Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, philosophy and health care

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Where Does Morality Come From?

By John Corvino
Published on Mar 27, 2013

Is it possible to have a foundation for moral beliefs without appealing to Scripture? John Corvino argues that it is, making a plea for humility from all parties in the debate. At the same time, he challenges his fellow liberals to reject the claim that "morality is a private matter."



Telepsychology Guidelines: The American Psychological Association


Friday, August 30, 2013

Meritocracy or Bias?

By Scott Jaschik
Inside Higher Education
Originally posted August 13, 2013

Critics of affirmative action generally argue that the country would be better off with a meritocracy, typically defined as an admissions system where high school grades and standardized test scores are the key factors, applied in the same way to applicants of all races and ethnicities.

But what if they think they favor meritocracy but at some level actually have a flexible definition, depending on which groups would be helped by certain policies? Frank L. Samson, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Miami, thinks his new research findings suggest that the definition of meritocracy used by white people is far more fluid than many would admit, and that this fluidity results in white people favoring certain policies (and groups) over others.

Specifically, he found, in a survey of white California adults, they generally favor admissions policies that place a high priority on high school grade-point averages and standardized test scores. But when these white people are focused on the success of Asian-American students, their views change.

The entire story is here.

Is psychology a “real” science? Does it really matter?

By Ashutosh Jogalekar
Scientific American Blog
August 13, 2013

Fellow Scientific American blogger Melanie Tannenbaum is flustered by allegations that psychology is not a science and I can see where she is coming from. In this case the stimulus was a piece by Alex Berezow, a microbiologist, who in a short and provocative piece in the LA times argued the case that psychology is not a real science. I think he’s right. I also think that he misses the point.

Berezow’s definition of science is not off the mark, but it’s also incomplete and too narrow. Criticism of psychology’s lack of rigor is not new; people have been arguing about wishy-washy speculations in fields like evolutionary psychology and the limitations of fMRI scans for years. The problem is only compounded by any number of gee-whiz popular science books purporting to use evolutionary and other kinds of “psychology” to explain human behavior. Neither is the field’s image bolstered by high-profile controversies and sloppy studies which can’t be replicated. But it’s hardly fair to kill the message for lack of a suitable messenger. The same criticism has also been leveled at other social sciences including economics and sociology and yet the debate in economics does not seem to be as rancorous as that in psychology. At the heart of Berezow’s argument is psychology’s lack of quantifiability and dearth of accurate terminology. He points out research in fields like happiness where definitions are neither rigid nor objective and data is not quantifiable.

The entire blog is here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A proposal to classify happiness as a psychiatric disorder

By Richard P Bentall
Journal of medical ethics, 1992, 18, 94-98

Abstract

It is proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder and be included in future editions of the major diagnostic manuals under the new name: major affective disorder, pleasant type. In a review of the relevant literature it is shown that happiness is statistically abnormal, consists of a discrete cluster of symptoms, is associated with a range of cognitive abnormalities, and probably reflects the abnormal functioning of the central nervous system. One possible objection to this proposal remains - that happiness is not negatively valued.  However, this objection is dismissed as scientifically irrelevant.

The entire article is here.

More U.S. Children Being Diagnosed With Youthful Tendency Disorder

The Onion
(In light of all the issues related to diagnoses, this is psychology humor)

Nicholas and Beverly Serna's daughter Caitlin was only four years old, but they already knew there was a problem.

Day after day, upon arriving home from preschool, Caitlin would retreat into a bizarre fantasy world. Sometimes, she would pretend to be people and things she was not. Other times, without warning, she would burst into nonsensical song. Some days she would run directionless through the backyard of the Sernas' comfortable Redlands home, laughing and shrieking as she chased imaginary objects.

When months of sessions with a local psychologist failed to yield an answer, Nicholas and Beverly took Caitlin to a prominent Los Angeles pediatric neurologist for more exhaustive testing. Finally, on Sept. 11, the Sernas received the heartbreaking news: Caitlin was among a growing legion of U.S. children suffering from Youthful Tendency Disorder.

"As horrible as the diagnosis was, it was a relief to finally know," said Beverly. "At least we knew we weren't bad parents. We simply had a child who was born with a medical disorder."

Youthful Tendency Disorder (YTD), a poorly understood neurological condition that afflicts an estimated 20 million U.S. children, is characterized by a variety of senseless, unproductive physical and mental exercises, often lasting hours at a time. In the thrall of YTD, sufferers run, jump, climb, twirl, shout, dance, do cartwheels, and enter unreal, unexplainable states of "make-believe."

The rest of the article is here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Glut of Antidepressants

By RONI CARYN RABIN
The New York Times
Originally published August 12, 2013

Over the past two decades, the use of antidepressants has skyrocketed. One in 10 Americans now takes an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four.

Experts have offered numerous reasons. Depression is common, and economic struggles have added to our stress and anxiety. Television ads promote antidepressants, and insurance plans usually cover them, even while limiting talk therapy. But a recent study suggests another explanation: that the condition is being overdiagnosed on a remarkable scale.

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Elderly patients were most likely to be misdiagnosed, the latest study found. Six out of seven patients age 65 and older who had been given a diagnosis of depression did not fit the criteria. More educated patients and those in poor health were less likely to receive an inaccurate diagnosis.

The entire article is here.

When Philosophy Meets Psychiatry

By D. D. Guttenplan
The New York Times
Originally published August 11, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

“We started out as a reading group for trainee psychiatrists,” said Gareth S. Owen, a researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry who co-founded the group in 2002. “Then, gradually, we developed and started inviting philosophers — at first it was quite low key. We would talk about our clinical experiences and then they would relate those experiences to their way of thinking.”

Robert Harland, another co-founder of the group, said he had known Dr. Owen since they “cut up a corpse together at medical school.”

“The analytic philosophers brought a real clarity to our discussions,” Dr. Harland said. “We were looking at various models to help us understand what we were doing as psychiatrists.

“There is lots of applied science now in psychiatry: neuroimaging, genetics, epidemiology. But they don’t have much to say about sitting with a patient and trying to understand that person’s experiences.”

The entire story is here.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

U.S. Probes Use of Antipsychotic Drugs on Children

By LUCETTE LAGNADO
The Wall Street Journal
Originally published August 12, 2013

Federal health officials have launched a probe into the use of antipsychotic drugs on children in the Medicaid system, amid concern that the medications are being prescribed too often to treat behavioral problems in the very young.

