"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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How Artificial Intelligence Could Help Diagnose Mental Disorders

Joseph Frankel
The Atlantic
Originally posted August 23, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

In addition to the schizophrenia screener, an idea that earned Schwoebel an award from the American Psychiatric Association, NeuroLex is hoping to develop a tool for psychiatric patients who are already being treated in hospitals. Rather than trying to help diagnose a mental disorder from a single sample, the AI would examine a patient’s speech over time to track their progress.

For Schwoebel, this work is personal: he thinks this approach may help solve problems his older brother faced in seeking treatment for schizophrenia. Before his first psychotic break, Schwoebel’s brother would send short, one-word responses, or make cryptic to references to going “there” or “here”—worrisome abnormalities that “all made sense” after his brother’s first psychotic episode, he said.

The article is here.

Adding ages: The fight to cheat death is hotting up

The Economist
Originally published August 13, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Scientists at the Institute for Ageing Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York, want to mount a trial of metformin in elderly subjects to see whether it delays various maladies (and also death). If that turns out to be the case, it will go a long way to showing that there is a generalised ageing process that can be modulated with drugs. Nir Barzilai, one of the researchers involved, says an important reason to do the trial is to have an indication against which next-generation ageing drugs can be assessed by regulators.

This sort of interest seems to be triggering a change of tone at America’s Food and Drug Administration over whether it might approve an anti-ageing drug. The regulator is thinking about when a broad, and so far unprecedented, claim of anti-ageing might be considered to be supported by the evidence; it is “looking forward to seeing this area of science evolve”. In the dry language of a government agency these are encouraging words.

If an unregulated diet can do the trick, why does the world need drugs? Three reasons. One is that taking a few pills a day will be easier for most than subsisting on low-calorie muffins and salad. A second is that companies can make money making pills and will compete to create them. A third is that pills may work better than diets. Dr Barzilai, who is in the pill camp, points out that CR works less well in primates than other mammals, and that people with low body-mass indices, a natural condition for those restricting their calories, are in general more likely to die. Those who do well on CR, he says, are likely to be a subset benefiting from the right genetic make-up. His hope is that a range of targeted therapies might allow everyone to get the benefits.

The article is here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Here Are the Feels That Make Internet Things Go Viral

By Drake Baer
The Science of Us
Originally posted May 25, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Across the two languages, the researchers found, the stories that were most widely shared were high in “dominance,” or the feeling of being in control. Posts that make you feel happy or inspired are high in dominance, the research says, while stories that make you feel sad are disempowering. (This is also why “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity” is perhaps the finest BuzzFeed post of all, and like all quality vintages, it only gets better with age).

While dominance led to sharing in this data set, arousal (the feeling of being upset or excited, as indicated by giving angry affective feedback) predicted commenting. So if a story makes you really upset — as perhaps may be exploited by a presidential candidate or two — you’ll be more likely to comment, providing further explanation for why internet comments tend toward viciousness.

An Alternative Form of Mental Health Care Gains a Foothold

By Benedict Carey
The New York Times
Originally published August 8, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Dr. Chris Gordon, who directs a program with an approach to treating psychosis called Open Dialogue at Advocates in Framingham, Mass., calls the alternative approaches a “collaborative pathway to recovery and a paradigm shift in care.” The Open Dialogue approach involves a team of mental health specialists who visit homes and discuss the crisis with the affected person — without resorting to diagnostic labels or medication, at least in the beginning.

Some psychiatrists are wary, they say, given that medication can be life-changing for many people with mental problems, and rigorous research on these alternatives is scarce.'

The article is here.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Implicit bias is a challenge even for judges

Terry Carter
ABA Journal
Originally posted August 5, 2016

Judges are tasked with being the most impartial members of the legal profession. On Friday afternoon, more than 50 of them discussed how this isn’t so easy to do—and perhaps even impossible when it comes to implicit bias.

But working to overcome biases we don’t recognize is a job that is as necessary as it is worth doing.

“We view our job functions through the lens of our experiences, and all of us are impacted by biases and stereotypes and other cognitive functions that enable us to take shortcuts in what we do,” 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Bernice B. Donald told a gathering of judges, state and federal, from around the country. Donald was on a panel for a program by the ABA’s Judicial Division, titled “Implicit Bias and De-Biasing Strategies: A Workshop for Judges and Lawyers,” at the association’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

The post is here.

Should a Self-Driving Car Kill Two Jaywalkers or One Law-Abiding Citizen?

By Jacob Brogan
Future Tense
Originally published August 11, 2016

Anyone who’s followed the debates surrounding autonomous vehicles knows that moral quandaries inevitably arise. As Jesse Kirkpatrick has written in Slate, those questions most often come down to how the vehicles should perform when they’re about to crash. What do they do if they have to choose between killing a passenger and harming a pedestrian? How should they behave if they have to decide between slamming into a child or running over an elderly man?

It’s hard to figure out how a car should make such decisions in part because it’s difficult to get humans to agree on how we should make them. By way of evidence, look to Moral Machine, a website created by a group of researchers at the MIT Media Lab. As the Verge’s Russell Brandon notes, the site effectively gameifies the classic trolley problem, folding in a variety of complicated variations along the way. You’ll have to decide whether a vehicle should choose its passengers or people in an intersection. Others will present two differently composed groups of pedestrians—say, a handful of female doctors or a collection of besuited men—and ask which an empty car should slam into. Further complications—including the presence of animals and details about whether the pedestrians have the right of way—sometimes further muddle the question.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

What Is Happening to Our Country? How Psychology Can Respond to Political Polarization, Incivility and Intolerance



As political events in Europe and America got stranger and more violent over the last year, I found myself thinking of the phrase “things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” I didn’t know its origin so I looked it up, found the poem The Second Coming, by W. B. Yeats, and found a great deal of wisdom. Yeats wrote it in 1919, just after the First World War and at the beginning of the Irish War of Independence.

The entire web page is here.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Empirical Approaches to Moral Character

Miller, Christian B.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2016 Edition),
Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming

The turn of the century saw a significant increase in the amount of attention being paid by philosophers to empirical issues about moral character. Dating back at least to Plato and Aristotle in the West, and Confucius in the East, philosophers have traditionally drawn on empirical data to some extent in their theorizing about character. One of the main differences in recent years has been the source of this empirical data, namely the work of social and personality psychologists on morally relevant thought and action.

This entry briefly examines four recent empirical approaches to moral character. It will draw on the psychology literature where appropriate, but the main focus will be on the significance of that work for philosophers interested in better understanding moral character. The four areas are situationism, the CAPS model, the Big Five model, and the VIA. The remainder of this entry devotes a section to each of them.

