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

Friday, January 31, 2014

U.S. Military officials: New report highlights sexist climate at service academies

By Agence France-Presse
The Raw Story
Friday, January 10, 2014

Sexual assault cases have declined at two of the three US military academies but students still worry they will suffer social retaliation if they report an incident, officials said Friday.

The students also say they are reluctant to confront sexist behavior by a small number of cadets and athletes, underscoring the need for commanders to improve the climate at the academies, according to a Pentagon report.

Students believe their leaders take sexual assault seriously but “also identified peer pressure as a barrier to reporting,” said Major General Jeffrey Snow, director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

The entire story is here.

Judge rules patients in New Mexico have fundamental right to get aid in dying

By Susan Montoya Bryan
Associated Press
Originally posted January 13, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A New Mexico judge has ruled some patients can choose a physician's aid in getting prescription medications to peacefully end their lives.

Second Judicial District Judge Nan Nash ruled Monday that the ability of competent, terminally ill patients to choose aid in dying is a fundamental right under the state constitution.

The entire article is here.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Research: We Should Speak Up About Ethical Violations More Often

by Joseph Grenny
Harvard Business Review
Originally published on January 8, 2014

Whistle-blowing reveals not just acute misdeeds, but chronic and longstanding patterns of misconduct. For example, Edward Snowden’s bombshell release of more than 200,000 documents revealed questionable government surveillance programs that existed for years. Miami Dolphins player Jonathan Martin withdrew from play, alleging more than a year of emotional abuse from teammate Richie Incognito. These high-profile cases are just a few examples of what happens in organizations large and small every day.

And yet, many leaders wrongly believe the path to consistent, proper conduct is special methods to reward whistle-blowing — offering incentives to truth-tellers who report major lapses. The SEC, for example, offers up to 30 percent of recovered funds as payment to those whose testimony aids in prosecution of corporate wrongdoing. One payment recently topped $14 million. Is a multimillion-dollar payday the key to corporate ethics?

The entire article is here.

In Life and Business, Learning to Be Ethical

By Alina Tugend
The New York Times
Originally published January

Here is an excerpt:

Trying to become more ethical — or teaching people how to — would seem doomed then. But that’s not true. It’s just that how we teach ethics has to catch up with what we know about how the human mind works.

One area clearly in need of attention is business ethics, especially given the transgressions in the financial world in recent years. Some of the nation’s top researchers think so too. Next week, a group of them — most based at American universities — will officially introduce a new website, EthicalSystems.org. The site is the first to pull together extensive research and resources on the subject of business ethics with the aim of making the vast trove available to schools, government regulators and businesses — especially their compliance officers.

“It used to be business ethics grew out of philosophy, with a focus on the right thing to do,” said Jonathan Haidt, a professor of ethical leadership at New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business. “In the last 10 years there’s been an explosion of research in behavioral economics” and the underlying reasons people act the way they do.

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Moral luck: Neiladri Sinhababu

Published on Dec 2, 2013

A talk on moral luck that will examine when blame and virtue can be assigned to human actions through a number of examples. Neil Sinhababu is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. His research is mainly on ethics. His paper on romantic relationships with people from other universes, "Possible Girls", was featured in the Washington Post on Valentine's Day.

At Issue in 2 Wrenching Cases: What to Do After the Brain Dies

The New York Times
Originally posted January 9, 2014

In one way, the cases are polar opposites: the parents of Jahi McMath in Oakland, Calif., have fought to keep their daughter connected to a ventilator, while the parents and husband of Marlise Muñoz in Fort Worth, Tex., want desperately to turn the machine off. In another way, the cases are identical: both families have been shocked to learn that a loved one was declared brain-dead — and that hospital officials defied the family’s wishes for treatment.

Their wrenching stories raise questions about how brain death is determined, and who has the right to decide how such patients are treated.

The entire story is here.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tweet Police

Kansas’ ability to fire professors for posting on social media is bad news for academic freedom—and may not even be legal.

By Frank K. LoMonte
Inside Higher Ed via Slate
Originally posted January 3, 2014

For decades, the Supreme Court has kept vigil over the campuses of state universities as, in the words of one memorable 1995 ruling, "peculiarly the marketplace for ideas." No opinion, the Supreme Court has emphasized, is too challenging or unsettling that it can be banned from the college classroom.

Forget the classroom—professors today are fortunate if they can be safe from punishment for an unkind word posted from a home computer on a personal, off-campus blog.

The Kansas Board of Regents triggered academic-freedom alarm bells across America last month with a hastily adopted revision to university personnel policies that makes “improper use of social media” grounds for discipline up to and including termination. (While the board this week ordered a review of the policy, it remains in place.)

The entire story is here.

Introducing Empowerment Ethics

By Daniel Fincke
The Secularite
Originally posted on January 3, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

What is “Empowerment Ethics”?

The gist of what I am dubbing “empowerment ethics” is simple.

I think I can argue in objectively factual terms that there is an overriding good that all humans should be concerned with. The good we should all strive for is to be as powerful according to our potential abilities as we can be. Every human being is made up of a set of powers. We do not just have our powers but we are our powers. We do not just have the powers of rationality, we exist through them. We do not just have abilities to feel things emotionally, we exist through them. And the same goes for our powers of sociability, our bodily powers, our sexual powers, our creative powers, our technological powers, our artistic powers, and any other distinct categories of powers you can identify within us. Each of our major categories of powers is comprised of component powers and each of our powers can combine into larger powers.

That’s the power part. The empowerment part specifically comes in when we realize that fulfilling our powers to their maximum means empowering others through the exercise of our abilities. The most marvelous thing about human powers is how much they can spread into other people and how much we need other people to use their powers to empower us. Every ability we have grows in its effectiveness the more that it increases the total net powerful effectiveness of the total number of people. When I am so powerful as to be able to empower you to be more powerful, then I am powerful not just in myself but also in you and in those you further empower, and so it goes, on and on.

The entire blog post is here.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Time, Money, and Morality

By Gino, F., and C. Mogilner. "Time, Money, and Morality." Psychological Science (forthcoming).


