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I stumbled on this site after reading the op-ed piece by Daniel Gilbert published on July 24, 2006 in the New York Times. I am not an academic, and apologize if this is not the correct forum for these thoughts.

Since the debate of an issue, such as that laid out in Daniel Gilbert's op-ed, often takes place in an environment in which others have opposing points of view, isn't the insistence for "proof" of the principle in question as likely to cause an escalation of opposition as it is a convergence on the truth? It may be that there comes a point in any analysis where it becomes necessary to cut the umbilical cord to scientific objectivity (which, you can guess, I think is somewhat over-rated), and let our informed intuitions guide us. Am I mistaken or does not every proof depend, anyway, on a certain bedrock of data which we take to be self-evident?

I don't mean to say that studies should not be conducted and are not valuable. But after the Nth study there is always nonetheless a leap from study and hypothesis to reality. I wanted to bring this collateral issue up since Daniel Gilbert's piece resonated so strongly with what I have observed in my own experience that I was a little dismayed to read the view of an expert who's methodology seemed to me likely to direct this important idea towards the lab. He's a scholar and I'm impatient.

It has seemed self-evident to me for some time that Israel and its neighbors are engaged in something precisely like the escalating retaliatory violence of children, which will only stop due to the temporary surrender by the party suffering more at a particular moment or due to the intervention of a parent / authority. Israel and its neighbors are themselves a study and an example, carried out over half a decade, of this principle described by Daniel Gilbert.

As I see it, it is urgently overdue that international law bolstered the ability of authorities to step in and break up international conflicts in which the parties have reached a certain level of escalation and failed to demonstrate any ability to resolve the conflict. The associated humiliation and temporary loss of sovereignty would double as a stick to restrain countries from inflicting either the first or the next blow, whichever they or someone else may be inclined to call it.

I first heard something akin to this analysis of the middle east conflict from Pope John Paul II, and I thought, "Yes, that man is onto something."

I think your point is right on, Eric. As someone whose profession entails taking my academic training in psychology and applying it to the policy world, I have come to believe that there is never a time where you really have enough research to answer the exact question of interest. To truly answer most policy questions to a point of even 90% confidence, one would require multiple large-scale highly controlled studies that are nearly impossible to pull off in real life (and therefore very few exist -- most are EITHER large-scale OR highly controlled). Even then, not all questions will be able to be answered.

So the key question when applying research to policy -- given that those who are trying to make decisions in the here and now are also impatient -- is this, "When confronted with imperfect information, where do you come down?" This question can be applied to virtually every policy situation. In my current job, it's the issue of whether you go with the best information we have at the moment on methods to help children and families, or wait and do nothing (or let practitioners do whatever feels best to them, sometimes with little empirical evidence) until the research comes in. I fall on the side of the former, because I don't believe the latter will ever exist. But many researchers would vehemently disagree (except, perhaps, on their own pet issue . . .)

Having said that, I didn't really read the blog as suggesting we necessarily needed more research. I took the statement about this op-ed not being enough to prove a point as suggesting we'd need more detailed information about the research, not just one person's opinion of the research . . .

Finally, I want to state that I read this op-ed and was very impressed by it. I felt the author did a fantastic job of nailing down the key points of psychological research and helping readers understand not only how it applies to their everyday experiences, but also its implications for important policy decisions.

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