14
Feb

THE BEYOND THE CONTROVERSIA ON RESEARCH IN PSYCHOLOGY:

THE NEW LOOK OF PSYCHOSOCIAL AND CULTURAL GENOMICS

Di    MAURO COZZOLINO

 

 

During the last years there has been increased

discussion about the reliability of psychological

research. Criticism has been activated not only

because of many important cases of scientific fraud,

but also because of numerous failures to replicate

previous scientific findings.

We can consider the recent findings of the

“Reproducibility Project” as the largest effort

to replicate published research in psychology.

Researchers selected 100 papers published in

prominent psychological journals and found that

only 39 could be replicated.

All that increased skepticism about the way

psychologists conduct research studies. These

critiques on failures to replicate many highprofile

studies have been used for proclaiming a

“replication crisis” in psychology.

When several cases of published research cannot be

reproduced by independent and objective scholars,

then it is honest asking the meaning and value of

our discipline. These evidences are legitimizing the

popular notion of psychology as a “soft and fragile

science”.

Of course the impact of this issue for psychological

research on public well-being is grave. Repeated

failures to replicate published research

are producing low trust in our work and in

recommendations we offer to the society and the

whole scientific community.

For example, our patients ask healthcare

providers recommendations based on solid and

empirical evidence. Similarly, teachers and school

administrators need to receive teaching and

learning strategies that are validated in the best

possible way. Psychology and Psychotherapy

need to invest time and energy in strategies and

methodologies based on objective and reproducible

research. This situation needs our attention forcing

our field of study to improve the way we conduct

the research but it doesn’t necessarily suggest that

psychological science has become less rigorous. It is

interesting to see what happens in other scientific

fields. We know that psychology is not the only scientific

discipline in the midst of a replication crisis in fact

some evidence suggests that reproducibility of

research in cancer biology is quite poor and that the

failure to replicate does not affect only psychology.

The same problems of replicability and bias can be

found in the fields of medicine and the life sciences.

An interesting study by Harry Collins reported

how physicists in the UK and US failed to replicate

experiments by Russian scientists. When Russian

and western scientists could work together they

discovered that what they had taken as an irrelevant

aspect of the experimental set-up had been crucial

for the results the Russians obtained. But although

we know all that, the question is trying to explain

why so much psychological research fails the test of

reproducibility.

Experiments may work for reasons the

experimenters did not appreciate so the studies are

right, but not for the reasons given. It has important

consequences for explaining why some things from

lab are not translated into successful treatments.

This is the reason why the “Replication Movement”

suggests that researchers should clearly

communicate every detail of their methodology and

if possible have an experimental protocol register

before publication.

I think that the reasons of this real or presumed crisis

are many and also caused by the complexity of this

field of study. Here I will try to go beyond the typical

discussion regarding the fact if psychology is a good

science or not and if psychological research is really

acceptable. I want to try opening our mind to a new

look on our mind-body functioning and the way to

do research about it.

I don’t want to provide a definitive answer to such

complex reasons staying back to “Replication

Crisis” in Psychology but rather introducing you the

issue from the new perspective of “Psychosocial

and Cultural Genomics” which was born just for

overcoming the epistemological, scientific and

methodological limits Psychology showed during

the last 30-40 years. Of course I confirm the importance of replication,

and standardized experimental and statistical

procedures, but I am aware that Psychology needs

more than this to overcome the issue making itself

more robust, repeatable, and transparent for the first

time in history. So, on the one side we can say that

we are in a crisis but on the other side there is no

better time to be a research psychologist than now.

This is true because there is a great revolution in

many fields of study like neuroscience, biology and

technology applied to the study of human beings.

Recently, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman says,

“Authors, whose work and reputation are at stake,

should have the right to participate as advisers

in the replication of their research.” “Experimental

instructions are commonly paraphrased in the

methods section, although their wording and even

the font in which they are printed are known to

be significant.”He says that the method sections

published are generally too vague to be repeated by

others without the authors.

The discussion regarding all that or the tendency to

publish only positive findings is not new and it has

been discussed by Rosenthal, several decades ago,

also if these problems have been exacerbated in

recent years.

I don’t know the right response but I think that every

crisis is good to grow up and probably this explains

the reasons of this internal and external strange

debate.

When a human being is in a crisis and we support

him, after that he is able to generate something

good and positive. So I want to see the replication

crisis in psychology or the absence of therapeutic

improvements in psychotherapy in the last 40 years

like a natural stage of our creative process prior to

reaching a new evolution as a science.