Money, a resource that absorbs much daily attention, seems to be present in much unethical behavior thereby suggesting that money itself may corrupt. This research examines a way to offset such potentially deleterious effects—by focusing on time, a resource that tends to receive less attention than money but is equally ubiquitous in our daily lives. Across four experiments, we examine whether shifting focus onto time can salvage individuals' ethicality. We found that implicitly activating the construct of time, rather than money, leads individuals to behave more ethically by cheating less. We further found that priming time reduces cheating by making people reflect on who they are. Implications for the use of time versus money primes in discouraging or promoting dishonesty are discussed.

The entire article is here.

When Doctors ‘Google’ Their Patients

By Haider Javed Warraich
The New York Times - Well Blog
Originally published January 6, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

I am tempted to prescribe that physicians should never look online for information about their patients, though I think the practice will become only more common, given doctors’ — and all of our — growing dependence on technology. The more important question health care providers need to ask themselves is why we would like to.

To me, the only legitimate reason to search for a patient’s online footprint is if there is a safety issue. If, for example, a patient appears to be manic or psychotic, it might be useful to investigate whether certain claims the patient makes are true. Or, if a doctor suspects a pediatric patient is being abused, it might make sense to look for evidence online. Physicians have also investigated patients on the web if they were concerned about suicide risk, or needed to contact the family of an unresponsive patient.

The entire article is here.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Not All Multiple Relationships are Created Equal

By Ofer Zur
Independent Practitioner, 34/1, 15-22. 2014.


Most mental health professionals have attended risk management and ethics workshops where one of the central messages was the dire warning that multiple relationships are generally unethical, inherently harmful, mostly prohibited, and should be avoided.  While the term "unethical" is thrown about liberally when it comes to multiple relationships, the fact is that none of the major professional organizations' codes of ethics prohibit all forms of dual or multiple relationships.

The entire article is here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence

In some jobs, being in touch with emotions is essential. In others, it seems to be a detriment. And like any skill, being able to read people can be used for good or evil.

Adam Grant
The Atlantic
Originally published January 2, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Emotional intelligence is important, but the unbridled enthusiasm has obscured a dark side. New evidence shows that when people hone their emotional skills, they become better at manipulating others. When you’re good at controlling your own emotions, you can disguise your true feelings. When you know what others are feeling, you can tug at their heartstrings and motivate them to act against their own best interests.

Social scientists have begun to document this dark side of emotional intelligence. In emerging research led by University of Cambridge professor Jochen Menges, when a leader gave an inspiring speech filled with emotion, the audience was less likely to scrutinize the message and remembered less of the content. Ironically, audience members were so moved by the speech that they claimed to recall more of it.

The authors call this the awestruck effect, but it might just as easily be described as the dumbstruck effect. One observer reflected that Hitler’s persuasive impact came from his ability to strategically express emotions—he would “tear open his heart”—and these emotions affected his followers to the point that they would “stop thinking critically and just emote.”

The entire story is here.

Friday, January 24, 2014

This is your brain on religion: Uncovering the science of belief

From Pope Francis to Phil Robertson: Why are some people of faith generous — while others are nuts?

By D. F. Swaab
Originally posted on January 4, 2014

Here are some excerpts:

The Evolutionary Advantage of Religion

Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

The evolution of modern man has given rise to five behavioral characteristics common to all cultures: language, toolmaking, music, art, and religion. Precursors of all these characteristics, with the exception of religion, can be found in the animal kingdom. However, the evolutionary advantage of religion to humankind is clear.

(1) First, religion binds groups. Jews have been kept together as a group by their faith, in spite of the Diaspora, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust. For leaders, belief is an excellent instrument. As Seneca said, “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.” Religions use various mechanisms to keep the group together:


Paul Verspeek, hosting a local Dutch radio show on Boxing Day 2005, asked psychiatrists how they would recognize Jesus Christ if he returned to Earth. How would they distinguish between him and mentally ill patients who claimed to be Christ? The psychiatrists were stumped for an answer.

The entire article is here.

Thanks to Tom Fink for this article.

Podcast: A Conversation about Positive Ethics

In this podcast, John Gavazzi and Sam Knapp talk positive ethics.  What is different about positive ethics as compared to presentations on ethics?  We focus on how psychologists can anchor their professional conduct and decision making on overarching and foundational ethical principles. By focusing on the moral foundations of behavior, psychologists can upgrade their quality of patient care and decision making.

At the end of the podcast, the listener will be able to:

1. Describe positive ethics
2. Explain the concept of a culture of safety
3. Identity one way to apply positive ethics to daily practice

For further reading:

Sam Knapp and Leon VandeCreek: Practical Ethics for Psychologists: A Positive Approach

Click here to earn CE credits for this podcast

Listener feedback can be sent to John Gavazzi

The Problem of Evil

Sally Haslanger
Professor of Philosophy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sally discusses a classic argument that God does not exist, called 'The Problem of Evil'. Along the way, she distinguishes different ways in which people believe that God exists, and discusses what's bad about having contradictory beliefs.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Some thoughts on the microethics of our professional rules of conduct: Keeping play in imagination

by Anna Guerra, JD, MA, LPC
The Jung Page
Originally published October 19, 2013

A client’s ability to play and imagine is essential to their healing and growth and the provision of a “playspace” where this can happen is a central component of what we do as psychotherapists. Maya Angelou writes, “The needs of a society determines its ethics” (Angelou, 1980, p. 190). “Microethics” focuses on the needs and purposes of our profession, on the ethos underlying our professional rules of conduct, going beyond “the rules,” beyond the “dos and don’ts,” the “shall and shall not” to the “one shall or shall not because we seek to do the following.” Like a microphone, microethics expands and makes audible the reasons for our rules. Providing our clients with a playspace and helping them play is part of what we do as therapists, and it is an ethos written into the various rules of our professional conduct, our ethics.

By play I mean allowing the emergence of imaginal material into conscious awareness. When my clients are “playing” they can allow thoughts, feelings, fantasies, and other material into conscious awareness, into the psychotherapeutic space which if the psychotherapy is working is a playspace.

The entire article is here.

Thanks to Deborah Derrickson Kossmann for this article.

Evidence based medicine is broken

By Des Spence
BMJ 2014; 348 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g22 (Published 3 January 2014)
Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g22

Evidence based medicine (EBM) wrong footed the drug industry for a while in the 1990s. We could fend off the army of pharmaceutical representatives because often their promotional material was devoid of evidence. But the drug industry came to realise that EBM was an opportunity rather than a threat. Research, especially when published in a prestigious journal, was worth more than thousands of sales representatives. Today EBM is a loaded gun at clinicians’ heads. “You better do as the evidence says,” it hisses, leaving no room for discretion or judgment. EBM is now the problem, fueling overdiagnosis and overtreatment.

