纽约时报双语:TED演讲治不好你的抑郁症

TED演讲治不好你的抑郁症
TED Talks Won’t Treat Your Depression
JESSE SINGAL
2021年6月11日
纽约时报双语:TED演讲治不好你的抑郁症

Maybe chicken soup can treat depression.

也许鸡汤可以治疗抑郁症。

That provocative claim was made not by a quack in a late-night infomercial but by John Bargh, a Yale social psychologist. He is an expert on “social primes,” the subtle cues that supposedly exert a major unconscious influence on our behavior. He has published research suggesting that, for example, exposure to words with geriatric associations like “wrinkles” primes people to walk slower.

这个争议性的说法,不只是来自深夜电视导购节目里的江湖郎中,耶鲁大学社会心理学家约翰·巴什(John Bargh)也是这么说的。他是研究“社会启动”的专家,也就是被认为对我们的行为构成巨大的无意识影响的微妙提示。例如,他发表的论文曾提出,接触到一些与年老相关的词语,比如“皱纹”,会启发人们放慢行走的速度。

In his 2017 book, “Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do,” Dr. Bargh mentions a clinical trial in which severely depressed patients in a mental health facility appeared to improve after exposure to very high temperatures. He speculates that perhaps an outpatient approach involving soup could do the trick, too, since “the warmth of the soup helps replace the social warmth that may be missing from the person’s life.” Such remedies “are unlikely to make big profits for the pharmaceutical and psychiatric industries,” he writes, but they warrant further research.

在他2017年的书《不知不觉——我们的无意识行为理由》(Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do)中,巴什提到了一项临床试验,其中发现,某精神健康机构内的重症抑郁症患者在暴露于非常高的温度后病情似乎有好转。他猜想也许采取包括鸡汤在内的门诊措施就可以了,因为“汤的温度有助于取代病人生活中可能缺少的社会温暖”。这样的治疗“对医药和精神科产业不太可能带来巨大的利润”,他写道,但是有必要进行进一步的研究。

Psychologists are welcome to research whatever they like. But if you have loved someone afflicted with treatment-resistant depression, as I have, this seems far-fetched: Every day, millions of depressed people drink coffee to no apparent salutary effect.

心理学家想研究什么当然是他们的事。但如果你身边有在意的人存在这种久治不愈的抑郁——我就有——这说法就显得牵强了:每天都有成千上万抑郁的人在喝咖啡,没看出有什么明显有益的效果。

Dr. Bargh’s idea is one of the purest distillations of what I call “primeworld,” a myopic but seductive worldview. It suggests that human behavior is shaped rather easily by primes and other subtle influences — an irrational bias here, a too-pessimistic mind-set there — and that these influences can often be easily dispelled with low-cost psychological tweaks that target individuals to help solve societal problems. This understanding of society has flourished as a result of a general fascination with easily digestible pop-psychology nuggets — often delivered via TED Talks and best-selling books — that appears to have exploded in recent years.

巴什的想法是我所说的“启动世界”中最纯粹的精髓之一,这是一种短视但诱人的世界观。它认为人类行为是在启动和其他微妙影响之下轻易成形的——这里来点非理性偏见,那里来点过度悲观倾向——而这些影响往往可以用一些低成本的心理调整轻松化解,这些调整都旨在让个人去帮助解决社会问题。这种对社会的理解能盛行起来,是因为一种对浅显易懂的流行心理学至理名言的普遍兴趣——往往是通过TED演讲和畅销书传播开来的——近年来这一类内容十分火爆。

But because it ignores the bigger, more structural forces that do far more to influence human behavior (from our exposure to early-life trauma to how much money we have to whether we grew up in a segregated neighborhood), it is flawed. Worse, it might actually be hindering our ability to solve real-world problems. And now, with a replication crisis felling once highly regarded psychological findings, it’s probably time to be a little bit more skeptical of these quick-fix ideas.

但因为它忽略了更大、更具结构性的力量,这些力量对人类行为的影响要大得多(从我们早年遭受的创伤,到我们有多少钱,到我们是否成长在一个隔离的社区),它是有缺陷的。更糟糕的是,它可能会阻碍我们解决现实世界问题的能力。现在,随着可重复危机削弱了曾被高度重视的心理学发现,可能是时候对这些快速修复的想法多一点怀疑了。

It isn’t just psychologists who profit from this approach: There’s an influential ecosystem of journalists, pundits and other professional “thought leaders” who benefit from page views, book deals or the exposure offered by a viral TED Talk. And these solutions, often framed as inexpensive and politically uncontroversial, are catnip not only to everyday consumers of pop science but also to policymakers hungry for quick fixes.