Of course many internal and external problems have

limited psychological science’s penetration into

public knowledge and its impact with policymakers

and other scientists.

It seems clear that for psychology to advance to

the next level can be an extraordinary possibility

to transform itself making it in a good chance to

generate new theory and responses on our mindbody

functioning and healing for scientific and

social community. Otherwise psychological science

has the opportunity to become leader in finding

better ways to overcome bias and error helping the

entire science.

A conclusion to solve this issue is premature but

in order to better understand their fundamental

mechanisms we could also use the example of

testing the efficacy of a specific treatment in

psychotherapy or in mind-body medicine.

For example, when you want an exact replication

of a study for demonstrating the efficacy of a drug

or psychological intervention, the main issue is

that they work and that they have no negative side

effects.

Psychology and in particular psychotherapy found

Otherwise psychological science

has the opportunity to become leader in finding

better ways to overcome bias and error helping the

entire science.

A conclusion to solve this issue is premature but

in order to better understand their fundamental

mechanisms we could also use the example of

testing the efficacy of a specific treatment in

psychotherapy or in mind-body medicine.

For example, when you want an exact replication

of a study for demonstrating the efficacy of a drug

or psychological intervention, the main issue is

that they work and that they have no negative side

effects.

Psychology and in particular psychotherapy found

many difficulties in gaining credibility and diffusion

in the fields of health and research, not only for

the above mentioned factors but also because the

comparison with other close disciplines such as

medicine always made us losers.

We tried to imitate in a clumsy way research

methodologies of other disciplines or we used

methods that did not give credibility and reliability

to the extremely important and useful things that

research in psychology and psychotherapy actually

does.

The success of psychology on a scientific level

contemplates a bidirectional perspective on an

organism’s functioning: either a top-down view, how

the mind acts on the brain and the gene expression,

and an inverse bottom-up path where the protein

synthesis modifies brain, body and subsequently

mind and behavior.

Of course in order to do research under this new

integrated and multilevel perspective we need

to use research methodologies that come from

other disciplines and use different languages and

procedures.

Therefore the psychosocial genomics gives us the

possibility to overcome or reduce the limits of the

“Replication Crisis” or the difficulties of translating

research into effective and evidence based

treatments, helping at the same time to overcome

the limits of other disciplines such as medicine

and biology. Thanks to psychosocial genomics we

can take advantage of an integrated perspective

on our functioning and of complex methods of

data collection and analysis that inevitably won’t

be exclusively constituted of items, questions and/

or observations like a certain type of psychological

research does.

You can find below a brief description of this new

perspective in psychology and psychotherapy

proposed in 2002 (Rossi, 2002; Cozzolino et al., 2015)

in order to try and reduce some epistemological and

methodological mistakes that psychology kept on

doing even though they were already evident since

almost 40 years.

Genomic represents a new way of conceiving the

way the human being works and its health, illness

and treatment overcoming the separation of mind

and body

It has developed an integrated multilevel model

for the analysis and explanation of behavior.

Simultaneously it represents a simple and complex

model because while it operates on many different

levels it works using simple protocols easy to learn.

The Psychosocial and Cultural Genomics Perspective

reflects the natural functions of our bodies as well

as its innate healing processes (homeostasis and

negative entropy) and it is an interdisciplinary

research method articulated on several layers of

analysis. This new look in Psychology adopts an

integrated and multilevel methodology to explain

the human behavior. So we launch to overcome

exclusively intra-disciplinary theoretical models

for reaching a new, unified vision of medicine,

psychology, biology and quantum physics placing

analysis on different levels: cultural, social, mental

and corporeal in its many cerebral dimensions,

biological, genomic and proteomics.

The first difference from traditional look in

psychology and psychotherapy is that apparently

psychosocial and cultural genomic works only

on psychological level while it is activating and

changing deeply the genomic level. So it represents

a psychotherapy totally oriented on mind-body

healing. In fact, we strongly believed in the Classical

Mind/Gene Communication Cycle of Molecular

Biology with the more recent bioinformatic and

consciousness studies.

The top circle shows that research at this top level

of consciousness explores the Novelty-Numinosum-

Neurogenesis-Expectancy Effect as an adaptive

complex motivational system. The subjective

experience of Novelty evokes highly motivating

experiences of the Numinosum (fascination,

mysteriousness, and tremendousness) that turns

on gene expression, Neurogenesis and Expectancy

in psychotherapy and therapeutic hypnosis (Rossi,

2012).