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Understanding Moral Values in Psychotherapy

By John Gavazzi and Sam Knapp
Submitted for publication

Psychotherapy is not a value-free experience; hence, morality plays a role in the helping relationship. The psychologist’s role in psychotherapy inherently entails more power in the relationship. Therefore, to work in their patient’s best interest, psychologists need to remain aware of the power imbalance and their potential influence on the belief systems and values of their patients. All psychologists have the ability to influence their patients in many areas of their lives including the domains of morality, values, and ethics.

In terms of psychotherapy training, psychologists need to be aware of their moral beliefs as these apply to a variety of topics in psychotherapy. Patients come to psychotherapy with diverse beliefs and backgrounds, so psychologists need to be open to the diversities of modern American life. Psychologists also need to be aware of their limits of what is acceptable versus unacceptable, in terms of their patients’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Psychologists and patients who have congruent belief systems rarely discuss how their synchronous values work toward a positive outcome, although congruence between the value systems of clients and psychologists is correlated with successful outcomes in psychotherapy (Beutler & Bergen, 1991).  Furthermore, research supports the idea that patient values shift toward psychologist values during therapy (Williams & Levitt, 2007). This finding is a less obvious result of psychotherapy, and typically not a planned goal of therapy. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Closing of the Scientific Mind

By David Gelernter
Originally published January 1, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Many scientists are proud of having booted man off his throne at the center of the universe and reduced him to just one more creature—an especially annoying one—in the great intergalactic zoo. That is their right. But when scientists use this locker-room braggadocio to belittle the human viewpoint, to belittle human life and values and virtues and civilization and moral, spiritual, and religious discoveries, which is all we human beings possess or ever will, they have outrun their own empiricism. They are abusing their cultural standing. Science has become an international bully.

Nowhere is its bullying more outrageous than in its assault on the phenomenon known as subjectivity.

Your subjective, conscious experience is just as real as the tree outside your window or the photons striking your retina—even though you alone feel it. Many philosophers and scientists today tend to dismiss the subjective and focus wholly on an objective, third-person reality—a reality that would be just the same if men had no minds. They treat subjective reality as a footnote, or they ignore it, or they announce that, actually, it doesn’t even exist.

The entire article is here.

Submitting a manuscript for peer review - integrity, integrity, integrity.

Sean P. Murphy, Christopher Bulman, Behnam Shariati and Laura Hausmann-on behalf of the ISN Publications Committee
J Neurochem. 2013 Dec 26. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2013.12644.x.


Publication of a flawed manuscript has significant consequences for the progress of science. When this proves to be intentional, science is brought into disrepute and this puts even more pressure on the shrinking resources that society is prepared to invest in research. All scientific journals, including the Journal of Neurochemistry, have witnessed a marked increase in the number of corrections and retractions of published papers over the last 10 years, and uncovered a depressingly large number of fabrications amongst submitted manuscripts. The increase in number of 'spoiled' manuscripts reflects not only the improved methods that journals employ to detect plagiarism in its many forms, but also suggests a measurable change in the behavior of authors. The increased policing of submissions by reviewers, editors and publishers expends time and money. The sanctions imposed by journal editors on authors found guilty of malpractice are transparent and severe.

Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story 
Mark Twain

While imagination is the source of vibrant fiction, the ‘stories’ we offer in manuscripts submitted for publication have to be faithful. With the beginning of a New Year, it seems appropriate to re-state current Journal of Neurochemistry policies on submissions and, on behalf of the International Society for Neurochemistry, to demand integrity from authors offering manuscripts for scientific review. While the comments here are directed specifically at corresponding authors, the contract entered into with the submission of any manuscript also demands integrity from reviewers, editors and publishers, who
have to be seen to act impartially and promptly in reaching their decisions.

The entire article is here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Experts in Emotion -- Jamil Zaki on Empathy

Yale University
Experts in Emotion Series

In this episode, you will learn about Empathy with Dr. Jamil Zaki from Stanford University. Dr. Zaki will share what first got him interested in this topic and highlight a few core themes in his research. Dr. Zaki will discuss exciting future discoveries on this topic. The interview will conclude with a few words of advice for getting involved in the field of emotion.

What Drives Us to Do the Right Thing?

A look at recent brain research on voluntary giving versus avoiding punishment

By Robert M. Sapolsky
The Wall Street Journal
Originally posted January 2, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

It turns out that doing the right thing voluntarily is very different from doing it to avoid punishment. Recent research even reveals a basis in the brain for this distinction.

In one experiment, a participant in an economic game is given money. In the first round, she chooses whether to share any of it with another anonymous participant. In the second, she makes the same choice knowing that the other player can punish her afterward if he is unhappy. No surprise, the amount shared increases, and the magnitude of that increase indicates the extent of "sanction-induced norm compliance."

The entire article is here.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Nothing Focuses The Mind Like The Ultimate Deadline: Death

By Lulu Miller
NPR Health News
Originally published December 31, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

And, it turns out, there is some evidence for his point of view. A 2009 study showed that thinking about death makes you savor life more. And a 2011 study has shown thinking about death makes you more generous, more likely to donate your blood.

But that's not the whole story. A whole dark underbelly of research suggests that thinking about our own mortality can bring out the worst in us. The work of Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon and Tom Pyszczynski — grandfathers of an idea in social psychology called terror management theory — has shown that thinking about death makes us, well, pretty xenophobic. When confronted with our mortality, we cling to those like us and disparage those who are different.

The entire article is here.

Sanity of Psychologist’s Killer Is Again at Issue

The New York Times
Published: January 2, 2014

The mental health of a man accused of killing a psychologist in her Upper East Side office was once again in question on Thursday, just as a judge in Manhattan was about to set a date for a new trial because the first one ended in a hung jury.

Lawyers for the man, David Tarloff, 45, said during a hearing on Thursday that a court-appointed psychiatrist at Bellevue Hospital Center had found him unfit to stand trial during an examination in November.

The entire story is here.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Family, ethics, medicine and law collide in Jahi McMath’s life — or death

By Cathy Lynn Grossman
Religion News
Originally posted January 3, 2014

Is Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old whose entire brain has ceased to function, dead or alive?

