"Living a fully ethical life involves doing the most good we can." - Peter Singer
"Common sense is not so common." - Voltaire
“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

Saturday, January 31, 2015

To Protect His Son, A Father Asks School To Bar Unvaccinated Children

By Lisa Aliferis
NPR
Originally posted January 27, 2015

Here are two excerpts:

Rhett cannot be vaccinated, because his immune system is still rebuilding. It may be months more before his body is healthy enough to get all his immunizations. Until then, he depends on everyone around him for protection — what's known as herd immunity.

(cut)

Carl Krawitt has had just about enough. "It's very emotional for me," he said. "If you choose not to immunize your own child and your own child dies because they get measles, OK, that's your responsibility, that's your choice. But if your child gets sick and gets my child sick and my child dies, then ... your action has harmed my child."

The entire article is here.

Ethics and the Enhanced Soldier of the Near Future

By Dave Shunk
Military Review
January-February 2015

Here are two excerpts:

The soldier of the future likely will be enhanced through neuroscience, biotechnology, nanotechnology, genetics, and drugs. According to Patrick Lin, writing in The Atlantic about the ethics of enhancing soldiers, “Soldier enhancements, through biological or technological augmentation of human capabilities, reduce warfighter risk by providing tactical advantages over the enemy.” Lin describes efforts to develop a “super-soldier” who can perform more like
a machine.

(cut)

New ethical challenges are arising from the technological developments in stem cells, genetics,
neurosciences, robotics, and information technology.  Lawrence Hinman of the Center for Ethics in
Science and Technology, University of San Diego, reports that “these developments have created ethical vacuums, situations in which our technology has outstripped our ethical framework.” This statement, although made in 2008, remains true. In fact, current military references to enhanced soldiers are very limited.

The entire article is here.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Does Moral Responsibility Come in Degrees?

By Justin Caouette
Flickers of Freedom Blog
Originally published January 14, 2015

Here are two excerpts:

I think Mele is right to say that moral responsibility is commonly regarded as a matter of degree, but I’m not so sure that such an assumption is warranted. And, if the assumption is warranted, I think it’s worthwhile to get clear on why this is so.  Investigating this so-called degree feature might help to shed light on the nature of moral responsibility itself. Further, if one holds that moral responsibility does come in degrees it might limit what one can say about the nature of moral responsibility and this conclusion could be fruitful as well for those trying to uncover the the root of the differences between competing views.

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So, the purpose of posting on this topic is simply to get a sense of how can we make sense of moral responsibility as coming in degrees. Must we assume that blameworthiness and moral responsibility is the same thing to make sense of this? And, what does it even mean to say that moral responsibility comes in degrees?

The entire blog post, and some great responses, are here.

Editor's Note: These types of articles are particularly relevant for forensic psychology, and helping to understand how psychologists help describe mitigating factors.

Moral responsibility is also easily applied to psychotherapy.

Socrates Untenured

By Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle
Inside Higher Ed
Originally published January 13, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

While it is possible to point to philosophers who work with (rather than merely talk about) the concerns of non-philosophers, among the mass of philosophers societal irrelevance is often treated as a sign of intellectual seriousness.

This is a shame, since we are surrounded by phenomena crying out for philosophic reflection. Today we are constantly confronted by philosophic questions, in many cases created by advances in science and technology. Open your computer and you can find thoughtful exploration of issues as varied as the creation of autonomous killing machines, the loss of privacy in a digital age, the remaking of friendship via Facebook, and the refashioning of human nature via biotechnology. In this sense philosophy abounds. But professional philosophers have remained largely on the margins of this growing cultural conversation.

It needn’t be this way. Take the subject matter of metaphysics. Every philosophy department teaches courses in metaphysics. But how is the subject handled? As evidenced by a sample of university syllabuses posted online, metaphysics classes are overwhelmingly exercises in professional philosophy. Just as Dewey complained, classes begin from the concerns of philosophers rather than from contemporary problems. This can be seen in the leading textbooks.

The entire article is here.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Brief depression questionnaires could lead to unnecessary antidepressant prescriptions

University of California School of Medicine - Davis
Press Release
Originally released September 2, 3014

Short questionnaires used to identify patients at risk for depression are linked with antidepressant medications being prescribed when they may not be needed, according to new research from UC Davis Health System published in the September-October issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

Known as “brief depression symptom measures,” the self-administered questionnaires are used in primary care settings to determine the frequency and severity of depression symptoms among patients. Several questionnaires have been developed to help reduce untreated depression, a serious mental illness that can jeopardize relationships, employment and quality of life and increase the risks of heart disease, drug abuse and suicide.

The UC Davis team was concerned that the questionnaires might lead to prescriptions for antidepressant medication being given to those who aren’t depressed. Antidepressants are effective in treating moderate-to-severe depression but can have significant side effects, including sexual dysfunction, sedation and anxiety. They also have to be taken over several months to be effective.


“It is important to treat depression, but equally important to make sure those who get treatment actually need it,” said Anthony Jerant, professor of family and community medicine at UC Davis and lead author of the study.

The entire pressor is here.

The link to the study is in a blue hyperlink above.  The conclusion of the research is as follows:

Conclusions: These exploratory findings suggest administration of brief depression symptom measures, particularly the PHQ-9, may be associated with depression diagnosis and antidepressant recommendation and prescription among patients unlikely to have major depression. If these findings are confirmed, researchers should investigate the balance of benefits and risks (eg, overdiagnosis of depression and overtreatment with antidepressants) associated with use of a brief symptom measure.

Is My Work “Medically Necessary”?

How insurance companies try to get around rules for mental health care.

By Darcy Lockman
Slate
Originally published January 12, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

I’ve been in private practice since 2010. Most of the people I see submit their bills to their insurance companies for reimbursement. It’s a testament to the integrity in the industry that these reimbursements often come through without a hitch. (Though only in this era of predictable corporate malfeasance could a company simply making good on its contractual obligations be praised for its integrity.) Somehow, four entire years went by during which I never once had to submit to a utilization review. But in the past year, possibly because of increased cost concerns in the wake of the Affordable Care Act, I’ve received a handful of phone calls, each caller requesting that I schedule a talk with a case manager.