We now propose that the use of DNA microarray

technology to measure the expression levels of

many thousands of genes simultaneously (Bar-

Joseph et al., 2012) generally using for validatingpersonalized medicine also can be used to assess

the psychosocial genomic validity and reliability of

psychotherapy and many diverse cultural, historical

and holistic traditions of mind-body healing.

The primary research literature of psychosocial

genomics today brings together a variety of topdown

psychotherapeutic processes. They include the

relaxation response (Dusek et al., 2008); therapeutic

hypnosis (Cozzolino, et al., 2015; Rossi, et. al,, 2008;

Lichtenberg et al., 2000, 2004; Rossi, 2012; Rossi &

Rossi, 2013); meditation (Creswell et al., 2012); the

therapeutic placebo (Sliwinski and Elkins, 2013);

social psychology (Cole, 2009, Cole et al., 2005, 2007,

2010, 2011), and yoga (Lavretsky et al., 2013). The

motivation all psychosocial genomic research to

facilitate the resolution of stress related dysfunctions

(Unternaehrer et al., 2012; Yount & Rachlin, 2014).

We mentored the use of DNA microarrays, for

example, to explore the hypothesis that such topdown

therapeutic protocols, epitomized by The

Psychosocial Genomic Healing Experience (CPGHE),

is the scientific foundation of a more general theory

of mind-body communication and healing with

therapeutic hypnosis (Cozzolino et al., 2014; 2015).

A full description of the administration, scoring and

clinical application of the top-down CPGHE protocol

in therapeutic hypnosis is freely available (Rossi,

2012).

 

References

Bar-Joseph Z, Gitter A & Itamar S (2012). Studying and modeling dynamic biological processes using time-series

gene expression data. Nature Reviews Genetics, 13, 552-564.

Cole S (2009). Social regulation of human gene expression. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 132-

137.

Cole S Hawkley L, Arevalo J & Cacioppo J (2011). Transcript origin analysis identifies antigen-presenting cells as

primary targets of socially regulated gene expression in leukocytes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 108, 3080–3085.

Cole S Yan W, Galic Z, Arevalo J & Zack J (2005). Expression-based monitoring of transcription factor activity: the

TELiS database. Bioinformatics, 21, 803–810.

Cole S, Arevalo J, Takahashi R, Sloan EK, Lutgendorf S, Sood A, Sheridan J & Seeman T (2010). Computational

identification of gene–social environment interaction at the human IL6 locus. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 107,

5681–5686.

Cole S, Hawkley L, Arevalo J, Sung C, Rose R & Cacioppo J (2007). Social regulation of gene expression in human

leukocytes. Genome Biology, 8, R189–R189.13.

Cole, 2009, Cole et al., 2005, 2007, 2010, 2011), and yoga

Cozzolino M, Tagliaferri R, Castiglione S, Fortino V, Cicatelli A, De Luca P, Guarino F, Napolitano F, Celia G, Iannotti S,

Raiconi G, Rossi K & Rossi E (2014). The creative psychosocial and cultural genomic healing experience: A new

top-down epigenomic psychotherapeutic protocol. The International Journal of Psychosocial Genomics:

Consciousness and Health Research. Vol. 1(1), 18-25. www.psychosocialgenomics.com.

Cozzolino M., Cicatelli A., Fortino V., Guarino F., Tagliaferri R., Castiglione S., De Luca S., Napolitano F., Celia G., Iannotti S.,

Raiconi G., Rossi K., Rossi E., The mind-body healing experience (MHE) is associated with gene expression in human

leukocytes, in “International Journal of Physical and Social Sciences”, volume 5, Issue 5, May 2015, India.

Creswell J, Irwin M, Burklund L, Lieberman M, Arevalo J, Ma J, Breen E, & Cole S (2012). Mindfulness-Based Stress

Reduction training reduces loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults: A small

randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2012.07.006. Stroebe W.,

Strack F., The Alleged Crisis and the Illusion of Exact Replication in “Perspectives on Psychological Science”,

2014, Vol 9(1) 59–71

Dusek J, Otu, H, Wohlhueter A, Bhasin M, Zerbini L, Joseph M, Benson H & Libermann T (2008). Genomic Counter-Stress

Changes Induced by the Relaxation Response. PLoS ONE 3(7): e2576. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002576.