Must doctors at a California hospital operate to prepare her for a move to a care facility in New York even though the hospital insists she is dead? No doctor can be compelled to treat the dead.

Or is she alive now and wanting to live on? Her mother, Nailah Winkfield, insists that removing the life-support machinery, which is performing all Jahi’s bodily functions, is the same as killing her daughter. Only a court order keeps Jahi still on life support, and that order expires on Tuesday (Jan. 7).

On Friday, a federal magistrate was expected to begin mediating the three-week-long dispute between Children’s Hospital & Research Center in Oakland and Jahi’s parents. But the battle goes beyond the courtroom, the hospital, and Jahi’s family because American society still struggles with defining death.

The entire article is here.

Terri Schiavo's family joins family of teen Jahi McMath in fight over life support

By Josh Levs, Catherine E. Shoichet and Caleb Hellerman, CNN
Originally published January 2, 2014

(CNN) -- The family of Terri Schiavo has joined the battle over Jahi McMath, a 13-year-old girl on life support who has been declared dead by doctors.

"Together with our team of experts, Terri's Network believes Jahi's case is representative of a very deep problem within the U.S. healthcare system -- particularly those issues surrounding the deaths of patients within the confines of hospital corporations, which have a vested financial interest in discontinuing life," the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network said in a prepared statement.

The entire story is here


Friday, January 17, 2014

Which Beliefs Contribute to Virtuous Behavior?

By Christian Miller
Big Questions Online
June 15, 2012 (and still relevant today)

Which beliefs contribute to virtuous behavior? In other words, which beliefs can we form to make it more likely that we act virtuously in the future – more honestly, more compassionately, more courageously, more humbly, and the like? In this brief essay, I will propose four different answers, but I want to stress that these are not the only ones that could be given. I have included them only because these answers repeatedly show up in my own reading of research in psychology and philosophy.

First we should note that our question is asking specifically about beliefs. Beliefs are not the only mental states worth mentioning – desires and emotions are also incredibly important to virtuous behavior (but will have to wait for another essay).

The entire story is here.

Emotions and Morality: Positive Emotions

By June Gruber
Yale University

This course is part of a broader educational mission to share the study of human emotion beyond the boundaries of the classroom in order to reach students and teachers alike, both locally and globally, through the use of technology. This mission is generously supported by, and in collaboration with, the Yale Office of Digital Dissemination and the Yale College Dean's Office.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Tragedy of Common-Sense Morality

Evolution didn’t equip us for modern judgments.

By Tiffany O'Callaghan
The New Scientist
Originally published December 14, 2013

Our instincts don't always serve us well. Moral psychologist Joshua Greene explains why, in the modern world, we need to figure out when to put our sense of right and wrong in manual mode. His new book is Moral Tribe: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them.

Tiffany O’Callaghan: You say morality is more than it evolved to be. What do you mean?

Joshua Greene: Morality is essentially a suite of psychological mechanisms that enable us to cooperate. But, biologically at least, we only evolved to cooperate in a tribal way. Individuals who were more moral—more cooperative with those around them—could outcompete others who were not. However, we have the capacity to take a step back from this and ask what a more global morality would look like. Why are the lives of people on the other side of the world worth any less than those in my immediate community? Going through that reasoning process can allow our moral thinking to do something it never evolved to.

TO: So we need to be able to switch from intuitive morality to more considered responses? When should we use which system?

JG: When it’s a matter of me versus us, my interests versus those of others, our instincts do pretty well. They don't do as well when it’s us versus them, my group’s interests and values versus another group’s. Our moral intuitions didn’t evolve to solve that problem in an even-handed way. When groups disagree about the right thing to do, we need to slow down and shift into manual mode.

The entire article is here.

Reflection 30: In Defense of Our Troubling Values

By Jeff Garson
Radical Decency Community
Originally published March 13, 2011

Central to Radical Decency is the belief that:
1. A specific set of values – compete and win, dominate and control – are pre-eminent in our culture and, thus, wildly over-emphasized in our day by day choices; 
2. That the result is incalculable damage ourselves and others; and,
3. If we hope to live differently and better, we need to wean ourselves from the corrosive habits of living, spawned by the relentless emphasis on these values, replacing them with more decent ways of being.
Repeating this formulation over and over, it is easy to create of pantheon of good and bad values.   Respect, understanding and empathy, acceptance and appreciation, fairness and justice are good. Compete and win, dominate and control are bad.

Doing so, however, misses the point. The problem is not inherent in the values themselves.  It lies, instead, in their over-emphasis and the relentless pressure to conform to their strictures.

Radical Decency puts its priority on modeling and promoting virtues that are, in our culture, chronically neglected:  Attending to the well being of the socially and economically disenfranchised; treating others with respect; being empathic and fair even when it draws energy from our competitive aspirations; focusing – with the seriousness it deserves – on our need for rest, reflection, novelty, and play.

The entire reflection is here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Oklahoma ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional

By Greg Botelho, CNN
January 14, 2014

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that an Oklahoma law limiting marriage to heterosexual couples violates the U.S. Constitution, giving yet another victory to same-sex marriage supporters.

U.S. District Court Judge Terence Kern said the court would not immediately enforce this ruling -- therefore not opening the doors right away to marriages of gay and lesbian couples in Oklahoma -- pending appeals. Still, he delivered a clear opinion on how the voter-approved Oklahoma state constitutional amendment relates to the U.S. Constitution.

The entire article is here.

Human Emotion with June Gruber: Moral Emotions

Introduction of Human Emotions and Morality
Yale University


It’s not just me, you and everyone we know. Citizens of the world have moral obligations to a wider circle of humanity

by Nigel Warburton
Aeon Magazine
Originally published March 4, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

And yet, as adults, we don’t usually think about much outside our immediate surroundings. Typically, it is our nation that defines us geographically, and it is our family, friends, and acquaintances who dominate our social thinking. If we think about the universe, it is from an astronomical or from a religious perspective. We are locally focused, evolved from social apes who went about in small bands. The further away or less visible other people are, the harder it is to worry about them. Even when the television brings news of thousands starving in sub-Saharan Africa, what affects me deeply is the item about a single act of violence in a street nearby.

