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, March 31, 2014

Episode 5: Ethical Decision-Making (Part 2)

In Episode 5, John continues to outline relevant factors related to ethical decision-making. The psychologist's fiduciary responsibility is emphasized.  Additionally, John outlines one ethical decision-making model as well as cognitive biases and emotional factors involved with ethical decision-making. John will make suggestions on how to improve ethical decision-making.

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

1. Describe one ethical decision-making model,

2. Identify one cognitive bias and one emotional factor that can adversely affect decision-
     making, and,
3. Outline three strategies to aid with ethical decision-making.

Click here to purchase 1 APA-approved Continuing Education credit

Find this podcast in iTunes

Listen here directly

Find the Episode 5 video on Vimeo here

Find Episode 5 slides on Slideshare here


Motivated Moral Reasoning in Psychotherapy

John Gavazzi and Sam Knapp

Nonrational Processes in Ethical Decision-making

Mark Rogerson, Michael C. Gottlieb Mitchell M. Handelsman Samuel Knapp  & Jeffrey Younggren

The Motivated Use of Moral Principles

David Pizarro, Eric Ulhmann, David Tannehbaum, and Peter H. Ditto

Ethical Decision Making by Individuals in Organizations: An Issue-Contingent Model

Thomas M. Jones

Avoiding bias in medical ethical decision-making. Lessons to be learnt from psychology research

H. Albisser Schleger, N. R. Oehninger, and S. Reiter-Theil

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Three Myths of Behavior Change

Published on Mar 20, 2013

Jeni Cross is a sociology professor at Colorado State University. She has spoken about community development and sustainability to audiences across the country, from business leaders and government officials to community activists. As a professor and consultant she has helped dozens of schools and government agencies implement and evaluate successful programs to improve community well-being. In this talk, she discusses her work around changing behaviors.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hand over Heart Primes Moral Judgments and Behavior

By Michal Parzuchowski and Bodgan Wojciszke
The Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 2014; 38: 145–165.
Published online Oct 26, 2013. doi:  10.1007/s10919-013-0170-0


Morality is a prominent guide of both action and perception. We argue that non-emotional gestures can prime the abstract concept of honesty. Four studies demonstrated that the emblematic gesture associated with honesty (putting a hand on one’s heart) increased the level of honesty perceived by others, and increased the honesty shown in one’s own behavior. Target persons performing this gesture were described in terms associated with honesty, and appeared more trustworthy to others than when the same targets were photographed with a control gesture. Persons performing the hand-over-heart gesture provided more honest assessments of others’ attractiveness, and refrained from cheating, as compared to persons performing neutral gestures. These findings suggest that bodily experience associated with abstract concepts can influence both one’s perceptions of others, and one’s own complex actions. Further, our findings suggest that this influence is not mediated by changes in affective states.

The entire article is here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Human Cloning? Stem Cell Advance Reignites Ethics Debate

By Stephanie Pappas
Originally posted May 17, 2014

A new stem cell discovery has reawakened controversy about human cloning — though technical challenges mean scientists are far from being able to create human babies as in Michael Bay's 2005 sci-fi flick "The Island."

Not that they would even want to.

"Nobody in their right mind would want to do that," said John Gearhart, the director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the study. And indeed, the research wasn't conducted with the idea of creating cloned mini-me's in mind. Instead, scientists attempting to treat diseases of the cell's powerhouse, the mitochondria, refined the technique, which is the same one used to create the cloned sheep Dolly in 1996.

The entire story is here.

Human brains 'hard-wired' to link what we see with what we do

University of London
Originally posted March 13, 2014


Your brain's ability to instantly link what you see with what you do is down to a dedicated information 'highway,' suggests new research. For the first time, researchers have found evidence of a specialized mechanism for spatial self-awareness that combines visual cues with body motion. The newly-discovered system could explain why some schizophrenia patients feel like their actions are controlled by someone else.

The entire story is here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Best practices for remote psychological assessment via telehealth technologies

By David Luxton, Larry Pruitt, and Janyce Osenbach
Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol 45(1), Feb 2014, 27-35.
doi: 10.1037/a0034547
Special Section: Telepractice


The use and capabilities of telehealth technologies to conduct psychological assessments remotely are expanding. Clinical practitioners and researchers need to be aware of what influences the psychometric properties of telehealth-based assessments to assure optimal and competent assessments. The purpose of this review is to discuss the specific factors that influence the validity and reliability of remote psychological assessments and to provide best practices recommendations. Specific factors discussed include the lack of physical presence, technological issues, patient and provider acceptance of and comfort with technology, and procedural issues. Psychometric data regarding telehealth-based psychological assessment and limitations to these data, as well as cultural, ethical, and safety considerations are discussed. The information presented is applicable to all mental health professionals who conduct psychological assessment with telehealth technologies.

The entire article is here, behind a paywall.

The Use of Telepsychology in Clinical Practice: Benefits, Effectiveness, and Issues to Consider

By Nicole Godine and Jeffrey Barnett
International Journal of Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning
DOI: 10.4018/ijcbpl.2013100105


The use of various technologies in the practice of psychology has increased greatly in recent years in concert with increases in the use of these technologies in the lives of most individuals. E-mail, text messaging, chat rooms, and the Internet have greatly changed how many individuals communicate and maintain relationships. The psychotherapy relationship is no exception. The scope and practice of telepsychology, the use of the Internet and other technologies in the provision of psychological services, is reviewed along with relevant research that supports their use in the treatment of a wide range of conditions and disorders. Clinical, ethical, and legal issues and challenges are addressed and recommendations for the effective and appropriate use of these technologies in psychological practice are provided.

