Archive for September 2012

The “non-science” called DMIT   8 comments

The other day I ran into a friend who was really excited. She was going through the usual struggle trying to figure out what career would be best for her school-going children. This friend had just attended an information session on a new technique which uses fingerprints of children to help understand their natural capabilities better, basis which she could make a better career decision for her kids. So, should it be engineering or architecture, or law or journalism? A fingerprinting test would tell you all the answers, and this “science” is called “Dermatoglyphics Multiple Intelligences Test “or DMIT.

It sounded like a miracle cure, and I was very interested to learn more.

Being a clinical psychologist, and trained in the field, she had my attention. I am licensed in the US, and keep myself informed of the developments in the field. However, I had never heard of “DMIT”.

The first place I looked was peer reviewed research in the field of Medicine and Psychology, but nothing by way of research turned up about DMIT. The next place to look was Google. I looked in depth for any information on “DMIT”.  A few salesy websites turned up, but nothing of substance.  Evidently nobody involved in the rigorous scientific study of medicine or psychology has heard of, studied, or approved of this new science.

I knew about the theory of multiple intelligences, of course. That has been around since 1983, and widely accepted and used in academic institutions worldwide, although a few sceptics, as always, remain.  Paper-based tests which indicate which are the stronger intelligences in an individual have again been around for a while, and are seen as a good indicator, although not considered conclusive.  I also learnt about Dermatoglyphics, which has existed as a proper science per se for many years. However, the claimed correlation between the two – that your fingerprints can reveal things about your personality / traits / learning styles or types of dominant intelligence is a big question-mark.

Let me explain briefly how anything becomes accepted as “science”. Largely, the basis is peer-reviewed research. That means, in simple English, that a scholar researches a particular topic in depth, and publishes his/her research. Other colleagues review that research in depth – and come back with their opinion on that particular topic. This often spawns a whole new field of study, with many more researchers also getting into research of the same topic in further depth. Basis this, a body of knowledge and deeper understanding of that topic emerges, which is well understood and proven. This is then not just an idea or an experimental technique, but a well researched, well understood topic which then moves into the realm of being science.

Unfortunately, for DMIT there is no peer-reviewed research out there. In fact, what does turn up is rather scary. Any such concept typically has an originator. For Example, the theory of Multiple Intelligences was put forward by Dr. Howard Gardner, a Harvard scholar. Dermatoglyphics by Dr. Harold Cummins. DMIT’s origins are not clear. Nobody claims to be the originator of this “science”. The whole idea seems to have come out of ether. Nobody clearly lays claim to the theory being theirs.

The unfortunate thing is that this “science” has a lot of appeal to parents desperately looking for a quick-fix solution. DMIT can look like a saviour to many such pressured parents looking for an elixir, and one for which they are willing to spend good money.  Consequently, a lot of companies and commercial interests are now pushing this quackery as science. These tests are “packaged” along with a serious amount of counselling, etc., based on the highest profit which they can extract from each parent, rather than the purported benefit of the child.

Given the competition in Indian schools and colleges, all parents are desperate to see their kids succeed, and at the same time would like to understand (ideally, in clear black and white terms, and with no shade of grey) exactly what it is that their child has a natural propensity for, and interest in. Now, with this new technology, they can apparently get all the answers in one shot, and most importantly, it is supposed to be scientific! Surprisingly, many well educated parents get convinced by the sales pitch.

Let us start by asking a basic question: Is this a proven science? Why is it that nowhere in the world is this “science” being used as entrance criteria? If yes, why is it not included in exams such as the GRE / GMAT / LSAT etc? For that matter, why are the premier Indian institutes like the IITs, IIMs, and the Medical colleges of India not using this as entrance criteria? Given everything that is claimed about DMIT, it would be an excellent intake filter.

Second, again, would such a dependable scientific indicator not be used by mass recruiting companies, such as TCS and Infosys, which are at the cutting-edge of technology? All of corporate India is desperate for effective selection tools for the purpose of recruitment. Even things such as handwriting analysis have been used. Why not DMIT, especially if it is so effective?

Most importantly, have we thought about the consequences of getting it wrong? What if the report gives the wrong information and you keep pushing the child into something he or she is not suited for? The output provided to the parents is a “scientific report” which can be very detailed and impressive – and can be generated by a software in about 10 seconds. What it is doing is putting your child in a “box” basis certain correlations that have not been established beyond doubt.

As parents, the responsibility of understanding our children is ours. In many countries, the school system takes upon itself to expose children to a wide variety of experiences and fields, thus allowing children to discover for themselves what it is that they enjoy and have a natural talent for. In India, unfortunately, most schools do not do this, and so it falls upon us as parents to do so. While it would be great to have a simple, easy, out-of-the-box way to do this, I urge all parents to not take easy shortcuts in this endeavour without doing full and detailed research. The costs of getting this piece wrong are way too big – it is equivalent to taking a chance with your child’s future and happiness.

Note : I have no vested interest in saying this – I am simply voicing my opinion both as a parent and a psychologist.

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Posted September 7, 2012 by enricheducation in Uncategorized