Life is bearable in part because we can so easily resist imagining the extent of suffering across the globe. And if we do think about it, for most of us that thinking is dispassionate and removed. That is how we as a species live. Perhaps it’s why the collective noun for a group of apes is a ‘shrewdness’.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Emotions That Prosecutors Elicit to Make Jurors Vote Guilty

Jurors experiencing “moral outrage” will be more likely to convict, and changes in technology are making this a bigger factor.

By Lauren Kirchner
The Pacific Standard
Originally published December 4, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Recently, two psychologists teamed up to analyze and identify the emotions that have the most impact on the outcome of jury trials. They had participants in mock trials read scenarios and look at crime-scene evidence, and keep track of their feelings throughout the experiment. The researchers found that anger paired with disgust makes up the powerful mix of emotions that we often call “moral outrage.” The authors also concluded that this particular response—more than sadness, more than the desire for vengeance, more than any other emotion—is the one that most often brings jurors to vote to convict, and to be confident in those convictions.

“Humans intuitively understand what moral outrage is,” said Jessica M. Salernoo, co-author of the study, published in the journal Psychological Science. “However, researchers debate its emotional components. We wanted to investigate the relationships between anger and disgust since emotions tend to co-occur with each other.” Salerno and her co-author, Liana C. Peter-Hagene, note that this mix of emotions is entirely involuntary, and the jurors can often be unaware that they are feeling it—which makes it that much more effective.

The entire article is here.

Pragmatism and Clinical Practices

By Dirk Felleman
Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics
Spring 2005


The increasing preference for technological therapies in health care is perceived by many as a serious threat to the future of socially based therapies. While this concern is not without merit there is another more hopeful possibility to be found in recent adaptations in the ethical evolution of medical practices. In particular the inclusion of pragmatism into clinical ethics holds the possibility of a mutually beneficial relationship between clinical social workers and medical professionals.


Unlike other mental health professions, like medicine and clinical psychology, which gain their professional authority through their expert status as masters of scientifically based techniques of diagnosis and treatment, social work does not produce its own tools and so is not a ‘true’ profession in the classic sense. Social work has attempted to bolster its self-image by investing in academic ventures creating journals and doctoral programs but the standard in academia is still one of scientific knowledge and this leaves social work to imitate sociology and or psychology raising legitimate institutional questions of the value of such duplication. Likewise in the realm of professional practice, which is now almost exclusively run by corporate health conglomerates, the scientific techniques of medicine and psychology can be measured in terms of outcome equations, relating to statistical norms, which easily translate into the bookkeeping practices of the business sector, leaving social workers to serve these professions or find a new source of professional identity. This essay will offer social work an alternative vision for the future by calling on the resources of pragmatism, not to try and mimic or co-opt the applied sciences by creating an alternative and or inclusive foundation, but more like a work of art which allows one to appreciate a familiar scene in a new way.

The entire article is here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

How the brain heals emotional wounds: the functional neuroanatomy of forgiveness

Ricciardi E, Rota G, Sani L, Gentili C, Gaglianese A, Guazzelli M and Pietrini P (2013)
How the brain heals emotional wounds: the functional neuroanatomy of forgiveness.
Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:839. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00839

In life, everyone goes through hurtful events caused by significant others: a deceiving friend, a betraying partner, or an unjustly blaming parent. In response to painful emotions, individuals may react with anger, hostility, and the desire for revenge. As an alternative, they may decide to forgive the wrongdoer and relinquish resentment. In the present study, we examined the brain correlates of forgiveness using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Healthy participants were induced to imagine social scenarios that described emotionally hurtful events followed by the indication to either forgive the imagined offenders, or harbor a grudge toward them. Subjects rated their imaginative skills, levels of anger, frustration, and/or relief when imagining negative events as well as following forgiveness. Forgiveness was associated with positive emotional states as compared to unforgiveness. Granting forgiveness was associated with activations in a brain network involved in theory of mind, empathy, and the regulation of affect through cognition, which comprised the precuneus, right inferior parietal regions, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Our results uncovered the neuronal basis of reappraisal-driven forgiveness, and extend extant data on emotional regulation to the resolution of anger and resentment following negative interpersonal events.

The entire article is here.

For human rights to flourish, religious rights have to come second

In Britain, discriminatory attitudes – to racism, to women, to homosexuality – have changed quickly and profoundly. But are religious beliefs now hampering progress?

By Deborah Orr
The Guardian
Originally posted December 27, 2013

There is certainly no shortage of one thing in the world, and that's a lack of goodwill to all men. And women. And children. If it isn't Russia introducing laws against homosexuality, then it's Saudi Arabia resisting the idea that women should drive cars. If it isn't Burma, spoilt for choice, decade after decade, as to which ethnicity to cleanse, then it's a bunch of African countries extolling female genital mutilation.

And outrageous as these horrors are, even the countries that we in the UK see as our natural allies, and consider as sharing our values, are hardly perfect. The US clings to capital punishment, thwarted only by a lack of the chemicals necessary to kill. Australia stands against gay marriage. Israel continues to favour the needs of settlers over established populations. Europe continues to harbour virulent antisemitism.

Britain is hardly without problems either. Hardly a day goes by without some giant, discriminatory insult provoking heated indignation.

The entire article is here.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

E.R. Costs for Mentally Ill Soar, and Hospitals Seek Better Way

By Julie Creswell
The New York Times
Originally published December 25, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Today, North Carolina has only eight beds in state psychiatric hospitals per 100,000 people, the lowest ratio in the country.(North Carolina, like other states, has added beds in local community facilities but, even then, its total beds are down a quarter since 2001.)

Uninsured patients rarely receive individual therapy, only group sessions. And it can take up to three months to see a psychiatrist.

“Now, we are seeing some of the most acute, the most aggressive and the most chronic mental health patients, and we’re holding them longer,” said Janice Frohman, the director of WakeMed’s emergency department.

The effects of the upheaval in care of the mentally ill is playing out vividly at WakeMed. A private, nonprofit organization with 884 beds, WakeMed is struggling to find a way to meet the needs of increasing numbers of mentally ill patients while also controlling costs.

The entire article is here.

Collaboration Can Breed Overconfidence

Minds for Business
Psychological Science
Originally published November 20, 2013

The researchers found that people working with a partner were more confident in their estimates and significantly less willing to take outside advice. The pairs’ guesses were marginally more accurate than those of the individuals at first.