Article Preview

Mental health services can be delivered by e-mail, real-time chat, telephones, videoconferencing, cell phones, and websites (Grohol, 2003; Smith & Allison, 1998; Stamm, 2003; VandenBos & Williams, 2000). Synchronous modalities of communication, in which participants communicate in real time, include online chat, telephones, cell phones, and videoconferencing. Videoconferencing is a “technological procedure that allows individuals to see and hear each other on a computer monitor or video screen in real time” (Germain, Marchand, Bouchard, Drouin, & Guay, 2009, p. 42). It is different from real-time chat, telephone conversations, and cell phone conversations in that videoconferencing allows users to view and speak to each other in real time, whereas chat, telephones, and cell phones only allow the users to speak to each other (not view each other) in real time. Asynchronous forms of communication, in which there is a delayed response time, include e-mail, websites (which might be simply informational, or might offer contact with a mental health professional through e-mail), and text messaging via cell phones.

The entire article is here, behind a paywall.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Alzheimer's Blood Test Raises Ethical Questions

By Jon Hamilton
NPR News
Originally posted March 9, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

But the biggest concern about Alzheimer's testing probably has to do with questions of stigma and identity, Karlawish says. "How will other people interact with you if they learn that you have this information?" he says. "And how will you think about your own brain and your sort of sense of self?"

The stigma and fear surrounding Alzheimer's may decrease, though, as our understanding of the disease changes, Karlawish says. Right now, people still tend to think that "Either you have Alzheimer's disease dementia or you're normal, you don't have it," he says.

The entire story is here.

The Fat Drug

By Pagan Kennedy
The New York Times
Originally published March 8, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Nonetheless, experiments were then being conducted on humans. In the 1950s, a team of scientists fed a steady diet of antibiotics to schoolchildren in Guatemala for more than a year,while Charles H. Carter, a doctor in Florida, tried a similar regimen on mentally disabled kids. Could the children, like the farm animals, grow larger? Yes, they could.

Mr. Jukes summarized Dr. Carter’s research in a monograph on nutrition and antibiotics: “Carter carried out a prolonged investigation of a study of the effects of administering 75 mg of chlortetracycline” — the chemical name for Aureomycin — “twice daily to mentally defective children for periods of up to three years at the Florida Farm Colony. The children were mentally deficient spastic cases and were almost entirely helpless,” he wrote. “The average yearly gain in weight for the supplemented group was 6.5 lb while the control group averaged 1.9 lb in yearly weight gain.”

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The social brain and its superpowers: Matthew Lieberman

Published on Oct 7, 2013
TEDx video

Neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman explains that through his studies he's learned that our kryptonite is ignoring the importance of our social superpowers and by building on our social intuition, we can make ourselves smarter, happier, and more productive. In this TEDx Talk, Lieberman explores groundbreaking research in social neuroscience that reveals that our need to connect with other people is even more fundamental than our need for food or shelter and that the social pain and pleasure we experience has just as much impact as physical pain and pleasure.

Loving animals and eating meat: The Meat Paradox

By Brock Bastian
New Philosopher
Originally posted March 11, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Of course consuming animals that are not considered food can create all kinds of squeamishness. Consider the recent horsemeat scandal. People created all kinds of reasons for their feeling of disgust at eating horsemeat, including health safety concerns, but of course horsemeat has been consumed safely for years.

I would argue that the issue was far more closely related to the fact that horses are seen as pets and not food. The idea of eating pets is indeed disgusting.

If people try to avoid the connection between meat and animals, what happens when they are forced to make this link? In other research we have shown that asking people to think about animals being killed for food leads them to attribute fewer mental qualities to that animal. Perhaps, however, this only happens for meat-eaters and not vegetarians, who on average attribute many more mental qualities to animals in the first place.

Monday, March 24, 2014

In Health Care, Choice Is Overrated

By Ezekiel J. Emanuel
The New York Times
Originally posted March 5, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Second, we need more transparency. Insurance companies should have to publish the measures they use to select their “high performing” or “efficient” networks. This will discourage them from looking at price alone. And consumers should be able to easily find which doctors and hospitals are included in a network. The size of a plan’s network should be as transparent as its premium.

Third, we need more reliable ways of measuring the quality of networks and the doctors and hospitals within them. The N.C.Q.A. or Consumer Reports could develop a grading system, from A to F. When comparing different plans, no one should have to rely on U.S. News and World Report’s flawed rankings or hearsay from acquaintances.

The entire story is here.

A Different Type of Barbie: Body Image

By Elizabeth Plank
Originally posted March 3, 2014

A few months ago, one of the most iconic toys in the world got a modern makeover so revolutionary that it went completely viral. If, like millions of others netizens, you loved the pictures of "Average Barbie" circulating across the web, you'll love what Nickolay Lamm, the designer of the creative project has in store next.

Motivated by a strong desire to show that "average is beautiful," Lamm has decided to make his designs come to life with a doll called "Lammily."

Lamm decided to take matters into his own hands after being bombarded with questions about where to buy a Barbie of normal size.

The entire story is here.

Thanks to Steve Ragusea for this article.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Experimental Approaches to Free Will: Knobe and Nahmias

Joshuan Knobe and Eddy Nahmias

Knobe and Nahmias begin with an overview of the early history and aims of experimental philosophy. Then they discuss experiments on the contrast between bypassing and throughpassing intuitions about free will (8:57); Nahmias’s “theory lite view,” according to which ordinary people have no strong views about the relation between mind and brain (17:34); whether the folk have a causal or an interventionist view of agency (24:17); the effect of descriptions of determinism on folk intuitions (32:52); and Nahmias’s work on “willusionism,” inspired by his critical view of certain popularized versions of free-will skepticism (41:47). Finally, Knobe and Nahmias consider future results that could resolve some of their disagreements (48:49) and forecast the next big steps in experimental philosophy of free will (57:00).

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Why Can’t We Talk About Race?

By Noliwe Rooks
Chronicle Vita
Originally posted March 4, 2014

Last November Shannon Gibney, a professor of English and African-diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, was formally reprimanded for making three white male students in her class uncomfortable during a conversation about contemporary instances of structural racism.