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Political Extremism Predicts Belief in Conspiracy Theories

By Jan-Willem van Prooijen, André P. M. Krouwel, & Thomas V. Pollet
Social Psychological and Personality Science, January 12, 2015

Abstract

Historical records suggest that the political extremes—at both the “left” and the “right”—substantially endorsed conspiracy beliefs about other-minded groups. The present contribution empirically tests whether extreme political ideologies, at either side of the political spectrum, are positively associated with an increased tendency to believe in conspiracy theories. Four studies conducted in the United States and the Netherlands revealed a quadratic relationship between strength of political ideology and conspiracy beliefs about various political issues. Moreover, participants’ belief in simple political solutions to societal problems mediated conspiracy beliefs among both left- and right-wing extremists. Finally, the effects described here were not attributable to general attitude extremity. Our conclusion is that political extremism and conspiracy beliefs are strongly associated due to a highly structured thinking style that is aimed at making sense of societal events.

The entire article is here.

My brain made me do it, but does that matter?

By Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
The Conversation
Originally published December 12, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

These extreme cases are easy. Despite some rhetoric, almost nobody really believes that the fact that your brain made you do it is by itself enough to excuse you from moral responsibility. On the other side, almost everybody agrees that some brain states, such as seizures, do remove moral responsibility. The real issues lie in the middle.

What about mental illnesses? Addictions? Compulsions? Brainwashing? Hypnosis? Tumors? Coercion? Alien hand syndrome? Multiple personality disorder? These cases are all tricky, so philosophers disagree about which people in these conditions are responsible — and why. Nonetheless, these difficult cases do not show that there is no difference between seizures and normal desires, just as twilight does not show that there is no difference between night and day. It is hard to draw a line, but that does not mean that there is no line.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Self-compassion protects against the negative effects of low self-esteem

By S.L. Marshall, P. D. Parker, J. Ciarrochi, B. Sahdra, C. J. Jackson, & P. C. Heaven
Personality and Individual Differences
Volume 74, February 2015, Pages 116–121

Highlights
• Low self-esteem predicts poor mental health, but only amongst those adolescents who are low in self-compassion.
• Low self-esteem had little negative effects on those high in self-compassion.
• Self-esteem and self-compassion are statistically distinguishable.
• Self-compassion training may help young people to respond effectively to self-doubt.

Abstract

Low self-esteem is usually linked to negative outcomes such as poor mental health, but is this always the case? Based on a contextual behavioural model, we reasoned that self-compassion would weaken the link between low self-esteem and low mental health. Self-compassion involves accepting self-doubt, negative self-evaluations and adversity as part of the human condition. In a longitudinal study of 2448 Australian adolescents, we assessed how self-esteem interacted with self-compassion in Grade 9 to predict changes in mental health over the next year. As hypothesized, self-compassion moderated the influence of self-esteem on mental health. Amongst those high in self-compassion, low self-esteem had little effect on mental health, suggesting a potentially potent buffering affect. We discuss the possibility that fostering self-compassion among adolescents can reduce their need for self-esteem in situations that elicit self-doubt.

The entire article is here.

Social Media Ethics

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly
Originally published January 9, 2015

Some social media companies—including Facebook—have run experiments to learn what influences user behavior. Many of these experiments have troubled both social media users and privacy advocates, who worry that this research and use of personal information is unethical.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Kaiser's 2,600 mental health workers strike in California

By Olga R. Rodriguez
AP via Yahoo News
Originally published January 13, 2014

Kaiser Permanente mental health professionals throughout California went on a strike Monday to protest what they say is a lack of staffing that affects care.

The health care provider's 2,600 psychologists, therapists and social workers began the weeklong walkout to demand that Kaiser Permanente offer timely, quality mental health care at its psychiatry departments and clinics, said Jim Clifford, a union member and San Diego psychiatric therapist.

Clifford said some patients have to wait up to two months for follow-up appointments, which prolongs the recovery process.

The entire article is here.

Mental health workers don't recognise their own burnout

British Psychological Society
Press Release
Originally published January 9, 2015

Some mental health workers find it difficult to recognise their own burnout and even when they do they struggle to admit it to others says a study presented today at the British Psychological Society Division of Occupational Psychology annual conference in Glasgow.

The study was undertaken by PhD student Ms Marieke Ledingham and colleagues Associate Professor Peter Standen (Edith Cowan University, Australia) and Associate Professor Chris Skinner (University of Notre Dame, Australia).

Ms Ledingham explained: “Burnout has long been a problem in mental health workplaces and remains so despite much research and considerable knowledge of it amongst professional employees. Despite working in this sector employees struggle to avoid burnout and we wanted to study how work places could improve support.”

The entire pressor is here.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sick in the head? Pathogen concerns bias implicit perceptions of mental illness

By Erick M. Lund and Ian A. Boggero
Evolutionary Psychology 12(4): 706-718

ABSTRACT

Biases against the mentally ill are historically and cross-culturally pervasive, suggesting they may have an evolutionary basis. The prevailing view is that people seek to distance themselves from the mentally ill because they are perceived as dangerous, violent, and incompetent. However, because of similarities between sickness behaviors and symptoms of some mental disorders, it was hypothesized that mental illness stigma could be partially explained as a function of behavioral immune system biases designed to avoid potential sources of contagion. In two experiments, it was found that mental illness was implicitly associated more with disease than danger. In Experiment 1, this implicit association was exacerbated among people who have had their biological immune system activated by a recent illness. In Experiment 2, experimentally priming disease salience increased implicit association between mental illness and disease. Implications for the evolutionary origins of prejudice and the prevention of mental illness stigma are discussed.

The article is here.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Moral Judgment and Action in Preverbal Infants and Toddlers: Evidence for an Innate Moral Core

By J. Kiley Hamlin
Current Directions in Psychological Science 22(3) 186 –193
DOI: 10.1177/0963721412470687

Abstract

Although developmental psychologists traditionally explore morality from a learning and development perspective, some aspects of the human moral sense may be built-in, having evolved to sustain collective action and cooperation as required for successful group living. In this article, I review a recent body of research with infants and toddlers, demonstrating surprisingly sophisticated and flexible moral behavior and evaluation in a preverbal population whose opportunity for moral learning is limited at best. Although this work itself is in its infancy, it supports theoretical claims that human morality is a core aspect of human nature.

The entire article is here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Empathy represses analytic thought, and vice versa: Brain physiology limits simultaneous use of both networks

Case Western Reserve
Press Release via Science Daily
Originally posted October 30, 2012

Summary

When the brain's analytic network is engaged, our ability to appreciate the human cost of our action is repressed, researchers have found. The study shows for the first time that we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time.

