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An Artist with a Science-Based Mission

Stuart Vyse is a psychologist and author of Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition, which won the William James Book Award of the American Psychological Association. He is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

Janyce Boynton is a Maine collage artist who sells her work through her website (www.pineconeandsparrow.com/) and at local shows, but she is also a tireless advocate for science. She would never have predicted that science and skepticism would become such an important part of her life, but something happened to her over twenty years ago that set her on this path.

My first contact with Boynton was probably about ten years ago. I was a psychology professor at a liberal arts college when I got a message from Boynton identifying herself as the “facilitator in the W______1 case” and offering to speak to my class. She must have known that I would understand what that meant, and although I did not follow up with her at the time, it is clear to me now that she was well into her personal mission at that point. It has been a long and, at times, difficult journey.

In the early 1990s, Boynton was a speech therapist working in Maine. One of the students she worked with was a non-speaking high school girl with autism whom I will call Wendy. An educational technician who also worked with Wendy introduced her to a new communication technique called facilitated communication (FC). The technician had been trained in the method and was using it with Wendy with great success.

Janyce Boynton with one of her collages.

FC is based on the theory that many people with profound language deficits suffer from a physical problem but are not cognitively impaired.

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