unsafe linguistic construction.

    'Personality traits' are often social constructs - 'neuroticism' is a big one. People are made to answer a closed set of questions structured according to the personal agenda (theory) of the researcher. They might not want to answer in the way they've been instructed, the 'agree/disagree' may be too simplistic, yet because they've done it- 'reliability' is assumed, and construct validity is also (wrongly) assumed. There's a paper I must dig out about how old people had trouble understanding personality trait testing questions, and how this confounded their answers, not because the old people were stupid, but because their reasoning was different to the researcher's paradigm.

    As regards the 'going around in circles' - I think it is because we disagree about the value of sociology in understanding science, not because I or others (including you) are using particularly ill-defined terminology in this thread. But anyway- most language is problematic in communication. There's a whole field in sociology (linguistics) studying how language is used, mis-used, its instabilities etc. It's valuable work.

    I hope that it might be clear by now that I'm arguing for MORE sober scientific method in disciplines such as psychology, sociology, biology, psychiatry, medicine, epidemiology etc. and more careful attention to confounding factors like social construction of certain claims as 'fact', NOT for the abandonment of the scientific method!
     
  19. Angela Kennedy

    Angela Kennedy *****

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    Hi Maarten

    Well - actually, feminism in the 'academy' is not primarily a moral position as such, it is an academic approach that seeks to address the issue of research the life experiences of women in disciplines where they were previously not considered. This includes research that studied men then extrapolated to women, which failed to address uniquely female human experiences in it's science/social science, which means there were major flaws in such research (and here a 'beginners' book - 'Sociology for beginners' by Osborne and Van Loon, explains this historical academic problem very well). Feminist scholarship is more comparable to, say a Marxist analytical approach (i.e. Marx's analysis of the class system of his time), which is something completely different to the ideology of Marxism, for example that generated communism.

    I also would say though, that your understanding of political feminism as 'advancing the interests of women' is not quite my understanding, which is more about achieving parity rather than advantage. But I would immediately problematize your position that 'feminist' implies a moral or political position comparable to Christian or the 'lovely 'National Socialist (that's related to 'Nazi', right?), and the implication that your own position is somehow neutral or 'objective' because you have not disclosed a label for your own approaches. Do you really believe your own approach to your work is 'value-free'?

    Perhaps we should compare 'ME/CFS sufferer's rights to be treated fairly' (because that's what we're here about I take it?) with Nazi ideology while we're at it?

    I can't see how my explanation of social construction is circular, frankly. If people believe blacks are inferior, the 'social construction' argument is that is because social structures in which people live (for example, racism, which is a social structure), engender those beliefs. We can try and find out where such unhelpful or problematic cultural beliefs comes from. All our thoughts/beliefs may be socially constructed for all we know, or they may not. I actually do not have the answer on that! Even 'thinking' is difficult to define clearly (people differ on what they would define as such!) That's not my fault, by the way, or my pronouncement, that's just how unstable many beliefs, use of language etc. we take for granted might be and often are, something of which sociology takes account.

    Critically analysing how what might be learned social responses (and sometimes even rational responses) are psychopathologised and re-constructed as individual character flaws, for example, is something very relevant to the lives of 'CFS' sufferers and something that can be very usefully done through a sociological approach (in this case of the assumptions of psychiatrists, which might be socially constructed, or are psychiatrists' beliefs NEVER constructed by the society they live in?). What social structures might engender such beliefs about 'CFS' sufferers? These are productive questions.

    And perhaps I shouldn't get started on the issue of children raised by wolves'- we'll all get a headache.
     
  20. Angela Kennedy

    Angela Kennedy *****

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    If I may be frank, I think I am going to have to wind down this thread, or at least my contribution to it. I am really really busy, caring for my daughter, dealing with finding and moving to new accomodation, coping with other serious issues including my own health problems, and, most importantly as far as this forum is concerned, working on a major project that should be very useful for people here and in general, as well as smaller projects.

    I feel I've acquitted myself well from what I think have been highly problematic assumptions about my own academic discipline or approach. But this has required a lot of work and has been stopping me from that important project I'm engaged in, and means I've missed some other important threads even on this forum, and I think this is counterproductive.

    My original reason for joining this thread was to point out problems in the peer review process. I've done that and even set out how those problems could be mitigated. I think that is enough. So I will be bowing out from further discussion about feminist sociology, social construction, and National socialism etc. If people think this is a cop-out, then they do.
     

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