Here is an excerpt:

The work suggests that established theories about two competing networks within the brain must be revised. More, it provides insights into the operation of a healthy mind versus those of the mentally ill or developmentally disabled.

"This is the cognitive structure we've evolved," said Anthony Jack, an assistant professor of cognitive science at Case Western Reserve and lead author of the new study. "Empathetic and analytic thinking are, at least to some extent, mutually exclusive in the brain."

The Science Direct repost of the press release is here.

Editor's note: This research highlights how psychologists need to balance empathy with analytic reason during psychotherapy.  Self-reflection may aid with assessing your skills in both empathy and analysis, and your ability to switch cognitive sets when needed.

For those interested in the problems with empathy, search "Paul Bloom" on this site for articles highlighting the issue.

How To Spot A Bad Therapist: 10 Major Signs

By Tamara Hill
PsychCentral Blog

Here is an excerpt:

It is often much easier to spot a good therapist than it is to spot a bad therapist. We all look for kind, loving, compassionate, and caring people to connect with. Yet, we are hardly able to pinpoint when we are being taken advantage of for a variety of reasons. It’s who we are and how we have been molded in society and even in our families to think about “professionals.” The first few nonverbal signs we look for when we meet someone new is genuine smiling, eye contact, and maybe touch (a touch on the arm or hand) to convey friendliness, and a positive tone of voice. When we do not see these things, we often do one of two things:

  1. Ignore the behavior: Because the therapist may offer cheap rates, may be close to home, or offers other incentives, you may be more willing to ignore any signs of incompetence.
  2. Make excuses: “Maybe she/he is having a bad day,” or “maybe he/she just doesn’t like me.” “Maybe he/she needs time to warm up to me!” Does this sound familiar?

Editor's Note: While a psychologist may not do any of the 10 signs, there are probably other activities that we do during therapy that may be countertherapeutic or unhelpful.  Asking for honest feedback from patients about what we are doing well and not doing well may help your overall skill level and competence.  Many times, psychologists ask patients to self-reflect.  Maybe it is important for psychologists to take the time to self-reflect.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Neuroscience of Altruism

By Noah Berlatsky
Pacific Standard Magazine
Originally published December 11, 2014

“We are good,” Donald Pfaff declares early on in The Altruistic Brain. By this he means that all humans are innately moral, not in a philosophical/religious sense, but as a matter of objective science. “[T]he human brain is wired for goodwill,” he argues, “which propels us toward empathic displays of altruism.” The human brain is altruistic, and altruism is good; therefore humans are good. It’s a neat syllogism—but, unfortunately, reducing moral questions to syllogisms doesn’t work as well as Pfaff wants it to.

This is not to denigrate neuroscience, nor to dismiss Pfaff’s insights altogether. The book is most useful as a scientific refutation of the idea that human beings are innately selfish or innately cruel. Pfaff musters a great deal of evidence to show that the Christian notion of original sin—and the capitalist notion of human self-interest as a sole motivating force—are both unsustainable, at least in their more simplistic forms.

The entire article is here.

Private acts and public interests

By Pedro Molina
Philly.com
Originally published December 28, 2014

Theorists of public morality - from the ancient Greek philosophers and Roman jurists on - have noticed that apparently private acts of vice, when they multiply and become widespread, can imperil important public interests. This fact embarrasses philosophical efforts to draw a sharp line between "private" morality, which is not subject to law, and public actions that may rightly be subjected to legal regulation.

Considered as isolated acts, someone's recreational use of narcotics, for example, may affect the public weal negligibly, if at all. But an epidemic of drug abuse, though constituted by private acts of drug-taking, damages the common good in myriad ways. This does not by itself settle the question whether drug prohibition is a prudent or effective policy. It does, however, undermine the belief that the recreational use of drugs is a matter of purely private choice.

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Getting mental health services can be hard, despite law requiring parity

By Lisa Gillespie
The Washington Post
Originally published January 5, 2015

Even though more Americans than before have access to health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, getting mental health services can still be challenging.

A report released in November concludes that despite a 2008 mental health parity law, some state exchange health plans may have a way to go to even the playing field between mental and physical benefits. The report, released by the advocacy group Mental Health America, was paid for by Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A. and Lundbeck U.S.A., a pharmaceutical company that specializes in neurology and psychiatric treatments.

The report listed the states with the lowest prevalence of mental illness and the highest rates of access to care as Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, North Dakota and Delaware. Those with the highest prevalence of mental illness and most limited access are Arizona, Mississippi, Nevada, Washington and Louisiana.

The entire article is here.

Laws that Conflict with the Ethics of Medicine: What Should Doctors Do?

By Dena S. Davis and Eric Kodish
Hastings Center Report 44, no. 6 (2014): 11-14.
DOI: 10.1002/hast.382

Here is an excerpt:

Medical ethics has always asked doctors to put their patients first, even at some risk to themselves. “Medicine is, at its center, a moral enterprise grounded in a covenant of trust,” writes Christine Cassell. “This covenant obliges physicians to be competent and to use their competence in the patient's best interests. Physicians, therefore, are both intellectually and morally obliged to act as advocates for the sick wherever their welfare is threatened and for their health at all times.”[19] Physicians are expected to care for patients with infectious diseases, even at risk of their own health. Physicians are expected to do some pro bono work, to take on some patients who are not financial assets, and so on. Physicians should be advocates for the health of all people, above and beyond even their own patients. The AAP is “dedicated to the health of all children.”[20] The imperative to act on this ethical norm clearly suggests that physicians should challenge these types of laws. On rare occasions, individual doctors may be ethically justified in disobeying or breaking the law.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bioethics: why philosophy is essential for progress

By Julian Savulescu
J Med Ethics 2015;41:28-33 doi:10.1136/medethics-2014-102284

Here is an excerpt:

Ethics is concerned with norms and values. Its subject matter is the way the world ought to be or should be. It is about good and bad, right and wrong. Science is about the way the world is, was, will be, could be, would be. Ethics is about values; science is about facts. (Strictly, science is about natural facts. On realist views of ethics, ethics is about normative or evaluative facts.)

David Hume famously described this ‘fact–value’ or ‘is–ought’ distinction. One of his greatest contributions to ethics was to observe that values cannot be read straight off natural facts. To do so is what GE Moore described as the naturalistic fallacy. Science and ethics are completely different kinds of enterprises.