The entry is here.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Would You Cheat? Cheating Behavior, Human Nature, and Decision-Making

Piotr M. Patrzyk
Published in Student Pulse

Abstract

Cheating is a pervasive behavior among humans. Due to its unethicality, it has captured an attention of many scholars in a wide range of disciplines. Numerous theories have been put forward in order to explain this behavior. In this article I review some of the experimental findings concerning cheating and propose an explanation of how people make decisions about engagement or refraining from it. Underlying mechanisms, as well as their origin are discussed.


Questions concerning human nature provoke controversy across disciplines,  particularly when it comes to explaining evil or immoral behaviors. Endeavors to explain actions that are considered immoral strike at a fundamental philosophical issue: whether  people are innately good and it is the world that corrupts them; or whether people are innately evil and their tainted proclivities are more or less inevitable.

Here is part of the conclusion:

Moral hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind because it is the best strategy for reproduction. People develop norms in order to compel others to do what they want, but do not follow them themselves because it would be too costly. Maintaining a good reputation is the essential goal of an individual living in a society based on indirect reciprocity (Alexander, 1987) so decisions concerning ethical issues are sensitive to these considerations. As Akerlof, frequently cited in economical literature on cheating, points out:  "[t]here is a return to appearing honest, but not to being honest” (1983, p. 57). It would make no sense if individuals made decisions based on what is objectively moral or immoral. Moral reputation pays, and as such individuals make decisions to maximize their perceived moral reputation,  both internally and externally.

The paper is here.

Fundamentality and the Mind-Body Problem

Philip Goff
Erkenntnis
August 2016, Volume 81, Issue 4, pp 881–898

Abstract

In the recent metaphysics literature, a number of philosophers have independently endeavoured to marry sparse ontology to abundant truth. The aim is to keep ontological commitments minimal, whilst allowing true sentences to quantify over a vastly greater range of entities than those which they are ontologically committed to. For example, an ontological commitment only to concrete, microscopic simples might be conjoined with a commitment to truths such as ‘There are twenty people working in this building’ and ‘There are prime numbers greater than 5.’ I argue that a significant challenge to this project comes from the philosophy of mind. As Theodore Sider has pointed out, anti-physicalism is consistent with a sparse ontology. However, I will try to show that the premises of the standard anti-physicalist arguments can be used to form an argument to the conclusion that sentences which quantify over subjects of experience ontologically commit us to subjects of experience. Truths about consciousness cannot be bought more cheaply than their superficial grammar suggests.

The article is here.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Epistemology of Cognitive Enhancement

J. Adam Carter & Duncan Pritchard
Forthcoming in The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy

Abstract

A common epistemological assumption in contemporary bioethics held by both proponents and critics of non-traditional forms of cognitive enhancement is that cognitive enhancement aims at the facilitation of the accumulation of human knowledge.  This paper does three central things. First, drawing from recent work in epistemology, a rival account of cognitive enhancement, framed in terms of the notion of cognitive achievement  rather than knowledge, is proposed. Second, we outline and respond to an axiological objection to our proposal that draws from recent work by Leon Kass (2004), Michael Sandel (2009), and John Harris (2011) to the effect that ‘enhanced’ cognitive achievements are (by effectively removing obstacles to success) not worthy of pursuit, or are otherwise ‘trivial’.  Third, we show how the cognitive achievement account of cognitive enhancement proposed here fits snugly with recent active externalist approaches (e.g., extended cognition) in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science.

The paper is here.

Gender, identity, and bioethics

Elizabeth A. Dietz
The Hastings Center Report
First published: 15 July 2016

Abstract

Transgender people and issues have come to the forefront of public consciousness over the last year. Caitlyn Jenner' very public transition, heightened media coverage of the murders of transgender women of color, and the panicked passage of North Carolina's “bathroom bill” (House Bill 2), mean that conversations about transgender health and well-being are no longer happening only within small communities. The idea that transgender issues are bioethical issues is not new, but I think that increased public awareness of transgender people and the ways that their health is affected by systems that bioethics already engages with offers an opportunity for scholarship that works to improve transgender health in meaningful ways.

The article is here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Controversial Issue of Euthanasia in Patients With Psychiatric Illness

Emilie Olie & Philippe Courtet
JAMA. 2016;316(6):656-657

A main objective of legalization of euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide (EAS) is to ease suffering (ie, physical pain and loss of autonomy elicited by an irreversible serious disease), when a terminally ill patient's pain is overwhelming despite palliative care. It implies that there is no reasonable alternative in the patient's situation, with no prospect of improvement of a painful condition or global functioning. Because mental disorders are among the most disabling illnesses, requests for EAS based on unbearable mental suffering caused by severe psychiatric disease may possibly increase. EAS may be differentiated from suicide because EAS results in death without self-inflicted behavior, yet both are driven by a desire to end life. This raises the question: Should the management of patients with psychiatric disorders requesting EAS be considered for suicide prevention?

Mental illness increases suicidal risk and requires treatment. Nevertheless, evidence-based medical and psychosocial treatments currently are not provided to the majority of patients with psychiatric diseases who would benefit. Even if these therapies were prescribed, about 30% of depressed patients are treatment resistant. Patients may have undergone treatments destined to fail or they may have refused potential effective therapeutics. Nevertheless, the probability of disease remission increases with number of different treatments attempted. Given these uncertainties and that there are no valid indicators to predict the response to treatment, there is no reliable mechanism to define incurable disease and determine medical futility for psychiatric care. Considering euthanasia for psychiatric patients may reinforce poor expectations of the medical community for mental illness treatment and contribute to a relative lack of progress in developing more effective therapeutic strategies.

The article is here.

I feel therefore I am

How exactly did consciousness become a problem? And why, after years off the table, is it a hot research subject now?

Margaret Wertheim
Aeon
Originally published December 1, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Here again we meet the subject of pain, both physical and emotional. Can misery be ‘explained’ by synaptic firing? Can happiness? Some years ago, I discussed this issue with Father George Coyne, a Jesuit priest and astronomer who was then Director of the Vatican Observatory. I asked him what he thought of the notion that when the 12th‑century Hildegard of Bingen was having her visions of God, perhaps she was having epileptic fits. He had no problem with the fits. Indeed, he thought that when something so powerful was going on in a mind, there would necessarily be neurological correlates. Hildegard might well have been an epileptic, Father Coyne opined; that didn’t mean God wasn’t also talking to her.

