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    Susan Greenfield Invents A New Cause Of Autism And Carl Zimmer Invents A New Meme
    By Hank Campbell | August 7th 2011 11:01 PM | 41 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Susan Greenfield is always interesting.   And New Scientist is always willing to print anything.  It's a happy time when they get together.   

    Greenfield once said playing Prokofiev at half speed would lead to depression, leading me to reply

    Prokofiev 2nd concerto G minor

    so it's no surprise to anyone here she is now correlating the Internet and Autism.   It seems to have surprised at least a few other people, though.   

    Her reasoning is pretty clear.  Someone wrote in PLoS One that the brain changes and stuff.   Sure, that isn't a peer reviewed article but it's a confirmation bias one, which is almost as good.   
    Instead of Twitter and Facebook, she instead longs for her childhood and zombie families sitting together in front of a television, I guess because when there was no Internet and more television there was less Autism.  Jerry Mander probably wants to run over there and hit her in the knee with a crowbar (he is the author of "Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television" if you are not old, like me) after reading her opinion on how great TV is for families.

    Really, there isn't much more to her argument.  If that were the end of it, no big deal, everything changes our brains so she is technically correct.    Your brain changed reading this blog and laughing at my Prokofiev joke.   And it was in New Scientist.  It isn't like people who care about science read New Scientist anyway, it is kind of the TMZ of science media.

    So that alone was likely not what bothered journalist Carl Zimmer - much.  Dr. Dorothy Bishop, a professor of neuropsychology at Oxford, was quite bothered, though.   She wrote:
    I was delighted when in 1994 you were selected to give the Royal Institution Christmas lectures - the first woman ever to be so honoured. The lectures were fun and informative and delivered with enthusiasm and charisma. Since then, however, I’ve been dismayed by the way in which your public communications have moved increasingly away from science.
    1994 was when she said that business about Prokofiev.  I guess her thinking went downhill from there, with depressed babies and whatnot.  Blaming the Internet for ADHD was apparently okay but blaming it for that and Autism was the final straw.   I guess the fact that babies are not using Facebook and Twitter before they can even LOL or press the Like button was too much for Bishop.    The Guardian wanted to get to the bottom of the whole business so they interviewed Greenfield, who said
    "I point to the increase in autism and I point to internet use. That's all.  Establishing a causal relationship is very hard but there are trends out there that we must think about. I have not said that internet use causes autism and I would apologise to any family who is upset by anything I have said."
    And that seems to have bothered Carl Zimmer quite a bit, and rightly so.   How can that be all?  Researchers are finally establishing that Autism is up because of broader diagnostic criteria and better diagnosing in general and someone credible comes along and says it is the Internet but then dismisses her statement with 'that is all'?   Sure other researchers will be annoyed.

    Zimmer, one of the most respected science journalists in the world, wasn't just annoyed, he was dismissive, and that is a far worse thing in the modern age.  So on Twitter he invented a similar statement to her "I point to the increase in autism and I point to internet use. That's all" and called it a #Greenfieldism:



    And it went from there, with people joining in and including bits like 



    And so on.  Go to his column (if you don't already anyway - you really should) and read the rest but Greenfield has suffered a mighty blow.   It's one thing to have people arguing about your work, that is a good thing, but when they are blatantly ridiculing you, you have descended into "not even wrong" territory and you can't be taken seriously at all.  It's like being Dr. Oz or Deepak Chopra or any of the Four Horsemen Of The Alternative, Weil and Null being the other two; a real kiss of death in science.

    Comments

    rholley
    What about the effect of celebrity on the brain?
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Hfarmer
    I think that has been well established.  The best illustration of it would be this clip of Charlie Murphy, describing his interactions with Rick James. (WARNING: Coarse language is used to hilarious effect. NSFW, NSFC) 
    "Cocaine is a hell of a drug".

    I am known for embedding video's not this one.  This one's a little too raw.   
    Enjoy. :)
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    vongehr
    "I point to the increase in autism and I point to internet use. That's all"
    She really said that? Wow. And the replies were about waffles and Belgians? That is being pretty damn nice to her indeed! We could also maybe point to the increase in use of vaccines, or maybe point out the exit to her, real friendly, helping with a little push so she gets the message.
    Hank
    She said that in the Guardian and then those other replies (waffles, Brady Bunch, etc.) were people making fun of her for it on Twitter.  
    Susan Greenfield has some bugbear about the internet. At the recent National Press Club address in Australia she even suggested it might be responsible for declining academic scores. Now one can create arguments that point to that possibility but proving that possibility is entirely something else again. Some recent studies on the Flynn Effect strongly indicate that since 2000 the Flynn Effect has rapidly declined or even reversed. There are a host of confounding issues here but Greenfield seems to jump the gun.