This distinction is essential to understanding the failure of much of bioethics and medical ethics. Even if science were complete and we knew everything about the world and ourselves, it would not answer the ethical questions of how we should live or whether equality is more important than maximising the good, or when we should die. The stated basis of the National Health Service is egalitarianism—equal treatment for equal need. But that is a highly contestable ethical principle.

The entire article is here.

Dilemma over deductibles: Costs crippling middle class

By Laura Ungarand Jayne O'Donnell
The Battle Creek Enquirer
Originally published January 2, 2015

Here are two excerpts:

A recent Commonwealth Fund survey found that four in 10 working-age adults skipped some kind of care because of cost. The portion of workers with annual deductibles — what consumers must pay before insurance kicks in — rose from 55% eight years ago to 80% today, according to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A Mercer study showed that 2014 saw the largest one-year increase in enrollment in “high-deductible plans” — from 18% to 23% of all covered employees.

(cut)

Doctors and doctor groups say such individual coping strategies can be helpful, but action is needed on a national level. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently came out with a policy statement saying high-deductible plans “may be a less desirable way to lower health care costs than other means … even if ‘other means’ require more work by government, insurance companies and other health policy participants.”

The entire story is here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Belgian rapist Frank Van Den Bleeken 'to be euthanised' in prison this week

By Roisin O'Connor
The Independent
Originally posted January 5, 2015

A convicted murderer and rapist who won the right to end his life rather than endure 'unbearable suffering' in prison will be euthanised on 11 January.

Granted the right to die under Belgium’s liberal euthanasia laws in September, Frank Van Den Bleeken claimed he could not face the rest of his life in jail and argued that he would never be able to overcome his violent sexual impulses.

The entire article is here.

Early Death for Severe Mental Illness?

By Allen Frances
The Huffington Post Blog
Originally published December 30, 2014

People diagnosed with serious mental illness -- schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe depression -- die 20 years early, on average, because of a combination of lousy medical care, smoking, lack of exercise, complications of medication, suicide, and accidents. They are the most discriminated-against and neglected group in the U.S., which has become probably the worst place in the developed world to be mentally ill.

In many previous blog posts I have bemoaned the shameful state of psychiatric care and housing for people with severe mental illness. My conclusion was that the United States has become the worst place, and now the worst time ever, to have a severe mental illness. Hundreds of thousands of the severely ill languish inappropriately in prisons. Additional hundreds of thousands are homeless on the street.

The entire blog post is here.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless

By Joseph Stromberg
Vox
Published on January 5, 2015

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is probably the most widely used personality test in the world.

An estimated 2 million people take it annually, at the behest of corporate HR departments, colleges, and even government agencies. The company that makes and markets the test makes somewhere around $20 million each year.

The only problem? The test is completely meaningless.

"There's just no evidence behind it," says Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who's written about the shortcomings of the Myers-Briggs previously. "The characteristics measured by the test have almost no predictive power on how happy you'll be in a situation, how you'll perform at your job, or how happy you'll be in your marriage."

The entire article is here.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

New test measures doctors' ability to deliver patient-centered care

University of Missouri-Columbia
News Release
Originally released December 29, 2014

When health care providers take patients' perspectives into consideration, patients are more likely to be actively engaged in their treatment and more satisfied with their care. This is called patient-centered care, and it has been the central focus of the curriculum at the University of Missouri School of Medicine since 2005. Recently, MU researchers have developed a credible tool to assess whether medical students have learned and are applying specific behaviors that characterize patient-centered care.

The researchers first worked with real patients to identify a list of specific behaviors that demonstrated physicians were providing patient-centered care. By defining these detailed, specific patient-centered behaviors, the researchers have been able to tailor the educational experience at the MU School of Medicine to help students gain these skills.

MU medical students now are assessed on their ability to deliver the care in ways the patients expect; students must perform at a satisfactory level on the patient-centered care exam to graduate from the MU School of Medicine.

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From this authentic assessment, researchers learned students were picking up on many key factors in patient-centered care. Most MU medical students had strong, effective communication skills, didn't use medical jargon, actively listened to the patient, showed empathy and were in charge of the situation when they needed to lead a critical conversation.

The entire press release is here.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The effects of punishment and appeals for honesty on children’s truth-telling behavior

By Victoria Talwar, Cindy Arruda, & Sarah Yachison
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
Volume 130, February 2015, Pages 209–217

Abstract

This study examined the effectiveness of two types of verbal appeals (external and internal motivators) and expected punishment in 372 children’s (4- to 8-year-olds) truth-telling behavior about a transgression. External appeals to tell the truth emphasized social approval by stating that the experimenter would be happy if the children told the truth. Internal appeals to tell the truth emphasized internal standards of behavior by stating that the children would be happy with themselves if they told the truth. Results indicate that with age children are more likely to lie and maintain their lie during follow-up questioning. Overall, children in the External Appeal conditions told the truth significantly more compared with children in the No Appeal conditions. Children who heard internal appeals with no expected punishment were significantly less likely to lie compared with children who heard internal appeals when there was expected punishment. The results have important implications regarding the impact of socialization on children’s honesty and promoting children’s veracity in applied situations where children’s honesty is critical.

Highlights

• The effectiveness of verbal appeals and punishment on children’s honesty was examined.
• External appeals emphasized the importance of truth-telling for social approval.
• Internal appeals emphasized internal standards of behavior.
•Overall children in the external appeal conditions were least likely to lie.
•The efficacy of internal appeals was attenuated by expected punishment.

My brain made me do it, but does that matter?

By Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
The Conversation
Originally published December 12, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Despite some rhetoric, almost nobody really believes that the fact that your brain made you do it is by itself enough to excuse you from moral responsibility. On the other side, almost everybody agrees that some brain states, such as seizures, do remove moral responsibility. The real issues lie in the middle.

What about mental illnesses? Addictions? Compulsions? Brainwashing? Hypnosis? Tumors? Coercion? Alien hand syndrome? Multiple personality disorder? These cases are all tricky, so philosophers disagree about which people in these conditions are responsible — and why. Nonetheless, these difficult cases do not show that there is no difference between seizures and normal desires, just as twilight does not show that there is no difference between night and day. It is hard to draw a line, but that does not mean that there is no line.

