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

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

Monday, January 27, 2020

Nurses Continue to Rate Highest in Honesty, Ethics

Nurses Continue to Rate Highest in Honesty, EthicsRJ Reinhart
news.gallup.com
Originally posted 6 Jan 20

For the 18th year in a row, Americans rate the honesty and ethics of nurses highest among a list of professions that Gallup asks U.S. adults to assess annually. Currently, 85% of Americans say nurses' honesty and ethical standards are "very high" or "high," essentially unchanged from the 84% who said the same in 2018. Alternatively, Americans hold car salespeople in the lowest esteem, with 9% saying individuals in this field have high levels of ethics and honesty, similar to the 8% who said the same in 2018.

Nurses are consistently rated higher in honesty and ethics than all other professions that Gallup asks about, by a wide margin. Medical professions in general rate highly in Americans' assessments of honesty and ethics, with at least six in 10 U.S. adults saying medical doctors, pharmacists and dentists have high levels of these virtues. The only nonmedical profession that Americans now hold in a similar level of esteem is engineers, with 66% saying individuals in this field have high levels of honesty and ethics.

Americans' high regard for healthcare professionals contrasts sharply with their assessments of stockbrokers, advertising professionals, insurance salespeople, senators, members of Congress and car salespeople -- all of which garner less than 20% of U.S. adults saying they have high levels of honesty and ethics.

The public's low levels of belief in the honesty and ethical standards of senators and members of Congress may be a contributing factor in poor job approval ratings for the legislature. No more than 30% of Americans have approved of Congress in the past 10 years.

The info is here.

The Character of Causation: Investigating the Impact of Character, Knowledge, and Desire on Causal Attributions

Justin Sytsma
(2019) Preprint

Abstract

There is a growing consensus that norms matter for ordinary causal attributions. This has important implications for philosophical debates over actual causation. Many hold that theories of actual causation should coincide with ordinary causal attributions, yet those attributions often diverge from the theories when norms are involved. There remains substantive debate about why norms matter for causal attributions, however. In this paper, I consider two competing explanations—Alicke’s bias view, which holds that the impact of norms reflects systematic error (suggesting that ordinary causal attributions should be ignored in the philosophical debates), and our responsibility view, which holds that the impact of norms reflects the appropriate application of the ordinary concept of causation (suggesting that philosophical accounts are not analyzing the ordinary concept). I investigate one key difference between these views: the bias view, but not the responsibility view, predicts that “peripheral features” of the agents in causal scenarios—features that are irrelevant to appropriately assessing responsibility for an outcome, such as general character—will also impact ordinary causal attributions. These competing predictions are tested for two different types of scenarios. I find that information about an agent’s character does not impact causal attributions on its own. Rather, when character shows an effect it works through inferences to relevant features of the agent. In one scenario this involves inferences to the agent’s knowledge of the likely result of her action and her desire to bring about that result, with information about knowledge and desire each showing an independent effect on causal attributions.

From the Conclusion:

Alicke’s bias view holds that not only do features of the agent’s mental states matter, such as her knowledge and desires concerning the norm and the outcome, but also peripheral features of the agent whose impact could only reasonably be explained in terms of bias. In contrast, our responsibility view holds that the impact of norms does not reflect bias, but rather that ordinary causal attributions issue from the appropriate application of a concept with a normative component. As such, we predict that while judgments about the agent’s mental states that are relevant to adjudicating responsibility will matter, peripheral features of the agent will only matter insofar as they warrant an inference to other features of the agent that are relevant.

 In line with the responsibility view and against the bias view, the results of the studies presented in this paper suggest that information relevant to assessing an agent’s character matters but only when it warrants an inference to a non-peripheral feature, such as the agent’s negligence in the situation or her knowledge and desire with regard to the outcome. Further, the results indicate that information about an agent’s knowledge and desire both impact ordinary causal attributions in the scenario tested. This raises an important methodological issue for empirical work on ordinary causal attributions: researchers need to carefully consider and control for the inferences that participants might draw concerning the agents’ mental states and motivations.

The research is here.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Why Boards Should Worry about Executives’ Off-the-Job Behavior

Harvard Business Review

January-February Issues 2020

Here is an excerpt:

In their most recent paper, the researchers looked at whether executives’ personal legal records—everything from traffic tickets to driving under the influence and assault—had any relation to their tendency to execute trades on the basis of confidential inside information. Using U.S. federal and state crime databases, criminal background checks, and private investigators, they identified firms that had simultaneously employed at least one executive with a record and at least one without a record during the period from 1986 to 2017. This yielded a sample of nearly 1,500 executives, including 503 CEOs. Examining executive trades of company stock, they found that those were more profitable for executives with a record than for others, suggesting that the former had made use of privileged information. The effect was greatest among executives with multiple offenses and those with serious violations (anything worse than a traffic ticket).