    I don't even know why her views are attracting so much attention. My understanding was that she specialised in studying Parkinson's Disease, not cognition. Perhaps her popularity is a result of long blond hair and a good speaking style. It certainly does not relate to her scientific credentials or her intellectual prudence.

    Hfarmer
    I have not said that internet use causes autism and I would apologise to any family who is upset by anything I have said.
    I am not sure what to make of this.  On one hand she has pointed to two things that may or may not be (probably are not ) connected and "that's all".  Then she claims to have not causally linked them.   So what is the problem?  It's like writing:

    I point out that there have been massive solar flares.  I point out that the stock market has fallen. That's all. 


    Not even that absurd though, because as you point out yourself Hank, using the internet would change your brain.  Your brain is doing most of the work when using the internet.  It's at least plausible. 

    I would offer the following alternative:

    People with autism, in particular high functioning autism and Asperger's syndrome suffer from awkwardness in social interactions.  The biggest issue is picking up on non verbal cues. On the internet there are no non verbal cues to pick up on.  Therefore autistic people are drawn to the internet where they are on a level playing field with non autistic people.   Combine that with an increase in diagnoses of autism and I would be willing to bet $100 that explains her observations.

    I don't expect anyone to take a point of view like the last paragraph.  It's far more fun to riddicuel someone and far more fun to try to find something to blame for autism.     

    I don't even know why her views are attracting so much attention. My understanding was that she specialised in studying Parkinson's Disease, not cognition. Perhaps her popularity is a result of long blond hair and a good speaking style. It certainly does not relate to her scientific credentials or her intellectual prudence.
    Note to Hank: The above is a prime example of the kind of sexism people have been trying to explain to you does not always show through in numbers.  Greenfield has a job, and in the numbers would not look like she has been treated any different than a man.  However I'm sure she has been subjected to that kind of thinking in the above quote.  Weather she's a good scientist or not, where she a male (or a less attractive woman) this would not be said of her. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Note to Hank: The above is a prime example of the kind of sexism people have been trying to explain to you does not always show through in numbers.

    That is not sexism, it is pointing out that a person's views become popular because of certain characteristics that don't necessarily have anything to do with the quality of their thinking. "Long blond hair" and "good speaking style" can relate to a male as much as a female. Read the relevant research, these types of qualities can have a very significant bearing on how a person's views are received. You can apologise for the slur at your leisure.

    As to the autism linkage, autism rates have been rising(1980s) for far longer than the internet and autism is typically diagnosed long before the child has significant exposure to the internet. That alone seriously discounts her suggestion. If you listen to experts on autism, people who have spent their lives studying the condition, you will hear them express a host of possible causal factors. There is still considerable debate as whether or not the rates have actually increased. I do believe the rates have increased and I am very confident there is no single causative factor implicated but rather a host of causal factors; either alone or in unison. Choosing to highlight one possibility without making mention of the huge ambiguity in the literature is not putting forward a balanced perspective.

    Hfarmer
    That is not sexism, it is pointing out that a person's views become popular because of certain characteristics that don't necessarily have anything to do with the quality of their thinking. "Long blond hair" and "good speaking style" can relate to a male as much as a female.
    Nonsense.  Furthermore there is plenty of peer reviewed research which shows that attractive women are thought of differently in certain fields. I even cited it.   Here it is again.
    The Journal of Social Psychology
     Issue: Volume 150, Number 3 / May-June 2010
     Pages: 301 - 318
     DOI: 10.1080/00224540903365414

    The “what is beautiful is good” heuristic suggests that physically attractive persons benefit from their attractiveness in a large range of situations, including perceptions of employment suitability. Conversely, the “beauty is beastly” effect suggests that attractiveness can be detrimental to women in certain employment contexts, although these findings have been less consistent than those for the “what is beautiful is good” effect. The current research seeks to uncover situations in which beauty might be detrimental for female applicants. In two studies, we found that attractiveness can be detrimental for women applying for masculine sex-typed jobs for which physical appearance is perceived as unimportant.