The entire article is here.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Decarceration of u.s. Jails and prisons: where will persons with serious mental illness go?

By H.R. Lamb and L.E. Weinberger
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2014;42(4):489-94.

Abstract

Decarceration (decreasing the number of persons incarcerated in U.S. jails and prisons) has begun. It is estimated that more than 350,000 persons with serious mental illness (SMI) are among those incarcerated in the United States and that many thousands of them will probably be among those released. Currently, the prison population in general is being reduced as a consequence of concerns about overcrowding and of policies and programs such as reclassification of drug possession, which would affect many persons with mental illness. Court-ordered diversion and changes in sentencing guidelines are also serving to reduce prison populations. In recent years, the mental health system did not have to manage as large a number of persons with SMI, especially those who were among the most difficult and expensive to treat, because many of them were incarcerated in jails and prisons. Now, with decarceration and the release of many such persons, the mental health system may be expected to assume more responsibility for them and should be prepared and funded to meet their needs. This population of persons with SMI needs structure and treatment that, depending upon their individual needs, may include 24-hour supportive housing, ACT and FACT teams, assisted outpatient treatment, psychiatric medication, and psychiatric hospitalization.

The article is here.

Making capitalism more ethical: Dynamism with decency

By Jonathan Haidt
Ethicalsystems.org
Originally published January 1, l2015

When I tell people I teach business ethics, they often ask: “isn’t that an oxymoron?” Their response is not unwarranted. Much of my course is about the clever ways businesses have found to exploit their workers, sidestep regulations, and foist external costs onto others. Businesspeople are brilliant at finding opportunities and some of those opportunities are exploitative.

Yet the great majority of businesses (in developed nations with low corruption) run quite ethically and survive only because they provide a good or service that makes other people’s lives better. When you take the big picture and see those hockey-stick graphs of rising prosperity in the West since 1800, and in Asia since 1980, I think you’ve got to start with the proposition that business is fundamentally good. Creating value for other people (and keeping some for yourself) is virtuous. When people are free to create value, it unleashes the tidal wave of human dynamism. Poverty plummets. When people are not free, you get torpor, North Korea, and Cuba.

The entire blog post is here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Are we living in the age of the brain?

Understanding the brain won’t be done simply by mapping it down to the last synapse

By Philip Ball
Prospect Magazine
Originally published December 22 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Resolution of conflicting mental signals is certainly not ignored by cognitive scientists or psychologists, but there seems often to be a disjuncture between the neuroscientific model of the brain as a problem-solving network and the actual experience of the brain as a medley, even a bedlam, of imperatives and impulses. Sigmund Freud may have been wrong in seeking to present his psychoanalytic theory as a kind of science, but he was surely right to present the mind in terms of conflict rather than unity. One thing we do know about the brain is that it is not just a very large network of neurons, but is both very diverse (there are many different types of neuron, as well as non-neuronal cells called glia) and highly modular (different parts perform different, specialized roles). Mapping this architecture is an important goal, and there are some deeply impressive techniques for doing that. But the risk is that this is like trying to understand human culture using Google Earth—or rather, cultures, for there is just a single geography but plenty of conflicts, compromises and confusion going on within it.

None of this would be disputed by neuroscientists. But it perhaps highlights the distinctions between an understanding of the brain and an understanding of the mind. The implication seems to be that it is hard to develop one while you’re working on the other.

The entire article is here.

“Me & My Brain”: Exposing Neuroscience's Closet Dualism

By Liad Mudrik and Uri Maoz
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
February 2015, Vol. 27, No. 2, Pages 211-221
Posted Online September 22, 2014.

Abstract

Our intuitive concept of the relations between brain and mind is increasingly challenged by the scientific world view. Yet, although few neuroscientists openly endorse Cartesian dualism, careful reading reveals dualistic intuitions in prominent neuroscientific texts. Here, we present the “double-subject fallacy”: treating the brain and the entire person as two independent subjects who can simultaneously occupy divergent psychological states and even have complex interactions with each other—as in “my brain knew before I did.” Although at first, such writing may appear like harmless, or even cute, shorthand, a closer look suggests that it can be seriously misleading. Surprisingly, this confused writing appears in various cognitive-neuroscience texts, from prominent peer-reviewed articles to books intended for lay audience. Far from being merely metaphorical or figurative, this type of writing demonstrates that dualistic intuitions are still deeply rooted in contemporary thought, affecting even the most rigorous practitioners of the neuroscientific method. We discuss the origins of such writing and its effects on the scientific arena as well as demonstrate its relevance to the debate on legal and moral responsibility.

The article is here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Is Applied Ethics Applicable Enough? Acting and Hedging under Moral Uncertainty

By Grace Boey
3 Quarks Daily
Originally published December 16, 2014

Here are two excerpts:

Lots has been written about moral decision-making under factual uncertainty. Michael Zimmerman, for example, has written an excellent book on how such ignorance impacts morality. The point of most ethical thought experiments, though, is to eliminate precisely this sort of uncertainty. Ethicists are interested in finding out things like whether, once we know all the facts of the situation, and all other things being equal, it's okay to engage in certain actions. If we're still not sure of the rightness or wrongness of such actions, or of underlying moral theories themselves, then we experience moral uncertainty.

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So, what's the best thing to do when we're faced with moral uncertainty? Unless one thinks that anything goes once uncertainty enters the picture, then doing nothing by default is not a good strategy. As the trolley case demonstrates, inaction often has major consequences. Failure to act also comes with moral ramifications...

The entire blog post is here.

The retraction war

By Jill Neimark
Aeon Magazine
Originally published December 23, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Retraction was meant to be a corrective for any mistakes or occasional misconduct in science but it has, at times,  taken on a superhero persona instead. Like Superman, retraction can be too powerful, wiping out whole careers with a single blow. Yet it is also like Clark Kent, so mild it can be ignored while fraudsters continue publishing and receiving grants. The process is so wrought that just 5 per cent of scientific misconduct ever results in retraction, leaving an abundance of error in play to obfuscate the facts.

Scientists are increasingly aware of the amount of bad science out there – the word ‘reproducibility’ has become a kind of rallying cry for those who would reform science today. How can we ensure that studies are sound and can be reproduced by other scientists in separate labs?

