Join Date: Apr 2012
Nonsense versus science: an intellectual bloodshed awaits
It's extremely long, but it's worth the read if you want to avoid being the toy of other people intellectually speaking.
***If you want to skip to the advice, read only the last two paragraphs.
I will **** off many people, but I owe to you all more than an hypocritical respect that would mean nothing without honesty. As I read posts, I often fell unto the sort of things we would find in corner store books that sit on shelves, far -- and rightly so -- from the psychology section of a big U's library. I must say that they do have the hang of being convenient with their claims as using words and sentences that are prone to equivocation does leave something for everyone to see whatever they want into it -- and that whatever being often what they themselves think, the authors generally get praises for being "so right"... of course, everyone in that line rather mean "I am so right," but that's an other topic altogether.
Let's then clear the issue we have at hand and let's draw a line between and science and the rest. I know that many people upfront won't like what I have to say, but bare with me for a moment as I will try to dismantle the myths you have compiled over the years about what constitutes science.
What is science?
A scientific answer is not very hard to understand in its making: you make a statement and you verify its validity empirically. Generally, as you're not the first one to work that way, you read a bit before making up an hypothesis so that you have a sort of idea of what should happen once you verify if your call was right or not. An opinion I often came across was as if science was a series of fixed answers and positions... well, no. Science is the method, not the results. An other problem we see is rather semantic and specific to the US: a theory, in scientific terms, is an established hypothesis. It's not assumed to be true; it's something we tested so often that the community agrees to say the results are reliable. If it's not proven, we'll call it an hypothesis.
Now, why would we trust these things? Well, let's get an analogy. If you were to enter a store where they sell cloths and the salesman would always find that what is in store suit you. Shorter, longer, bigger or smaller; whenever something doesn't fit, he makes up an excuse such as "tailoring does wonders," "you will grow into your stuff as you age," "looseness ensures comfort"; etc. Would you trust his judgement? Of course no. But do you know why? Because he cannot potentially say no; the bidding term is his answer and he re-interpret every empirical detail so as to confirm the answer he gave. Well, the same is true when you are looking for any answer: it's the possibility for a person to say that "no," to change their mind or disagree that grants value to their agreement, to their position, to their "yes."
Scientific answers are worthy of thrust because they can be tested anew, people work at dismantling each others idea, work at finding if they could be that one person who disproves the whole thing and replace it with something else. Doing so means fame, glory and money.
Worthy of trust or not?
Now what are these books you find that are put into the psychology section of corner stores, but not of big Universities? Why can't you thrust them? Because they do like the annoying salesman who's looking after his commission: they re-interpret events so as to confirm their position. It's not very hard to do; I omit a few detail, use exceptions to make hasty generalization and blend in a few terms that are prone to equivocation (let's say we'll use the word "energy") and, suddenly, people are nodding their heads when reading it. But we can't trust them because they do not rigorously put to the test their claims.
An example of how perception plays trick on us so often
Say that you had troubles with services offered by the government and you have seen a guy exploiting this service dishonestly to steal money. If you were to use only these two facts -- because they are facts -- to make your conclusions, wouldn't you say that the service the government offers only serves thieves and normal people can't benefit of it? Even if these two instances were one in a million, if you generalize it, it puts a bad look over what actually works. But you highlighted the wrong part and weren't rigorous. That's what most of our judgments look like, except those were we bothered opening up serious books, researching and perhaps even testing systematically all solutions. Something could spare us from doing it too much: they are called lessons of philosophy -- you know, these long boring classes were you have to use abstract ideas from dead men to answer questions as if you were them? Well, that's how you avoid being dumb: by remaining logical and rigorous.
The usefulness of theories and tennis
You might wonder what it has to do with tennis, but it has to do with everything, including tennis. There's a saying that goes as "there is nothing more practical than a good theory" and I think we should seek to apply that in its most literal sense to discuss and think, regardless of the subject. A theory is a general notion that tells you how a given thing works in principle; it lists relationships between different components and tells you what does what and how it does it. It's an abstract model of reality, a simplified version that highlights certain things to give you some hold over it. The difference between that and a practical understanding of the thing is that the theory applies in all conditions and to countless compositions and the practical knowledge doesn't (and by practical, I mean like knowing how to make sums, place plates in the dishwasher so the water can have some space to work in between or how to use a broom). If I grasp the principle, I can figure out what's the answer, regardless of the conditions in which I apply the theory, but if I only know how to proceed mechanically, I will only know how to figure out the answer in one specific case -- and I'll need a new procedure each time the case is changed.
Are there theories that apply to tennis? Yes. If you look up for some of my posts, I used Vigotsky's principles of learning several times to explain how we prevent ourselves from hitting a wall or why we can't go for stuff that is too hard, nor too easy. I can use this same piece of knowledge to teach a 2 years old, as much as a 15 years old; to teach as much geography or psychology as tennis... And what I explained above -- the notion of what's a theory; I understand the concept of "theory" in a formal way, so I can even come up with examples on my own such as this one.
There are also theories on emotional development, as well as emotions. And I here talk directly to "Kyteboard" (I hope I spelled it right) who used corner store books, called it knowledge and expressed an idea that was in short baseless, without any empirical foundation... That's saddening and harmful as well, my friend, because, now, there are people who will read you and believe what you wrote, except that it's not reality you described; it's just a big bunch of New Age nonsense you spewed over the net. Want to know why you have certain emotions? Well, there's a scientific way to proceed, to figure out the basis for them, as well as how they develop so that you can teach yourself out of the issue and that will give you control over yourself; just telling people that they can start to think differently and it will change their life is pretty dumb as well as false. However, if they were to have an idea of, say, what is their self-concept and how their emotional development might relate to their behavior on the court, that could help solve the issue -- the theory tells you how it was built, but if you know how the mistaken component was built, you can use the same process to change it into something else.
The self-concept theory in action
Want and example? Okay. Within the self-concept (that's the mental representation you have of yourself), we find self-knowledge and self-esteem. The first one is made of two things which are how much you know of yourself and how much of this corresponds to reality; the second one contains valence (that's if you have a generally positive or negative evaluation of yourself) and, again, realism (do you exaggerate -- such as considering yourself a poor player when you are statistically exceptional). Let's say you have a relatively negative valence and feel that, generally, it's not so cool to be yourself -- you'd rather be someone else. The self-concept isn't a thing that pops into existence: it's a socially-determined construction; well, it's the result of dialectical process that operates between each of your former self with the perception others had of it. You're basically the product of what other people have seen of you. If you feel bad, the solution isn't very hard then: you need to be put into a social condition within which you are likelier to be valued. After a while, you will feel like you are so much better than you thought you were. The advice to be really specific is to find constructive critics -- people who will improve the valence and realism of your self-esteem.
Ever lacked confidence in your forehand? Well, you need to put yourself into situations where you are likelier to succeed and seeing yourself making it, slowly building up the difficulty, will solve the issue. Of course, if your technique is poor, fix it first (and as your consistency improves due to better movement, so will the emotional value you grant to it)! See the difference? Real advice and real science -- it also gives real results. If you understood what I just did properly, you can do that with just about anything.
It's not personal; it's all business.