The inspector general's office at Department of Health and Human Services says it recently began a review of antipsychotic-drug use by Medicaid recipients age 17 and under. And various agencies within HHS are requiring officials in all 50 states to tighten oversight of prescriptions for such drugs to Medicaid-eligible young people.

The effort applies to a newer class of antipsychotic drugs known as "atypicals," which include Abilify, the nation's No. 1 prescription drug by sales. The drugs were originally developed to treat psychoses such as schizophrenia, but some now have Food and Drug Administration approval for treatment of children with conditions such as bipolar disorder and irritability associated with autism.

The entire story is here.

Introducing deprescribing into culture of medication

By Catherine Cross
Canadian Medical Association
Originally published August 12, 2013

An Ontario pharmacist has received a government grant to develop clinical guidelines to help doctors determine whether patients are on medications they no longer need or that should be reduced.


"We don't normally test drugs in the elderly, but they are taking many drugs. As they get older and get more chronic conditions, the number of medications increases," says Barbara Farrell, a clinical scientist with the Bruyère Research Institute in Ottawa, Ontario.


Sometimes when medications are deprescribed or reduced, "confusion will clear, or they'll stop falling, and a lot of literature supports that," says Farrell, who received the $430 000 grant from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.


The entire story is here.


Monday, August 26, 2013

When Doctors Discriminate

By JULIANN GAREY
The New York Times - Opinion
Published: August 10, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

If you met me, you’d never know I was mentally ill. In fact, I’ve gone through most of my adult life without anyone ever knowing — except when I’ve had to reveal it to a doctor. And that revelation changes everything. It wipes clean the rest of my résumé, my education, my accomplishments, reduces me to a diagnosis.

I was surprised when, after one of these run-ins, my psychopharmacologist said this sort of behavior was all too common. At least 14 studies have shown that patients with a serious mental illness receive worse medical care than “normal” people. Last year the World Health Organization called the stigma and discrimination endured by people with mental health conditions “a hidden human rights emergency.”

I never knew it until I started poking around, but this particular kind of discriminatory doctoring has a name. It’s called “diagnostic overshadowing.”

According to a review of studies done by the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, London, it happens a lot. As a result, people with a serious mental illness — including bipolar disorder, major depression, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder — end up with wrong diagnoses and are under-treated.

The entire sad story is here.

Quiet No Longer, Rape Survivors Put Pressure on Colleges

By Libby Sander
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally published August 12, 2013

In February, writing on her blog, Tucker Reed identified a classmate at the University of Southern California as the man who raped her.

Ms. Reed, then a junior, included his name, three photos of him, and a detailed account of their troubled relationship.

The post went viral.

Within two weeks, Ms. Reed's apartment became a haven for fellow students who also identified as survivors of rape.

They baked cookies, killed zombies on Xbox, and began writing letters to the university, expressing their dissatisfaction with how it had treated them.

Before long they had formed a group, the Student Coalition Against Rape, or SCAR.

As the Southern California students were finding one another, so were survivors across the country.

Throughout the spring, they exchanged a hail of Facebook messages and tweets, swapping stories, giving advice, and, before long, mobilizing.

The entire story is here, behind a paywall.

Thanks to Ken Pope for this story.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What Spinoza Knew and Neuroscience Is Discovering: ‘Free Will’ Doesn’t Exist

Vox Tablet
Published July 1, 2013

Questions of character shape public discourse. From Paula Deen to Edward Snowden—the choices people make and actions people take raise questions about free will, personal responsibility, and morality. And yet, researchers in sociology, psychology, and neuroscience are increasingly asserting that the independent self that we are all so attached to doesn’t really exist. What’s more, there are philosophical traditions dating back to Aristotle, Maimonides, and Spinoza that may offer more useful ways of thinking about how to foster ethical behavior and moral societies.

In The Self Beyond Itself: An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Sciences, and the Myth of Free Will, Heidi Ravven, a professor of religious studies at Hamilton College, examines these questions. She joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry on the podcast to discuss how the myth of free will took hold, what Spinoza had to say about it, and why if you want to be a moral person, the last thing you should do is surround yourself with like-minded people.

The audio file is here [Running time: 24:52.]

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Science Is Not Your Enemy

An impassioned plea to neglected novelists, embattled professors, and tenure-less historians

By Steven Pinker
The New Republic
Originally published August 6, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Scientism, in this good sense, is not the belief that members of the occupational guild called “science” are particularly wise or noble. On the contrary, the defining practices of science, including open debate, peer review, and double-blind methods, are explicitly designed to circumvent the errors and sins to which scientists, being human, are vulnerable. Scientism does not mean that all current scientific hypotheses are true; most new ones are not, since the cycle of conjecture and refutation is the lifeblood of science. It is not an imperialistic drive to occupy the humanities; the promise of science is to enrich and diversify the intellectual tools of humanistic scholarship, not to obliterate them. And it is not the dogma that physical stuff is the only thing that exists. Scientists themselves are immersed in the ethereal medium of information, including the truths of mathematics, the logic of their theories, and the values that guide their enterprise. In this conception, science is of a piece with philosophy, reason, and Enlightenment humanism. It is distinguished by an explicit commitment to two ideals, and it is these that scientism seeks to export to the rest of intellectual life.

The Concept of “Conduct Unbecoming” as Applied to a Physician’s Extra-Medical Behavior

By THOMAS G. GUTHEIL, M.D., HOWARD E. BOOK, M.D., and ARCHIE BRODSKY, B.A.
Journal of Psychiatry & Law 39/Summer 2011

An approach analogous to the military concept of “conduct unbecoming an officer” is increasingly evident in the attempted management of physicians’ personal behavior by medical licensing entities—even when such behavior bears little or no relation to medical practice. This article surveys the genesis
of this approach, the social and professional forces that have encouraged attempts to regulate extra-medical activities, and the current status of pertinent guild rules and other professional guidelines. Two reported case examples are reviewed with critical commentary.

The entire article is here.

Thanks to Gary Schoener for this information.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Empathy as a choice

By Jamil Zaki
Scientific American
July 29, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Evidence from across the social and natural sciences suggests that we take on others’ facial expressions, postures, moods, and even patterns of brain activity.  This type of empathy is largely automatic.  For instance, people imitate others’ facial expressions after just a fraction of a second, often without realizing they’re doing so. Mood contagion likewise operates under the surface.  Therapists often report that, despite their best efforts, they take on patients’ moods, consistent with evidence from a number of studies.

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Together, these studies suggest that instead of automatically taking on others’ emotions, people make choices about whether and how much to engage in empathy.