The entire article is here.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Why there would have been no torture without the psychologists

By Steven Reisner
Slate
Originally published December 12, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

The psychologists were vital to the torture program for one additional reason: The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel had determined that the presence of psychologists and physicians, monitoring the state and condition of the prisoner being tortured, afforded protection for the CIA leadership and the Bush administration from liability and potential prosecution for the torture. Later, the OLC applied the same rules to the Defense Department’s “enhanced interrogation program,” which, according to an investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee, was created and overseen by a team led by a clinical psychologist, and eventually overseen exclusively by clinical psychologists.

The entire article is here.

Ethical Leadership: Meta-Analytic Evidence of Criterion-Related and Incremental Validity

By Thomas W. H. Ng and Daniel C. Feldman
J Appl Psychol. 2014 Nov 24

Abstract

This study examines the criterion-related and incremental validity of ethical leadership (EL) with meta-analytic data. Across 101 samples published over the last 15 years (N = 29,620), we observed that EL demonstrated acceptable criterion-related validity with variables that tap followers' job attitudes, job performance, and evaluations of their leaders. Further, followers' trust in the leader mediated the relationships of EL with job attitudes and performance. In terms of incremental validity, we found that EL significantly, albeit weakly in some cases, predicted task performance, citizenship behavior, and counterproductive work behavior-even after controlling for the effects of such variables as transformational leadership, use of contingent rewards, management by exception, interactional fairness, and destructive leadership. The article concludes with a discussion of ways to strengthen the incremental validity of EL.

The entire article is here.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Why I am not Charlie

By Scott Long
A Paper Bird Blog
Originally posted January 9, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

It’s true, as Salman Rushdie says, that “Nobody has the right to not be offended.” You should not get to invoke the law to censor or shut down speech just because it insults you or strikes at your pet convictions. You certainly don’t get to kill because you heard something you don’t like. Yet, manhandled by these moments of mass outrage, this truism also morphs into a different kind of claim: That nobody has the right to be offended at all.

I am offended when those already oppressed in a society are deliberately insulted. I don’t want to participate. This crime in Paris does not suspend my political or ethical judgment, or persuade me that scatologically smearing a marginal minority’s identity and beliefs is a reasonable thing to do. Yet this means rejecting the only authorized reaction to the atrocity. Oddly, this peer pressure seems to gear up exclusively where Islam’s involved. When a racist bombed a chapter of a US civil rights organization this week, the media didn’t insist I give to the NAACP in solidarity. When a rabid Islamophobic rightist killed 77 Norwegians in 2011, most of them at a political party’s youth camp, I didn’t notice many #IAmNorway hashtags, or impassioned calls to join the Norwegian Labor Party. But Islam is there for us, it unites us against Islam. Only cowards or traitors turn down membership in the Charlie club.The demand to join, endorse, agree is all about crowding us into a herd where no one is permitted to cavil or condemn: an indifferent mob, where differing from one another is Thoughtcrime, while indifference to the pain of others beyond the pale is compulsory.

The entire blog post is here.

Editor's note: This is a long and interesting piece on emotional reactions to tragic and traumatic events.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Robert Wright: The evolution of compassion

TED Talk Video
Originally published October 2009

Robert Wright uses evolutionary biology and game theory to explain why we appreciate the Golden Rule ("Do unto others..."), why we sometimes ignore it and why there’s hope that, in the near future, we might all have the compassion to follow it.


Friday, January 9, 2015

Withstanding moral disengagement: Attachment security as an ethical intervention

By Dolly Chugh, Mary C. Kern, Zhu Zhu, and Sujin Lee
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 51 (2014) 88–93.

Highlights

• We propose an ethical intervention with the potential to reduce unethical decision-making.
• We challenge the relationship between moral disengagement and unethical decision-making.
• We use attachment theory as the basis for the ethical intervention.
• Individuals primed with attachment anxiety experience the usual effects of moral disengagement.
• However, individuals primed with attachment security are able to withstand moral disengagement.

Abstract

We propose an ethical intervention leading to improved ethical decision-making. Moral disengagement has long been related to unethical decision-making. We test an ethical intervention in which this relationship is broken.  Our ethical intervention consisted of priming individuals to be securely-attached, in which they recalled a past instance of relational support and acceptance. We predicted and found an interaction between attachment state and moral disengagement, in which individuals primed with attachment security were able to withstand moral disengagement.
In Study 1, we demonstrate that the securely attached behave more ethically than the anxiously attached in an achievement context. In Study 2, we show that secure attachment overrides one's natural propensity to morally disengage. In Study 3, we find that secure attachment minimizes the impact of the propensity to morally disengage through the mechanism of threat construal. Within both student and working adult samples and using both judgment and behavioral dependent variables, we show that the priming of secure attachment is a relatively simple and effective intervention that managers, educators, and organizations can use to reduce unethical behavior.

The entire article is here.

Beliefs About the True Self Explain Asymmetries Based on Moral Judgment

George E. Newman, Julian De Freitas, Joshua Knobe
Cognitive Science (2014) 1–30.

Abstract

Past research has identified a number of asymmetries based on moral judgments. Beliefs about
(a) what a person values, (b) whether a person is happy, (c) whether a person has shown weakness
of will, and (d) whether a person deserves praise or blame seem to depend critically on whether participants themselves find the agent’s behavior to be morally good or bad. To date, however, the origins of these asymmetries remain unknown. The present studies examine whether beliefs about an
agent’s “true self” explain these observed asymmetries based on moral judgment. Using the identical
materials from previous studies in this area, a series of five experiments indicate that people
show a general tendency to conclude that deep inside every individual there is a “true self” calling
him or her to behave in ways that are morally virtuous. In turn, this belief causes people to hold different intuitions about what the agent values, whether the agent is happy, whether he or she has
shown weakness of will, and whether he or she deserves praise or blame. These results not only
help to answer important questions about how people attribute various mental states to others; they
also contribute to important theoretical debates regarding how moral values may shape our beliefs
about phenomena that, on the surface, appear to be decidedly non-moral in nature.

The entire article is here.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tortured by Psychologists and Doctors

The New York Time Editorial Board
Originally published

Here is an excerpt:

The ghastly new revelation is that two psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who devised a list of coercive techniques to be used in questioning prisoners also personally conducted interrogations in which they tortured some C.I.A. detainees. They earned tens of millions of dollars under contracts for those services.

The report also cites other health professionals who participated, including unidentified C.I.A. medical officers or doctors who cleared prisoners for interrogation and played a central role in deciding whether to continue or adjust procedures when a prisoner developed severe medical problems.