Reportedly, one of those students broke into Gibney’s lecture to ask why white men were always portrayed as “the bad guys.” Gibney says she asked them not to interrupt her lecture and pointed out that she never said white men were at fault. But the exchanges continued, and she eventually told the three students that they were free to leave the class and file a complaint if they were uncomfortable. They did, and the reprimand was the result.

The entire story is here.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Leading an Ethical Culture: 6 Building Blocks

By Cynthia Schoeman
Ethics Monitor

The concept of organisational culture surfaced in the late 1970s and is as relevant in the workplace today as it was then. Amongst the wealth of theories and thought leadership on the topic, the definition of culture as “the way things are done around here” is widely recognised. So too is it generally accepted that values play a significant role in shaping culture and that, in turn, culture shapes behaviour in organisations. The quest for more ethical workplace conduct makes culture especially pertinent and it makes the attainment of an ethical culture a high-priority goal.

Leaders who aim to achieve this need to start by understanding the value of an ethical culture, such as that it produces higher levels of individual accountability and avoids the need for excessive regulation. An ethical culture serves to improve employee commitment, investor and market confidence and customer loyalty, which collectively enhance the company’s reputation and brand equity. A sound ethical culture also positively impacts risk management, reducing the likelihood of high costs and other negative consequences associated with ethical breaches.

The entire article is here.

Five Key Ethical Issues in the Workplace

By Cynthia Schoeman
The Ethics Monitor

It’s important to understand these key ethical issues.

Ethics in the workplace is not a new topic. In theory, it should always have been applicable. However, in practice, ethics is often quite a recent focus area. Consequently, leaders and managers often don’t have the breadth of knowledge or depth of understanding about ethics that they have relative to many other areas of business. But, in order to manage ethics effectively, an understanding of five key ethical issues is imperative.

1. Ethics is a choice.

2. Values: The Leader's Role

3. Ethics involves Others as well

4. The New ROI: Return on Integrity

5. From Theory and Sound Intentions to Action

The entire article is here.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Philosophy of ‘Her’

By Susan Schneider
The New York Times
Originally published March 2, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

“Her” raises two questions that have long preoccupied philosophers. Are nonbiological creatures like Samantha capable of consciousness — at least in theory, if not yet in practice? And if so, does that mean that we humans might one day be able to upload our own minds to computers, perhaps to join Samantha in being untethered from “a body that’s inevitably going to die”?


Some people argue that the capacity to be conscious is unique to biological organisms, so that even superintelligent A.I. programs would be devoid of conscious experience. If this view is correct, then a relationship between a human being and a program like Samantha, however intelligent she might be, would be hopelessly one-sided. Moreover, few humans would want to join Samantha, for to upload your brain to a computer would be to forfeit your consciousness.

The entire article is here.

Alzheimer's Challenges Notions Of Memory And Identity

By Tania Lombrozo
Originally published on March 4, 2014

Here are some excerpts:

The startling result was that memory wasn't a frontrunner when it came to what sustains someone's "true self." Instead, the winner was morality. A person who had trouble learning new information or forgot childhood memories, for example, was regarded as less fundamentally altered than one who became cruel or selfish, or even one who acquired positive moral traits, such as honesty or forgiveness.


The lesson from Zaitchik's research is that while Alzheimer's patients suffer from serious conceptual impairments relative to their healthy counterparts, these impairments aren't uniform across domains. An Alzheimer's patient can be wrong about whether zebras have stripes or a car is alive, but have social and moral reasoning abilities that are relatively intact.

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

HIPAA's Patient Access Rights

By Bruce Borkosky
Published by The Malvern Group
February 2014

This whitepaper is intended as a reference for patients, healthcare providers, and Privacy Officers. It is not legal advice and expresses the opinions of the author.

The goal of the paper is to provide a comprehensive yet understandable review of the many issues involving a patient's access to their PHI in the context of the patient’s rights, treatment considerations and interactions with other providers and the legal system.

It can be read in its entirety, or the reader may wish to use it as reference material, referring to individual sections as the need arises. Patients will be able to use this information to learn about their rights and become more assertive when providers refuse to release records.

Providers can use this information to release (or deny release of) records, thereby potentially avoiding malpractice lawsuits, disciplinary sanctions, or HIPAA complaints.

Administrators and Privacy Officers will be able to use this information to help maintain HIPAA compliance and to help resolve disputes among providers or between providers and patients.

Readers will also discover options for dealing with providers who are reluctant to release records.

The entire paper is here.

Book Review: Does rationality + consciousness = free will?

Review of Rationality + Consciousness = Free Will
by David Hodgson. New York: Oxford University Press

Review by Brian Earp

Do we have free will or don’t we? Or do we have it in degrees? Is free will compatible with determinism or is it not? What about indeterminism? David Hodgson is not the first to explore this thicket. Following the advice of Hobbes, the first step in any effort to answer such questions should be to pose another set of questions: What do you mean by “free”? By “we”? By “have”and “will”? What is your notion of “compatible” and “incompatible”? How do you define“determinism”? And so on through the list of very pregnant turns-of-phrase.

In his latest book, Hodgson does somewhat less to “examine the Definitions of former Authors”than to “make them himself.” Though he does give some broad gestures at foundational texts in the opening chapters of his work, and while he sprinkles some references to his contemporaries throughout, Hodgson spends the bulk of his time developing his own distinctive account. Let us try to make some sense, then, of what that account is saying.

The author's personal copy of the book review is here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Physicians Lead the Way to Interstate Practice

By Ross Friedberg, Brandon Ge, Rene Quashie, and Bonnie Scott
Epstein, Becker, and Green
Originally posted February 21, 2014

A significant barrier to the interstate practice of telehealth is closer to being broken down. The Federation of State Medical Boards ("FSMB") recently completed and distributed a draft Interstate Medical Licensure Compact ("Compact"), which is designed to facilitate physician licensure portability and the practice of interstate telehealth. The Compact would create an additional licensure pathway through which physicians would be able to obtain expedited licensure in participating states. As the FSMB notes in the draft, the Compact "complements the existing licensing and regulatory authority of state medical boards, ensures the safety of patients, and provides physicians with enhanced portability of their license to practice medicine outside their state of primary licensure."

