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
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,
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.