从这种方法中获益的不仅仅是心理学家,还有一个由记者、专家和其他专业“思想领袖”组成的有影响力的生态系统,他们受益于页面浏览量、出书合同或TED演讲带来的曝光率。这些解决方案,通常被认为是并不昂贵的,政治上没有争议的,不仅对于大众科学的日常消费者,而且对于渴望快速解决方案的政策制定者来说,都很有吸引力。

To be sure, there are kernels of truth to some of these ideas. At the margins, slight changes to our environment or a presentation of choices can affect our behavior. Some successful so-called nudges make people a bit more likely to save energy or a bit less likely to grab an extra doughnut in line at a college cafeteria.

可以肯定的是,这些观点中有一些是有道理的。在边际情况下,环境的轻微变化或选择余地的存在会影响我们的行为。一些成功的所谓“助推”手段让人们更有可能节省能源,或在大学自助餐厅排队时少买一个甜甜圈。

But some psychologists have made much bolder claims — which are much less credible. For Dr. Bargh, for example, seeing cleaner streets spurs prosocial behavior in a manner that, he says, can help explain New York City’s great violent-crime drop that started in the 1990s. (That’s why he lauds “broken windows” policing.) He acknowledges there were other factors, but he also states flatly in his book that the city’s resurgence “was a result of a new culture of cues for positive behavior being instituted.”

但一些心理学家提出了更大胆的主张,其可信度就要低得多了。以巴什为例,他说,看到更干净的街道在某种程度上会刺激心向社会的行为,这有助于解释自1990年代以来纽约市暴力犯罪率的大幅下降。(所以他称赞警方的“破窗”政策。)他承认还有其他因素,但他也在书中明确指出,这座城市的复兴“是一种引导积极行为的新文化的结果”。

This is a vast oversimplification of a complicated problem. Few criminologists believe that these sorts of cues for positive behavior can tell us much, if anything, about the great crime decline.

这是对一个复杂问题的过度简化。几乎没有什么犯罪学家认为,这些积极行为的线索能告诉我们关于犯罪率大幅下降的太多信息。

Other recent blockbuster ideas in psychology are also steeped in this ideology. Take mind-set interventions, which are designed to shift people’s mind-sets from “fixed” (“I failed the test — I’m just stupid”) to “growth” (“I’ll do better next time if I work harder”). “For 30 years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life,” said Carol Dweck, the originator of that idea and a professor at Stanford, in her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” (ideas she echoed in a TED Talk that has been viewed more than 12.5 million times).

最近心理学中的其他轰动观点也浸透着这种意识形态。以思维模式干预为例,其目的是将人们的思维模式从“固定”(“我考试不及格——我是个傻瓜”)转变为“成长”(“如果我下次更努力,我会做得更好”)。“三十年来,我的研究表明,你对自己采取的观点深刻地影响了你生活的方式,”这一观点的提出者、斯坦福大学教授卡罗尔·德威克(Carol Dweck)在她的书《心态——新成功心理学》(Mindset: The New Psychology of Success)中说(她在TED演讲中提出的相同观点已被观看超过1250万次)。

Perhaps better known is the implicit association test, which claims to be able to measure one’s level of implicit (or unconscious) bias via a brief computer test that involves comparing reaction time to different stimuli. Since the creators of the test also claimed that implicit bias can go a long way toward explaining persistent racially discriminatory gaps in the United States, the computer test is now one of the most common features of contemporary diversity trainings.

或许更广为人知的是内隐联想测试,它声称能够通过一个简单的计算机测试来衡量一个人的内隐(或无意识)偏见水平,该测试涉及到对不同刺激的反应时间的比较。由于该测试的创建者还声称,内隐偏见可以在很大程度上解释美国持续存在的种族歧视差距,因此计算机测试现在成为当代多样性培训的最常见特征之一。

Since these claims were first made, though, a full-blown replication crisis has hit psychology, meaning that when researchers attempt to redo previous studies, they often find either a much less impressive result or none whatsoever. It turns out that the standard statistical methods long employed by psychologists (and other scientists) can easily produce false positive results. About 50 percent of published results from experimental psychology have failed to replicate, and the subfield of social psychology — the home base of most social priming, implicit bias and stereotype-threat research — tends to fare even worse.

然而,自从这些主张被首次提出以来,一场全面的可复现危机已经冲击了心理学,就是说当研究人员试图重新做之前的研究时,他们往往会发现一个不那么喜人的结果,或者什么结果都没有。事实证明,心理学家(以及其他科学家)长期使用的标准统计方法很容易产生假阳性结果。大约50%的实验心理学发表的结果不可复现,而社会心理学的分支领域——大多数社会启动、内隐偏见和刻板印象威胁研究的基础——往往表现得更糟。

Studies purporting to offer simple remedies to serious problems have been hit particularly hard. Mind-set interventions appear to be nowhere near as powerful as Professor Dweck initially advertised: A major, well-constructed 2019 study in Nature found some effect, but only a relatively small one and only for weaker students. (In a phone conversation, she pointed out that the Nature study was centered on a fairly minimalist mind-set intervention designed to be easily scalable and referenced larger effects found in earlier studies premised on more costly, time-consuming multisession interventions involving highly trained personnel.)