Pain is surely like this too: it must have neurological correlates otherwise we wouldn’t be able to react to withdraw a hand from a flame and save our bodies from damage. (People who lose the ability to feel pain quickly succumb to injuries.) At the same time, pain transcends its physical dimensions, as do the many species of misery catalogued in Dante’s Hell, and represented to us in daily news accounts of the effects of war on millions of people today.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Administration Paints Rosy Future For Obamacare Marketplaces

By Phil Galewitz
Kaiser Health News
Originally published August 11, 2016

Despite dire warnings from Republicans and some large insurers about the stability of the Affordable Care Act exchanges, an Obama administration report released Thursday indicated the individual health insurance market has steadily added healthier and lower-risk consumers.

Medical costs per enrollee in the exchanges in 2015 were unchanged compared with 2014, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. In contrast, per-member health costs rose between 3 percent and 6 percent in the broader U.S. insurance market, which includes 154 million people who get coverage through their employer and the 55 million people on Medicare, the report said.

Aviva Aron-Dine, senior counselor to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, said the data was encouraging when many insurers have announced double-digit rate increases for 2017 and others have pulled back in some states to curtail financial losses.

The article is here.

Patients on social media cause ethics headache for doctors

BY Lisa Rapaport
Reuters
Originally published August 5, 2016

As more and more sick patients are going online and using social media to search for answers about their health, it’s raising a lot of thorny ethical questions for doctors.

“The internet and ready access to vast amounts of information are now permanent aspects of how we live our lives, including how we think about and deal with our health problems,” Dr. Chris Feudtner, director of medical ethics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said by email.

Social media in particular can affect how patients interact with doctors and what type of care they expect, Feudtner and colleagues write in an article about ethics in the journal Pediatrics.

“Clinicians should ask about what patients and families have read on the Internet, and then work through that information thoughtfully, as sometimes Internet information is not helpful and sometimes it is helpful,” Feudtner said. “Doing this takes time and effort, yet trust is built with time and effort.”

The article is here.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Autonomous Vehicles Might Develop Superior Moral Judgment

John Martellaro
The Mac Observer
Originally published August 10, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

One of the virtues (or drawbacks, depending on one’s point of view) of a morality engine is that the decisions an autonomous vehicle makes can only be traced back only to software. That helps to absolve a car maker’s employees from direct liability when it comes life and death decisions by machine. That certainly seems to be an emerging trend in technology. The benefit is obvious. If a morality engine makes the right decision, by human standards, 99,995 times out of 100,000, the case for extreme damages due to systematic failure causing death is weak. Technology and society can move forward.

The article is here.

Rationalizing our Way into Moral Progress

Jesse S. Summers
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice:1-12 (forthcoming)

Research suggests that the explicit reasoning we offer to ourselves and to others is often rationalization, that we act instead on instincts, inclinations, stereotypes, emotions, neurobiology, habits, reactions, evolutionary pressures, unexamined principles, or justifications other than the ones we think we’re acting on, then we tell a post hoc story to justify our actions. This is troubling for views of moral progress according to which moral progress proceeds from our engagement with our own and others’ reasons. I consider an account of rationalization, based on Robert Audi’s, to make clear that rationalization, unlike simple lying, can be sincere. Because it can be sincere, and because we also have a desire to be consistent with ourselves, I argue that rationalization sets us up for becoming better people over time, and that a similar case can be made to explain how moral progress among groups of people can proceed via rationalization.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Professing the Values of Medicine The Modernized AMA Code of Medical Ethics

Brotherton S, Kao A, Crigger BJ.
JAMA. Published online July 14, 2016.
doi:10.1001/jama.2016.9752

The word profession is derived from the Latin word that means “to declare openly.” On June 13, 2016, the first comprehensive update of the AMA Code of Medical Ethics in more than 50 years was adopted at the annual meeting of the American Medical Association (AMA). By so doing, physician delegates attending the meeting, who represent every state and nearly every specialty, publicly professed to uphold the values that are the underpinning of the ethical practice of medicine in service to patients and the public.

The AMA Code was created in 1847 as a national code of ethics for physicians, the first of its kind for any profession anywhere in the world.1 Since its inception, the AMA Code has been a living document that has evolved and expanded as medicine and its social environment have changed. By the time the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs embarked on a systematic review of the AMA Code in 2008, it had come to encompass 220 separate opinions or ethics guidance for physicians on topics ranging from abortion to xenotransplantation. The AMA Code, over the years, became more fragmented and unwieldy. Opinions on individual topics were difficult to find; lacked a common narrative structure, which meant the underlying value motivating the guidance was not readily apparent; and were not always consistent in the guidance they offered or language they used.

The article is here.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Selective Laziness of Reasoning

Emmanuel Trouche, Petter Johansson, Lars Hall, Hugo Mercier
Cognitive Science
First published: 9 October 2015

Abstract

Reasoning research suggests that people use more stringent criteria when they evaluate others' arguments than when they produce arguments themselves. To demonstrate this “selective laziness,” we used a choice blindness manipulation. In two experiments, participants had to produce a series of arguments in response to reasoning problems, and they were then asked to evaluate other people's arguments about the same problems. Unknown to the participants, in one of the trials, they were presented with their own argument as if it was someone else's. Among those participants who accepted the manipulation and thus thought they were evaluating someone else's argument, more than half (56% and 58%) rejected the arguments that were in fact their own. Moreover, participants were more likely to reject their own arguments for invalid than for valid answers. This demonstrates that people are more critical of other people's arguments than of their own, without being overly critical: They are better able to tell valid from invalid arguments when the arguments are someone else's rather than their own.

The article is here.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Why Are So Many Millennials Having Zero Sex?

By Jesse Singal
The Science of Us
Originally posted August 2, 2016

When it comes to millennials and sex, there are two narratives going on at the moment, and they clash pretty severely. One, expressed in the form of panicky think pieces about Kids These Days, argues that because of the rise of dating apps, a reduced emphasis on commitment, and various other factors, young people are having casual sex at a higher rate than ever before, and this may be causing psychological problems, particularly for young women, who — so the story usually goes — don’t get as much out of casual sex as the guys they are hooking up with.

The other narrative is that, well, the kids are all right. Even assuming there is something wrong with safe, consensual casual sex (and the proper answer to that question is it’s complicated), some researchers who track generational differences in behavior have found something that might surprise the panickers: if anything, today’s young people are hooking up less than members of past recent generations did when they were the same age. In an article published last year in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, for example, Jean Twenge of San Diego State University and Ryne Sherman of Florida Atlantic University wrote that, among adults, the “[n]umber of sexual partners increased steadily between the G.I.s and 1960s-born Gen X’ers [with Boomers in the middle] and then dipped among Millennials to return to Boomer levels.” That is, millennials, on average, appear to be having sex with fewer people than Gen-Xers did when they were at the same age, and about the same amount of sex as the boomers did when they were in their younger years.