The entire article is here.

Should teachers of controversial issues disclose their opinions?

By Harry
Originally posted March 3, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

For some of the issues I teach, it is not that hard to find out my views, if you really want to, and are a minimally competent googler. But I take a pretty hard line on the disclosure question. I don’t disclose my views about the issues I teach. Here’s why.

First, all of the issues I teach are issues on which there are powerful arguments on more than one side. I do not see my job as presenting technical scholarly applied ethics so that they will become interested in the major, but in introducing them to a particular practice that requires certain intellectual resources that my discipline has developed: the practice of moral reason giving and taking. So it makes no sense to teach issues about which, though there is a public debate, the reasons are one-sided. This is why, for example, I do not teach same-sex marriage (I tried, it didn’t work) or gun rights and why, if I lived in the UK, I would not teach about the legitimacy of the monarchy. I want students really to understand that there are reasons on both sides, and worry that disclosing would give them the impression that, contrary to fact, I regard the issues as settled. (I should add: it might make complete sense to teach such issues in a social studies high school class, especially if the focus is on getting the students to articulate and defend their own positions; the aims of such a class might be different from mine).

The entire blog post is here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Episode 4: Ethical Decision-making (Part 1)

While John's introduction indicates the podcasts will be conversations, Episode 4 is a monologue. This episode provides didactic material about ethical decision-making, which does not lend itself to a conversation.  The importance of this podcast and Episode 5 is to set up vignette analysis in future podcasts.  Everyone needs to be on the same page in order to apply ethical decision-making in instructional or real life situations.

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

1. Describe the differences between ethical and clinical decision-making,
2. Outline the Acculturation Model, and,
3. List the five foundational principles for ethical decision-making.

Click here to purchase 1 APA-approved Continuing Education credit

Find this podcast in iTunes

Listen directly on this page

Link to video presentation on YouTube

Here is a link to the PowerPoint presentation only.


American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct

American Psychological Association's Guidelines for Practitioners

Beauchamp, T.L. & Childress, J.F. (1994). Principles of biomedical ethics ( 4th ed). New York: Oxford University Press.

Kitchener, K. S. (1984). Intuition, critical evaluation and ethical principles: The foundation for ethical decisions in counseling psychology. Counseling Psychologist, 12(3), 43-55.

Handelsman, M. M., Gottlieb, M. C., & Knapp, S. (2005). Training ethical psychologists: An acculturation model. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 36, 59-65.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Failure of Social and Moral Intuitions

Edge Videos
HeadCon '13: Part IX
David Pizarro

Today I want to talk a little about our social and moral intuitions and I want to present a case that they're rapidly failing, more so than ever. Let me start with an example. Recently, I collaborated with economist Rob Frank, roboticist Cynthia Breazeal, and social psychologist David DeSteno. The experiment that we did was interested in looking at how we detect trustworthiness in others.

We had people interact—strangers interact in the lab—and we filmed them, and we got the cues that seemed to indicate that somebody's going to be either more cooperative or less cooperative. But the fun part of this study was that for the second part we got those cues and we programmed a robot—Nexi the robot, from the lab of Cynthia Breazeal at MIT—to emulate, in one condition, those non-verbal gestures. So what I'm talking about today is not about the results of that study, but rather what was interesting about looking at people interacting with the robot.

The entire page is here.

Why Study Philosophy? 'To Challenge Your Own Point of View'

An interview with Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of Plato at the Googleplex
By Hope Reese
The Atlantic
Originally posted on February 27, 2014

At a time when advances in science and technology have changed our understanding of our mental and physical selves, it is easy for some to dismiss the discipline of philosophy as obsolete. Stephen Hawking, boldly, argues that philosophy is dead.

Not according to Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. Goldstein, a philosopher and novelist, studied philosophy at Barnard and then earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at Princeton University. She has written several books, won a MacArthur “Genius Award” in 1996, and taught at several universities, including Barnard, Columbia, Rutgers, and Brandeis.

The entire article is here.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The moral pop-out effect: Enhanced perceptual awareness of morally relevant stimuli

Gantman, A. P. & Van Bavel, J. J. (in press). The moral pop-out effect: Enhanced perceptual
awareness of morally relevant stimuli. Cognition.


Every day people perceive religious and moral iconography in ambiguous objects, ranging from grilled cheese to bird feces. In the current research, we examined whether moral concerns can shape awareness of perceptually ambiguous stimuli. In three experiments, we presented masked moral and non-moral words around the threshold for conscious awareness as part of a lexical decision task. Participants correctly identified moral words more frequently than non-moral words—a phenomenon we term the moral pop-out effect. The moral pop-out effect was only evident when stimuli were presented at durations that made them perceptually ambiguous, but not when the stimuli were presented too quickly to perceive or slowly enough to easily perceive.  The moral pop-out effect was not moderated by exposure to harm and cannot be explained by differences in arousal, valence, or extremity. Although most models of moral psychology assume the initial perception of moral stimuli, our research suggests that moral beliefs and values may shape perceptual awareness.

The entire article is here.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Robert Wright Show: Modules, Self, Consciousness & Evolution

By Robert Wright
The Robert Wright Show on bloggingheads.tv
Originally posted on February 22, 2014

Robert Wright interviews Leda Cosmides about self, module theory, consciousness, evolution and evolutionary psychology.

Leda Cosmides, is an American psychologist, who, together with anthropologist husband John Tooby, helped develop the field of evolutionary psychology.

Consciousness and the Limits of Objectivity: The Case for Subjective Physicalism

Robert J. Howell, Consciousness and the Limits of Objectivity: The Case for Subjective Physicalism, Oxford University Press, 2013, 190pp., $55.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780199654666.