But after revision (or lack thereof), that difference was gone. Even the combined judgments of four people yielded no better results than those of two or three. Finally, the researchers found that had the pairs yielded to outside input, their estimates would have been significantly more accurate. Their confidence was costly.

The entire article is here.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Healthcare Industry and the U.S.S.R.

By Jeanne Pinder
Ignite: Enlighten us, but make it quick
Uploaded December 16, 2013

Why 'Cherry-Picking' Patients Is Gaining Ground

By Leigh Page
Medscape - Psychiatry
Originally published December 19, 2013

Lower reimbursements, busier practices, and the rise of outcomes-based payments are inciting more physicians to think about cherry-picking -- that is, selecting patients with better payments or fewer health problems. Many physicians admit they do it, although they may feel guilty about it, or they worry that being too aggressive in this realm could harm their practices and standing.

Health insurers have been well known for cherry-picking members, although new regulations have eliminated some of those behaviors. But physicians do some cherry-picking, too, said Jim Bailey, MD, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, who has written about the phenomenon. If you choose a higher-paying specialty or locate your offices in an affluent suburb, cherry-picking can be a factor in keeping your practice profitable, he said.

The entire article is here.

This article comes in four parts.  You will need to click through in order to read the entire article.

Friday, January 10, 2014

America Has an Incest Problem

By Mia Fontaine
The Atlantic
Originally posted January 24, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Here are some statistics that should be familiar to us all, but aren't, either because they're too mind-boggling to be absorbed easily, or because they're not publicized enough. One in three-to-four girls, and one in five-to-seven boys are sexually abused before they turn 18, an overwhelming incidence of which happens within the family. These statistics are well known among industry professionals, who are often quick to add, "and this is a notoriously underreported crime."

Incest is a subject that makes people recoil. The word alone causes many to squirm, and it's telling that of all of the individual and groups of perpetrators who've made national headlines to date, virtually none have been related to their victims. They've been trusted or fatherly figures (some in a more literal sense than others) from institutions close to home, but not actual fathers, step-fathers, uncles, grandfathers, brothers, or cousins (or mothers and female relatives, for that matter). While all abuse is traumatizing, people outside of a child's home and family—the Sanduskys, the teachers and the priests—account for far fewer cases of child sexual abuse.

The entire article is here.

Screening Newborns For Disease Can Leave Families In Limbo

By Nell Greenfieldboyce
NPR Health News
Originally posted December 23, 2013

For Matthew and Brianne Wojtesta, it all started about a week after the birth of their daughter Vera. Matthew was picking up his son from kindergarten when he got a phone call.

It was their pediatrician, with some shocking news. Vera had been flagged by New York's newborn screening program as possibly having a potentially deadly disease, and would need to go see a neurologist the next day.

Like every state, New York requires that newborns get a small heel prick so that a few drops of blood can be sent to a lab for testing. The idea is to catch health problems that could cause death or disability without early intervention.

But in recent years, patient advocacy groups have been pushing states to adopt mandatory newborn screening for more and more diseases, including ones that have no easy diagnosis or treatment.

One of those is Krabbe disease, a rare and devastating neurological disorder.

In 2006, New York became the first state to screen for Krabbe, and until recently it was the only state to do so. Screening for this disease is expanding, even though some experts say the treatment available doesn't seem to help affected children as much as was initially hoped — and testing can put some families in a kind of fearful limbo.

The entire story is here.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Brain might not stand in the way of free will

By Anil Ananthaswamy
New Scientist
Originally published July 13, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

"Libet argued that our brain has already decided to move well before we have a conscious intention to move," says Schurger. "We argue that what looks like a pre-conscious decision process may not in fact reflect a decision at all. It only looks that way because of the nature of spontaneous brain activity."

So what does this say about free will? "If we are correct, then the Libet experiment does not count as evidence against the possibility of conscious will," says Schurger.

Cognitive neuroscientist Anil Seth of the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, is impressed by the work, but also circumspect about what it says about free will. "It's a more satisfying mechanistic explanation of the readiness potential.

The entire article is here.

Can we live without free will?

The New Scientist
Originally published on August 9, 2012

New research has reignited the debate about whether humans truly have free will. But what difference would it make if we didn't?

DOES it matter if we have free will? Science has been casting doubt on the concept almost from its beginnings. At first, it was the laws of physics that gave pause for thought. The Newtonian "clockwork universe", in which everything unfolds predictably from any given starting position, seemingly affords little scope for human autonomy.

That deterministic vision was overthrown by the introduction of quantum randomness. This hasn't saved free will, though. On the contrary, it has confused the concept of human agency. But few of us see this as reason to abandon our understanding of how free will operates in our everyday lives.

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Zero Degrees of Empathy

From the RSA, 21st Century Enlightment
RSA Homepage
Originally published July 6, 2011

Professor Simon Baron Cohen presents a new way of understanding what it is that leads individuals down negative paths, and challenges all of us to consider replacing the idea of evil with the idea of empathy-erosion.

The cheapest form of health care is to let sick people die

By John F. Hunt
KevinMD Blog
Originally posted December 21, 2013

If you learn nothing else today, I would ask you to learn that moral hazard is the cause of medical price hyperinflation.

Moral hazard is not just two words that don’t seem to go together. Moral hazard is when the person who bears the economic burden of a decision is not the decision maker. In the health care setting, moral hazard is when the third party payer (insurance/government) bears the economic consequences of a patient’s decision.


The cheapest form of health care is to let sick people die. And the government will always need to save money on health care so they can afford to send soldiers to foreign lands that have oil, subsidize big agribusiness to grow corn to make ethanol to destroy our engines, give huge grants to bankrupt companies whose executives support Obama, double the size of the NSA’s Utah data center, or bail out a few more Wall Street looters.

Remember that health insurance  – because of its inherent moral hazard — is the problem, not the solution.

The entire article is here.

Thanks to Ed Zuckerman for this blog post.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Calling All Female Brains: Stop the 'Neurosexism'

Research now finds sex-linked differences in the neural connections. So what? The media's rush to pop-psychologize the findings fuels retro gender stereotypes that only raise the obstacles to workplace advancement.

By Rosalind C. Barnett and Caryl Rivers
WeNews commentators
Originally posted Friday, December 13, 2013

The news media are at it again; suggesting that a new study proves the old gender stereotypes about women being good at intuition and social skills and men being better at understanding systems and action.