The article is here.

'It Just Happened'

By Jake New
Inside Higher Ed
August 2, 2016

Either by choice or when required to do by state legislation, colleges in recent years have moved toward a policy of affirmative consent.

The change moves colleges away from the old “no means no” model of consent -- frequently criticized by victims’ advocates as being too permitting of sexual encounters involving coercion or intoxication -- to one described as “yes means yes.” If the student initiating a sexual encounter does not receive an “enthusiastic yes” from his or her partner, the policies generally state, there is no consent.

Research by two California scholars, however, suggests that students’ understanding of consent is not in line with the new policies and laws. Instead, students often obtain sexual permission through a variety of verbal and nonverbal cues, both nuanced and overt, that do not always meet a strict definition of affirmative consent.

The article is here.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Why ‘smart drugs’ can make you less clever

Nadira Faber
The Conversation
Originally posted July 26, 2016

It is an open secret: while athletes dope their bodies, regular office workers dope their brains. They buy prescription drugs such as Ritalin or Provigil on the internet’s flourishing black market to boost their cognitive performance.

It is hard to get reliable data on how many people take such “smart drugs” or “pharmacological cognitive enhancement substances”, as scientists call them. Prevalence studies and surveys suggest, though, that people from different walks of life use them, such as researchers, surgeons, and students. In an informal poll among readers of the journal Nature, 20% reported that they had taken smart drugs. And it seems that their use is on the rise.

So, if you are in a demanding and competitive job, some of your colleagues probably take smart drugs. Does this thought worry you? If so, you are not alone. Studies consistently find that people see brain doping negatively.

The article is here.

Disgraced Chapel Hill Ethicist Says Claims Against Her Are Totally False

by Andy Thomason
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally published August 2, 2016

Jan Boxill, the ethicist and former faculty chair at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill whose apparent participation in the shocking academic fraud there left observers amazed, says all the allegations against her are false.

In a letter responding to the National Collegiate Athletic Association on Tuesday, Ms. Boxill’s lawyer, Randall M. Roden, said the claims made against her in a report by a former federal prosecutor, Kenneth L. Wainstein, were untrue.

“It did not happen,” the defiant letter reads. “Not one of the allegations against Jan Boxill is true,” Mr. Roden continued, referencing allegations made by the NCAA, which relied on the so-called Wainstein report.

The article is here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

After their children died of overdoses, these families chose to tell the truth

By Alexandra Rockey Fleming
The Washington Post
Originally posted August 1, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

As opioid abuse rages and its legacy of overdose deaths continues to climb, more bereaved families are responding by publicly exposing addiction as the demon. Swapping openness for ambiguity in death notices — “died after a long struggle with addiction” replaces “died suddenly at home” — they are challenging the stigma and shame often bound up in substance abuse. Maybe more important, they’re sounding alarms about the far-reaching grasp of addiction.

“We want people to know that this can happen to anyone,” says Rosemary Roche, the mother of Jordan, who died last year at age 21. “Nobody is immune.”

The article is here.

Ethicists say voting with your heart, without a care about the consequences, is actually immoral

By Olivia Goldhill
Quartz
Originally published June 26, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Finding a candidate who embraces your values is understandable, crucial even. But fervent idealism, which places support for a certain candidate above all practical consequences of that support, is foolhardy. According to ethicists, it’s also immoral.

“The purpose of voting is not to express your fidelity to a worldview. It’s not to wave a flag or paint your face in team colors; it’s to produce outcomes,” says Jason Brennan, a philosopher at Georgetown University and author of The Ethics of Voting. “If they’re smart, they’ll vote for the candidate likely to best produce the outcome they want. That might very well be compromising, but if voting for a far-left or far-right candidate means that you’re just going to lose the election, then you’ve brought the world further away from justice rather than closer to it.”

Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, says it’s important for voters to balance their principles with the consequences of their actions. He suggests creating an equation to multiply how much one favors a candidate by that candidate’s chances of having a positive impact.

The article is here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Trust Your Gut or Think Carefully? Empathy Research

Ma-Kellams, C., & Lerner, J.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Online First Publication, July 21, 2016.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000063


Abstract:    

Cultivating successful personal and professional relationships requires the ability to accurately infer the feelings of others — i.e., to be empathically accurate. Some are better than others at this, which may be explained by mode of thought, among other factors. Specifically, it may be that empathically-accurate people tend to rely more on intuitive rather than systematic thought when perceiving others. Alternatively, it may be the reverse — that systematic thought increases accuracy. In order to determine which view receives empirical support, we conducted four studies examining relations between mode of thought (intuitive versus systematic) and empathic accuracy. Study 1 revealed a lay belief that empathic accuracy arises from intuitive modes of thought. Studies 2-4, each using executive-level professionals as participants, demonstrated that (contrary to lay beliefs) people who tend to rely on intuitive thinking also tend to exhibit lower empathic accuracy. This pattern held when participants inferred others’ emotional states based on (a) in-person face-to-face interactions with partners (Study 2) as well as on (b) pictures with limited facial cues (Study 3). Study 4 confirmed that the relationship is causal: experimentally inducing systematic (as opposed to intuitive) thought led to improved empathic accuracy. In sum, evidence regarding personal and social processes in these four samples of working professionals converges on the conclusion that — contrary to lay beliefs — empathic accuracy arises more from systematic thought than from gut intuition.

The article is here.

Editor's Note: This article has profound implications for psychotherapy.

When It Comes to Empathy, Your Gut May Be Failing You

By Jesse Singal
The Science of Us
Originally posted July 26, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

If you want to understand what someone else is feeling, you don’t sit down and think rationally about it. Rather, you feel what they’re feeling; you infer it from the tone of their voice and the arch of their eyebrows and their body language. That’s the folk wisdom, at least. And this sort of logic, well, feels right. After all, we are constantly attempting to intuit the thoughts and feelings of those around us — around us, and the process usually feels pretty automatic.

(cut)

But what if this common sense is wrong? What if the way to better understand what someone else is feeling — to enhance your empathic accuracy, to use the term researchers use — is to sit down and think about it in a more rational, logical way?