Ferguson C. J., “Everybody knows psychology is not a real science”: Public perceptions of psychology and how

we can improve our relationship with policymakers, the scientific community, and the general public, in

“American Psychologist”, Vol. 70(6), Sep 2015, 527-542.

Kurilla B., Can We Trust Psychological Research? in “Geek Psychologyst”, July 23, 2015

Lavretsky H, Epel ES, Siddarth P, Nazarian N, Cyr NS, Khalsa DS, Lin J, Blackburn E & Irwin MR (2013). A pilot study

of yogic meditation for family dementia caregivers with depressive symptoms: effects on mental health,

cognition, and telomerase activity. Int. J. Geriatric Psychiatry. 28(1):57-65.

Lichtenberg P, Bachner-Melman R, Ebstein R & Crawford H (2004). Hypnotic Susceptibility: Multidimensional

Relationships with Cloninger’s Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire, COMT polymorphisms, absorption,

and attentional characteristics. International Journal Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis, 52, 47-72.

Lichtenberg P, Bachner-Melman R, Gritsenko I & Ebstein R (2000). Exploratory Association Study between catechol-Omethyltransferase

(COMT) high/low enzyme activity polymorphism and Hypnotizability. American J. Medical

Genetics, 96, 771-774.

Rossi E (2002). The Psychobiology of Gene Expression: Neuroscience and Neurogenesis in Hypnosis and the

Healing arts. NY: WW Norton.

Rossi, E., Iannotti, S., Cozzolino, M., Castiglione, S., Cicatelli, A. & Rossi, K. (2008). A pilot study of positive

expectations and focused attention via a new protocol for therapeutic hypnosis assessed with DNA

microarrays: The creative psychosocial genomic healing experience. Sleep and hypnosis: An International

Journal of Sleep, Dream, and Hypnosis, 10:2, 39-44.

Rossi E (2012). Creating Consciousness: How Therapists Can Facilitate Wonder, Wisdom, Truth and Beauty: The

Selected Papers of Ernest Lawrence Rossi, Vol. 2. Phoenix: AZ: The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Press.

Rossi E & Rossi K (2013). Creating New Consciousness in Everyday Life: The Psychosocial Genomics of Self-Creation.

A Video eBook available @ Amazon.com.

Rossi E & Rossi K (2014a). An Evolutionary RNA/DNA Psychogenomic Theory of the Transformations of

Consciousness: The Quest for Therapeutic Mind/Gene Search Algorithms. The International Journal for

Transformations of Consciousness. Vol. 1, 1-20. http://www.globetranscons.com.

Rossi E & Rossi K (2014b) Quantum Perspectives of Consciousness, Cognition and Creativity: The Dirac Equation

in a New Contour Integral Model of Brain Plasticity. Journal of Applied & Computational Mathematics. Vol. 3

(6): 183. http://dx.doi.org/10.4172/2168-9679.1000183

Rossi E & Rossi K (2015). Optimizing the Human Condition with Psychosocial Genomic Star Maps: Implicit

Processing Heuristics in the 4-Stage Creative Cycle. The International Journal of Psychosocial Genomics:

Consciousness and Health Research. Vol. 1(2). 5-17 www.psychosocialgenomics.com.

8 The International Journal of Psychosocial and Cultural Genomics, Consciousness & Health Research / Oct, 2015

Rossi E, Rossi K, Cozzolino M & Joly-Li J (2015). The Quantum Field Theory of Psychosocial Genomics: A Quantum

Bayesian Notation for Therapeutic Consciousness & Cognition. The International Journal of Psychosocial

Genomics: Consciousness and Health Research. Vol. 1(3). www.psychosocialgenomics.com.

Sliwinski J & Elkins G (2013). Enhancing placebo effects: insights from social psychology. American Journal of

Clinical Hypnosis. 55: 236-248. Rossi, et. al,, 2008;

Unternaehrer E, Luers P, Mill J et al. (2012). Dynamic changes in DNA methylation of stress-associated genes

(OXTR, BDNF) after acute psychosocial stress. Translational Psychiatry, 2, e150, doi:10.1038/tp.2012.77.

Yount G & Rachlin K (2014). A novel mouthwash protocol for noninvasive genomic analyses. The International

Journal of Psychosocial Genomics: Consciousness and Health Research. Vol. 1(1), 12-17. www.

psychosocialgenomics.com Yount&Rachlin, 2014). Al