Reviewed by Richard Brown, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY

What happens when we take consciousness seriously? Howell argues that doing so requires giving up on objectivity but not on physicalism. The resulting view, which he calls 'subjective physicalism', is one on which consciousness is wholly physical but cannot be truly understood from an objective point of view. It can only be known from the inside, via acquaintance, and so there is a sense in which any objective picture of the physical world will be incomplete.

Howell's book is short, and there are places where things move a bit too quickly and others where one wishes more had been said. Still, overall he presents a clear account of how consciousness could be physical even if we can't fully know it from an objective standpoint. Howell shows that there is still much to be discussed in what might look like well-worn territory, and his book is deserving of attention.

The entire book review is here.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What anscombe intended & other puzzles

By Richard Marshall
3:AM Magazine
Originally published March 10, 2012

Richard Marshall interviews Kieran Setiya

Here are some excerpts:

KS: That’s an interesting angle. I would separate two aspects or kinds of philosophical therapy: one aims to change how people live, the other treats philosophical problems not by giving answers but by exposing them as illusory or confused. I am wary of the first ambition, but I cautiously embrace the second. One of the central idea of my first book, Reasons without Rationalism is that a common understanding of the question “Why be moral?” is misconceived.

If you are asking “Why be moral?” you might be asking whether so-called “moral virtues,” such as justice and benevolence, are really virtues, whether they are really ways of being good. That is what Callicles does in Plato’s Gorgias. But it has seemed to many philosophers that the question can be interpreted in another way, as conceding that you have to be just and benevolent in order to be good, and asking “Why be good?” Why should I act as an ethically virtuous person would act, if that is not what I want to do? I argue that the second question makes no sense. It assumes that we can interpret the concept ‘should’ as denoting a standard for action distinct from the standard of ethical virtue or good character, a standard by which they can be challenged. What could this standard be? A while back, I mentioned the ambitious thought that principles of reason might derive from the nature of agency, that a criterion for how we should act might fall out of what it is to act intentionally. In Reasons without Rationalism, I show that we can make sense of “Why be good?” as a substantive question only if this ambitious project can be made to work. And I argue that it can’t. There is no standard for how one should act apart from the standard of ethical virtue or good character. In that sense, the question “Why be good?” is a target for philosophical therapy, not direct response.


3:AM: So how do we know what it is to be good, if we can’t use moral theory? What if my model of virtue is Pol Pot, a mass murdering political tyrant? Without moral intuitions to rely on, how can you show that I am making a mistake? Your forthcoming book is called Knowing Right From Wrong. Does it answer this question?

KS: Sort of. The book attempts to show how moral knowledge is possible in the face of radical disagreement. A pivotal thought is that the standards of justification in ethics are “biased towards the truth.” There is no ethically neutral, Archimedean point from which to assess the justification of ethical beliefs. Instead, the basic measure of such beliefs is the standard of correct moral reasoning – a standard that is subject to ethical dispute. When I am confronted with someone who believes that self-interest is the only ethical virtue, it is not just that I am right and he is wrong, but that I am reasoning well about ethics and he is reasoning badly: my beliefs are warranted and his are not. This story doesn’t rest on epistemic egoism, since what justifies me is not that my beliefs are mine, but that they are based on reasoning that tracks the truth.

The entire article is here.

"A New Theory of Free Will" and the Peer-to-Peer Simulation Hypothesis

By Marcus Arvan
Flickers of Freedom Blog
Originally posted February 24, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Nick Bostrom is of course well-known for arguing, on probabilistic grounds, that we are probably living in a simulation. Somewhat similarly, David Chalmers has argued that we should consider the “simulation hypothesis” not as a skeptical hypothesis that threatens our having knowledge of the external world, but rather as a metaphysical hypothesis regarding what our world is made of. Finally, the simulation hypothesis is gaining some traction in physics.

My 2013 article and subsequent unpublished work go several steps further, arguing that a new form of the simulation hypothesis -- what I call the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Simulation Hypothesis -- is not only implied by several serious hypotheses in philosophy and physics, but that it also provides a unified explanation of (A) the mind-body problem, (B) the problem of free will, and (C) several fundamental features of quantum mechanics, while (D) providing a new solution to the problem of free will that I call "Libertarian Compatibilism."

The entire article is here.

Editor's note: I am not sure if I really understand the entire concept.  I am considering a podcast to help understand his theory.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The War on Reason

Scientists and philosophers argue that human beings are little more than puppets of their biochemistry. Here's why they're wrong.

By Paul Bloom
The Atlantic 
Originally posted on February 19, 2014

Aristotle’s definition of man as a rational animal has recently taken quite a beating.

Part of the attack comes from neuroscience. Pretty, multicolored fMRI maps make clear that our mental lives can be observed in the activity of our neurons, and we’ve made considerable progress in reading someone’s thoughts by looking at those maps. It’s clear, too, that damage to the brain can impair the most-intimate aspects of ourselves, such as the capacity to make moral judgments or to inhibit bad actions. To some scholars, the neural basis of mental life suggests that rational deliberation and free choice are illusions. Because our thoughts and actions are the products of our brains, and because what our brains do is determined by the physical state of the world and the laws of physics—perhaps with a dash of quantum randomness in the mix—there seems to be no room for choice. As the author and neuroscientist Sam Harris has put it, we are “biochemical puppets.”

The entire article is here.

Free Will Does Not Exist. So What?

By Paul Bloom
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally posted March 18, 2012

Here is an excerpt:

This is what many call free will, and most scientists and philosophers agree that it is an illusion. Our actions are in fact literally predestined, determined by the laws of physics, the state of the universe, long before we were born, and, perhaps, by random events at the quantum level. We chose none of this, and so free will does not exist.