Could governance measures curb such activity? Many firms have “blackout” policies to deter improper trading. Because the existence of those policies is hard to determine (few companies publish data on them), the researchers used a common proxy: whether the bulk of trades by a firm’s officers occurred within 21 days after an earnings announcement (generally considered an allowable window). They compared the trades of executives with a record at companies with and without blackout policies, with sobering results: Although the policies mitigated abnormally profitable trades among traffic violators, they had no effect on the trades of serious offenders. The latter were likelier than others to trade during blackouts and to miss SEC reporting deadlines. They were also likelier to buy or sell before major announcements, such as of earnings or M&A, and in the three years before their companies went bankrupt—evidence similarly suggesting they had profited from inside information. “While strong governance can discipline minor offenders, it appears to be largely ineffective for executives with more-serious criminal infractions,” the researchers write.

The info is here.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Psychologist Who Waterboarded for C.I.A. to Testify at Guantánamo

Carol Rosenberg
The New York Times
Originally posted 20 Jan 20

Here is an excerpt:

Mr. Mohammed’s co-defendants were subject to violence, sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation and rectal abuse in the prison network from 2002, when the first of them, Ramzi bin al-Shibh was captured, to 2006, when all five were transferred to the prison at Guantánamo Bay. They will also be present in the courtroom.

In the black sites, the defendants were kept in solitary confinement, often nude, at times confined to a cramped box in the fetal position, hung by their wrists in painful positions and slammed head first into walls. Those techniques, approved by George W. Bush administration lawyers, were part of a desperate effort to force them to divulge Al Qaeda’s secrets — like the location of Osama bin Laden and whether there were terrorist sleeper cells deployed to carry out more attacks.

A subsequent internal study by the C.I.A. found proponents inflated the intelligence value of those interrogations.

The psychologists were called by lawyers to testify for one of the defendants, Mr. Mohammed’s nephew, Ammar al-Baluchi. All five defense teams are expected to question them about policy and for graphic details of conditions in the clandestine overseas prisons, including one in Thailand that for a time was run by Gina Haspel, now the C.I.A. director.

Mr. al-Baluchi’s lawyer, James G. Connell III, is spearheading an effort to persuade the judge to exclude from the trial the testimony of F.B.I. agents who questioned the defendants at Guantánamo in 2007. It was just months after their transfer there from years in C.I.A. prisons, and the defense lawyers argue that, although there was no overt violence during the F.B.I. interrogations, the defendants were so thoroughly broken in the black sites that they were powerless to do anything but tell the F.B.I. agents what they wanted to hear.

By law, prosecutors can use voluntary confessions only at the military commissions at Guantánamo.

The info is here.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Psychology accused of ‘collective self-deception’ over results

Image result for psychology as scienceJack Grove
The Times Higher Education
Originally published 10 Dec 19

Here is an excerpt:

If psychologists are serious about doing research that could make “useful real-world predictions”, rather than conducting highly contextualised studies, they should use “much larger and more complex datasets, experimental designs and statistical models”, Dr Yarkoni advises.

He also suggests that the “sweeping claims” made by many papers bear little relation to their results, maintaining that a “huge proportion of the quantitative inferences drawn in the published psychology literature are so inductively weak as to be at best questionable and at worst utterly insensible”.

Many psychologists were indulging in a “collective self-deception” and should start “acknowledging the fundamentally qualitative nature of their work”, he says, stating that “a good deal of what currently passes for empirical psychology is already best understood as insightful qualitative analysis dressed up as shoddy quantitative science”.

That would mean no longer including “scientific-looking inferential statistics” within papers, whose appearance could be considered an “elaborate rhetorical ruse used to mathematicise people into believing claims they would otherwise find logically unsound”.

The info is here.

How One Person Can Change the Conscience of an Organization

Nicholas W. Eyrich, Robert E. Quinn, and
David P. Fessell
Harvard Business Review
Originally published 27 Dec 19

Here is an excerpt:

A single person with a clarity of conscience and a willingness to speak up can make a difference. Contributing to the greater good is a deep and fundamental human need. When a leader, even a mid-level or lower level leader, skillfully brings a voice and a vision, others will follow and surprising things can happen—even culture change on a large scale. While Yamada did not set out to change a culture, his actions were catalytic and galvanized the organization. As news of the new “not for profit” focus of Tres Cantos spread, many of GSK’s top scientists volunteered to work there. Yamada’s voice spoke for many others, offering a clear path and a vision for a more positive future for all.

