|The Third Culture||
| CHILDREN DON'T
DO THINGS HALF WAY |
A Talk with Judith Rich Harris [6.29.99]
Judith Rich Harris is frequently accused of being an extremist. Is she an extremist?
"Well, I'm prone to making statements like this one," she says. "How the parents rear the child has no long-term effects on the child's personality, intelligence, or mental health. I guess you could call that an extreme statement. But I prefer to think of myself as a defender of the null hypothesis."
"The null hypothesis is the hypothesis that a putative "cause" has no effect, and it's supposed to be the starting point for scientific inquiry. For instance, when a new drug is being tested, the researchers are expected to start out with the hypothesis that the drug is no better than a placebo. If they find that the patients who received the drug are more likely to recover than the ones who got the placebo, then they can reject the null hypothesis at some level of confidence, some probability level.
"This comes as a surprise to most people, but psychologists have still not managed to collect evidence of a sort that would enable them to reject the null hypothesis of zero parental influence. In the absence of such evidence, the only scientifically sound position is the one I've taken. "