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Value and Risk of the Lifespring Trainings

Lifespring's experiential educational programs were the subject of several independent scientific studies. Taken together, these studies now comprise the largest body of research on any such educational program. Charles Ingrasci interviewed one of the principal scientific investigators, Dr. Mort Lieberman, for an update on this research.

CI: What is your affiliation with Lifespring?

ML: The Lifespring setting has permitted me to follow a line of research on "Change Induction Groups" I started about 40 years ago. Similar to other funding sources, I submit research proposals to Lifespring, they pay the research costs, I design the research, and the data belongs to me. I retain full independent control of the how and what of the study. My research on Lifespring has been reported in scholastic journals in the past and will continue to be in the future.

CI: What are the objectives of your scientific research on "Change Induction Groups"? What can it tell us?

ML: Well, you see, the human mind is all too prone to see patterns where there are none. The Scientific Method enables us to minimize subjectivity. When it deals with complex humans, there are many variations of the Scientific Method, but they have a common core. The procedures used to develop information are described in terms which permit other researchers to replicate the study. Another investigator could take the same methods and should develop similar conclusions. Even if they do not, they should be able to follow the study to see that the conclusions are clearly embedded in the information gathered.

CI: What's the difference between science and expert opinion?

ML: Let me illustrate this by reviewing my particular research interests, "People Changing Groups." If you go back over the last 40 or 50 years, you will find various statements by professionals about many such groups. In 1950, I was involved in the National Training Laboratories which developed Training Groups, or "T-Groups," as they were popularly known. Several articles were published by psychiatrists suggesting that T-Groups were dangerous. Their information was based on having seen a handful of patients who had participated in T-Groups. That is not science. That is opinion. It's not science because in order to make any statement about the positive or negative benefits, you have to study a sample of people that you don't preselect. Any statement made about effects based upon a small, highly selective subgroup of people is not science, it's opinion.

CI: So science attempts to eliminate, or at least define, subjectivity?

ML: You can't totally escape from some subjectivity in any endeavor. The difference in science is that the subjectivity can be publicly perceived and criticized. For example, if someone studies the effects of an educational system and uses responses from people as to how much they liked or got out of it, those are subjective responses. But they are responses that are open: the methods are clear and identifiable. And the conclusion is based upon objective information about the subjectivity, so it's there for everyone to see. A lot of what passes for expert opinion in the area of education is generated primarily by passion and not a disciplined evaluation of what's really going on.

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