I agree with the consensus, but it's not the big news that many of my colleagues seem to think it is. For one thing, it isn't news at all. Determinism has been part of Philosophy 101 for quite a while now, and arguments against free will were around centuries before we knew anything about genes or neurons. It's long been a concern in theology; Moses Maimonides, in the 1100s, phrased the problem in terms of divine omniscience: If God already knows what you will do, how could you be free to choose?

More important, it's not clear what difference it makes.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What Are Social Psychologists Talking About in 2014?

By Robert Kurzban
Evolutionary Psychology Blog
Originally published February 19, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

The highlight for me was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the evolutionary psychology preconference, sponsored by the Evolution and Human Behavior Society. (I myself was speaking at a different preconference, so did not make the entirety of the event. Still, I managed to sneak away for a while in order to attend some talks.) David Buss gave a thoroughly engaging presentation, as usual, as did his intellectual descendant, Martie Haselton, who showed some very interesting new results relevant to the recent debate regarding the ovulatory cycle results. Very generally the nodes of Buss’ tree were well represented. His students and his students’ students continue to make their respective marks on the field. A nice feature of the preconference is that only one talk takes place at a time; there are no parallel sessions. Conferences such as HBES, in contrast, require one to choose where one is going to direct one’s attention, and I’m grateful that I didn’t face that particular problem at SPSP. (See picture above for a group shot.) Jessica Li and Stephanie Cantú did an excellent job organizing, and I for one am very grateful for the work they did on the preconference, though still very uncertain about the diacritical mark on Stephanie’s name.

The entire blog post is here.

Friend or Foe? Early Social Evaluation of Human Interactions

Buon M, Jacob P, Margules S, Brunet I, Dutat M, et al. (2014) Friend or Foe? Early Social Evaluation of Human Interactions. PLoS ONE 9(2): e88612. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088612


We report evidence that 29-month-old toddlers and 10-month-old preverbal infants discriminate between two agents: a pro-social agent, who performs a positive (comforting) action on a human patient and a negative (harmful) action on an inanimate object, and an anti-social agent, who does the converse. The evidence shows that they prefer the former to the latter even though the agents perform the same bodily movements. Given that humans can cause physical harm to their conspecifics, we discuss this finding in light of the likely adaptive value of the ability to detect harmful human agents.

The entire article is here.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mental lives and fodor’s lot

Susan Schneider interviewed by Richard Marshall
3:AM Magazine
Originally posted February 14, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

3:AM: You make strong claims about thought experiments and find them valuable. Some philosophers like Paul Horwich disagree and find them misleading and useless. How can something imaginary lead to knowledge and enlightenment?

SS: Philosophers face a dilemma. On the one hand, philosophers often theorize about the nature of things, so it is useful to think of what might be the case, as opposed to what happens to be the case. For instance, metaphysicians who consider the nature of the self or person commonly consider cases like teleportation and brain transplants, to see if one’s theory of the self yields a viable result concerning whether one would survive such things. On the other hand, thought experiments can be misused. For instance, it strikes some as extreme to discard an otherwise plausible theory because it runs contrary to our intuitions about a thought experiment, especially if the example is far-fetched and not even compatible with our laws of nature. And there has been a movement in philosophy called “experimental philosophy” which claims that people of different ethnicities, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds can come to different conclusions about certain thought experiments because of their different backgrounds.

I still employ thought experiments in my work, but I try to bear in mind three things: first, the presence of a thought experiment that pumps intuitions contrary to a theory should not automatically render the theory false. But a thought experiment can speak against a theory in an all-things-considered judgment; this is an approach I’ve employed in debates over laws of nature.

The entire story is here.

The Lies That Doctors and Patients Tell

By Sandeep Jauhar
The New York Times
Originally published February 20, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Physicians sometimes deceive, too. We don’t always reveal when we make mistakes. Too often we order unnecessary tests, to bolster revenue or to protect against lawsuits. We sometimes mislead patients that our therapies have more value, more evidence behind them, than they actually do — whether it was placebo injections from my grandfather’s era, for example, or much of the spinal surgery or angioplasty that’s done today. 

Perhaps the most powerful deceptions in medicine are the ones we direct at ourselves — at our patients’ expense. Many physicians still espouse the patriotic (but deeply misconceived) notion that the American medical system is the best in the world. We deny the sickness in our system, and the role we as a profession have played in creating that sickness. We obsessively push ourselves to do more and more tests, scans and treatments for reasons that we sometimes hide from ourselves. 

The entire article is here.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lawrence Lessig’s March to End Corruption

Moyer's and Company
Originally posted February 14, 2014

This week, we bring you a special report on a two-week, 185-mile trek through the winter cold in New Hampshire, led in January by constitutional scholar and activist Lawrence Lessig to raise awareness of the crippling problem of corruption in American politics.

“If you think about every single important issue America has to address — if you’re on the right and you care about tax reform or addressing the issues of the deficit, or on the left and you care about climate change or real health care reform — whatever the issue is, if you look at the way our system functions right now you have to see that there will be no sensible reform given the way we fund campaigns,” Lessig says.

The entire story is here.

How A Big Drug Company Inadvertently Got Americans Hooked On Heroin

By Jillian Berman
The Huffington Post
Originally posted February 24, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

In recent years, more prescription drug abusers have started turning to heroin for a cheaper high as the price of pills skyrockets on the black market, Bunt said. Two factors have contributed to the cost increase: opioid addiction boosting demand and doctors becoming more cautious about prescribing opioids, decreasing supply, Bunt said.

Another reason for the price increase: The Drug War, according to a January 2012 report from Radley Balko. Government crackdowns have made it difficult for even reputable doctors to prescribe pain pills. To fill the void, doctors and others looking to make a buck off the prescription pills created so-called "pill mills" -- offices that prescribe pain medication in high volume and often serve people addicted to the drugs.