The entire article is here.

Framed by forensics

Junky, out-of-date science fuels jury errors and tragic miscarriages of justice. How can we throw it out of court?

By Douglas Starr
Aeon Magazine
Originally published

Here is an excerpt:

Rivera’s case represents a tragic miscarriage of justice. Seen another way, it’s also the result of bad science and anti-scientific thinking – from the police’s coercive interview of a vulnerable person, to the jury’s acceptance of a false confession over physical evidence, including DNA.

Unfortunately, Rivera’s case is not unique. Hundreds of innocent people have been convicted by bad science, permitting an equal number of perpetrators to go free. It’s impossible to know how often this happens, but the growing number of DNA-related exonerations points to false convictions as the collateral damage of our legal system. Part of the problem involves faulty forensics: contrary to what we might see in the CSI drama shows on TV, few forensic labs are state-of-the-art, and they don’t always use scientific techniques. According to the US National Academy of Sciences, none of the traditional forensic techniques, such as hair comparison, bite-mark analysis or ballistics analysis, qualifies as rigorous, reproducible science. But it’s not just forensics: bad science is marbled throughout our legal system, from the way police interrogate suspects to the decisions judges make on whether to admit certain evidence in court.

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The origin of risk aversion

By Ruixun Zhang, Thomas J. Brennan, and Andrew W. Lo
PNAS 2014 111 (50) 17777-17782; published ahead of print December 1, 2014, doi:10.1073/pnas.1406755111

Abstract

Risk aversion is one of the most basic assumptions of economic behavior, but few studies have addressed the question of where risk preferences come from and why they differ from one individual to the next. Here, we propose an evolutionary explanation for the origin of risk aversion. In the context of a simple binary-choice model, we show that risk aversion emerges by natural selection if reproductive risk is systematic (i.e., correlated across individuals in a given generation). In contrast, risk neutrality emerges if reproductive risk is idiosyncratic (i.e., uncorrelated across each given generation). More generally, our framework implies that the degree of risk aversion is determined by the stochastic nature of reproductive rates, and we show that different statistical properties lead to different utility functions. The simplicity and generality of our model suggest that these implications are primitive and cut across species, physiology, and genetic origins.

Significance

Risk aversion is one of the most widely observed behaviors in the animal kingdom; hence, it must confer certain evolutionary advantages. We confirm this intuition analytically in a binary-choice model of decision-making—risk aversion emerges from mindless decision-making as the evolutionarily dominant behavior in stochastic environments with correlated reproductive risk across the population. The simplicity of our framework suggests that our results are likely to apply across species. From a policy perspective, our results underscore the importance of addressing systematic risk through insurance markets, capital markets, and government policy. However, our results also highlight the potential dangers of sustained government intervention, which can become a source of systematic risk in its own right.

The entire article is here.

What White Privilege Really Means

It’s not about what whites get. It’s about what blacks don’t.

By Reihan Salam
Slate.com
Originally published December 17m 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Why does the white privilege conversation ignore the ways in which Asian Americans have used their social ties to achieve success, or the yawning chasm that separates upper-middle-income Mormon Californians from impoverished Appalachian whites? The simple answer is that we talk about white privilege as a clumsy way of talking about black exclusion.

Even white Americans of modest means are more likely to have inherited something, in the form of housing wealth or useful professional connections, than the descendants of slaves. In his influential 2005 book When Affirmative Action Was White, Ira Katznelson recounts in fascinating detail the various ways in which the New Deal and Fair Deal social programs of the 1930s and 1940s expanded economic opportunities for whites while doing so unevenly at best for blacks, particularly in the segregated South. Many rural whites who had known nothing but the direst poverty saw their lives transformed as everything from rural electrification to generous educational benefits for veterans allowed them to build human capital, earn higher incomes, and accumulate savings. This legacy, in ways large and small, continues to enrich the children and grandchildren of the whites of that era. This is the stuff of white privilege.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Denied

When insurance companies deny the mentally ill the treatment their doctors prescribe, seriously ill people are often discharged, and can be a danger to themselves or others

By Scott Pelley
CBS - 60 Minutes
Originally aired on December 14, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Two years ago tonight, we were reeling from the shock of the murders of 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since then, we've learned that the killer suffered profound mental illness. His parents sought treatment but, at least once, their health insurance provider denied payment.

Because of recurring tragedies and an epidemic of suicides, we've been investigating the battles that parents fight for psychiatric care. We found that the vast majority of claims are routine but the insurance industry aggressively reviews the cost of chronic cases. Long-term care is often denied by insurance company doctors who never see the patient. As a result, some seriously ill patients are discharged from hospitals over the objections of psychiatrists who warn that someone may die.



The entire story is here.

Current practices in reporting on behavioural genetics can mislead the public

Science Daily
Originally published December 2, 2014

Summary:

“Media reports about behavioural genetics unintentionally induce unfounded beliefs, therefore going against the educational purpose of scientific reporting,” writes a researcher following his study of 1,500 Americans. Public misunderstanding is not the only thing to blame for this misinterpretation. “Generally, science reporters’ first goal is to inform the public about scientific developments. However, this practice is not disinterested; some news is purposely written in a manner intended to catch the public’s attention with startling results in order to increase or to maintain market shares," the researcher explained.

The entire article is here.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Ethics is for human subjects too: Participant perspectives on responsibility in health research

By Susan Cox and Michael McDonald
Social Science & Medicine
Volume 98, December 2013, Pages 224–231

Abstract

Despite the significant literature as well as energy devoted to ethical review of research involving human subjects, little attention has been given to understanding the experiences of those who volunteer as human subjects. Why and how do they decide to participate in research? Is research participation viewed as a form of social responsibility or as a way of obtaining individual benefits? What if anything do research subjects feel they are owed for participation? And what do they feel that they owe the researcher? Drawing on in-depth individual interviews conducted in 2006 and 2007 with 41 subjects who participated in a variety of types of health research in Canada, this paper focuses on subject perspectives on responsibility in research. Highlighting the range of ways that subjects describe their involvement in research and commitments to being a ‘good’ subject, we present a typology of narratives that sheds new light on the diverse meanings of research participation. These narratives are not mutually exclusive or prescriptive but are presented as ideal types typifying a set of circumstances and values. As such, they collectively illuminate a range of motivations expressed by human subjects as well as potential sources of vulnerability. The typology adds a new dimension to the literature in this area and has significant implications for researchers seeking more human-subject centred approaches to research recruitment and retention, as well as research ethics boards trying to better anticipate the perspectives of prospective participants.