A team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania used high-tech imaging on the brains of 428 males and 521 females aged 8 to 22 and found neural pathway differences between men and women. (The study was published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.)

As the Guardian explained it, "Women's brains are suited to social skills and memory, men's to perception and coordination."

The entire article is here.

The Ethics of Chemical Castration (Part One)

By John Danaher
Philosophical Disquisitions: Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
Originally posted December 15, 2013

Chemical castration has been legally recognised and utilised as a form of treatment for certain types of sex offender for many years. This is in the belief that it can significantly reduce recidivism rates amongst this class of offenders. Its usage varies around the world. Nine U.S. states currently allow for it, as well as several European countries. Typically, it is presented as an “option” to sex offenders who are currently serving prison sentences. The idea being that if they voluntarily submit to chemical castration they can serve a reduced sentence.

Obviously, this practice raises a number of empirical and ethical questions. Does chemical castration actually reduce recidivism? Is it ethically right to present a convicted sex offender with a choice between continued imprisonment or release with chemical castration? Is this not unduly coercive and autonomy-undermining?

The entire article is here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Motivated Moral Reasoning in Psychotherapy

John D. Gavazzi, Psy.D., ABPP
Samuel Knapp, Ed.D., ABPP

            In the research literature on psychology and morality, the concept of motivated moral reasoning is relevant to psychotherapy. Motivated moral reasoning occurs when a person’s decision-making skills are motivated to reach a specific moral conclusion. Research on motivated moral reasoning can be influenced by factors such as the perception of intentionality of others and the social nature of moral reasoning (Ditto, Pizarro, & Tannenbaum, 2009). In this article, we will focus on the intuitive, automatic, and affective nature of motivated moral reasoning as these types of judgments occur in psychotherapy. The goal of this article is to help psychologists remain vigilant about the possibilities of motivated moral reasoning in the psychotherapy relationship.

Individuals typically believe that moral judgments are primarily principle-based, well-reasoned, and cognitive. Individuals also trust that moral judgments are made from a top-down approach, meaning moral agents start with moral ideals or principles first, and then apply those principles to a specific situation. Individuals typically believe moral decisions are based on well-reasoned principles, consistent over time and reliable across situations. Ironically, the research reveals that, unless primed for a specific moral dilemma (such as serving on jury duty), individuals typically use a bottom-up strategy in moral reasoning. Research on self-report of moral decisions shows that individuals seek justifications and ad hoc confirmatory data points to support the person’s reflexive decision. Furthermore, the reasoning for moral decisions is context-dependent, meaning that the same moral principles are not applied consistently over time and across situations. Finally, individuals use automatic, intuitive, and emotional processes when making important decisions (Ditto, Pizarro, & Tannenbaum, 2009). While the complexity of moral reasoning depends on a number of factors, individuals tend to make moral judgments first, and answer questions later (and only if asked).

The entire article is here.

Should Medical Schools be Schools for Virtue?

By Daniel Sulmasy
The Journal of Internal Medicine
Originally posted in July, 2000 and still relevant today

Here is an excerpt:

As Branch writes, “Medicine, after all, is a moral profession.” Yet medicine is increasingly viewed as just another business, and the concept of medicine as a profession, as a “special” endeavor with a different set of moral obligations and expectations, has been denounced as elitist, self-serving, and detrimental to the spirit of the competitive marketplace. Some fear that the recent financial reorganization of health care, premised upon the notion that there is nothing special about medicine, poses a particularly grave threat to the essence of medicine as a profession. Others argue that the professionalism of medicine can be reconstructed in such a way that it can guard against the financial forces that threaten to undermine its moral potency.

The entire article is here.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Doctors and empathy: Teaching Doctor Empathy

A Better NHS
Originally posted December 20, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

If at one level empathy can be demonstrated by a ‘banal social convention’ such as acknowledging my patient’s suffering, at another, empathy is inseparable from the moral obligation to care. When we say that doctors and nurses lack empathy, at one level we might actually mean that they simply lack basic courtesy and at another deeper level we mean that they don’t actually care.

Perhaps etiquette is a thinner version of empathy as ethicist Anna Smajdor, in an excellent paper about the limits of empathy in medical education and practice concludes. She suggests that we should settle for teaching this stripped down version of empathy. After all, it is clearly in short supply as any patient or health professional will testify. Kate Granger’s experiences of being a patient with cancer, led to her powerful call for healthcare professionals to introduce themselves. #hellomynameis has made a great and lasting impression.

Moral Responsibility and PAP

By Heath White
PEA Soup
A blog dedicated to philosophy, ethics, and academia
Originally posted December 19, 2013

Does moral responsibility require the ability to do otherwise?  For example, must one have been able to refrain from an evil deed if one is to be appropriately blamed for it?  The answer turns on the truth of a familiar principle:

(PAP) If S is blameworthy for doing X, S must have been able to do otherwise than X.

The traditional view is that (PAP) is true; Frankfurt argued that it was false, with a form of example which is still widely discussed.  I’m going to argue for Frankfurt’s conclusion in a way that has nothing to do with Frankfurt-style examples.  I’d be interested in feedback.

Blaming (or punishing) someone for failing to live up to a moral standard is a special case of a more general phenomenon.  There are many cases where there is some kind of requirement, someone fails to live up to it, and negative consequences are imposed as a result.  It is instructive to look at how we view “couldn’t have done otherwise” in these other cases.

The entire blog post is here.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Free Will, Responsibility, and Psychology

Greg Caruso and Bruce Waller Discussion
Philosophy TV
Originally posted December 16, 2013

Most people believe that we can and should be held morally responsible for our actions. Caruso and Waller both hold that this belief is not only false, but harmful. They recommend that we abandon the notion of moral responsibility. But they disagree about free will: Waller thinks that we can preserve a scientifically and philosophically respectable notion of free will without moral responsibility; Caruso thinks that free will and moral responsibility should both be rejected. They begin their discussion with an overview of the traditional problem of free will (1:09). Next, they discuss Waller’s view of free will (9:14) and debate whether the notion of free will ought to be given up (23:51). Then they lay out their reasons to be skeptical about moral responsibility (41:04) and consider some of the concerns that have been expressed by defenders of moral responsibility (54:05).

The original information is here.

Nanoethics as a Discipline?

