Description: This could be a Criminal Minds script. A physician sees 2 infants from the same family in his sleep laboratory. Both showed signs of sleep apnea and shortly after discharge from the lab they each die of what is certified as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, part of which may be linked to prolonged apnea (regularly breathing cessation while sleeping). Three other children in the family, it turned out, had died similarly prior to the post sleep clinic deaths. The physician running the clinic wrote a paper that was published in a scholarly journal discussing the role of apnea in SIDS and in the deaths of all 5 children (one that was as 22 months old. Five children dying of SIDS in the same family is an alarming rate and the fact that one of them was 22 months old (outside of the age range within which SIDS is typically found). The see the “Criminal Minds” – like plot line develop further (driven by a forensic pathologist who read the journal article and became suspicious of the circumstances of the children’s deaths) read the article linked below.
Source: Waneta Hoyt: The Serial Killer Paper, Neuroskeptic, Discover.
Date: January 16, 2018
Photo Credit: Science (1994) DOI: 10.1126/scince.8146647
While there are several interesting, though macabre, lines of possible inquiry in the linked article the one that is of particular relevance to the study of human behaviour and psychology in general is the question of how desire for a particular theory can lead to a sort of blindness to alternative possible explanations on the part of the researcher. In this case the desire to show the apnea/SIDS link was so strong that it lead the researcher to dismiss alternative explanations inclusion the possibility of serial murder. The article also mentioned “facilitated communication” in which disabled individuals are assisted to communicate sometimes by having a person “help” them to move their finger over a keyboard and communicate through typing. While not detailed in the article the concern in such situations is that it is really unclear whose thoughts are actually related in the typing that is produced. The effect my not be conscious (think of how Ouija boards work – now THERE is an interesting question of the diffusion of intent!).
Questions for Discussion:
- Describe the type of researcher bias being suggested in the linked article.
- What should researchers do to ensure they are not being influenced by such biases?
- How might we explain the experiences some people have with Ouija boards without involving a “spirit world”?
References (Read Further):
Steinschneider, A. (1972). Prolonged apnea and the sudden infant death syndrome: clinical and laboratory observations. Pediatrics, 50(4), 646-654.
Steinschneider, A. (1994). Prolonged apnea and the sudden infant death syndrome: clinical and laboratory observations. Pediatrics, 93(6), 944-944.
Lundberg, C., & Gunn, I. (2005). “Ouija board, are there any communications?” Agency, ontotheology, and the death of the humanist subject, or, continuing the ARS conversation. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 35(4), 83-105. http://www.joshiejuice.com/articles/ouija.pdf
Jacobson, J. W., Mulick, J. A., & Schwartz, A. A. (1995). A history of facilitated communication: Science, pseudoscience, and antiscience science working group on facilitated communication. American Psychologist, 50(9), 750. http://www.oocities.org/validationluna/html/a_history_of_FC_e.html
Wegner, D. M., Fuller, V. A., & Sparrow, B. (2003). Clever hands: uncontrolled intelligence in facilitated communication. Journal of personality and social psychology, 85(1), 5. http://scholar.harvard.edu/dwegner/files/wegner_fuller__sparrow.pdf
Green, G. (1994). Facilitated communication: Mental miracle or sleight of hand. Behavior and Social Issues, 4(1). http://uncommonculture.org/ojs/index.php/bsi/article/viewFile/209/2900