Emory Report

November 2, 1998

 Volume 51, No. 10

Get tips on evaluating 'extraordinary' at next Great Teachers Lecture

If you consult your horoscope every morning and view "The X-Files" as a documentary rather than entertainment, then you'll want to hear what Emory Assistant Professor of Psychology Scott Lilienfeld has to say in the latest Great Teachers Lecture about "Pseudoscience in Everyday Life: A Field Guide to Evaluating Extraordinary Claims." Lilienfeld will speak Thursday, Nov. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in Cannon Chapel. The free program is part of Emory's Great Teachers Lecture Series.

Lilienfeld will offer consumer tips on how to assess pseudoscientific claims, including alien abduction, polygraph testing, astrology and palm reading. "In the United States today, more Americans believe in extrasensory perception than in Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection," said Lilienfeld. "A large percentage of the American public is convinced they've had paranormal or extrasensory experiences, and almost half believe in UFOs."

But are these beliefs harmful to anyone? Lilienfeld said they certainly can be. "Most experts on medical fraud agree that billions of dollars are lost in the U.S. economy each year because of quack medical therapies, and the number of lives lost because of those therapies is probably in the thousands per year in the United States alone. In addition, the damage done by unsubstantiated psychological therapies and assessment techniques is difficult to estimate."

Lilienfeld, whose primary research interests include the causes and diagnoses of personality and anxiety disorders, is a consulting editor for Skeptical Inquirer, a journal devoted to the critical evaluation of extraordinary and controversial scientific claims. He received the 1998 David Shakow Award for Early Career Contributions to Clinical Psychology from the American Psychological Association. The author of approximately 50 journal articles and book chapters, Lilienfeld teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on psychopathology and personality assessment, introductory psychology, and science and pseudoscience.

For more information about the Great Teachers Lecture series call 404-727-6216.

--Camille Sparkman

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