The entire article is here.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Experimental Philosophy and the Notion of the Self

Joshua Knobe
HeadCon '13
Edge Video
Originally published February 16, 2014

What is the field of experimental philosophy? Experimental philosophy is a relatively new field—one that just cropped up around the past ten years or so, and it's an interdisciplinary field, uniting ideas from philosophy and psychology. In particular, what experimental philosophers tend to do is to go after questions that are traditionally associated with philosophy but to go after them using the methods that have been traditionally associated with psychology.

The video and transcript is here.

Who’s to blame for inaccurate media coverage of study of therapy for persons with schizophrenia?

By James C. Coyne
jcoynester blog
Originally published March 7, 2014
I’m in competition with literally hundreds of stories every day, political and economic stories of compelling interest…we have to almost overstate, we have to come as close as we came within the boundaries of truth to dramatic, compelling statement. A weak statement will go no place.”                                 Journalist interviewed for JA Winsten, Science and Media: The Boundaries of Truth
Hyped, misleading media coverage of a study in Lancet of CBT for persons with unmedicated schizophrenia left lots of clinicians, policymakers, and especially persons with schizophrenia and their family members confused.

Did the study actually showed that psychotherapy was as effective as medication for schizophrenia? NO!

Did the study demonstrate that persons with schizophrenia could actually forgo medication with nasty side effects and modest effectiveness and just get on with their life with the help of CBT? NO!

The entire blog post is here.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Online Medical Professionalism: Patient and Public Relationships

Policy Statement From the American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards

By Jeanne M. Farnan, Lois Snyder Sulmasy, and others
Ann Intern Med. 2013;158(8):620-627. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-158-8-201304160-00100


User-created content and communications on Web-based applications, such as networking sites, media sharing sites, or blog platforms, have dramatically increased in popularity over the past several years, but there has been little policy or guidance on the best practices to inform standards for the professional conduct of physicians in the digital environment. Areas of specific concern include the use of such media for nonclinical purposes, implications for confidentiality, the use of social media in patient education, and how all of this affects the public's trust in physicians as patient–physician interactions extend into the digital environment. Opportunities afforded by online applications represent a new frontier in medicine as physicians and patients become more connected. This position paper from the American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards examines and provides recommendations about the influence of social media on the patient–physician relationship, the role of these media in public perception of physician behaviors, and strategies for physician–physician communication that preserve confidentiality while best using these technologies.

The entire policy statement is here.

Debunking the Myth of Kitty Genovese

By Larry Getlen
The New York Post
Originally published February 16, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

But as journalist Kevin Cook details in his new book, “Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America” (W.W. Nor­ton), some of the real thoughtlessness came from a police commissioner who lazily passed a falsehood to a journalist, and a media that fell so deeply in love with a story that it couldn’t be bothered to determine whether it was true.

The account of the murder at the top of this story is accurate, based on Cook’s reporting. Instead of a narrative of apathy, the media could have told instead of the people who tried to help, and of the complex circumstances — many boiling down to a lack not of compassion, but of information — that prevented some ­others from calling for aid.

One could argue that Genovese became a legend not on the day she was killed, but 10 days later, when New York City Police Commissioner Michael “Bull” Murphy had lunch with The New York Times’ new city editor — later to become the paper’s executive ­editor — Abe Rosenthal.
After Rosenthal brought up a case Murphy wished to avoid discussing, the commissioner pivoted to the Genovese case.

“Brother, that Queens story is one for the books. Thirty-eight witnesses,” Murphy said. “I’ve been in this business a long time, but this beats everything.”

The entire story is here.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Ethics of Whistle-Blowing

Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly
Originally published February 14, 2014

Is Edward Snowden a hero for revealing government wrongdoing, or a traitor for leaking classified information? “I don’t think anybody acts and says to themselves, ‘What I’m doing is immoral, but I’m going to do it.’ People always rationalize,” according to former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow. Correspondent Lucky Severson reports on the debate over the morality of Snowden’s actions.

The entire story is here.

Alleged military sex assault victims seek to block use of counseling records

By Annys Shin
The Washington Post
Originally published February 14, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Over the past several months, lawyers for the alleged victim in the Naval Academy case have been trying to block a judge from reviewing years of counseling records. Their latest appeal is still pending, but Col. Daniel Daugherty, the judge in the trial of defendant Joshua Tate, has already reviewed some of them, and agreed to release portions to the defense.

Advocates for sexual assault victims say the practice of going after mental health records undercuts the military’s efforts to get more victims to come forward and thwarts their treatment.

“The victim needs to be assured of confidentiality to effectively be treated and to be effectively diagnosed,” said Nikki Charles, who directs therapy and case management for the Network for Victim Recovery of DC.  “If you chip away at that…their chances of recovery diminish.”

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Experimental Philosophy: Intentionality, Emotion, and Moral Reasoning

By Joshua Knobe
Edge Videos
Originally published February 2014

Joshua Knobe outlines research on intentionality, emotion, and moral reasoning.

Senate challenger Milton Wolf apologizes for posting X-ray photos

By The Associated Press
The Kansas City Star
Originally published February 23, 2014

A tea party-backed Leawood radiologist who is trying to unseat longtime Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts has apologized for posting X-ray photos of fatal gunshot wounds and medical injuries on his personal Facebook page several years ago. But he called the revelation about the images the work of a desperate incumbent.

In addition to the images, Milton Wolf also participated in online commentary layered with macabre jokes and descriptions of carnage, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

The report about the images, which came from hospitals in the Kansas City area on both sides of the state line, drew criticism from medical professionals who called their display on social media irresponsible.

The entire story is here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Psychiatric diagnosis: the indispensability of ambivalence

By Felicity Callard
J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2013-101763


The author analyses how debate over the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has tended to privilege certain conceptions of psychiatric diagnosis over others, as well as to polarise positions regarding psychiatric diagnosis. The article aims to muddy the black and white tenor of many discussions regarding psychiatric diagnosis by moving away from the preoccupation with diagnosis as classification and refocusing attention on diagnosis as a temporally and spatially complex, as well as highly mediated process. The article draws on historical, sociological and first-person perspectives regarding psychiatric diagnosis in order to emphasise the conceptual—and potentially ethical—benefits of ambivalence vis-à-vis the achievements and problems of psychiatric diagnosis.