The entire story is here.

'Selfish' Genes Create Cooperative Organisms

Rosa Rubicondior
June 9, 2013

Here are some excerpts:

One of the criticisms of Richard Dawkins' seminal work, and the work which initially made him famous as an evolutionary biologist, The Selfish Gene, is that it portrayed life itself as essentially selfish, so undermining any claim Atheists might have to be moral, empathetic and considerate people. This was of course always nonsense and is an example of attacking a scientific theory based on its consequences not on its validity, as though truth is subject to a human convenience test - rather like claiming nuclear fission doesn't work because atom bombs are destructive or that the Big Bang can't have been an uncaused event because that would shut god(s) out of the picture.

But the consequences of 'selfish' genes are not as is claimed anyway. In fact, anything more than a cursory glance at biology will reveal how cooperation, at all levels of organisation, has almost always been the key to long-term success.

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Cooperative alliances are the single greatest achievement of selfish genes. The entire web of mutually interdependent life on Earth owes its existence to these alliances, even the mutual interdependence of plant and animal life as animals provide the carbon dioxide for plants to use to make the sugars for animals to eat.

The entire blog post is here.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Motivated Moral Reasoning

By Peter H. Ditto, David A. Pizarro, and David Tannenbaum

Abstract

Moral judgments are important, intuitive, and complex. These factors make moral judgment particularly fertile ground for motivated reasoning. This chapter reviews research (both our own and that of others) examining two general pathways by which motivational forces can alter the moral implications of an act: by affecting perceptions of an actor’s moral accountability for the act, and by influencing the normative moral principles people rely on to evaluate the morality of the act. We conclude by discussing the implications of research on motivated moral reasoning for both classic and contemporary views of the moral thinker.

The entire chapter is here.

Thanks to Dave Pizarro for making this available.

Health, fitness apps pose HIPAA risks for doctors

Physicians should check apps’ privacy protections before suggesting them to patients. A new report says most apps — especially free ones — don’t offer much privacy.

By SUE TER MAAT
amednews.com
Posted Aug. 5, 2013

Physicians might think twice about advising patients to use some mobile health and fitness apps. A July report indicates that many of those apps compromise patients’ privacy. Just recommending apps may put doctors at risk for violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

“Even suggesting an app to patients — that’s a gray area,” said Marion Neal, owner of HIPAASimple.com, a HIPAA consulting firm for physicians in private practice. “Doctors should avoid recommending apps unless they are well-established to be secure.”

The entire story is here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Army's hidden child abuse epidemic

By Richard Sandza
Army Times
Originally published July 29, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

When the Army suspects child abuse or neglect, Campbell said, “we’ll investigate and prosecute and try to make sure we have the right program in place to take care of the soldiers and their families and do what’s right there.”

Of the 29,552 cases of child abuse and neglect in active-duty Army families from 2003 through 2012, according to Army Central Registry data, 15,557 were committed by soldiers, the others by civilians — mostly spouses.

The Army’s rate of child abuse was 4.5 cases per 1,000 children for 2011. The civilian rate was 27.4 per 1,000 children, according to the Children’s Bureau of the Department of Health and Human Services.

But the number of Army cases has spiked 28 percent between 2008 and 2011, while the number of civilian cases has increased by 1.1 percent.

The entire story is here.

The End of Neuro-Nonsense

Is the age of mindless brain research already over?

By Daniel Engber
Slate
Originally published July 29, 2013

Brain-bashing, once an idle pastime of the science commentariat, went mainstream in June. At the beginning of the month, Slate contributor Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld published Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience, a well-informed attack on the extravagances of “neurocentrist” thought. We’re living in dangerous era, they warn in the book’s introduction. “Naïve media, slick neuroentrepreneurs, and even an occasional overzealous neuroscientist exaggerate the capacity of scans to reveal the contents of our minds, exalt brain physiology as inherently the most valuable level of explanation for understanding behavior, and rush to apply underdeveloped, if dazzling, science for commercial and forensic use.” In the United Kingdom, the neuro-gadfly Raymond Tallis—whose own attack on popular brain science, Aping Mankind, came out in 2011—added to the early-summer beat-down, complaining in the Observer that “studies that locate irreducibly social phenomena … in the function or dysfunction of bits of our brains are conceptually misconceived.”

The entire story is here.

Thanks to Tamler Sommers for this story.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Medicare Drug Program Fails to Monitor Prescribers, Putting Seniors and Disabled at Risk

by Tracy Weber, Charles Ornstein and Jennifer LaFleur
ProPublica
Published: May 11, 2013

Ten years ago, a sharply divided Congress decided to pour billions of dollars into subsidizing the purchase of drugs by elderly and disabled Americans.

The initiative, the biggest expansion of Medicare since its creation in 1965, proved wildly popular. It now serves more than 35 million people, delivering critical medicines to patients who might otherwise be unable to afford them. Its price tag is far lower than expected.

But an investigation by ProPublica has found the program, in its drive to get drugs into patients' hands, has failed to properly monitor safety. An analysis of four years of Medicare prescription records shows that some doctors and other health professionals across the country prescribe large quantities of drugs that are potentially harmful, disorienting or addictive. Federal officials have done little to detect or deter these hazardous prescribing patterns.

The entire story is here.

The Woman Who Ate Cutlery

By CHRISTINE MONTROSS
The New York Times - Opinion
Published: August 3, 2013

Here are some excerpts:

The costs of M’s repeated hospitalizations are staggering. Her ingestions and insertions incur the already high costs of hospital admission and the medical procedures and surgeries she requires. In addition, once M is hospitalized as a psychiatric patient, a staff member must stay with her at all times to make sure she doesn’t ingest utensils from her meal trays, insert tools from group craft activities into her body or drink Purell from the dispensers on the unit walls.

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In one of the ironies in a country with health care discrepancies, a single hospital admission for M — paid for by the taxpayer-financed state medical-assistance program — costs more than a year of private outpatient care would.

The entire article is here.

Thanks to Tom Fink for the story.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Star Philosopher Falls, and a Debate Over Sexism Is Set Off

By JENNIFER SCHUESSLER
The New York Times
Published: August 2, 2013

Ever since Socrates’ wife was painted as a jealous shrew by one of his pupils, women have had it tough in philosophy.

Thinkers from Aristotle to Kant questioned whether women were fully capable of reason. Today, many in the field say, gender bias and outright sexual harassment are endemic in philosophy, where women make up less than 20 percent of university faculty members, lower than in any other humanities field, and account for a tiny fraction of citations in top scholarly journals.

