Researcher’s Dilemma | Facing Critics Who Undermine your work

In a TED talk that had over fourteen million views on YouTube, Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, and a lecturer talked about how your body language can make you powerful, in what she termed as ‘Power Poses’, however, she has received critiques questioning her research results from fellow psychologists.

How Cuddy responded to these critiques?

By publishing a paper that examines the theory she suggested and highlighting where her critics fall short when evaluating her findings. Being accused of false research findings can be hugely devastating and damaging to the status of an academician. But Amy Cuddy responded with the same instrument her critics used “evidence-based research”.

Malcolm Gladwell is another writer and social researcher with a journalistic background, his ten thousand hour rule to achieve mastery in a field was also attacked by scholars and writers back in 2013, although he didn’t do an in-depth research, or undertake a study to justify his theory, but rather re-examined what he wrote by quoting from his book ‘Outliers’ when explaining his suggested theory in an article in the New Yorker.

Cuddy and Gladwell used two different ways to face their critics, Cuddy used analytical research and Gladwell by publishing an article emphasizing his resources.

The fact is, they both have similar methods when they speak to the masses; straightforwardness, a simple language without scientific terms and jargons, to some extent I think this is what popularized their ideas. Although I am a fan of Gladwell’s book, I would like to offer a counter analysis of his work in this post that discusses Gladwell’s work and ideas within the American context which the writer suggested Gladwell appeals to the elite class in the United States, which made me ask, Who are Gladwell’s readers in the Middle East? I can characterize them as people who are educated more than the average person, I would also say they must be people who are well versed in English (even if there were translations I don’t think they will have the same effect as when read in English) which leads me to conclude they are people who are a bit on the higher income range in our Arab society. One factor, I think, distinguishes Gladwell’s enthusiasts in our Middle Eastern society is they don’t conform to traditional norms or the thoughts that are widely accepted and expressed within our culture.

Cuddy writes at the end of her paper to her critics “We [referring to herself and fellow research colleagues] are not arguing that the statistical results of Simmons and Simonsohn’s p-curve analysis (20152017) are incorrect; we are arguing that their results and conclusions, as a result of the practices described above, are misleading with regard to assessments of the evidential value of this area of research.”.

Malcolm Gladwell highlighted the research of David Epstein in his book The Sports Gene to support his ten-thousand-hour rule emphasizing that the ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery can be less or more but what he tried to tell his critics is that “In cognitively demanding fields, there are no naturals.”.

Last, if you are putting your work to the public, whether you are a writer or in the media, you should defend yourself when other experts in your field attack and discredit your work (unless they are true), the case with Cuddy’s research and Gladwell’s work is that there is not an ultimate truth to them, there will always be anomalies, in which there will be times even if you had a lioness like pose you won’t be able to uplift your self-confidence especially if it was hit hard to the core, or you might practice two thousand hours to learn a language and achieve mastery in it, the proof is not a mathematical equation and that what makes it harder for those of us who are examining social behavior to make irrefutable theories, but at the same time, this is what gives flexibility and a space to suggest ideas that can be helpful after all.


Malcolm Gladwell: Mashable, Bianca Consunji

Amy Cuddy: Richtopia image image

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