In chapter 3 and 4 of his Coming to Peace with Psychology (IVP, 2010), Everett Worthington continues to show us how we are not near as good at intuiting facts as they really are. We us heuristics (rules of thumb). Hidden factors influence our views, ideas, experiences, and behaviors. In chapter 3 he gives an example of clinical judgment about trauma vs. research data. He suggests that most clinicians believe that the vast majority of survivors of traumatic experiences will have some form of PTSD. In contrast to this assumption, George Bonanno provides research data suggesting that some 10-30 percent of trauma survivors have chronic problems. Another 5-10 percent have delayed problems. However, the rest recover quickly or are resilient altogether. His point? Clinicians think resiliency in the face of trauma is rare when in fact it is quite common.
I find this example a bit strange. He did not cite sources pointing to the fact that clinicians assume PTSD in most survivors. I would have expected that he, a scientist, would have done that. Most therapists I know don’t go fishing for PTSD when no symptoms exist.
I think his deeper point still stands. We humans believe what we believe in the face of inconsistent data. So, he wants to explore what more objective research about human behavior might give us in our quest for consider the relationship between psychological science (not psychotherapy) and Christianity.
These first 4 chapters appear to be Worthington’s efforts to make sure we recognize that empirical research can teach us much about human nature; that research is going to be useful in building a model relationship between psychology and Christianity. Good for him! Let’s see how he begins to deal with the disciplines of psychology and theology in the next chapters.