The info is here.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Colleges want freshmen to use mental health apps. But are they risking students’ privacy?

 (iStock)Deanna Paul
The New York Times
Originally posted 2 Jan 20

Here are two excepts:

TAO Connect is just one of dozens of mental health apps permeating college campuses in recent years. In addition to increasing the bandwidth of college counseling centers, the apps offer information and resources on mental health issues and wellness. But as student demand for mental health services grows, and more colleges turn to digital platforms, experts say universities must begin to consider their role as stewards of sensitive student information and the consequences of encouraging or mandating these technologies.

The rise in student wellness applications arrives as mental health problems among college students have dramatically increased. Three out of 5 U.S. college students experience overwhelming anxiety, and 2 in 5 students reported debilitating depression, according to a 2018 survey from the American College Health Association.

Even so, only about 15 percent of undergraduates seek help at a university counseling center. These apps have begun to fill students’ needs by providing ongoing access to traditional mental health services without barriers such as counselor availability or stigma.

(cut)

“If someone wants help, they don’t care how they get that help,” said Lynn E. Linde, chief knowledge and learning officer for the American Counseling Association. “They aren’t looking at whether this person is adequately credentialed and are they protecting my rights. They just want help immediately.”

Yet she worried that students may be giving up more information than they realize and about the level of coercion a school can exert by requiring students to accept terms of service they otherwise wouldn’t agree to.

“Millennials understand that with the use of their apps they’re giving up privacy rights. They don’t think to question it,” Linde said.

The info is here.

You Are Already Having Sex With Robots

Henry the sex robotEmma Grey Ellis
wired.com
Originally published 23 Aug 19

Here are two excerpts:

Carnegie Mellon roboticist Hans Moravec has written about emotions as devices for channeling behavior in helpful ways—for example, sexuality prompting procreation. He concluded that artificial intelligences, in seeking to please humanity, are likely to be highly emotional. By this definition, if you encoded an artificial intelligence with the need to please humanity sexually, their urgency to follow their programming constitutes sexual feelings. Feelings as real and valid as our own. Feelings that lead to the thing that feelings, probably, evolved to lead to: sex. One gets the sense that, for some digisexual people, removing the squishiness of the in-between stuff—the jealousy and hurt and betrayal and exploitation—improves their sexual enjoyment. No complications. The robot as ultimate partner. An outcome of evolution.

So the sexbotcalypse will come. It's not scary, it's just weird, and it's being motivated by millennia-old bad habits. Laziness, yes, but also something else. “I don’t see anything that suggests we’re going to buck stereotypes,” says Charles Ess, who studies virtue ethics and social robots at the University of Oslo. “People aren’t doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re doing this to make money.”

(cut)

Technologizing sexual relationships will also fill one of the last blank spots in tech’s knowledge of (ad-targetable) human habits. Brianna Rader—founder of Juicebox, progenitor of Slutbot—has spoken about how difficult it is to do market research on sex. If having sex with robots or other forms of sex tech becomes commonplace, it wouldn’t be difficult anymore. “We have an interesting relationship with privacy in the US,” Kaufman says. “We’re willing to trade a lot of our privacy and information away for pleasures less complicated than an intimate relationship.”

The info is here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Association Between Physician Depressive Symptoms and Medical Errors

Pereira-Lima K, Mata DA, & others
JAMA Netw Open. 2019; 2(11):e1916097

Abstract

Importance  Depression is highly prevalent among physicians and has been associated with increased risk of medical errors. However, questions regarding the magnitude and temporal direction of these associations remain open in recent literature.

Objective  To provide summary relative risk (RR) estimates for the associations between physician depressive symptoms and medical errors.

Conclusions and Relevance  Results of this study suggest that physicians with a positive screening for depressive symptoms are at higher risk for medical errors. Further research is needed to evaluate whether interventions to reduce physician depressive symptoms could play a role in mitigating medical errors and thus improving physician well-being and patient care.

From the Discussion

Studies have recommended the addition of physician well-being to the Triple Aim of enhancing the patient experience of care, improving the health of populations, and reducing the per capita cost of health care. Results of the present study endorse the Quadruple Aim movement by demonstrating not only that medical errors are associated with physician health but also that physician depressive symptoms are associated with subsequent errors. Given that few physicians with depression seek treatment and that recent evidence has pointed to the lack of organizational interventions aimed at reducing physician depressive symptoms, our findings underscore the need for institutional policies to remove barriers to the delivery of evidence-based treatment to physicians with depression.

https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.16097