After hearing a few times about the divorce predictions of researchers John Gottman and James Murray (work that was featured in Blink with a claim that they could predict with 83 percent accuracy whether a couple would be divorced–after meeting with them for 15 minutes) and feeling some skepticism, I decided to do the Lord’s work and amend Gottman’s wikipedia entry, which had a paragraph saying:
Gottman found his methodology predicts with 90% accuracy which newlywed couples will remain married and which will divorce four to six years later. It is also 81% percent accurate in predicting which marriages will survive after seven to nine years.
I added the following:
Gottman’s claim of 81% or 90% accuracy is misleading, however, because the accuracy is measured only after fitting a model to his data. There is no evidence that he can predict the outcome of a marriage with high accuracy in advance. As Laurie Abraham writes, “For the 1998 study, which focused on videotapes of 57 newlywed couples . . . He knew the marital status of his subjects at six years, and he fed that information into a computer along with the communication patterns turned up on the videos. Then he asked the computer, in effect: Create an equation that maximizes the ability of my chosen variables to distinguish among the divorced, happy, and unhappy. . . . What Gottman did wasn’t really a prediction of the future but a formula built after the couples’ outcomes were already known. . . . The next step, however–one absolutely required by the scientific method–is to apply your equation to a fresh sample to see whether it actually works. That is especially necessary with small data slices (such as 57 couples), because patterns that appear important are more likely to be mere flukes. But Gottman never did that. Each paper he’s published heralding so-called predictions is based on a new equation created after the fact by a computer model.”
I was thinking this would just get shot down right away, but I checked on it every now and then and it was still up.
Full disclosure: I [Annsy5] work for The Gottman Relationship Institute, which was co-founded by John Gottman, and we would like a change made to the Wikipedia entry on him.
The 3rd paragraph is made up largely of Laurie Abraham’s claims about Dr. Gottman’s research. Ms. Abraham’s claims are inaccurate, and thorough citations can be found here: http://www.gottman.com/49853/Research-FAQs.html. We would like the paragraph removed, or at least moved to a section where the details of Dr. Gottman’s research can be expanded upon.
I know that it would be a violation of the Conflict of Interest policy for me to just go in and make the changes, so I would like other editors’ input. We’re not trying to bury anything “bad” about Dr. Gottman, we just want the information that is out there to be accurate! Please advise…
I don’t know enough about Wikipedia to want to add my paragraph back in, but what’s going on here? On 23:57, 20 May 2010, Annsy5 writes “I know that it would be a violation of the Conflict of Interest policy for me to just go in and make the changes,” and then on 23:13, 21 May 2010, Annsy5 goes and removes the paragraph and all references to criticisms of Gottman’s work.
That doesn’t seem right to me. A link to a rebuttal by Gottman would be fine. But removing all criticism while leaving the disputed “90% accuracy” claim . . . that’s a bit unscholarly, no?
P.S. A commenter asked why I posted this on the blog rather than doing this on wikipedia. The reason is that I’m more interested in the wikipedia aspect of this than the marriage-counseling aspect, and I thought the blog entry might get some interesting discussion. I know nothing about Gottman and Murray beyond what I’ve written on the blog, and I’m certainly not trying to make any expert criticism of their work. What does seem to be happening is that they get their claims out in the media and don’t have much motivation to tone down the sometimes overstated claims made on their behalf. Whatever the detailed merits of Abraham’s criticisms, I thought it was uncool for them to be removed from the wikipedia pages: Her reporting is as legitimate as Gladwell’s. But I’m not the one to make any technical additions here.