The article is here.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Concussions and Informed Consent

By Justin Caouette
A Philosopher's Take
Originally published June 10, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

It is often assumed, and for good reason, that children are not in a position to give consent because they cannot properly weigh the costs and benefits that certain actions or procedures would have on their lives, both at the moment of action and in the future. Because of this parents are looked to for consent under the assumption that most parents can properly weigh the costs and benefits. Consider a minor taking a job (in film for example), or when a child needs surgery or an invasive medical procedure. Parents must weigh the risk of the job or procedure and deem if the benefits outweigh the harm. In weighing the risks and rewards of playing organized American football I cannot, in good taste, feel comfortable claiming that children should be afforded the opportunity to play. In fact, I do not think children should be allowed to play. The more I think about it the more apparent this conclusion becomes. In what follows I will offer some of the considerations that have pushed me to believe this.

Injuries : Concussions are serious! Especially for an undeveloped brain. Children’s heads are 90% that of their adult size by the age of 4 yet the muscles in their neck take longer to develop (see here). Because of this, children are not very good protectors of their brain. They cannot brace themselves for the hits they receive which makes it easier for them to get a concussion, an injury that is already prevalent within the sport. Not to mention the unnecessary wear and tear on their joints. This puts them at a higher risk for arthritis later in life.

The article is here.

Medical students track former patients' electronic health records

By Stephen Feller
United Press International
Originally published July 26, 2016

Although it is suspected to be largely for educational purposes, researchers in a recent study say the following of patient electronic health records as part of training poses ethical questions for the handling of those records.

A majority of medical students reported they find it beneficial to follow patient medical histories by accessing electronic health records, but some are checking cases they are not involved with out of curiosity -- which may not pose an actual problem, but poses an ethical one, say researchers at Northwestern University.

Some doctors have complained that electronic records, considered essential for better coordination of patient care and improvement of precision medicine, is too significant a burden on their time.

At the same time, most hospitals and doctors have invested heavily in moving to electronic records, with some groups of medical professionals saying the shift from paper to digital has made their jobs easier.

The article is here.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence in Intelligence Agencies

Cortney Weinbaum
The National Interest
Originally published July 18, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Consider what could happen if the intelligence community creates a policy similar to the Pentagon directive and requires a human operator be allowed to intervene at any moment. One day the computer warns of an imminent attack, but the human analyst disagrees with the AI intelligence assessment. Does the CIA warn the president that an attack is about to occur? How is the human analyst’s assessment valued against the AI-generated intelligence?

 Or imagine that a highly sophisticated foreign country infiltrates the most sensitive U.S. intelligence systems, gains access to the algorithms and replaces the programming code with its own. The hacked AI system is no longer capable of providing accurate intelligence on that country.

The article is here.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

State board punishes UO counseling center director

By Diane Dietz
The Register-Guard
Originally published July 23, 2016

The state psychology regulatory board voted Friday to punish Shelly Kerr, director of the University of Oregon counseling center, for giving a student’s therapy records to university lawyers without the student’s consent.

Kerr, a senior UO staff psychologist, will receive a letter of reprimand, pay a civil penalty of $2,500 and complete a six-hour course on professional ethics, the Board of Psychologist Examiners ruled.

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“Here, given the lack of a signed release from the student and the inherent conflict between the university’s interest and (the psychologist’s) ethical obligations to protect privacy of (counseling center) clients, (Kerr) should have taken additional precautions to protect the student’s counseling records.

The article is here.

Friday, August 12, 2016

How to Hold Research 'Rock Stars' Accountable for Sexual Harassment

By Sarah Brown
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally posted July 21, 2016

How should professors found responsible for sexual harassment be punished? How can colleges encourage victims -- often graduate students who work closely with their harassers -- to come forward? On Tuesday a panel featuring two scholars, a member of Congress, a university official, and a journalist tackled those questions and others about harassment in the sciences and in academe more broadly.

The panel, which took place at the University of California at San Francisco and was broadcast on Facebook Live, was hosted by Rep. Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, who in January drew attention for taking a stand against sexual harassment in the sciences, in a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

First CRISPR trial in humans is reported to start August 2016

By Sharon Begley @sxbegle
Stat News
Originally published July 21, 2016

Scientists in China plan to use the genome-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9 in patients as early as next month, Nature reported on Thursday. If they go ahead, it would be the first time people would be injected with cells whose DNA has been altered by CRISPR.

A US proposal to run a similar study received approval by a federal ethics and safety panel last month, but it faces months of additional regulatory hurdles before it can go ahead by the end of 2016 at the earliest. The Chinese scientists, led by oncologist Lu You of Sichuan University’s West China Hospital in Chengdu, received approval from the hospital’s review board on July 6, Nature reported, and plan to treat their first patient in August.

Both the US and Chinese scientists would use CRISPR to edit immune-system T cells in patients with cancer in an effort to make those cells destroy malignant cells.

The article is here.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Why Do People Tend to Infer “Ought” From “Is”? The Role of Biases in Explanation

Christina M. Tworek and Andrei Cimpian
Psychological Science July 8, 2016

Abstract

People tend to judge what is typical as also good and appropriate—as what ought to be. What accounts for the prevalence of these judgments, given that their validity is at best uncertain? We hypothesized that the tendency to reason from “is” to “ought” is due in part to a systematic bias in people’s (nonmoral) explanations, whereby regularities (e.g., giving roses on Valentine’s Day) are explained predominantly via inherent or intrinsic facts (e.g., roses are beautiful). In turn, these inherence-biased explanations lead to value-laden downstream conclusions (e.g., it is good
to give roses). Consistent with this proposal, results from five studies (N = 629 children and adults) suggested that, from an early age, the bias toward inherence in explanations fosters inferences that imbue observed reality with value.  Given that explanations fundamentally determine how people understand the world, the bias toward inherence in these judgments is likely to exert substantial influence over sociomoral understanding.

The article is here.

Does children's moral compass waver under social pressure?

Kim EB, Chen C, Smetana J, Greenberger E
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 150:241-251 · June 2016
DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2016.06.006

Abstract

The current study tested whether preschoolers' moral and social-conventional judgments change under social pressure using Asch's conformity paradigm. A sample of 132 preschoolers (Mage=3.83years, SD=0.85) rated the acceptability of moral and social-conventional events and also completed a visual judgment task (i.e., comparing line length) both independently and after having viewed two peers who consistently made immoral, unconventional, or visually inaccurate judgments. Results showed evidence of conformity on all three tasks, but conformity was stronger on the social-conventional task than on the moral and visual tasks. Older children were less susceptible to pressure for social conformity for the moral and visual tasks but not for the conventional task.

