How to tell apart science from pseudo-science in a field you don't know ?

by kilobug 7y2nd Sep 201271 comments

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First, a short personal note to make you understand why this is important to me. To make a long story short, the son of a friend has some atypical form of autism and language troubles. And that kid matters a lot to me, so I want to become stronger in helping him, to be able to better interact with him and help him overcome his troubles.

But I don't know much about psychology. I'm a computer scientist, with a general background of maths and physics. I'm kind of a nerd, social skills aren't my strength. I did read some of the basic books advised on Less Wrong, like Cialdini, Wright or Wiseman, but those just give me a very small background on which to build.

And psychology in general, autism/language troubles in particular, are fields in which there is a lot of pseudo-science. I'm very sceptical of Freud and psychoanalysis, for example, which I consider (but maybe I am wrong?) to be more like alchemy than like chemistry. There are a lot of mysticism and sect-like gurus related to autism, too.

So I'm bit unsure on how from my position of having a general scientific and rationality background I can dive into a completely unrelated field. Research papers are probably above my current level in psychology, so I think books (textbooks or popular science) are the way to go. But how to find which books on the hundreds that were written on the topic I should buy and read? Books that are evidence-based science, not pseudo-science, I mean. What is a general method to select which books to start in a field you don't really know? I would welcome any advise from the community.

Disclaimer: this is a personal "call for help", but since I think the answers/advices may matter outside my own personal case, I hope you don't mind.

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