The entire article is here.

Are We Hardwired to Believe We Are Immortal?

by Barbara Moran-Boston University
Futurity: Science and Technology
Originally posted on January 29, 2014

Most people, regardless of race, religion, or culture, believe they are immortal. That is, people believe that part of themselves—some indelible core, soul, or essence—will live forever.

Why is this belief so unshakable?

A new study published in the journal Child Development sheds light on these profound questions by examining children’s ideas about “prelife,” the time before conception.

The entire article is here.

The original study is here.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Episode 3: Neurofeedback and Consciousness

In this episode, John interviews Thomas Fink, PhD about the basic concepts of neurofeedback, its clinical utility, and case examples.  Dr. Fink developed software for a home unit to augment gains made in the office. The purpose of this podcast is to help psychologists become more familiar with this neurofeedback in the practice of psychotherapy.  Additionally, the podcast will address how neurofeedback offers novel conceptualizations of consciousness.

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

1. Explain the basic concepts of neurofeedback.
2. Describe two clinical conditions that can be treated with neurofeedback.
3. Provide one example of how neurofeedback informs us about the nature of 

Find this podcast in iTunes

Click here to purchase 1 APA-approved Continuing Education credit

Listen directly on this page

Resources for Neurofeedback

What is Neurofeedback: An Update
D. Cory Hammond

International Society for Neurofeedback and Research

Informed Consent for Neurofeedback - FNS
Thomas E. Fink, PhD

Informed Consent for EEG Neurofeedback
Thomas E. Fink, PhD

Resources from MindReflector

MindReflector Technologies, LLC

MindReflector Training Video

MindReflector Product Demo

MindReflector Facebook Page

Books on Consciousness read by Tom and John

Distributed Cognition and the Will edited by Ross, Spurrett, Kincaid and Stephens

The Large, The Small, and the Human Mind by Penrose and others

Perplexities of Consciousness by Schwitzgebel

The Physics of Consciousness by Walker

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Scientific method: Statistical errors

P values, the 'gold standard' of statistical validity, are not as reliable as many scientists assume.

By Regina Nuzzo
Originally published February 12, 2014

For a brief moment in 2010, Matt Motyl was on the brink of scientific glory: he had discovered that extremists quite literally see the world in black and white.

The results were “plain as day”, recalls Motyl, a psychology PhD student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Data from a study of nearly 2,000 people seemed to show that political moderates saw shades of grey more accurately than did either left-wing or right-wing extremists. “The hypothesis was sexy,” he says, “and the data provided clear support.” The P value, a common index for the strength of evidence, was 0.01 — usually interpreted as 'very significant'. Publication in a high-impact journal seemed within Motyl's grasp.

But then reality intervened. Sensitive to controversies over reproducibility, Motyl and his adviser, Brian Nosek, decided to replicate the study. With extra data, the P value came out as 0.59 — not even close to the conventional level of significance, 0.05. The effect had disappeared, and with it, Motyl's dreams of youthful fame.

The entire article is here.

The Tragedy Of The Mental Commons

By Kevin Arnold
Films for Action
Originally published January 22, 2011

Here is an excerpt:

Thirty-five years ago, Garret Hardin, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, authored a ground-breaking article in the journal Science that introduced an idea: the tragedy of the commons. Our survival was at stake, he argued, if we failed to open our eyes and realize that Earth's physical resources were finite. Treating them as a free-for-all was no longer acceptable if we wanted to reduce human suffering and prolong our existence on this planet.

To illustrate the tragedy, he used the example of 14th-century common land. 'Picture a pasture open to all,' he wrote. 'It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons.' When a herder adds a cow to the pasture, he reaps the benefit of a larger herd. Meanwhile, the cost of the animal - the damage done to the pasture - is divided among all the herdsmen.

This continues until, finally, the herders reach a delicate point: as the pasture becomes overgrazed, each new animal threatens the well-being of the entire herd. 'At this point,' Hardin argues, 'the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.'

The entire article is here.

Thanks to Ed Zuckerman for this article.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Content of Our Cooperation, Not the Color of Our Skin

An Alliance Detection System Regulates Categorization by Coalition and Race, but Not Sex

By David Pietraszewski, Leda Cosmides, John Tooby
Originally published February 10, 2014


Humans in all societies form and participate in cooperative alliances. To successfully navigate an alliance-laced world, the human mind needs to detect new coalitions and alliances as they emerge, and predict which of many potential alliance categories are currently organizing an interaction. We propose that evolution has equipped the mind with cognitive machinery that is specialized for performing these functions: an alliance detection system. In this view, racial categories do not exist because skin color is perceptually salient; they are constructed and regulated by the alliance system in environments where race predicts social alliances and divisions. Early tests using adversarial alliances showed that the mind spontaneously detects which individuals are cooperating against a common enemy, implicitly assigning people to rival alliance categories based on patterns of cooperation and competition. But is social antagonism necessary to trigger the categorization of people by alliance—that is, do we cognitively link A and B into an alliance category only because they are jointly in conflict with C and D? We report new studies demonstrating that peaceful cooperation can trigger the detection of new coalitional alliances and make race fade in relevance. Alliances did not need to be marked by team colors or other perceptually salient cues. When race did not predict the ongoing alliance structure, behavioral cues about cooperative activities up-regulated categorization by coalition and down-regulated categorization by race, sometimes eliminating it. Alliance cues that sensitively regulated categorization by coalition and race had no effect on categorization by sex, eliminating many alternative explanations for the results. The results support the hypothesis that categorizing people by their race is a reversible product of a cognitive system specialized for detecting alliance categories and regulating their use. Common enemies are not necessary to erase important social boundaries; peaceful cooperation can have the same effect.

The entire article is here.