The article is here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Fool Me Twice, Shame on You; Fool Me Three Times, I’m a Medical Board

by David Epstein
ProPublica
Originally published July 15, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

The Journal-Constitution analyzed public records from every single state. The low-bar-good-news is that “the vast majority of the nation’s 900,000 licensed physicians don’t sexually abuse patients.” Hurrah. The bad news is that the AJC couldn’t determine the extent of the problem due to reporting practices that give as much information as a teenager asked about his day at school. Except minus “fine.”

What else?

Some cases were truly egregious, particularly when “hospitals … fail to report sexual misconduct to regulators, despite laws in most states requiring them to do so.” For example: the AJC reported that one doctor was fired by three Tennessee hospitals (twice for sexual misconduct), but incurred no medical board actions.

The information is here.

Why are doctors plagued by depression and suicide?

By Judith Graham @judith_graham
STAT News
Originally published July 21, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

The starkest sign of the crisis gripping medicine is the number of physicians who commit suicide every year — 300 to 400, about the size of three average medical school classes. Male doctors are 1.4 times more likely to kill themselves than men in the general population; female physicians, 2.3 times more likely.

The grim tally is probably an under-count, since many suicides aren’t listed as such on death certificates. And it doesn’t include suicides among medical students, which aren’t tracked systematically in the United States.

In one study of six medical schools, nearly 1 in 4 students reported clinically significant symptoms of depression. Almost 7 percent said they had thought of ending their lives in the last two weeks.

The article is here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Effects of Victim Anonymity on Unethical Behavior

Yam, K.C. & Reynolds, S.J.
J Bus Ethics (2016) 136: 13.
doi:10.1007/s10551-014-2367-5

Abstract

We theorize that victim anonymity is an important factor in ethical decision making, such that actors engage in more self-interested and unethical behaviors toward anonymous victims than they do toward identifiable victims. Three experiments provided empirical support for this argument. In Study 1, participants withheld more life-saving products from anonymous than from identifiable victims. In Study 2, participants allocated a sum of payment more unfairly when interacting with an anonymous than with an identifiable partner. Finally, in Study 3, participants cheated more from an anonymous than from an identifiable person. Anticipated guilt fully mediated these effects in all three studies. Taken together, our research suggests that anonymous victims may be more likely to incur unethical treatment, which could explain many unethical business behaviors.

The article is here.

Fiction: Simulation of Social Worlds

By Keith Oatley
Trends in Cognitive Science
(2016) Volume 20, Issue 8, p 618–628

Here is an excerpt:

What is the basis for effects of improved empathy and theory-of-mind with engagement in fiction? Two kinds of account are possible, process and content, and they complement each other.

One kind of process is inference: engagement in fiction may involve understanding characters by inferences of the sort we make in conversation about what people mean and what kinds of people they are. In an experiment to test this hypothesis, participants were asked to read Alice Munro's The Office, a first-person short story about a woman who rents an office in which to write. In one condition, the story starts in Munro's words, which include ‘But here comes the disclosure which is not easy for me. I am a writer. That does not sound right. Too presumptuous, phony, or at least unconvincing’. In a comparison version, the story starts with readers being told directly what the narrator feels: ‘I’m embarrassed telling people that I am a writer …’ , p. 270). People who read the version in Munro's own words had to make inferences about what kind of person the narrator was and how she felt. They attained a deeper identification and understanding of the protagonist than did those who were told directly how she felt. Engagement in fiction can be thought of as practice in inference making of this kind.

A second kind of process is transportation: the extent to which people become emotionally involved, immersed, or carried away imaginatively in a story. The more transportation that occurred in reading a story, the greater the story-consistent emotional experience has been found to be. Emotion in fiction is important because, as in life, it can signal what is significant in the relation between events and our concerns [42]. In an experiment on empathetic effects, the more readers were transported into a fictional story, the greater were found to be both their empathy and their likelihood of responding on a behavioral measure: helping someone who had dropped some pencils on the floor. The vividness of imagery during reading has been found to improve transportation and to increase empathy. To investigate such imagery, participants in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine were asked to imagine a scene when given between three and six spoken phrases, for instance, ‘a dark blue carpet’ … ‘a carved chest of drawers’ … ‘an orange striped pencil’. Three phrases were enough to activate the hippocampus to its largest extent and for participants to imagine a scene with maximum vividness. In another study, one group of participants listened to a story and rated the intensity of their emotions while reading. In a second group of participants, parts of the story that raters had found most emotional produced the largest changes in heart rate and greatest fMRI-based activations.

The article is here.

Monday, August 8, 2016

How The Morality Of ‘Star Trek’ Could Help Today’s Chaotic World

By Karli Bendlin
The Huffington Post
Originally published July 20, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Gene Roddenberry’s original concept for the show focused on both a Western outer space adventure and a political agenda grounded in equality. The series touched on many social issues, including race relations, feminism and gender identity; themes that carried over into the film franchise.

For example, the episode “The Outcast” took a look at gender and sexual identity when the crew came in contact with a race that had no assigned gender. The episode was intended to draw attention to the discussion of LGBT rights, a topic still considered taboo in mainstream culture. “Star Trek Beyond” will feature the franchise’s first openly gay character, a move that producer J.J. Abrams said Roddenberry would have applauded.

“One of the many things I admire about [Roddenberry] was … how he was so about inclusivity, and I can’t imagine that he would not have wanted one of these characters, if he had been allowed ― which, of course, he would never have been allowed to in that era ― [to] have them be gay,” Abrams told HuffPost in a recent interview.

The entire article is here.

Why You Don’t Know Your Own Mind

By Alex Rosenberg
The New York Times
Originally published July 18, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

In fact, controlled experiments in cognitive science, neuroimaging and social psychology have repeatedly shown how wrong we can be about our real motivations, the justification of firmly held beliefs and the accuracy of our sensory equipment. This trend began even before the work of psychologists such as Benjamin Libet, who showed that the conscious feeling of willing an act actually occurs after the brain process that brings about the act — a result replicated and refined hundreds of times since his original discovery in the 1980s.

Around the same time, a physician working in Britain, Lawrence Weiskrantz, discovered “blindsight” — the ability, first of blind monkeys, and then of some blind people, to pick out objects by their color without the conscious sensation of color. The inescapable conclusion that behavior can be guided by visual information even when we cannot be aware of having it is just one striking example of how the mind is fooled and the ways it fools itself.

The entire article is here.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Is Knowing Your Genetic Information Helpful?

By Laura Landro
The Wall Street Journal
Originally published June 26, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

How different people handle uncertainty is also a concern. The surveys include questions such as whether unforeseen events are highly upsetting and whether participants can function well in a climate of uncertainty.

