Donald P. Corriveau, Ph.D.

        In his column, Jeffrey A. Schaler exposes the
controlling influences of contradiction. Drawing
inferences to George Orwell, the process of controlling
others through rhetorical devices is called
"doublespeak." Consequently, the successful
implementation of this process results in contradiction
of thought, "doublethink."

        Dr. Schaler argues that dictators deliberately and
intentional use doublespeak to control the behavior of
others. This method of behavioral control appears
particularly effective with individuals who use
peripheral-route processing and is less effective with
central-route processing. Thus, if we are to free the
masses from the shackles of doublespeak, we need to
empower people to become central route processors.

        Dr. Schaler raises several important points and
challenges all of us to examine the nature of our own
cognitive functioning. The purpose of this paper is to
expose and explore the presence of doublespeak in
Science and to suggest methods of inoculating ourselves
from its deleterious effects.


        Dr. Schaler argues that contradiction serves to
contradict the authority of another. I agree. However,
contradiction is not necessarily manipulative or
exploitative. In a Darwinian sense, contradiction
allows variation, the prerequisite to natural selection.
Contradiction is a necessary first step in the
identification of peripheral-route processing. In
science, peripheral-route processing is akin to "The
Method of Authority" and stands as a warning label to
validate our hypotheses in an objective manner.

        Historically, the method of authority held that the
earth was the center of the universe around which all
other heavenly bodies circled. Clearly, at one time,
many people agreed with this notion. While the belief
itself may have had religious-political benefits, I
cannot believe that ALL individuals who held this view
did so in an intentional attempt to exploit others.
Instead, I am more inclined to believe that misguided
beliefs are fueled by a lack of attention to underlying
premises and a failure to subject our hypotheses to the
rigors of scientific method.

        Occasionally, Science is blessed with a Galileo - a
person who challenges authority and has us reexamine our
assumptions. This is not to say that everyone who
challenges authority should be commended for it!
Divergent thinking simply lays a foundation for Science
to evolve. Through processes of natural selection, the
strongest ideas survive. Of course, in science, ideas
must be presented in a testable format. Otherwise, we
might all continue to believe that the world is flat.
Fortunately, inquiring minds want to know.

        In Science, pioneers should be commended for their
contradictions. While pioneers skew the distribution of
thought, their contributions are certainly not in
bringing us to the extreme as much as it is in bringing
us back to the middle. B.F. Skinner's contribution to
our discussion of freedom and dignity is the realization
that at least some of our behavior is controlled by its
consequences. Thomas Szasz's attention to the myth of
mental illness shares a similar contribution in drawing
attention to the dangers of using "mental illness' as an
excuse to gain political, economic and legal goals.
However, in absolute terms, is ALL behavior controlled
by its consequences?
Similarly, do ALL mental health professionals use the
concept of mental illness as an excuse for self-serving

        While contradiction is an important first step in
discovering new truths, how do we protect ourselves from
the ravages of doublethink? Strangely, the scientific
method may be our strongest ally. Principles of the
scientific method may help us identify doublespeak.
Identifying doublespeak may be the best vaccine for
doublethink. As an exercise, let's try to identify
components of doublespeak in Dr. Schaler's present
column. In doing so, I'll share three useful tools.


        In my own view, one notable characteristic of
doublespeak is over-generalization. Doublespeak can
include limitations in both sampling and generalization
of results.  One strong hint of over-generalization is
what I have called "They-ism." They-ism is found at the
central core of bigotry, terrorism, and dictatorships.
As we will see, they-ism also affects scientists and
philosophers and rests as a particular danger whenever
extreme positions are presented.

        A close reading of Dr. Schaler's column reveals a
multitude of they-isms. As one example, Dr. Schaler
conveniently lumps all spokespersons for psychiatric
survivors into a single category and subsequently refers
to them as "they." Thus, all spokespersons for
psychiatric survivors are ascribed the same motivation,
thought, and behavior. How can this be? In my own
observations of human behavior, I have never found even
two people with exactly the same thoughts and feelings.