While the status of women in the sciences has received broad national attention, debate about sexism in philosophy has remained mostly within the confines of academia. But the revelation this summer that Colin McGinn, a star philosopher at the University of Miami, had agreed to leave his tenured post after allegations of sexual harassment brought by a graduate student, has put an unusually famous name to the problem, exposing the field to what some see as a healthy dose of sunlight.

The entire story is here.

Judges Extend High Court Same-Sex Ruling

By ASHBY JONES
The Wall Street Journal
Originally published August 4, 2013

Just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of a federal law that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, judges in lower courts are citing and even building on the ruling in battles over state laws concerning same-sex marriage and other issues affecting gays and lesbians.

A federal judge in Cincinnati cited the June ruling in U.S. v. Windsor in finding Ohio's 2004 law banning the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states "likely" to be unconstitutional, at least in regard to the couple that brought the suit.

The entire story is here.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Whistle-Blower’s Quandary

By ADAM WAYTZ, JAMES DUNGAN and LIANE YOUNG
The New York Times
Published: August 2, 2013

IMAGINE you’re thinking about blowing the whistle on your employer. As the impassioned responses to the actions of whistle-blowers like Edward J. Snowden have reminded us, you face a moral quandary: Is reporting misdeeds an act of heroism or betrayal?

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It makes sense that whistle-blowing brings these two moral values, fairness and loyalty, into conflict. Doing what is fair or just (e.g., promoting an employee based on talent alone) often conflicts with showing loyalty (e.g., promoting a longstanding but unskilled employee).

The entire story is here.

Pfizer Settles a Drug Marketing Case for $491 Million

By KATIE THOMAS
The New York Times
Published: July 30, 2013

The drug maker Pfizer agreed to pay $491 million to settle criminal and civil charges over the illegal marketing of the kidney-transplant drug Rapamune, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

The settlement is the latest in a string of big-money cases involving the sales practices of major pharmaceutical companies; four years ago, Pfizer paid $2.3 billion for improperly marketing several drugs. The recent case centers on the practices of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, which Pfizer acquired in 2009.

The entire story is here.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Whistle-Blowers in Limbo, Neither Hero Nor Traitor

By DAVID CARR
The New York Times
Published: July 31, 2013

Even as Americans expressed increasing concerns about government intrusions into their life in a recently released Pew Research Center study, they have hardly embraced those who decide to take matters into their own hands.

Leakers, often lionized by members of the press, face an indifferent and sometimes antagonistic public.

On Tuesday, when Pfc. Bradley Manning was acquitted of aiding the enemy and convicted of six counts of violating the Espionage Act, a few dozen protesters showed up on his behalf. There has been an outcry from civil libertarians and privacy advocates, but in general, his decision to unilaterally release hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents did not make him a folk hero or a cause célèbre in the broader culture.

The entire story is here.

Whistleblower suit: Hospitals defrauded Medicaid

By Kate Brumback
Associated Press 
Originally published August 1, 2013

Two large hospital operators paid kickbacks to clinics that directed expectant mothers living in the country illegally to their hospitals and filed fraudulent Medicaid claims on those patients, a federal whistleblower lawsuit unsealed Wednesday said.

Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates and Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp. and their affiliates entered into contracts with clinics operated by Hispanic Medical Management and Clinica de la Mama and their affiliates, the lawsuit says. The clinics then referred pregnant women living in the country without authorization to for-profit hospitals operated by HMA and Tenet in exchange for kickbacks from fraudulent Medicaid claims, the lawsuit says.

The entire story is here.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gay Spouses of Members of Military Get Benefits

By EMMARIE HUETTEMAN
The New York Times
Published: August 14, 2013

The Defense Department announced Wednesday that it would begin offering benefits to the same-sex spouses of military personnel and other employees by early September, in response to the Supreme Court decision that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.

Under the plan, spousal and family benefits — including health care coverage, housing allowances and survivor benefits — will be available to all legally married military spouses. The same-sex spouses of service members and civilian Defense Department employees can claim the entitlements retroactively, starting with the date of the decision.

“The Department of Defense remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrote in a memo released by the Pentagon.

The entire story is here.

A Bad Taste in the Mouth: Gustatory Disgust Influences Moral Judgment

Kendall J. Eskine, Natalie A. Kacinik, and Jesse J. Prinz
Psychological Science, March 2011 vol. 22 no. 3 295-299

Abstract

Can sweet-tasting substances trigger kind, favorable judgments about other people? What about substances that are disgusting and bitter? Various studies have linked physical disgust to moral disgust, but despite the rich and sometimes striking findings these studies have yielded, no research has explored morality in conjunction with taste, which can vary greatly and may differentially affect cognition. The research reported here tested the effects of taste perception on moral judgments. After consuming a sweet beverage, a bitter beverage, or water, participants rated a variety of moral transgressions. Results showed that taste perception significantly affected moral judgments, such that physical disgust (induced via a bitter taste) elicited feelings of moral disgust. Further, this effect was more pronounced in participants with politically conservative views than in participants with politically liberal views. Taken together, these differential findings suggest that embodied gustatory experiences may affect moral processing more than previously thought.

The article is here.

What the Science of Morality Doesn’t Say About Morality

By Gabriel Abend
Philosophy of the Social Sciences June 2013 vol. 43 no. 2 157-200

Abstract

In this article I ask what recent moral psychology and neuroscience can and can’t claim to have discovered about morality. I argue that the object of study of much recent work is not morality but a particular kind of individual moral judgment. But this is a small and peculiar sample of morality. There are many things that are moral yet not moral judgments. There are also many things that are moral judgments yet not of that particular kind. If moral things are various and diverse, then empirical research about one kind of individual moral judgment doesn’t warrant theoretical conclusions about morality in general. If that kind of individual moral judgment is a peculiar and rare thing, then it is not obvious what it tells us about other moral things. What is more, it is not obvious what its theoretical importance is to begin with—that is, why we should care about it at all. In light of these arguments, I call for a pluralism of methods and objects of inquiry in the scientific investigation of morality, so that it transcends its problematic overemphasis on a particular kind of individual moral judgment.

The entire article is here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sherman and Rowes: Psychological Warfare (Licensed) in Kentucky

By PAUL SHERMAN  AND JEFF ROWES
The Wall Street Journal
Originally published July 16, 2013

Was Dear Abby a career criminal? Can "The Dr. Oz Show" show be censored? Absolutely—at least according to the Kentucky attorney general and the state's Board of Examiners of Psychology, which just banned one of the most popular advice columns in the United States from all of Kentucky's newspapers.