By Adam Keiper
The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society
Originally published in 2007, but still relevant today

Here is an excerpt:

The growing interest among academics and activists in the implications of nanotechnology is surely, in some ways, to be welcomed. Serious scholarship and responsible advocacy can serve to enlighten and invigorate policy disputes and thereby play an important role in democratic self-rule. After all, as anyone who follows nanotech policy debates even from a distance can tell you, those debates are awash in spin and misinformation. Environmental groups exaggerate the known dangers of nanoparticles. Firms involved in nanotech investment vie with one another in hyping their projections of how many trillions of dollars the “nanotechnology market,” defined as expansively as possible, will be worth in a few years’ time. Some analysts are ludicrously credulous, while others are just plain confused — like the panelist at a conference in Washington in April 2006 who fretted about Pentagon-funded research on nanosatellites. (Nanosatellites are just small satellites; they have even less to do with nanotechnology than Apple’s “iPod nano” does.) Commentators who are ill-informed or disingenuous or just “shooting from the lip” may, in time, cede the sound bites and the airwaves to the growing ranks of better-informed and more responsible scholars — or at least that’s the theory.

Indeed, that theory seems itself to be the core of nanoethics at the moment. A recurring theme in much of the social-science writing about nanotechnology is the importance of social-science writing about nanotechnology. When you sift through the growing piles of scholarship about media coverage of nanotechnology, about the public understanding of and attitudes toward nanotechnology, about whether there are multiple “publics” who need to be “engaged” in nanotech policy, one sentiment in particular becomes clear — social scientists’ sense of self-importance.

The entire article is here.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Ideology Is Heritable Yet Societies Can Change Their Views Quickly

By Jonathan Haidt
Social Evolution Forum
Originally published December 16, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

From my perspective as a social psychologist, who studies morality from an evolutionary perspective, rapid attitude change is not hard to explain. I am impressed by the consistent data on heritability, showing that some very important parts of our moral and political views are innate. But innate does not mean hard-wired or unmalleable; it  means “structured in advance of experience, and experience can edit and alter that first draft.” (That’s a paraphrase from Gary Marcus). So even if one is born predisposed to questioning authority and seeking out diversity, life experiences can still alter one’s habitual reactions. Becoming a parent, especially of girls, seems to make people more conservative (they perceive more threats in the world).

The entire article is here.

What is a mind and what is it good for?

By Damon Young
New Philosopher Magazine
Originally published December 18, 2013

“Philosophy,” wrote John Keats, “will clip an Angel’s wings. “This is the caricature: philosophers are brutal bastards, who cut beautiful things with logical clippers.

But philosophy is rarely malicious. Philosophy is often driven by something like love. From a comradely familiarity, to gentle romance, to manic lust, philosophers care about ideas. The ancient Greek word literally means this: “the love of wisdom”. It is a longing, not just for beautiful ideas, but for faithful ones: ideas that are true in some way.

This is why Alfred North White-head called philosophy the “critic of abstractions”: it seeks to test their fidelity.

The entire article is here.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New iPad app will teach empathy

By Greg Toppo
USA Today
Originally posted December 15, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Goleman's best-selling 1995 book Emotional Intelligence popularized the idea that a child's ability to control his or her impulses, delay gratification, persist in the face of setbacks and generally be a more empathetic person could be bigger factors in his or her success than raw intelligence. More recently, educators — including the influential KIPP charter schools — have focused much of their college-completion efforts on kids' ability to show "grit" in everyday life.

The entire article is here.

Privilege Discomfort: Why You Need to Get the F&#k Over It

By Noor Al-Sibai

Here is an excerpt:

As alarming (and fascinating) as this situation has been to watch at my otherwise polite and 96% white liberal arts university, it sparked in me a conundrum that I’ve struggled with myself and watched other people struggle with: Why do people become so defensive when confronted with the possibility of their own prejudice? What is it about the suggestion that we benefit from systems of inequality that causes so many people (particularly, in my experience, men and white people) to claim that they’re not “all like that”?

In my attempts to get to the root of the conundrum, I decided to use myself and other “well-meaning” white people that I know. Many of us consider ourselves liberal, even radical. We all have or have had black friends. Most of us probably voted for Barack Obama, and a lot of us are fans of rap and hip-hop. To all of us, my past self included, the assertion that we could be racist and that we definitely benefit from our white privilege is offensive at worst, dissonant at best. Cue the endless whines of “I don’t see race!” or, my overused favorite, “We’re not all like that!”

The entire blog post is here.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Essential Moral Self

Strohminger, N. and Nichols, S. (in press).
The Essential Moral Self. Cognition.


It has often been suggested that the mind is central to personal identity.  But do all parts of the mind contribute equally? Across five experiments, we demonstrate that moral traits—more than any other mental faculty— are considered the most essential part of identity, the self, and the soul.  Memory, especially emotional and autobiographical memory, is also fairly important. Lower-level cognition and perception have the most tenuous connection to identity, rivaling that of purely physical traits. These findings suggest that folk notions of personal identity are largely informed by the mental faculties affecting social relationships, with a particularly keen focus on moral traits.



The studies described here illustrate several points about lay theories of personal identity. The first, most basic, point is that not all parts of the mind are equally constitutive of the self, challenging a straightforward view of psychological continuity. Identity does not simply depend on the magnitude of retained mental content; indeed, certain cognitive processes contribute less to identity than purely physical traits.

Across five experiments, we find strong and unequivocal support for the essential moral self hypothesis. Moral traits are considered more important to personal identity than any other part of the mind.

The entire article is here.

Patients who refuse their physicians’ advice

By Alex Lickerman
www.kevinmd.com Blog
Originally published December 17, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

While no medical intervention is 100% safe, the flu shot (for those not allergic to eggs) is pretty close. Yet every season, I never fail to have some of my patients refuse it. The most common reason I hear is, “I’ve never had the flu.” To this, I invariably say something like, “Just because you haven’t had a heart attack yet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise.” I’d say roughly about half of my patients change their minds and decide to get the flu shot after I talk with them about it.

Over the years I’ve had numerous patients refuse my advice. It always bothers me — not because I like to think I’m right and my ego gets bruised, but because I genuinely believe my advice is in the best interest of my patients and I want them to do well. But over the years I’ve come to see that there are really two basic reasons patients refuse my advice, and that my response to them should be different.

The entire blog post is here.