The survey results aren’t final yet. But Dr. Leonard says one concern people have is “learning about something they just don’t want to know about.”

Among the ethical issues she is exploring is “whether someone should be given the choice not to know about a disease risk for which there are preventive or monitoring strategies that would reduce the severity of the disease and therefore the cost of care.”

The article is here.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Do No Harm: The American Psychological Association wavers on its detainee policy

Susan Greene
The Colorado Independent
Originally published August 04, 2016

The American Psychological Association is wavering on a year-old policy designed to prevent psychologists from working with military or national security detainees.

Meeting in Denver for its annual convention, the nation’s largest professional association of psychologists this week considered and then postponed a decision on whether to allow members of the profession back to work at Guantanamo Bay, other military detention centers and CIA sites.
After a vote planned for Wednesday and then today, the group’s 173-member governing council tabled the discussion until February.

The debate stems from psychologists’ controversial role assisting the U.S. military and intelligence agencies in so-called “enhanced interrogation” efforts during George W. Bush’s administration. The post-9/11 program tried to squeeze information out of terror suspects detained at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Guantánamo in Cuba and other sites by waterboarding, isolation and sleep deprivation – methods that international law deems to be torture. Bush’s justice officials were able to legally justify the interrogations on grounds that doctors’ mere presence assured that the tactics were safe.

The updated article is here.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Moral Enhancement and Moral Freedom: A Critical Analysis

By John Danaher
Philosophical Disquisitions
Originally published July 19, 2016

The debate about moral neuroenhancement has taken off in the past decade. Although the term admits of several definitions, the debate primarily focuses on the ways in which human enhancement technologies could be used to ensure greater moral conformity, i.e. the conformity of human behaviour with moral norms. Imagine you have just witnessed a road rage incident. An irate driver, stuck in a traffic jam, jumped out of his car and proceeded to abuse the driver in the car behind him. We could all agree that this contravenes a moral norm. And we may well agree that the proximate cause of his outburst was a particular pattern of activity in the rage circuit of his brain. What if we could intervene in that circuit and prevent him from abusing his fellow motorists? Should we do it?

Proponents of moral neuroenhancement think we should — though they typically focus on much higher stakes scenarios. A popular criticism of their project has emerged. This criticism holds that trying to ensure moral conformity comes at the price of moral freedom. If our brains are prodded, poked and tweaked so that we never do the wrong thing, then we lose the ‘freedom to fall’ — i.e. the freedom to do evil. That would be a great shame. The freedom to do the wrong thing is, in itself, an important human value. We would lose it in the pursuit of greater moral conformity.

Moral Bioenhancement, Freedom and Reason

Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu
Neuroethics
First Online: 09 July 2016
DOI: 10.1007/s12152-016-9268-5

Abstract

In this paper we reply to the most important objections to our advocacy of moral enhancement by biomedical means – moral bioenhancement – that John Harris advances in his new book How to be Good. These objections are to effect that such moral enhancement undercuts both moral reasoning and freedom. The latter objection is directed more specifically at what we have called the God Machine, a super-duper computer which predicts our decisions and prevents decisions to perpetrate morally atrocious acts. In reply, we argue first that effective moral bioenhancement presupposes moral reasoning rather than undermines it. Secondly, that the God Machine would leave us with extensive freedom and that the restrictions it imposes on it are morally justified by the prevention of harm to victims.

The online article is here.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Undermining Belief in Free Will Diminishes True Self-Knowledge

Elizabeth Seto and Joshua A. Hicks
Disassociating the Agent From the Self
Social Psychological and Personality Science 1948550616653810, first published on June 17, 2016 doi:10.1177/1948550616653810

Undermining the belief in free will influences thoughts and behavior, yet little research has explored its implications for the self and identity. The current studies examined whether lowering free will beliefs reduces perceived true self-knowledge. First, a new free will manipulation was validated. Next, in Study 1, participants were randomly assigned to high belief or low belief in free will conditions and completed measures of true self-knowledge. In Study 2, participants completed the same free will manipulation and a moral decision-making task. We then assessed participants’ perceived sense of authenticity during the task. Results illustrated that attenuating free will beliefs led to less self-knowledge, such that participants reported feeling more alienated from their true selves and experienced lowered perceptions of authenticity while making moral decisions. The interplay between free will and the true self are discussed.

A Unified Code of Ethics for Health Professionals: Insights From an IOM Workshop.

Matthew K. Wynia, Sandeep P. Kishore, & Cynthia D. Belar
JAMA, 2014;311(8):799-800.

Here is an excerpt:

Professional obligations under these social contracts are often expressed in codes of ethics; although, unlike laws and regulations, the level of public engagement in developing professional codes has traditionally been limited. Still, when professional codes have failed to meet societal expectations, they have been publicly criticized and eventually changed, such as when the American Medical Association's code initially failed to fully obligate physicians to care for patients with human immunodeficiency virus infection.

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First, a new social contract should be articulated in a code of ethics that does not focus on the roles and obligations of just 1 subset of health professionals. The traditional approach to professionalism in health care has separated health professionals according to education and credentialing, with each group seeking to establish its own social contract. In negotiating their social roles, this separation has allowed groups at times to ignore, show little regard for, or even be overtly hostile toward the roles of other groups (for example, in debates over scope of practice and payment issues). This approach is counterproductive in today's health care environment, which demands teamwork.

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Second, transdisciplinary professionalism demands more than a 1-time listing of shared values by a multidisciplinary group. A meaningful transdisciplinary professionalism will entail the creation of new institutional frameworks, which are required for 'defining, debating, declaring, distributing and enforcing" the expectations and standards that health care professionals and the public agree should govern work in the health care arena'.

The article is here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Clean eating and dirty burgers: how food became a matter of morals

Julian Baggini
The Guardian
Originally published July 17, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Perhaps the clearest proof that the way we talk about food is saturated with moralism is the ubiquity of the term “guilt”. Marketing departments have seen the power of this and promoted “guilt-free” snacks and treats. This promises an escape from self-recrimination but simply reinforces it by suggesting that eating the “wrong” kinds of foods does and should make you feel guilty. Hence Madeleine Shaw’s Ready Steady Glow contains a section on “self-love” which includes “forgiveness”, begging the question as to why exactly we need to forgive.

These ways of talking are so embedded in our culture that it is tempting to think they are natural and harmless. But they are neither. The writer Bee Wilson has examined the way we learn to eat from birth. “The moralising language around food encourages us to eat in ways which are both less pleasurable,” she told me, “and also actually less healthy.”