This act of censorship has forced a showdown in federal court over one of the most important unanswered questions in First Amendment law: Can occupational-licensing laws—which require the government's permission to work—trump free speech? Some government licensing boards, which function increasingly as censors, certainly think the answer is yes.

The entire story is here.

Thanks to Don McAleer for this story.

Increase in Urine Testing Raises Ethical Questions

By BARRY MEIER
The New York Times
Published: August 1, 2013

As doctors try to ensure their patients do not abuse prescription drugs, they are relying more and more on sophisticated urine-screening tests to learn which drugs patients are taking and — just as important — which ones they’re not.

The result has been a boom in profits for diagnostic testing laboratories that offer the tests. In 2013, sales at such companies are expected to reach $2 billion, up from $800 million in 1990, according to the Frost & Sullivan consulting firm.

The growing use of urine tests has mirrored the rise in prescriptions for narcotic painkillers, or opioids. But the tests, like earlier efforts to monitor opioid prescribing, have led to a host of vexing questions about what doctors should do with the information they obtain, about the accuracy of urine screens and about whether some companies and doctors are financially exploiting the testing boom.

The entire story is here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Intent to Harm: Willful Acts Seem More Damaging

Science Daily
Originally published July 29, 2013

How harmful we perceive an act to be depends on whether we see the act as intentional, reveals new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The new research shows that people significantly overestimate the monetary cost of intentional harm, even when they are given a financial incentive to be accurate.

"The law already recognizes intentional harm as more wrong than unintentional harm," explain researchers Daniel Ames and Susan Fiske of Princeton University. "But it assumes that people can assess compensatory damages -- what it would cost to make a person 'whole' again -- independently of punitive damages."

According to Ames and Fiske, the new research suggests that this separation may not be psychologically plausible:

"These studies suggest that people might not only penalize intentional harm more, but actually perceive it as intrinsically more damaging."

The entire story is here.

Girls Talk: The Sexualization of Girls

By the American Psychological Association

APA's Public Interest directorate invited six middle school girls to sit down and share their thoughts about the images of girls they see all around them and how they feel about the way girls today are portrayed.




The Executive Summary of this report can be found here.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Why are we still using electroconvulsive therapy?

By Jim Reed
BBC Newsnight
Originally posted July 24, 2013

Here are some excerpts:

The idea of treating a psychiatric illness by passing a jolt of electricity through the brain was one of the most controversial in 20th Century medicine. So why are we still using a procedure described by its critics as barbaric and ineffective?

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"For the first time we can point to something that ECT does in the brain that makes sense in the context of what we think is wrong in people who are depressed," Prof Reid says. "The change that we see in the brain connections after ECT reflects the change that we see in the symptom profile of patients who generally see a big improvement."

But passing electricity through the most complex organ in the body is not without risk. Many doctors think the side-effects of ECT can be so serious they outweigh any possible benefits.

The entire story is here.

Social brains on drugs: tools for neuromodulation in social neuroscience

Molly J. Crockett & Ernst Fehr
Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci (2013)
doi: 10.1093/scan/nst113
First published online: July 24, 2013

Abstract

Neuromodulators such as serotonin, oxytocin, and testosterone play an important role in social behavior. Studies examining the effects of these neuromodulators and others on social cognition and behavior, and their neural underpinnings, are becoming increasingly common. Here, we provide an
overview of methodological considerations for those wishing to evaluate or conduct empirical studies of neuromodulation in social neuroscience.

The entire research article is here.

Thanks to Molly Crockett for making this available.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Lost in the Forest -DSM-V Book Review

By Ian Hacking
London Review of Books
Vol. 35 No. 15 · 8 August 2013
pages 7-8 | 3428 words

The new edition of the DSM replaces DSM-IV, which appeared in 1994. The DSM is the standard – and standardising – work of reference issued by the American Psychiatric Association, but its influence reaches into every nook and cranny of psychiatry, everywhere. Hence its publication has been greeted by a flurry of discussion, hype and hostility across all media, both traditional and social. Most of it has concerned individual diagnoses and the ways they have changed, or haven’t. To invoke the cliché for the first time in my life, most critics attended to the trees (the kinds of disorder recognised in the manual), but few thought about the wood. I want to talk about the object as a whole – about the wood – and will seldom mention particular diagnoses, except when I need an example.

Many worries have already been aired. In mid-May an onslaught was delivered by the Division of Clinical Psychology of the British Psychology Society, which is sceptical about the very project of standardised diagnosis, especially of schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. More generally, it opposes the biomedical model of mental illness, to the exclusion of social conditions and life-course events.

The entire book review is here.

Thanks to Tom Fink for this review.

The Charitable-Industrial Complex

By PETER BUFFETT
The New York Times - Opinionator
Published: July 26, 2013

Here are some excerpts:

Because of who my father is, I’ve been able to occupy some seats I never expected to sit in. Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left. There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising. At the same time, according to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing.

(cut)

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

(cut)

I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism.

The entire story is here.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Consider a Text for Teen Suicide Prevention and Intervention, Research Suggests

Adolescents Commonly Use Social Media to Reach Out When They are Depressed

Ohio State University
Press Release
June 24, 2013

Teens and young adults are making use of social networking sites and mobile technology to express suicidal thoughts and intentions as well as to reach out for help, two studies suggest.

An analysis of about one month of public posts on MySpace revealed 64 comments in which adolescents expressed a wish to die. Researchers conducted a follow-up survey of young adults and found that text messages were the second-most common way for respondents to seek help when they felt depressed. Talking to a friend or family member ranked first.

These young adults also said they would be least likely to use suicide hotlines or online suicide support groups – the most prevalent strategy among existing suicide-prevention initiatives.

The findings of the two studies suggest that suicide prevention and intervention efforts geared at teens and young adults should employ social networking and other types of technology, researchers say.

“Obviously this is a place where adolescents are expressing their feelings,” said Scottye Cash, associate professor of social work at The Ohio State University and lead author of the studies. “It leads me to believe that we need to think about using social media as an intervention and as a way to connect with people.”

The entire press release is here.

Risk Factors Associated With Suicide in Current and Former US Military Personnel

Cynthia A. LeardMann, MPH, et al.
JAMA. 2013;310(5):496-506. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.65164.

Importance

Beginning in 2005, the incidence of suicide deaths in the US military began to sharply increase. Unique stressors, such as combat deployments, have been assumed to underlie the increasing incidence. Previous military suicide studies, however, have relied on case series and cross-sectional investigations and have not linked data during service with post service periods.