Highlights

• Participant responsibility is a neglected aspect of research ethics.
• Responsibility can be conceptualized according to degree of agency and altruism.
• Participants' narrative accounts yield four main orientations to responsibility.
• These reveal differing motivations and sources of vulnerability.

The entire article is here.

How do people change their minds about issues?

By Brian Turner
ethicalsystems.org
Originally published

Here is an excerpt:

2) Pay attention to social intuitionism and speak to the “elephant” first.  One of the three main points of moral psychology is that intuitions come first and strategic reasoning comes second.  Unless we have a system for doing otherwise, we pretty much just go with our gut feeling and then confabulate. This means we subconsciously come up with reasons to justify our position that our mind conveniently serves us as “reasoned” evidence rather than the knee-jerk response that it actually is.

In other words, the person has to like you, or at least not dislike you, before they’ll be open to your message.  If the person doesn’t like you and you try to present your idea, it doesn’t matter how persuasive, articulate or evidence-based your comments are, they’re not going to change their mind.

This is one of the reasons why you can defeat every counterpoint that someone makes about your argument and they still won’t listen to you – you can’t intellectually bludgeon someone into changing their mind.

The entire blog post is here.

Editor's note: This blog post relates psychotherapy as well as other forms of persuasive communication.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Ethics of Nudging

By Cass Sunstein
Harvard Law School

Abstract:
 
This essay defends the following propositions. (1) It is pointless to object to choice architecture or nudging as such. Choice architecture cannot be avoided. Nature itself nudges; so does the weather; so do spontaneous orders and invisible hands. The private sector inevitably nudges, as does the government. It is reasonable to object to particular nudges, but not to nudging in general. (2) In this context, ethical abstractions (for example, about autonomy, dignity, and manipulation) can create serious confusion. To make progress, those abstractions must be brought into contact with concrete practices. Nudging and choice architecture take diverse forms, and the force of an ethical objection depends on the specific form. (3) If welfare is our guide, much nudging is actually required on ethical grounds. (4) If autonomy is our guide, much nudging is also required on ethical grounds. (5) Choice architecture should not, and need not, compromise either dignity or self-government, though imaginable forms could do both. (6) Some nudges are objectionable because the choice architect has illicit ends. When the ends are legitimate, and when nudges are fully transparent and subject to public scrutiny, a convincing ethical objection is less likely to be available. (7) There is, however, room for ethical objections in the case of well-motivated but manipulative interventions, certainly if people have not consented to them; such nudges can undermine autonomy and dignity. It follows that both the concept and the practice of manipulation deserve careful attention. The concept of manipulation has a core and a periphery; some interventions fit within the core, others within the periphery, and others outside of both.

The entire article is here.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Is the Justice System Overly Punitive?

By Oriel Feldman Hall and Peter Sokol-Hessner
Scientific American
Originally posted December 9, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

This finding sheds a new light on how people choose to rebalance the scales of justice. When we ourselves have been slighted, we appear to tend to our own needs rather than pursue punishment, but this changes when we make decisions on behalf of someone else: for bystanders or jurors, an eye-for-an-eye may be preferable. Our notion of justice seems to depend on where we stand. This leaves us with a challenge: there may be a gap between what we as victims want, and what third parties decide for us, calling into question our blind reliance on the putative impartiality of juries and judges.

The entire article is here.

Editorial note: When I read this part of the article, my thoughts went to the difference between the patient experiencing an injustice versus the therapist hearing about an injustice.  The "gap" between what the patient wants and what the psychologist believes is correct may be a bias that leads to problematic behaviors, such as intrusive advocacy.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Women in Academic Science: A Changing Landscape

By Stephen J. Ceci, Donna K. Ginther, Shulamit Kahn, and Wendy M. Williams
Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2014, Vol. 15(3) 75–141

Summary

Much has been written in the past two decades about women in academic science careers, but this literature is contradictory. Many analyses have revealed a level playing field, with men and women faring equally, whereas other analyses have suggested numerous areas in which the playing field is not level. The only widely-agreed-upon conclusion is that women are underrepresented in college majors, graduate school programs, and the professoriate in those fields that are the most mathematically intensive, such as geoscience, engineering, economics, mathematics/computer science, and the physical sciences. In other scientific fields (psychology, life science, social science), women are found in much higher percentages.

In this monograph, we undertake extensive life-course analyses comparing the trajectories of women and men in math-intensive fields with those of their counterparts in non-math-intensive fields in which women are close to parity with or even exceed the number of men. We begin by examining early-childhood differences in spatial processing and follow this through quantitative performance in middle childhood and adolescence, including high school coursework.  We then focus on the transition of the sexes from high school to college major, then to graduate school, and, finally,
to careers in academic science.

The entire article is here.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

10 Ways That Brain Myths Are Harming Us

By Christian Jarrett
Wired
Originally posted December 12, 2014

Here are two excerpts:

1). Many school teachers around the world believe neuromyths, such as the idea that children are left-brained or right-brained, or that we use just 10 per cent of our brains. This is worrying. For example, if a teacher decides a child is “left-brained” and therefore not inclined to creativity, they will likely divert that child away from beneficial creative activities.

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6). Brain training companies frequently make unfounded claims about the benefits of their products. One myth here is that playing their games can revolutionize your brain health, more than say socializing or reading. In October, dozens of neuroscientists wrote an open letter warning that the “exaggerated and misleading claims [of the brain training industry] exploit the anxiety of older adults about impending cognitive decline.”

The entire article is here.

Who Should Decide What's in a Child's Best Interest?

By Robert MacDougall
Impact Ethics
Originally posted December 8, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

One might argue that state intervention would not constitute an imposition of Western values on First Nations families and children. Instead, one might claim that state intervention merely prevents First Nations Canadians from imposing their values on their children, who are not yet old enough to decide for themselves whether to follow the Western medical paradigm or the traditional aboriginal one. But this assumes that the default position of the state should be to treat children in accordance with the Western paradigm until the child is old enough to decide for him or herself. Rather than assume the Western paradigm when making treatment decisions for First Nations children, it makes more sense to treat them according to the values of their own parents.

The entire article is here.