那些旨在为严重问题提供简单补救方法的研究受到了特别沉重的打击。心态干预似乎远没有德韦克最初宣传的那么有效:2019年《自然》(Nature)杂志上的一项结构良好的重要研究发现了一些效果,但只是相对较小的效果,而且只适用于较差的学生。(在一次电话交谈中,她指出,《自然》杂志的研究集中在一种相当简单化的思维模式干预上,设计得易于扩展,并参考了早期研究中发现的更大效果,这些效果是以更昂贵、更耗时、需要高度训练人员参与的多阶段干预为前提的。)

As for that fascinating social-priming magic embraced by Dr. Bargh, like people walking slower after seeing words with geriatric associations? “I don’t know a replicable finding,” said Brian Nosek, a psychologist and leading replication advocate, in 2019. “It’s not that there isn’t one, but I can’t name it.” The few social-priming effects that have survived this scrutiny tend to be small, inconsistent and not necessarily relevant outside of lab settings.

至于巴什所信奉的迷人的社会启动魔法,比如人们在看到与衰老有关的单词后走得更慢?“我不知道有什么可重复的发现,”心理学家、可复现性的重要倡导者布赖恩·诺塞克(Brian Nosek)在2019年说。“并不是说没有,只是我说不出来。”少数经受住这种审查的社会刺激效应往往很小、是不一致的,而且在实验室环境之外不一定相关。

(In a series of emails, Dr. Bargh argued, as he has elsewhere, that his field’s replication tribulations have been overstated and pointed to some of the positive results.)

(在一系列的电子邮件中,巴什和他在其他地方所持的观点一样,认为他的研究领域的可复现困境被夸大了,并指出了一些积极的结果。)

The implicit association test has experienced similar travails. It is still often a part of everyday diversity-training settings, but its creators long ago acknowledged that it is too noisy a test to be used to identify people as likely to engage in racist acts (which constitutes significant backtracking from their original claim).

内隐联想测验也经历了类似的困难。它仍然经常是日常多元化培训设置的一部分,但它的创造者很久以前就承认,这个测试太过杂乱,不适合用来确定那些可能从事种族主义行为的人(这是对他们最初的主张的重大倒退)。

The cheerful, can-do vision of society these ideas help to spread is just as important as their statistical shortcomings. If reducing crime is a simple matter of priming would-be offenders with cleaner streets, then there’s little cause to become overwhelmed by the problems that surround us and also less reason to pursue expensive or politically contentious reforms (like truly attacking the root causes of crime).

这些理念所传播的乐观自信的社会愿景,与它们在统计上的缺陷同样重要。如果减少犯罪是一个简单的问题,也就是用更干净的街道来促发潜在的罪犯,那么我们就没有什么理由被我们周围的问题压倒,也没有什么理由去追求昂贵的或有政治争议的改革(比如真正打击犯罪的根源)。

The point is not that today’s most prominent primeworld psychologists deny that there’s a bigger world out there, beyond primes, biases and mind-sets; they would quickly acknowledge that, yes, there is. The problem is that their work, amplified by media, advances a set of very specific, zoomed-in priorities. It’s not a coincidence that implicit association test trainings geared toward law enforcement agencies emphasize the ostensibly unintentional nature of racially discriminatory police outcomes. They offer a particularly nonconfrontational, authority-friendly way of dealing with racial-justice problems.

重点并不是说今天最杰出的启动世界心理学家否认在启动、偏见和心态之外,还有一个更大的世界;他们会很快承认,是的,有。问题是,他们的工作在媒体放大下,推进了一系列非常具体、放大的优先事项。针对执法机构的内隐联想测试训练强调了警察种族歧视结果的表面上的非故意性质,这并非巧合。他们提供了一种格外非对抗性的、有利于权威的方式,来处理种族公正问题。

Sometimes people mistakenly believe that the best or truest scientific ideas rise to the top of the heap — that popularity implies accuracy and rigor.

有时人们错误地认为,最好的或最真实的科学思想会上升到顶峰——它的普及意味着准确和严谨。

This has never quite been the case, but it’s an even more questionable claim in an era in which pop science is so hotly marketable via TED Talks and other platforms. Often the ideas that reach those heights are the ones that we most want to believe. And we’d like to think that we can fix the world easily.

这从来都不是事实,但在一个流行科学通过TED演讲和其他平台被热卖的时代,这个说法就更值得怀疑了。通常,能达到这些高度的想法都是我们最愿意相信的。我们愿意认为我们可以很容易地解决这个世界的问题。

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