    Here is a link to "Vanity Fair"'s good popularizeation of the study. 

    I can cite other research if necessary.

    Hank also related to me the issues his attractive wife with long blonde hair had in her job.  A job in a male dominated field.  So, I think he will see what I am driving at. 

    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Hank
    My wife was an example, sure, and I saw no reason not to extrapolate it out as a talking point.   But that was in the 1990s and she was the only 20-something woman in a group where all the men were near retirement.  We just can't infer that attitude is the same today, especially in academia, which is far more progressive than it was even then.   But even then, this mega-giant corporation did everything it could to squash all -ism conduct, so she did not blame the company and say the company was sexist, she just felt like it was some old idiot who made her work harder to be respected for her intelligence that an old man would have had to work.   That is a key point.   A business can only do so much, it can't go Big Brother on the thoughts of individual idiots.
    Hfarmer
    The study I cited wasn't from the 1990's it was from 2010. So perhaps your assumption that everything's fine now needs to be re-examined. 
    Your wife's example was germane because the previous comment brought up "long blond hair".  Why the heck is her hair, gender, or anything else even though to be relevant.  I wouldn't even have thought of it if it weren't for that blond hair remark. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Hank
    Unless you are contending a comment by one person indicates something about sexism at Science 2.0, a completely spurious notion, I don't see how it matters.   My discussion was endemic sexism in academia, I said too many times to count individual events happen still and sexism was common in the past.    There is no evidence to show sexism in the institution, just differences in people.

    You would certainly not be arguing we suppress differences in individuals, would you?
    Hfarmer
    My comment was that his bringing up her blonde hair and looks is a type of sexism which does not show up in data.  
    What you thought people were saying was "Hank, your a white man so you can't understand the data". 

    What we were saying (or trying to say) was "Hank, not all the discrimination shows up in the data."

    Treating a woman differently in any way, positive or negative, is sexism.  Giving an attractive woman a break a man would not get is sexism.  Using the fact a woman is attractive against her is sexism.  

    Little comments like the one I responded to can add up to someone quitting a whole field just to eliminate the constant hostility from their life. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Hank
    Ummm, if you check the comments on the other article, the vast majority did say because I am a man the data does not count.  Also, that I was a misogynist and sexist and whatever buzzwords people use if someone disagrees because the important data, hiring, does not agree with their claims.   There was no patronizing women by me in the comments or the article, it was all women attacking.   So are women in science more sexist than men?  Sure, if we go by those comments, because 'not all discrimination shows up in data' and those women would never admit to being sexist in a survey.

    You take one comment here as evidence of covert sexism yet ignore the insults and discrimination against me over there as having any meaning at all.   Are you sexist?
    Not loggin in for the sake of expediency.

    I am not responsible for what the others said. I only ever said that there exist forms of sexism that would not show in employment numbers.

    i.e. Hiring a woman then treating her differently by not giving the same resources, holding her loooks (good or bad) against her, etc. What does it matter if more women get jobs if they are then pressured to quit?

    Gerhard Adam
    Treating a woman differently in any way, positive or negative, is sexism.  Giving an attractive woman a break a man would not get is sexism.  Using the fact a woman is attractive against her is sexism.
    Well, there's the paradox.  Women want to be treated equally, so long as it's the man that must change his behavior.  If a woman is treated the same as a man treats other men, then it's sexist.

    Is it sexist if a woman wears make-up or wears clothes that accentuate physical differences?

    So when we see women in the press that have make-up on and their hair done, are we to assume that they are attempting to manipulate their image?  After all, this is clearly disingenuous if the point is to be equal and not have men notice.   

    I also assume that all the women's magazines that focus on fashion and appearance are also sexist?

    Well, you've convinced me.  I no longer give a damn about sexism, since it appears that the mere act of being a man makes me a sexist .... no point worrying about it.  I guess women need to figure this one out on their own.

    Interestingly, I'm waiting to see all the feminists in line to repeal domestic violence laws, child custody laws, abortion rights, and maternity laws (i.e. like early discharge from the military). 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    "Long blond hair" and "good speaking style" can relate to a male as much as a female. Read the relevant research, these types of qualities can have a very significant bearing on how a person's views are received. You can apologise for the slur at your leisure.
    ha ha ... well, that is likely part of the problem.   Someone who wants to claim Science 2.0 is misogynist, for example, doesn't want evidence, they want an example, and you referencing her hair would be it even though it has nothing to do with the site.   It is much the same in academia where they have gone as far as anyone can go, short of quotas and union salaries, to be a welcoming place for diverse people and still get clobbered if it is not a perfect system.

