Introduction and Chapter 1

Something I found interesting in the introduction to The Longevity Project was the question of Terman participant result generalizability. The writers of The Longevity Project acknowledge that the Terman participants lived in a different era from today and were somewhat unique in being unusually bright, middle class and educated. They assert that “a poverty-stricken peasant with HIV” will differ significantly from a Terman participant, but explain that they have used scientific techniques and statistical tests to validate the generalizability of results. As well, the authors maintain that most readers of the book (middle class and educated) are not different in relevant ways from members of the study. This speaks to the importance of socioeconomic status to lifestyle and health and suggests that the book is tailored to a particular audience and less written for consideration of the health  of the entire United States population.

I do not doubt the thoroughness and validity of statistical evaluation of the generalizability of The Longevity Project. However, I think the book would benefit from exploration of how factors of the study might decrease result generalizability and why this matters to society today. For example, most of the Terman participants were white, meaning the results of the study do not account for social and cultural racial differences. It is unlikely that members of the Terman study faced racial discrimination, but systemic racism damages health and well-being, meaning results of The Longevity Project are less inclusive of the experience of many black Americans. Another important factor in the study is location; all the Terman participants were raised in San Francisco and variables like climate or an urban lifestyle could affect longevity. Finally, participants grew up in a largely technology-free environment, making their upbringing significantly different from that of the current American schoolchild.

The length and consistency of the Terman study and the careful analysis of its data makes the Longevity Project a valuable addition to healthcare psychology literature. Still, I think the introduction to the book would have been stronger had the authors explored confounding factors in their findings and considered how the American population today might differ from the Terman participants, creating a dialogue about systemic racism, the prevalence of technology and other aspects of our society.

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1 Response to Introduction and Chapter 1

  1. Alexis Russell says:

    I agree with your validity statement. I thought it was odd that they were producing such a long, thorough experiment but limited their participants to such a specific group. Thus, while their findings may be interesting and useful, they cannot be applied to a lot of the population. It would seem helpful to them if they expanded on this a little bit more or even acknowledged the possible differences.

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