Objective  

To prospectively identify and quantify risk factors associated with suicide in current and former US military personnel including demographic, military, mental health, behavioral, and deployment characteristics.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Prospective longitudinal study with accrual and assessment of participants in 2001, 2004, and 2007. Questionnaire data were linked with the National Death Index and the Department of Defense Medical Mortality Registry through December 31, 2008. Participants were current and former US military personnel from all service branches, including active and Reserve/National Guard, who were included in the Millennium Cohort Study (N = 151 560).

One of the Conclusions

Despite universal access to health care services, mandatory suicide prevention training, and other preventive efforts, suicide has become one of the leading causes of death in the US military in recent years. Suicide rates across the population of active-duty US military personnel began to increase sharply in 2005 from a baseline rate of 10.3 to 11.3 per 100 000 persons to a rate of 16.3 per 100 000 persons in 2008, with the highest rates among Marine Corps and Army personnel (19.9 and 19.3 per 100 000 persons). Since 2009, suicide rates among those on active-duty status have stabilized at approximately 18 per 100 000.

The entire article is here.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Psychopathic criminals have empathy switch

Psychopaths do not lack empathy, rather they can switch it on at will, according to new research.

By Melissa Hogenboom
Science reporter, BBC News
Originally published July 24, 2013

Placed in a brain scanner, psychopathic criminals watched videos of one person hurting another and were asked to empathise with the individual in pain.

Only when asked to imagine how the pain receiver felt did the area of the brain related to pain light up.

Scientists, reporting in Brain, say their research explains how psychopaths can be both callous and charming.

The team proposes that with the right training, it could be possible to help psychopaths activate their "empathy switch", which could bring them a step closer to rehabilitation.

The entire story is here.

Brain Chemistry And The Self

On Point with Tom Ashbrook
Originally published July 22, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Brain chemistry and the self. Neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland argues our self is our brain. And that’s it. She joins us.

When Galileo took Earth out of the center of the universe, it shook a lot of people’s worlds. Patricia Churchland wants to shake worlds again. She studies the brain and philosophy. A “neurophilosopher”.

And her message is this. That the more we know about the brain, the clearer it becomes that the brain is each of us. That there is no “mind” beyond the brain. No “self” beyond it. No soul, she says. She knows that rocks world now. She’s here to make the case.

This hour, On Point: neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland on the brain as all we are.

The audio file is here.

A Note about this post:  Dr. Churchland puts forth a materialistic and reductionist theory of the brain, consciousness, and how human beings function.  This story is not posted for because its truth value. The story is to show folks what some philosophers are talking about and thinking about the brain, consciousness, cognition, and human functioning.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Drug Companies Promise More Data Transparency

By KATIE THOMAS
The New York Times
Published: July 24, 2013

Representatives of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies pledged on Wednesday to release detailed data about their drugs to outside researchers, a move that was applauded by some but also seen as an effort to head off more extensive disclosure requirements that are under review in Europe.

The announcement, made jointly by the two major pharmaceutical trade groups in the United States and Europe, signals a shift for the industry, which in the past has resisted calls to systematically share its data. The proposal was unanimously approved by member companies and is to take effect on Jan. 1. It would apply to all new drugs and all new uses for existing drugs, whether approved in the United States or the European Union.

The entire story is here.

Is income inequality 'morally wrong'?

By John Sutter
CNN
Originally posted July 25, 2013

Here are some excerpts:

So is extreme inequality amoral?

To think this through, I called up four smart people -- Nigel Warburton, a freelance philosopher and writer, and host of the (wonderful) Philosophy Bites podcast; Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute and author of "Wealth and Justice"; Thomas Pogge, director of the Global Justice Program at Yale; and Kentaro Toyama, researcher at the University of California at Berkeley.

(cut)

I'll end this list back on John Rawls, the philosopher whose 1971 book, "A Theory of Justice," is a must-read (or at least a must-become-familiar-with) for people interested in this topic. One of Rawls' theories is that inequality can be justified only when it benefits everyone in society, particularly those who are most poor and vulnerable.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Moral Instinct

By Steven Pinker
The New York Times Magazine
Originally published January 13, 2008 (and still relevant)

Here are some excerpts:

The starting point for appreciating that there is a distinctive part of our psychology for morality is seeing how moral judgments differ from other kinds of opinions we have on how people ought to behave. Moralization is a psychological state that can be turned on and off like a switch, and when it is on, a distinctive mind-set commandeers our thinking. This is the mind-set that makes us deem actions immoral (“killing is wrong”), rather than merely disagreeable (“I hate brussels sprouts”), unfashionable (“bell-bottoms are out”) or imprudent (“don’t scratch mosquito bites”).

The first hallmark of moralization is that the rules it invokes are felt to be universal. Prohibitions of rape and murder, for example, are felt not to be matters of local custom but to be universally and objectively warranted. One can easily say, “I don’t like brussels sprouts, but I don’t care if you eat them,” but no one would say, “I don’t like killing, but I don’t care if you murder someone.”

The other hallmark is that people feel that those who commit immoral acts deserve to be punished. Not only is it allowable to inflict pain on a person who has broken a moral rule; it is wrong not to, to “let them get away with it.” People are thus untroubled in inviting divine retribution or the power of the state to harm other people they deem immoral. Bertrand Russell wrote, “The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists — that is why they invented hell.”

We all know what it feels like when the moralization switch flips inside us — the righteous glow, the burning dudgeon, the drive to recruit others to the cause.

The entire article is here.

Embattled head of American Academy of Arts and Sciences to resign

By Todd Wallack |  GLOBE STAFF     JULY 26, 2013

Dogged by charges that she inflated her resume and abused her position, the embattled president of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences agreed to resign at the end of the month, the institution announced Thursday, ending weeks of controversy that had engulfed the organization and threatened to tarnish its reputation.

Leslie Cohen Berlowitz, who has overseen the Cambridge honorary society for the past 17 years, had been on paid leave from the academy for more than a month while an outside law firm investigated allegations, first reported by the Globe, that she falsely claimed to have a doctorate from New York University and misstated her work history in federal grant applications.

Berlowitz, 69, also came under fire for berating staffers and receiving an oversized pay package — more than $598,000 in fiscal 2012 alone for an organization with only three dozen staffers. The attorney general’s office also asked whether the academy fully reported all her executive perks, such as first-class travel.

