In class on Monday, we discussed the weekend article by psychologist Tony Humphreys as published in the Irish Examiner. You will recall that the article — which claimed that autism was not a neurodevelopmental disorder but in fact was the result of poor parenting — had caused a great deal of public distress. Moreover, both scientifically and logically, it was deeply flawed. Well, you can now read my full blog post on the matter here.

Coincidentally (and I know it’s a coincidence because I was in touch with the author yesterday), today’s Irish Times features another article on the aetiology of autism written by a prominent clinical psychologist.  The psychologist, Paul O’Donoghue, discusses a separate–but similar–recent controversy in France, where a court has ruled that a film critical of a theory similar to that of Tony Humphreys should be censored (arising from complaints my advocates of such theories).  O’Donoghue carefully sets out the scientific context that makes the theories controversial. I think it’s a good piece. You can read it here.

Two observations:

  1. The author of the Irish Times article is a member of the national professional body (the Psychological Society of Ireland) and, as such, is formally registered and subject to requirements for ongoing professional training (a.k.a., ‘continuing professional development’) in order to maintain that status. As far as I know, the author of the controversial Irish Examiner piece is not a member of that body (although he may be a member of some other organisation, not formally recognised by the Health and Social Care Professions Council). If so, then he will not be subject to CPD requirements, nor subject to professional conduct procedures. Nor will he be on a register from which he could ever be ‘struck off’. (N.B.: As mentioned, Humphreys’s status as a non-PSI-member is labelled “as far as I know”. I have heard it from multiple sources. However,  I am happy to be corrected on this if it is in fact untrue.)  
  2. The Irish Times article appears in the ‘Science’ section of the newspaper. The controversial Irish Examiner article appeared in its weekend lifestyle supplement. This may say something about the need for and merits of appropriate editorial rigour when dealing with specialist topics.
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About Brian Hughes

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5 responses »

  1. Sam says:

    The Psychological Society of Ireland confirmed to callers yesterday that Tony Humphreys is not a registered psychologist. Several comments have been left on the Irish Autism Action Facebook page by named commenters.

    He does have a doctorate, but not in medicine. He has a PhD in hypnosis.

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