The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice

Objective Investigations of Controversial and Unorthodox Claims in Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry, and Social Work


Pseudoscience Is Alive and Well

Scott O. Lilienfeld, Department of Psychology, Emory University
Steven J. Lynn, Department of Psychology, Binghamton University
Jeffrey M. Lohr, Department of Psychology, University of Arkansas.

Author Note:
The authors thank James Herbert and Richard McNally for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Scott O. Lilienfeld, Department of Psychology, Room 206, 532 North Kilgo Circle, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322. E-mail:

In contrast to McNally, we contend that the concept of pseudoscience is meaningful and useful for researchers, clinicians, and mental health consumers. This concept denotes a “syndrome” of covarying characteristics exhibited by research programs that aspire toward scientific status but that possess only its superficial trappings. Hence, the signs of pseudoscience provide extremely helpful warning signs for individuals who are evaluating the plausibility of novel and controversial mental health claims. Moreover, McNally’s proposal to abandon the pseudoscience concept neglects to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate uses of ad hoc hypotheses. We conclude that the pseudoscience concept is necessary to separate individuals who merely advance false claims (which almost all scientists do on occasion) from individuals who advance false claims but who do not “play by the rules” of science.

You can read the full text of this article in
The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, vol. 2, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2003).
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