The entire story is here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Jodi Arias Trial: The Importance of Forensic Psychology Guidelines

By MICHAEL J. PERROTTI, PHD
World of Psychology Blogs

I have served as a clinical and forensic neuropsychologist expert witness for over twenty years. It is of utmost importance that an even playing field be created in adversarial proceedings.

What is conducive to this is use of forensic guidelines as standards by all experts involved in a case.

The Jodi Arias trial depicts apparent omissions of important standards that could influence outcome of assessment. There was a lack of collateral interviews, which the Reference Manual for Scientific Evidence (RMSE) addresses.

In addition, there were other omissions that I believe are important to the outcome of the Jodi Arias trial.

The entire blog post can be found here.

Jodi Arias Trial: Teachable Moments in Forensic Psychology can be found on the Video Resources page of this blog

APA's Forensic Guidelines can be found on the Guides and Guidelines page of this site

When the Patient Is Racist

By PAULINE W. CHEN
The New York Times - Doctor and Patient
Originally published July 25, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

The patient had suffered only broken bones, so after my evaluation I was happy to leave him to the orthopedic surgeons. When I expressed my relief to a colleague, he smiled. “I’m sure it freaked him out to have an Asian woman taking charge of his care,” he said after I had described the patient’s menacing tattoo and threatening reaction to me.

But then my colleague paused. “What you need to do is turn this into a ‘teaching moment,’” he finally said without the slightest hint of irony. “Sit down with the patient and educate him about racism.”

I remembered this colleague’s naïve remark, and the burly patient with the swastika tattoo, when I read an essay by Dr. Sachin H. Jain in a recent issue of The Annals of Internal Medicine on the medical profession’s attitude toward patients who discriminate against doctors.

Since Hippocrates, physicians have embraced the ideal of caring for all patients, regardless of who they might be. While the father of medicine struggled to be open-minded when it came to caring for slaves, doctors more recently have wrestled with caring for patients’ of different races, gender and sexual orientation. In 2000, the American Medical Association codified its opinion on the issue, issuing in its code of ethics a mandate that doctors could not refuse to care for patients based on any “invidious” discriminatory criteria like race or ethnicity.

The entire story is here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The need for moral enhancement: TEDx

Julian Savulescu is an australian philosopher and bioethicist. He is Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford, Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Sir Louis Matheson Distinguished Visiting Professor at Monash University, and Head of the Melbourne--Oxford Stem Cell Collaboration, which is devoted to examining the ethical implications of cloning and embryonic stem cell research.

In his talk, Julian shows us that technology advanced rapidly but morality did not. Ethics and religions do not have the answers to the questions nowadays, also because the world - thanks to technology - is a completely different one than it was when moral rules were defined and written down. These rules need to be enhanced.


Restricting Temptations: Neural Mechanisms of Precommitment

Molly J. Crockett, Barbara R. Braams, Luke Clark, Philippe N. Tobler, Trevor W. Robbins, & Tobias Kalenscher
Neuron, Volume 79, Issue 2, 391-401, 24 July 2013
10.1016/j.neuron.2013.05.028

Summary

Humans can resist temptations by exerting willpower, the effortful inhibition of impulses. But willpower can be disrupted by emotions and depleted over time. Luckily, humans can deploy alternative self-control strategies like precommitment, the voluntary restriction of access to temptations. Here, we examined the neural mechanisms of willpower and precommitment using fMRI. Behaviorally, precommitment facilitated choices for large delayed rewards, relative to willpower, especially in more impulsive individuals. While willpower was associated with activation in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), posterior parietal cortex (PPC), and inferior frontal gyrus, precommitment engaged lateral frontopolar cortex (LFPC). During precommitment, LFPC showed increased functional connectivity with DLPFC and PPC, especially in more impulsive individuals, and the relationship between impulsivity and LFPC connectivity was mediated by value-related activation in ventromedial PFC. Our findings support a hierarchical model of self-control in which LFPC orchestrates precommitment by controlling action plans in more caudal prefrontal regions as a function of expected value.

The entire article is here.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mental Illness: It's Not in Your Genes

by KAS THOMAS
BigThink Blog
Originally posted JULY 21, 2013

Even before the Human Genome Project wrapped up in April 2003, scientists have worked overtime to find the gene or genes responsible for autism, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, ADHD, alcoholism, depression, and other ailments "known" to have major genetic components.

The problem is, many neuropsychiatric ailments that are assumed to have a major genetic component don't seem to have one.

More than a decade after the sequencing of the human genome, there is still no reliable genetic test for autism, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, or any other major neuropsychiatric disorder (except for Huntington's disease, for which there was already a test, prior to the Human Genome Project).

The entire story is here.

Thanks to Lamar Freed for this information.

Is Neuroscience the Death of Free Will?

By Eddy Nahmias
The New York Times - Opinionator
Originally published November 13, 2011, but still relevant

Is free will an illusion?  Some leading scientists think so.  For instance, in 2002 the psychologist Daniel Wegner wrote, “It seems we are agents. It seems we cause what we do… It is sobering and ultimately accurate to call all this an illusion.” More recently, the neuroscientist Patrick Haggard declared, “We certainly don’t have free will.  Not in the sense we think.”  And in June, the neuroscientist Sam Harris claimed, “You seem to be an agent acting of your own free will. The problem, however, is that this point of view cannot be reconciled with what we know about the human brain.”

Such proclamations make the news; after all, if free will is dead, then moral and legal responsibility may be close behind.  As the legal analyst Jeffrey Rosen wrote in The New York Times Magazine, “Since all behavior is caused by our brains, wouldn’t this mean all behavior could potentially be excused? … The death of free will, or its exposure as a convenient illusion, some worry, could wreak havoc on our sense of moral and legal responsibility.”

The entire story is here.

Thanks to Verybadwizards for this information.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

U.S. sees lower-than-expected Obamacare insurance costs

By David Morgan
Reuters
Originally published July 18, 2013

Hoping to gain the high ground in an escalating war of words over Obamacare, the U.S. administration on Thursday forecast sharply lower than expected insurance costs for consumers and small businesses in new online state healthcare exchanges.

The exchanges represent the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and their success could depend on the cost of so-called "silver plans" with mid-range premiums, which are expected to attract the largest number of enrollees.

A report by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said data from 10 states and the District of Columbia shows preliminary 2014 premiums on the lowest-cost mid-range silver plans in those marketplaces to be 18 percent lower on average than earlier administration and congressional estimates.

The entire story is here.

