Evaluating Research in
MARK S. SCHWARTZ
This chapter discusses select questions and issues for our readers to consider when they are evaluating biofeedback research. We hope that it will also serve to increase their awareness when conducting research and when reporting and interpreting clinical results.
Clinicians and researchers often appear as adversaries engaged in what seems to be the battle of the Hatfields and the McCoys. As Garmezy and Masten (1986) noted in a related paper, "the slings and arrows of these opposing camps have as yet to be put away as part of an arms reduction package" (p. 501).
Rosenfeld (1987) prepared an eloquent paper expressing his role as a mediator and champion of perspective. Reflecting upon the position of clinicians, he stated that they criticize findings obtained from "stripped-down experimental paradigms" that do not support the specific effects of biofeedback, partially due to the omission of "patient motivational factors." Practitioners sometimes claim that researchers ask either incorrect or unimportant questions. Some clinicians make accusations of inadequately conducted research and experimenter bias.
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; one cannot in the end prove the null hypothesis.
That is, a failed half-hearted attempt to find the needle in the haystack does not prove that it isn't
there. One should really take a good look for it before giving up—if the needle has any value to
one, that is. (p. 218; emphasis added)
On the other hand, exaggeration of clinical results is a claim often made by researchers. In all fairness, these problems are also present in other clinical, health, and educational settings (Garmezy & Masten, 1986; Hayes, Barlow, & Nelson-Gray, 1999).
Researchers and practitioners sometimes do not appreciate their dependency upon one another; nor do they see the benefits that would accrue from a productive alliance rather than