    We have to assume that her fellow researcher, a woman, did not criticize because of her gender and she wouldn't have gotten any attention anywhere if she had not been called out because her original article was in New Scientist, which no one reads anyway. 
    Hfarmer
    I did read the relevant, peer reviewed research, I cited it.    
    I did not say science 2.0 was sexist but that bringing up a womans looks in this context is sexist.  Men simply don't deal with this issue.  

    The woman's criticism of her wasn't sexist.  That does not change that anyone throwing in a womans looks is sexist. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Hank
    What about the 'communication skills' Dr. Bishop mentioned as the reason for Greenfield's success?  Is that secret sexism language?  I don't see a lot of ugly people on TV.
    Hfarmer
    I wasn't commenting on Dr. Bishop's remarks.  I was responding to this comment made by John here
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    But that was in the 1990s and she was the only 20-something woman in a group where all the men were near retirement.

    In the 1980's my sister started a company that went on to become very successful, she recently sold it and now sits on the board of a major Australian corporation. She stated that when she started out sexism was a real problem but that it has largely receded these days. Prior to starting a business she worked in academia. She left it because she got sick of the politics!

    As for your charge Hontas, you are the only person who has accused me of sexism. Tis rather hard to be sexist when you have a sister who succeeded in a once very male dominated profession and went on to create a company that is regarded as one of the best in my country Australia and prior to that was involved in cutting edged research.

    Hfarmer
    THE STUDY I CITED WAS FROM 2010
    The Journal of Social Psychology
     Issue: Volume 150, Number 3 / May-June 2010
     Pages: 301 - 318
     DOI: 10.1080/00224540903365414

    The “what is beautiful is good” heuristic suggests that physically attractive persons benefit from their attractiveness in a large range of situations, including perceptions of employment suitability. Conversely, the “beauty is beastly” effect suggests that attractiveness can be detrimental to women in certain employment contexts, although these findings have been less consistent than those for the “what is beautiful is good” effect. The current research seeks to uncover situations in which beauty might be detrimental for female applicants. In two studies, we found that attractiveness can be detrimental for women applying for masculine sex-typed jobs for which physical appearance is perceived as unimportant.



    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    rholley
    If we can get back to what Lady Greensleeves herself did write:
    There is an increase in people with autistic spectrum disorders. There are issues with happy-slapping, the rise in the appeal of Twitter - I think these show that people's attitude to each other and themselves is changing.
    Methinks that here the lady hath verily gone a little bit over the top.

    Now I do not dispute the high probability that being wired up has made significant changes to the wetware of our brains.

    It is, indeed, possible that the use of the internet tends to produce, among certain individuals (myself included) behavioural symptoms that might also be associated with ASD.  But, if I may use a grisly analogy, people may die of dehydration during a drought, or because of cholera during a flood.

    In the last few days, we have had riots in London, with looters coordinating their activities by Twitter.  But one cannot immediately deduce that modern technology is responsible for the tendency to loot, although it may allow people to do so more efficiently.  Though one might note the irony that one of the chief stores being ransacked is PC World.

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Hank
    Growing up in the country, some older members of my extended family did not like that I read so much, because of eye strain, etc., and that I read fiction, which would rot my brain.   Greenfield longs for a return to a television culture, which certainly is contrarian to the views of older scientists in the brain field.

    Generally, it seems that how we did it when we were kids is the best way and that pesky newfangled media is damaging to kids, and that peril changes every generation.  

    Rioting was not more pronounced due to text messages, cell phones before that, pay phones or fliers on trees, and likely not more efficient.   People are still basically lazy and rioting is hard work.
    Hfarmer
    What the internet does do is magnify the effect of peer pressure on young people.  People who are college age and younger used to deal with peer pressure at school.  Then the rest of the day the pressure was off.  Surely there was a lingering effect of the pressure but it wasn't in your face all the time. 
    Now you can get an Android phone which is connected all the time to facebook and twitter.  The peer pressure, cliqueish behavior, bullying, harassment, "romance" etc. can all go on 24x7.  For many young people I know their facebook status is more important than their real life status.  


