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PS409
Psychology, Science,
& Pseudoscience
Dr Brian Hughes
School of Psychology
brian.hughes@nuigalway.ie @b_m_hughes
Case Studies:
Examples of Psychology-related
Pseudoscience
Case Studies from
Within Mainstream Psychology:
3. Autism controversies
The Wakefield
MMR-autism
studies
(1997)
British Medical
Journal
January 2011
MMR vaccination and autism
Vaccination scares
Vaccination scares
Anti-vaccination arguments from
the 19th century
Wolfe, R.M., & Sharp, L. K. (2002). British Medical Journal, 325, 430-432.
1878, The National Anti-Compulsory Vaccination Reporter
Argument
“insults every human being…despotism, injustice
and tyranny…”
“State promotion of
vaccination is totalitarian”
“Friends, this medical despotism is a hard,
materialistic, infidel thing…”
“Vaccines are promulgated
solely for (others’) profit”
“saturating the small-pox [vaccine] with carbolic
acid…a virulent poison [that] enters the blood”
“Vaccines contain toxic
additives”
“…a substitute…for faithful obedience to the sacred
laws of health…”
“A healthy lifestyle is better
than any vaccine”
“The duration of protection be limited…can the
short-lived protection be expected to guard us?”
“Vaccine immunity is
temporary”
“Epidemics still continue to break out…”
.
“Vaccines are ineffective”
“…diptheria, erysipelas, and not unfrequently
abscesses...diarrhoae, bronchitis, convultions…”
“Vaccines cause illnesses”
Anti-vaccination arguments from
the 21st century
2002, various websites cited by Wolfe & Sharp
Argument
“The Orwellian spectable of monopolistic and
oligopolistic pharmaceutical manufacturers…”
“State promotion of
vaccination is totalitarian”
“manufacturers use the government to say ‘you
must buy my product and inject it into your body’”
“Vaccines are promulgated
solely for (others’) profit”
“...significant amounts of highly toxic substances
such as mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde.”
“Vaccines contain toxic
additives”
“personal hygiene & diet stop diseases, folks, not
injecting virulent genetic material into your veins”
“A healthy lifestyle is better
than any vaccine”
“The vaccine requires multiple boosters throughout
life…”
“Vaccine immunity is
temporary”
“…studies have shown that vaccination has been
unreliable as a means of preventing disease”
“Vaccines are ineffective”
“…autism, hyperactivity, ADHD, dyslexia, allergies,
cancer, and other conditions…”
“Vaccines cause illnesses”
Wolfe, R.M., & Sharp, L. K. (2002). British Medical Journal, 325, 430-432.
The Wakefield controversy
February 28, 1998
The Wakefield controversy
The Wakefield controversy
The Wakefield controversy
The Wakefield controversy
The Wakefield controversy
•Not consecutive
•Self-selecting
•Incomplete
•Involved in litigation
The Wakefield controversy
•“Review of records”
constituted only data
on MMR.
The Wakefield controversy
The Wakefield controversy
•Procedures not
clinically or ethically
approved
•One child (in follow-
up study) seriously
harmed
The Wakefield controversy
The Wakefield controversy
The Wakefield controversy
•Self-report data only
•Key details of
reports contradicted
by participants
The Wakefield controversy
•Unreplicated
•Refuted by whistle-
blower
The Wakefield controversy
•Common in autism
The Wakefield controversy
•“Interpretation” that
this means link with
MMR was formally
retracted in 2004
The Wakefield controversy
•“Interpretation” that
this means link with
MMR was formally
retracted in 2004
•Approval did not
cover the research
that was done
The Wakefield controversy
•“Interpretation” that
this means link with
MMR was formally
retracted in 2004
•Approval did not
cover the research
that was done
•Plus c. £500,000 in
legal fees to
Wakefield
•Also, Wakefield had
applied to patent his
own vaccine in 1997
The Wakefield controversy
The Wakefield controversy
BMJ (2011), 8 Jan & 15 Jan
The Wakefield controversy
Source: Deer (2011), BMJ
The Wakefield controversy
The Wakefield controversy
“Failed in your duties”
“Acted against the interests
of your patients”
Lancet paper was
“dishonest”, “irresponsible”,
and “misleading”, in several
respects and overall
Overall finding of “serious
professional misconduct”
28 January 2010
The Wakefield controversy
www.ageofautism.com, 16 February 2010
But is it pseudoscience?
Science by press conference?
Key feature of the Wakefield
episode
Secrecy of data?
Insofar as relevant information
was withheld/distorted
Vagueness in measurement?
Many ‘measures’ wholly
inaccurate
Confirmation bias?
Fitting the ‘findings’ to extant
prejudices/conspiracies
Exaggerated importance of key
contributors?
Wakefield as guru
Click here for the latest
“Jenny McCarthy Body Count”
PS409
Psychology, Science,
& Pseudoscience
Dr Brian Hughes
School of Psychology
brian.hughes@nuigalway.ie @b_m_hughes

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