The British Psychological Society has published a list of The 10 most controversial psychology studies ever published, which includes such classics as The Little Albert study, Milgram’s obedience studies, and Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment.
Most Controversial Psychology Studies
A SHARP study published in 2008 in PLoS Medicine has made the list as well; SHARP alumna Tania Huedo-Medina and current leader Prof. Blair Johnson are authors, with Johnson the “senior” or last author; the study was led by UConn Professor Emeritus, Irving Kirsch.
The study re-analyzed results from studies submitted to the Federal Drug Administration for approval of antidepressants as a pharmacological treatment for depression (include trade names such as Prosac). The work made international headlines when initially published, and was roundly criticized by many who have been funded by pharmacological work on depression; Kirsch and his team had no funding to conduct the work in question. Kirsch, Huedo-Medina, and/or Johnson have written rejoinders to some of the many critiques (e.g., here is one from 2012) and explained the results for lay audiences (e.g., here is one from 2008). Prof. Kirsch published a popular book on the subject, The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth.
It was the 2008 article that spurred Prof. Johnson to examine alternative treatments for depression, as partially explained on the History link of this site. Subsequent SHARP studies have shown that, for cancer survivors (who often suffer depression and other mental health decrements), aerobic exercise lowers depression and increases quality of life; also, resistance exercise reduces chronic fatigue for cancer survivors. Separately, SHARP research found that for heterosexual women at risk for HIV, behavioral interventions that reduce depression are more successful at reducing risk for HIV. This research is notable because it suggests that HIV risk reduction interventions may have positive mental health benefits, even though most of them do not explicitly focus on improving mental health.
The SHARP team remains interested in mental health issues, among other subjects.