    As for the internet and rioting.  Those people will soon find that the internet makes law enforcement more efficient too. :)
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Hfarmer
    I think some people may owe Ms. Greenfield a bit of an apology.  She's not the only one who's thinking what she's thinking. _http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2011/08/social-kids.aspx
    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2390598,00.asp


    Obsessively using anything is probably not good for your health, whether it's video games, exercise, or Facebook. But in a recent study, Dr. Larry D. Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, found that "teens who use Facebook more often show more narcissistic tendencies while young adults who have a strong Facebook presence show more signs of other psychological disorders, including antisocial behaviors, mania, and aggressive tendencies."
    Here is a link to the conference presentation for the American Psychological association that pcmag mentions.

    Presentation: “Poke Me: How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids"

    Larry D. Rosen, PhD, California State University, Dominguez Hills

    Plenary Session: 3378, 4:00 - 4:50 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 6, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Street Level, Room 147 B.

    • Teens who use Facebook more often show more narcissistic tendencies while young adults who have a strong Facebook presence show more signs of other psychological disorders, including antisocial behaviors, mania and aggressive tendencies.  
    • Daily overuse of media and technology has a negative effect on the health of all children, preteens and teenagers by making them more prone to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders, as well as by making them more susceptible to future health problems. 
      • Facebook can be distracting and can negatively impact learning. Studies found that middle school, high school. 
    So a social network makes teens antisocial.... or teens who are more present on FB are more likely to be anti-social.  Talk about unintended consequences.   I would also note that in this presentation it is said that young adults, people with a bit more perspective than teens...
    Young adults who spend more time on Facebook are better at showing “virtual empathy” to their online friends.
    My own anecdotal experience agree's with this.  Teens and immature college age people take FB way WAY too seriously. To the point of caring more about what FB people they never meet think of them than their own family or real life friends. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Gerhard Adam
    ... and what does this have to do with autism?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hfarmer
    Aspergers syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders number 1 symptoms are according to the DSM IV.  as quoted below.  Notice impaired social interaction.  People using Facebook according to someone with enough standing to address a conference of the American Psychological Association just this weekend says so.  I'm going to trust him. 
       A qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
        1. marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction
        2. failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
        3. a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people, (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people) 
        4. lack of social or emotional reciprocity ( note: in the description, it gives the following as examples: not actively participating in simple social play or games, preferring solitary activities, or involving others in activities only as tools or "mechanical" aids )
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Gerhard Adam
    You're joking ...
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    This also sounds like Psychology suddenly waking up to the obvious.

    Clearly when people understand that there are few, if any, consequences for their behavior, they will feel free to indulge it.  All one has to do is read half the comments left by people online that would never be made if they were done in person.

    When this behavior occurs in teens and young adults, especially with parents that want to be their child's friend rather than parent, it is an easy phenomenon to predict.  If parents insist on indulging their children, then they shouldn't be surprised when they behave self-indulgently.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hfarmer
    Well, someone had to prove this seemingly obvious result.  (Sitting in front of a PC or phone leaves people less connected to those around them...they don't stretch their social muscles and those muscles atrophy).  To just assume this wouldn't be scientific at all.  Right?  :) 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Gerhard Adam
    ... and where exactly is the proof?  This is simply more conjecture and speculation, lumped together with a variety of traits that have never been firmly established as being anything except hugely variable in any population. 

    To "prove" this, would require showing that such behaviors never occurred before and that this isn't simply a technological modification to normal human psychology.  In other words, if people have always behave this way, then the Facebook connection isn't unique, nor is it demonstrated.
    Mundus vult decipi
    rholley
    especially with parents that want to be their child's friend rather than parent
    As is seen so often, where Supernanny finds she has to deal with the parents rather than the children.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    What Rosen is talking about has nothing at all to do with what Greenfield was asserting, and I doubt very much that he's thinking anything remotely like what she's thinking. Autism typically presents before the child is five years old. The condition has nothing to do with (pre)adolescent narcissism, mania or aggression. Are you claiming a causal connection between the latter conditions and the condition labeled autism, Hontas? Or that three and four year olds routinely engage in obsessive FB and other internet contact activities?

    No one owes Greenfield ANY sort of apology.

    Hfarmer
    If what Rosen says is true then there is a difference without a distinction.  
    A 13 year old who is normal before becoming a big FB'er, who is unable to interact socially in a psychologically healthy way, has a problem.  If we go by what the DSM says and that 13 year old meets the criteria for being Autistic after using FB for a certain amount of time...then they are for all intents and purposes Autistic. 

