Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ami Klin's Good Science

Can someone explain to me how Ami Klin's research team in (Shultz 2011) could have possibly overlooked the idea of running a second version of their experiment, one employing a visual scene more naturally appealing to autistic perception? It would have been so easy: remove the humans from the scene and through automated means have the toy wagon's door open and shut on a regular basis. Bring in another group of controls and autistic children, and make the same measurements as were made for the first scenario. The comparisons across populations and across scenarios might have provided a wealth of information for both autistic and non-autistic perception, probably far more than was provided by the study as conducted.

Any decent research team might have recognized the potential in that second scenario, but it was criminally stupid for the Klin research team not to have recognized it, because the team had already been through that experience!

The whole beauty of (Klin 2009) was that instead of the nothing-new experiment the authors had originally designed, and prompted by the “serendipitous” observations of a fifteen-month-old autistic girl, the study team was able to re-configure the experiment to test for both non-autistic appealing and autistic appealing scenarios, thereby setting up a wealth of cross-population, cross-scenario information for comparison and contrast. That serendipitous enhancement literally made the study.

So you would think the Klin team would know by now the value of taking that broader approach with every experiment going forward. You would think. But apparently the fifteen-month-old autistic girl didn't hit them upside the head hard enough.

I can't describe how dumbfounded I am by the scientific blindness I see on display almost everywhere in the autism research community. People go on and on to me about the need to weed out bad science and to expose all the charlatans and to have better standards, and on and on and on they go. For what, I ask? For this? For more of Ami Klin's inability to see beyond the end of his own nose? Is this the good science everyone's striving for? Hell, I'd rather have the charlatans. At least the charlatans know what they're doing.

(Shultz 2011): Shultz, Sarah; Klin, Ami; Jones, Warren. 2011. “Inhibition of eye blinking reveals subjective perceptions of stimulus salience.” PNAS (in press).

(Klin 2009): Klin, Ami; Lin, David J.; Gorrindo, Phillip; Ramsay, Gordon; Jones, Warren. 2009. “Two-year-olds with Autism Orient to Non-Social Contingencies Rather than Biological Motion.” Nature 459: 257–61.

No comments: