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LaurenSlater - Book's Critique of Psychology Ignites a...

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April 12, 2004 Book's Critique of Psychology Ignites a Torrent of Criticism By FELICIA R. LEE he has been called "the closest thing we have to a doyenne of psychiatric disorder" by The Village Voice, because of her quirky memoirs and her offbeat takes on subjects like self-esteem. Peter D. Kramer, author of "Listening to Prozac," calls her "smart, charming, iconoclastic and inquisitive." Now Lauren Slater, a 39-year-old psychologist, is being called a liar. The charges, which Dr. Slater denies, are being circulated mostly among academics in psychology and psychiatry. Some say that she put invented quotations in her new book, "Opening Skinner's Box," her reflections on 10 major psychological experiments, which was published in the United States by Norton last month. Others question her methods and data in her own experiment in faking mental illness or challenge the accuracy of her description of some famous past experiments. Critics have been publicizing their accusations in book reviews on Amazon.com and other Internet sites, while professors at several schools, including Harvard, Columbia and Emory universities, have been exchanging information on their views of the book's failings. In London, Deborah Skinner, whose father, the behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner, is referred to in the book's title, criticized Dr. Slater in The Guardian for reviving old rumors that she was a subject of her father's experiments, had sued him and had killed herself. The Daily Telegraph published an apology on March 27 for a review repeating some of those false rumors. On April 2 The Times of London came out with an article with the headline "Great Tale but Is It the Truth?" detailing the controversy over the book. "It is one of the first major books to bridge the gap between academic and popular psychology," said Scott O. Lilienfeld, an associate professor in the department of psychology at Emory and the editor of The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. For that reason, he said, people are adamant that Dr. Slater get things right. But he added that the sheer number of things Dr. Slater does get wrong — from what words pseudo- patients used in faking mental illness to misspelled names of well-known figures like Thomas Szasz and R. D. Laing — makes the book suspect for many.
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