The article is here.

Reason, Emotion, and Implanted Devices

by John D. Lantos
Bioethics.net
Originally published July 13, 2016

Pullman and Hodgkinson present a case that, it seems, should have been an easy one. A competent adult makes a simple request to discontinue a medical therapy. Further, it was a therapy that he’d already tried so personal experience informed his preference to discontinue therapy. His request was repeated over time. He was determined to have adequate decisional capacity. So why did both the physicians and the bioethicists consider this to be a difficult case?

There are certain cases that lead to such dilemmas. They are cases in which emotions tug us in one direction and reason tugs in another. The best example of this type of situation is the difference between withholding a treatment and withdrawing the same treatment. Bioethical principles suggest that these two actions are ethically equivalent. Legal precedent shows that the law treats them as comparable actions. Yet both health professionals and families say that the two actions feel very different. Another example is the difference between withdrawing life-support in a patient who is awake and alert compared to withdrawing life-support in a patient who is unconscious. If the diagnosis and prognosis are the same, then the fact of consciousness does not change the legality or morality of the action. But they feel very different.

The article is here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Competencies for Psychologists in the Domains of Religion and Spirituality

C. Vieten, S. Scammell, A. Pierce, R. Pilato, I Ammondson, K, I. Pargament, & D. Lukoff
Spirituality in Clinical Practice, Vol 3(2), Jun 2016, 92-114.

Abstract

Religion and spirituality are important aspects of human diversity that should receive adequate attention in cultural competence training for psychologists. Furthermore, spiritual and religious beliefs and practices are relevant to psychological and emotional well-being, and clinicians who are trained to sensitively address these domains in their clinical practice should be more effective. Our research team previously published a set of 16 religious and spiritual competencies based on a combination of focus group and survey research with the intent that they could be used to guide training. In the present study, we conducted a survey to determine whether these competencies would be acceptable to a broader population of practicing clinicians. Results indicate a large degree of support for the proposed competencies. Between 73.0 and 94.1% of respondents agreed that psychologists should receive training and demonstrate competence in each of the 16 areas. The majority (52.2%–80.7%) indicated that they had received little or no training, and between 29.7% and 58.6% had received no training at all, in these competencies. We conclude with recommendations for integrating these religious and spiritual competencies more fully into clinical training and practice.

The article is here.

Moral Motivation

Rosati, Connie S.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2016 Edition)

In our everyday lives, we confront a host of moral issues. Once we have deliberated and formed judgments about what is right or wrong, good or bad, these judgments tend to have a marked hold on us. Although in the end, we do not always behave as we think we ought, our moral judgments typically motivate us, at least to some degree, to act in accordance with them. When philosophers talk about moral motivation, this is the basic phenomenon that they seek to understand. Moral motivation is an instance of a more general phenomenon—what we might call normative motivation—for our other normative judgments also typically have some motivating force. When we make the normative judgment that something is good for us, or that we have a reason to act in a particular way, or that a specific course of action is the rational course, we also tend to be moved. Many philosophers have regarded the motivating force of normative judgments as the key feature that marks them as normative, thereby distinguishing them from the many other judgments we make. In contrast to our normative judgments, our mathematical and empirical judgments, for example, seem to have no intrinsic connection to motivation and action. The belief that an antibiotic will cure a specific infection may move an individual to take the antibiotic, if she also believes that she has the infection, and if she either desires to be cured or judges that she ought to treat the infection for her own good. All on its own, however, an empirical belief like this one appears to carry with it no particular motivational impact; a person can judge that an antibiotic will most effectively cure a specific infection without being moved one way or another.

The entry is here.

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Review of Research on Moral Injury in Combat Veterans

Sheila Frankfurt and Patricia Frazier
Military Psychology
http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/mil0000132

Abstract


The moral injury construct has been proposed to describe the suffering some veterans experience when they engage in acts during combat that violate their beliefs about their own goodness or the goodness of the world. These experiences are labeled transgressive acts to identify them as potentially traumatic experiences distinct from the fear-based traumas associated with posttraumatic stress disorder. The goal of this article was to review empirical and clinical data relevant to transgressive acts and moral injury, to identify gaps in the literature, and to encourage future research and interventions. We reviewed literature on 3 broad arms of the moral injury model proposed by Litz and colleagues (2009): (a) the definition, prevalence, and potential correlates of transgressive acts (e.g., military training and leadership, combat exposure, and personality), (b) the relations between transgressive acts and the moral injury syndrome (e.g., self-handicapping, self-injury, demoralization), and (c) some of the proposed mechanisms of moral injury genesis (e.g., shame, guilt, social withdrawal, and self-condemnation). We conclude with recommendations for future research for veterans suffering with moral injury.


Combat can require individuals to violate their consciences repeatedly. For several decades, clinicians have noted the psychological impact on veterans of engaging in killing, committing atrocities, and violating the rules of engagement (Haley, 1974). Despite this clinical attention, most psychological research on veterans' war wounds has focused on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD; American Psychiatric Association, 2013), a fear-based disorder that results from exposure to life-threatening events, rather than on the consequences of active participation in warfare.

The moral injury syndrome was proposed to describe the constellation of shame and guilt based disturbances that some combat veterans experience after engaging in wartime acts of commission (e.g., killing) or omission (e.g., failing to prevent atrocities; Litz et al., 2009). The moral injury syndrome was proposed to be constituted of the PTSD symptoms of intrusive memories, emotional numbing, and avoidance, along with collateral effects such as self-injury, demoralization, and self-handicapping (Litz et al., 2009).

The article is here.

Panel slams plan for human research rules

by David Malakoff
Science  08 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6295, pp. 106-107
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6295.106

In a surprise development certain to fuel a long-running controversy, a prominent science advisory panel is calling on the U.S. government to abandon a nearly finished update to rules on protecting human research participants. It should wait for a new high-level commission, created by Congress and the president, to recommend improvements and then start over, the panel says.

Policy insiders say the recommendation, made 29 June by a committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that is examining ways to reduce the regulatory burden on academic scientists, is the political equivalent of a comic book hero trying to step in front of a speeding train in a bid to prevent a wreck.

It's not clear, however, whether the panel will succeed in stopping the regulatory express--or just get run over. Both the Obama administration, which has been pushing to complete the new rules this year, and lawmakers in Congress would need to back the halt--and so far they've been silent.

Still, many researchers and university groups are thrilled with the panel's recommendation, noting that they have repeatedly objected to some of the proposed rule changes as unworkable, but with little apparent impact.

The article is here.