Concussion Study Makes Case for Reducing Contact Drills for Youth Players

By KEN BELSON
The New York Times
Published: July 25, 2013

Youth football players are not more vulnerable to head hits in games if they take part in fewer contact drills during practices, a new study published in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering showed.

(cut)

The study’s conclusion — that the amount of practice does not influence the number of head hits absorbed during games — may bolster calls to reduce the frequency of contact drills in youth football leagues. N.F.L., college and high school teams have already scaled back the number of contact drills in practices.

The entire story is here.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Ethics, Charity and Overhead

Posted by Mike LaBossiere
Talking Philosophy
Originally posted July 19, 2013

While heading home after a race, I caught a segment on the radio discussing Dan Pallotta’s view of the moral assessment of charities and the notion that our moral intuitions regarding charities are erroneous. Pallotta’s main criticism is that people err in regarding frugality as being equivalent to being moral. So, for example, a charitable event with 5% overhead is regarded as morally superior to one with 70% overhead. This is an error, as he sees it, because what should be focused on is the accomplishments. If, for example, the event with the 5% overhead only raised $100 for charity and the event with 70% overhead raised a million dollars, then the second event would obviously have accomplished a great deal more. Naturally, it is being assumed that the overhead is for legitimate expenses such as salaries, advertising and such.

While I lack Pallotta’s experience and expertise in regards to running charities, I do think it is well worth while to consider some of the ethical issues that his discussion raised.

The entire story is here.

It turns out empathy can be taught

By Craig Dowden
Special to Financial Post
Originally published July 7, 2013

There has been increased emphasis on empathy in the field of medicine in recent years. Empathy, it turns out, is directly related to key outcomes of interest to medical observers, including improved patient satisfaction, better patient adherence to proposed treatments, and increased well-being in doctors (including lower burnout). It has also been linked to a reduction in errors by doctors and fewer malpractice claims. As a consequence, the desire to enhance empathy in doctors is not only a noble and laudable goal, but also a valuable one from a bottom-line perspective.

Seeing the profound significance of empathy in medical settings, Dr. Helen Riess, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Empathy and Relational Science Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, set out to explore whether it was possible to bring about observable improvements in physician empathy. Drawing on Daniel Goleman’s work in the area of emotional intelligence, as well as elements of the neuroscience of empathy, Dr. Riess designed and implemented an empathy training program for physicians.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Beauty, Personality, and Affect as Antecedents of Counterproductive Work Behavior Receipt

Brent A. Scott, Timothy A. Judge
Human Performance 
Vol. 26, Iss. 2, 2013

Abstract

Over the years, much attention has been devoted to understanding counterproductive work behavior (CWB) and its related concepts. Less is known, however, about whether certain employees find themselves more than others to be the targets of CWB. To examine this issue, we tested a model that positioned CWB receipt as a function of employees' personality (neuroticism, agreeableness), their appearance (physical attractiveness), and the negative emotions felt toward those employees by their coworkers. Two studies using multiple sources of data revealed that disagreeable and physically unattractive employees received more CWB from their coworkers, coworker negative emotion felt toward employees was associated with CWB receipt, and the relationship between employee agreeableness and CWB receipt was due, in part, to coworker negative emotion.

An accumulating body of literature has examined counterproductive work behavior (CWB), defined as “behavior intended to hurt the organization or other members of the organization” (Spector & Fox, 2002, p. 271). Researchers have investigated CWB under a variety of labels, including abuse (Keashly, Trott, & MacLean, 1994), aggression (Baron & Neuman, 1996), antisocial behavior (Giacalone & Greenberg, 1997), harassment (Bowling & Beehr, 2006), incivility (Andersson & Pearson, 1999), social undermining (Duffy, Ganster, & Pagon, 2002), and workplace deviance (Robinson & Bennett, 1995). Collectively, this research has drawn attention to CWB in organizations by identifying reasons why employees engage in such harmful actions, with antecedents encompassing both personal factors (e.g., agreeableness, conscientiousness, job satisfaction, and negative emotion) and situational factors (e.g., unfair treatment; for meta-analyses, see Berry, Ones, & Sackett, 2007; Dalal, 2005; Salgado, 2002).

The entire article is here.

APA Member-Initiated Task Force to Reconcile Policies Related to Psychologists' Involvement in National Security Settings

The goal of this grassroots task force is to develop a clear, comprehensive policy statement that consolidates existing APA policies into a unified, consistent document. The consolidated policy document will highlight the following principles drawn from existing APA policies:
  1. Torture is always a violation of human rights and psychologists' professional ethics;
  2. Psychologists are always prohibited from engaging in torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment;
  3. Abusive interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding and sensory deprivation, constitute torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment and are always prohibited;
  4. The role of psychologists in unlawful detention settings is limited to working on behalf of detainees or providing treatment for military personnel;
  5. There is absolutely no defense to a violation of human rights under the APA Ethics Code.

Here is a copy of the proposed policy:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Wall Street in Crisis: A Perfect Storm Looming

By Labaton Sucharow
US Financial Services Industries Survey
Published July 2013

Here is an excerpt from the Executive Summary:

To be sure, over the last decade, scandal and corruption have eroded public faith in the markets. We have witnessed the global economy in precipitous decline, leaving a casualty trail from seemingly impenetrable institutions like Lehman Brothers, to small businesses and everyday individuals who have lost jobs, homes and retirement savings.

We have hoped for, and worked toward, a better future.  Governments around the world have enacted aggressive reforms to ensure greater transparency and accountability. Corporate behemoths and financial institutions have taken a more judicious approach to risk management. Industry leaders have made promises to employees and the public at large–promises about ethics and responsibility. But the reality is, we now face a moment of unparalleled crisis; many of these promises have gone unfulfilled and if we don’t take swift collective action, the battle cry this can’t happen again will be nothing more than background music to the next, more potent economic tsunami.

The complete survey is here.

Ethical business: companies need to earn our trust

By Tim Melville-Ross
Guardian Professional
Originally published July 11, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Since the beginning of time, business has depended upon trust and goodwill in order for commerce to flourish. Indeed, the word credit has its origins in the Latin credere: 'to trust, entrust, believe'. Business must be conducted in an open and honest manner, otherwise trust is eroded and businesses fail. But calls for an increased trust in business miss the point – trust needs to be earned.

There was once a time when business leaders could just tell the public "trust me to do the right thing" and they would. Then, with increased regulation and pressures from investors, companies were asked to show they were working to ethical standards through their own reporting. But since the collapse of the financial markets, something more is required for society's trust in business to be restored.

The entire article is here.