    That tiny detail aside. Rosen's work shows that it's not absurd to think that too much computer use can have both negative and positive effects.  One of those according to Rosen is impaired social interactions. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Gerhard Adam
    A 13 year old who is normal before becoming a big FB'er, who is unable to interact socially in a psychologically healthy way, has a problem
    Sorry, but that's simply nonsense.  An individual is affected each and every day by a range of experiences, including traumas.  What is "normal"?  What is the threshold for no longer being "normal"?  How do you isolate Facebook as being a singular cause instead of the thousands of other potential causes to which someone is exposed?

    In reality, it would be much more probable that FB, reflects a tendency that has become manifest because of real-world interactions.  So rather than being a cause, it is much more likely to be a symptom.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "If we go by what the DSM says and that 13 year old meets the criteria for being Autistic after using FB for a certain amount of time...then they are for all intents and purposes Autistic."

    I see. So if someone hallucinates and has delusional thinking, then we can say that thinking they 'meet the criteria' for being psychotic, and should be treated for psychosis, even if the symptoms are in fact caused by a severe bipolar condition—which can produce exactly those symptoms in the manic phase, and also catatonia in the depressive phase if the condition is severe enough.

    Autism is a specific clinical condition with a complex *genetic* etiology, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the causes of adolescent narcissism, etc. Again, why should anyone apologize to Greenfield for saying that her assertion—that a condition which reflects itself in early childhood, and arises in the complete absence of any internet activity, is somehow connected with overuse of social networking sites? *You* were the one who asserted she was owed an apology, so perhaps you can explain exactly *why* she's owed one.

    Hank
    I have to commend our culture.  Everyone else is just making fun of Greenfield, as was I when I wrote that stuff, and we are having an actual discussion of the issues.  Science 2.0 kinda rocks.
    Hfarmer
    That's why were the best. :)
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    When Greenfield can demonstrate how the internet is also causing all the below the neck symptoms associated with autism, especially auto-immune like gut disorders, she would then have something very interesting. Anyone who wishes to defend the internet - autism link also needs to put forward a possible explanation for the fact that autistics often demonstrate co-morbidity. Psychology has this unfortunate tendency to divorce itself from the body. For example, depression often includes elevated cytokines, schizophrenics have lower incidences of cancer and higher incidences of autoimmune disorders, Parkinson's patients have lower rates of internal cancers but higher rates of skin cancers. In relation to autism, a pubmed string autism AND autoimmunity, reveals 130 hits. Now this is where is gets very difficult because even the presence of autoimmune markers does not necessarily mean the autoimmunity is intrinsic to autism, it may be a consequence, it may be a cause. We can't even answer that question with any real certainty. However I have read studies indicating like autoimmune markers in relation to schizophrenia, and as both conditions are developmental conditions, one early in life the other post puberty(the immune function changes at puberty), one has to seriously consider the possibility that autoimmunity is a key intrinsic player in these conditions. What is clear that in relation to schizophrenia and autism there is a subset of patients where the autoimmune linkage needs to be very carefully considered. If the DSM fails to indicate that a diagnosis of either condition should address the possibility of looking for the relevant biomarkers, then what that indicates is that the DSM authors haven't done their homework. After all, I am not even interested in the above conditions, my main interest in age related cognitive impairment and how to stall that process.

    The sort of pap pop psychology that Greenfield has been engaging in makes a mockery of psychology. The problem bedevils the whole discipline because as Hank indicated via an email he received from Andrea, most people simply don't understand the demands of a rigorous psychology. Greenfield is not doing psychology any favours, she is\was a world class scientist in relation to the molecular underpinnings of neurological disorders but that does not make her a psychologist. If I want advice on the potential dangers of social networking I would rather refer to a world class neuropsychologist like Elkhonen Goldberg, or the work of Marion Diamond in relation to the potential severe impacts of early childhood deprivation on later cognitive development.

    Hank: Just to be pedantic, you are wrong to imply that articles in PLOS One are not peer-reviewed.

    Hank
    Some of them might be.   Peer review is not the intent, the intent is to have someone look at them and determine if they are reasonable.  They publish 7,000 articles a year so they are not peer reviewing 200 a day.  PLoS Biology, etc. are peer-reviewed, though. Just PLoS One is not, nor do they any longer claim to be.  If you read their PR blurbs now they only refer to is as an 'open access journal'.