        To cite another example, Dr. Schaler appears 
to agree with Thomas Szasz in thinking that mental health
professionals use the concept of mental illness
to justify their existence. Thus, not only do all
mental health professionals have the same thoughts and
behaviors but they presumably also have the same
motivations. To continue with our exercise, examine
the content of Dr. Schaler's writings and his radio talk
show dialogue. Can you identify more they-isms?


        A particularly powerful form of manipulative
doublespeak includes substituting faulty logic with even
more faulty logic. Consider Dr. Schaler's assertion that
all editors of the Washington Post oppose religious
freedom (drug use) in America. Let's dissect this
conclusion. Artful doublespeak often begins with a term
or phrase that facilitates strong imagery or
visualization. "Religious freedom" is such a phrase.
Notice how Dr. Schaler parenthetically juxtaposes the
term drug use behind the term religious freedom.
Hopefully inconspicuous, this substitution of terms may
manipulate the reader into thinking that the editors of
the Washington Post are in fact opposed to religious
freedom. Notice the implication that anyone who opposes
religious freedom should be somehow despised. Careful
attention should be placed on the fact that it is Dr.
Schaler's rhetoric that equates religious freedom with
drug use.

        A variant to the substitution in logic approach is
to include ill-defined premises into propositions. At
one point, Dr. Schaler wrote, "The mind cannot be sick."
In studying this premise, my immediate question is, "How
do you define the word mind?" There are several variants
in the definition of this term. If one finds support for
a subsequent proposition using a single variant, do the
propositions hold for other variants as well? I think


        Another strong warning taught by the scientific
method includes the over-generalization of results.
While Freud's case study of little Hans may have
provided the foundation for a theory of psychosexual
human development, I'm hard pressed to believe that
little Hans is an exemplar of humankind. I'm equally
hard pressed to agree with Dr. Schaler's central thesis.

        Incidentally, what is Dr. Schaler's central thesis?
His article appears devoted to specific examples in
which his "letters to the editor" were not published.
His selection of radio talk show transcripts are used to
present further validation of his major points. Overall,
his selectivity illustrates the tremendous
potential of bias that accompanies over-generalization.
Presenting anecdotal accounts is useful if it makes us
think and if it leads to further hypothesis testing.
However, drawing unsupported conclusions based on
anecdotal evidence is faulty and not particularly

        In his article, Dr. Schaler cites four specific
examples of letters that were not accepted for
publication. The letters were meant to be examples
where he exposed contradictions to news stories. He
writes, "What is interesting is how the editors chose
not to publish any letters contradicting their editorial
positions on their news story." Let's carefully examine
Dr. Schaler's conclusion. Was he in fact discriminated
against for his views? First and foremost, we are not
presented the actual data. In a more global sense, how
many of Dr. Schaler's letters actually get accepted?
How does he fare against baseline acceptance rates? How
many letters to the editor did the editors have to
select from? Were his letters any good? The point here
is that there are many plausible reasons why Dr.
Schaler's specific letters to the editor mentioned in
this article were not published. His conclusion that he
knows the "real reason" why editors
deliberately rejected his letters is an example of over-
generalization. His conclusion reflects doublespeak and
lays the foundation for doublethink.


        The irony of course is that Dr. Schaler's
conclusion may in fact be correct. The problem with
doublespeak is that we have no way to objectively test
our hypotheses.  Finding they-isms, substitutions of
logic and over-generalizations are tools that I use to
sight the red flags of doublespeak.

        What do you think? Are you aware of other examples
of doublespeak that pervades our professions or, for
that matter, society? Perhaps we should invite
submissions of examples to a new column called
DOUBLESPEAK. George Orwell would be proud.

Donald P. Corriveau, Ph.D.         
Assistant Editor, PsychNews International
Professor of Psychology
University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth