Readers may remember our commentary about the positivity lady.
In 2005, she wrote a paper to link human happiness with nonlinear dynamics and came up with a precise ratio of 2.9013 (critical positivity ratio) to improve life !!
The critical positivity ratio (also known as the Losada ratio or the Losada line) is a largely discredited concept in positive psychology positing an exact ratio of positive to negative emotions which distinguishes “flourishing” people from “languishing” people. The ratio was proposed by Marcial Losada and psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, who identified a ratio of positive to negative affect of exactly 2.9013 as separating flourishing from languishing individuals in a 2005 paper in American Psychologist. The concept of a critical positivity ratio was widely embraced by both academic psychologists and the lay public; Fredrickson and Losada’s paper was cited nearly 1,000 times, and Fredrickson wrote a popular book expounding the concept of “the 3-to-1 ratio that will change your life”. Fredrickson wrote: “Just as zero degrees Celsius is a special number in thermodynamics, the 3-to-1 positivity ratio may well be a magic number in human psychology.”
In 2013, the critical positivity ratio aroused the skepticism of Nick Brown, a graduate student in applied positive psychology, who felt that the paper’s mathematical claims underlying the critical positivity ratio were fundamentally flawed. Brown collaborated with physicist Alan Sokal and psychologist Harris Friedman on a re-analysis of the paper’s data. They found that Fredrickson and Losada’s paper contained “numerous fundamental conceptual and mathematical errors”, as did Losada’s earlier work on positive psychology, which completely invalidated their claims. Losada declined to respond to the criticism, indicating that he was too busy running his consulting business. Fredrickson wrote a response in which she conceded that the mathematical aspects of the critical positivity ratio were “questionable” and that she had “neither the expertise nor the insight” to defend them, but she maintained that the empirical evidence was solid. Brown and colleagues, whose response was published the next year, maintain that there is no evidence for the critical positivity ratio whatsoever.
That paper got retracted eight years later, when a group of scientists, including well-known physicist Alan Sokal, called her BS. By then, the positivity lady was on to her new venture involving genomics and, believe it or not, bioinformatics to show the effect of positivity on life. Our earlier blog post linked above was about another nonsensical claim from her that uses gene expression analysis to show impact of purpose in life. Last year, we published a paper in PNAS to again show that her claims were all meaningless.
This article critically reanalyzes the work of Fredrickson et al. [Fredrickson BL, et al. (2013) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 110(33):1368413689], which claimed to show that distinct dimensions of psychological well-being are differentially correlated with levels of expression of a selection of genes associated with distinct forms of immune response. We show that not only is Fredrickson et al.s article conceptually deficient, but more crucially, that their statistical analyses are fatally flawed, to the point that their claimed results are in fact essentially meaningless. We believe that our findings may have implications for the reevaluation of other published genomics research based on comparable statistical analyses and that a variant of our methodology might be useful for such a reevaluation.
Today we are shocked to learn that NIH is now funding her ‘proven-by- genetics’ method to cure human beings !! This grant seems to have gotten approved after the publication of our paper. Therefore, NIH is completely ignoring all criticisms to allow this disgusting junk science to proceed.
Here is part of the abstract of the grant application -
An innovative upward spiral theory o lifestyle change positions warm and empathic emotional states as key pathways to unlocking the body’s inherent plasticity to reverse entrenched biological risk factors. The PI’s team has identified an affective intervention - the ancient practice of loving-kindness meditation (LKM) - that produces salubrious biological effects in healthy midlife adults. The innovation of the present study lies in testing this affective intervention in a sample of midlife adults on poor health trajectories by virtue of having low childhood SES plus present-day pathogenic behavioral tendencies (i.e., impulsivity and mistrust). A dual-blind placebo- controlled randomized controlled trial (RCT) is designed to provide proof of principle that early-established biological risks factors are mutable, not permanent.
If you are doing real science and cannot get NIH grant, please contact the grant manager Nielsen Lisbeth at National Institute of Aging to stop this nonsense. You can find her email address at this link.