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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

How politics makes us stupid

By Ezra Klein
Originally published April 6, 2014 (How did I miss this?)

Here is an excerpt:

Kahan calls this theory Identity-Protective Cognition: "As a way of avoiding dissonance and estrangement from valued groups, individuals subconsciously resist factual information that threatens their defining values." Elsewhere, he puts it even more pithily: "What we believe about the facts," he writes, "tells us who we are." And the most important psychological imperative most of us have in a given day is protecting our idea of who we are, and our relationships with the people we trust and love.

The entire article is here.

Kidney Donors may have trouble with Health and Life Insurance

American Journal of Transplant
Press Release

People who selflessly step up and donate a kidney can face insurance challenges afterwards, despite the lack of evidence that they have increased health risks. The finding, which comes from a new study published in the American Journal of Transplantation, suggests that actions by insurers may create unnecessary burden and stress for those choosing to donate and could negatively impact the likelihood of live kidney donation.

The entire pressor is here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

U of T criticized for links between Big Pharma and Med Schools

By Georgia Williams
The Varsity
Originally published July 16, 2014

A recent report in the Journal of Medical Ethics took aim at the actions of university lecturers who have ties to pharmaceutical companies — including those at U of T.

The study — written by Dr. Navindra Persaud, a practicing physician at St. Michael’s Hospital — questions the validity of the content taught in one of the mandatory lecture series he attended as a medical student at the university in 2004. The lecture on pain pharmacotherapy used a modified classification chart from the World Health Organization (WHO) to show oxycodone as both a “weak and strong opioid,” comparable to codeine. However, as Dr. Persaud’s report indicates, oxycodone is at least  “1.5 times more potent than morphine” a drug that the WHO lists as a strong opioid. Dr. Persaud’s study also claims that the drug’s adverse side effects were downplayed by the lecturer.

The entire story is here.

Corruption of Peer Review Is Harming Scientific Credibility

By Hank Campbell
The Wall Street Journal
Originally published July 13, 2013

Academic publishing was rocked by the news on July 8 that a company called Sage Publications is retracting 60 papers from its Journal of Vibration and Control, about the science of acoustics. The company said a researcher in Taiwan and others had exploited peer review so that certain papers were sure to get a positive review for placement in the journal. In one case, a paper's author gave glowing reviews to his own work using phony names.

Acoustics is an important field. But in biomedicine faulty research and a dubious peer-review process can have life-or-death consequences. In June, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and responsible for $30 billion in annual government-funded research, held a meeting to discuss ways to ensure that more published scientific studies and results are accurate.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Can a Jury Believe What It Sees?

Videotaped Confessions Can Be Misleading

By Jennifer L. Mnookin
The New York Times
Originally published July 13, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

The short answer is that, according to recent research, interrogation recording may in fact be too vivid and persuasive. Even seemingly neutral recordings still require interpretation. As advertisers and Hollywood directors know well, camera angles, close-ups, lenses and dozens of other techniques shape our perception of what we see without our being aware of it.

In a series of experiments led by the psychologist G. Daniel Lassiter of Ohio University, mock juries were shown exactly the same interrogation, but some saw only the defendant, while others had a wider-angle view that included the interrogator. When the interrogator isn’t shown on camera, jurors are significantly less likely to find an interrogation coercive, and more likely to believe in the truth and accuracy of the confession that they hear — even when the interrogator explicitly threatens the defendant.

The entire article is here.

Millions of electronic medical records breached

New U.S. government data shows that 32 million residents affected since 2009.

By Ronald Campbell and Deborah Schoch
The Oregon Country Register
Published: July 7, 2014

Thieves, hackers and careless workers have breached the medical privacy of nearly 32 million Americans, including 4.6 million Californians, since 2009.

Those numbers, taken from new U.S. Health & Human Services Department data, underscore a vulnerability of electronic health records.

These records are more detailed than most consumer credit or banking files and could open the door to widespread identity theft, fraud, or worse.

The entire article is here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Episode 12: Prescriptive Authority Illinois Style

Dr. Beth Rom-Rymer from Illinois speaks with John about  the recent RxP success in Illinois. Psychologists advocated passing a law to permit appropriately trained psychologist to prescribe psychotropic agents.  Beth shares many words of wisdom, including reasons for psychologists obtaining prescriptive authority, keys to advocacy, and the details of the prescriptive authority law in Illinois.  While John laments that Pennsylvania may be in the Precontemplative stage of change, Beth offers numerous suggestions to any state moving in a forward direction on RxP legislation.

The Skype connection was not the best, so apologies in advance for any technical flaws.

In terms of learning objectives, at the end of the podcast, the listener will be able to:

1.      Describe two reasons why psychologists are seeking prescriptive authority;
2.      Explain the educational requirements of becoming a prescribing psychologist in Illinois; and,
3.      Describe two important components to passing legislation on prescriptive authority.

Find this podcast on iTunes

To earn 1-APA approved Continuing Education Credit, click here.

Click to listen directly below


Updated Prescriptive Authority Law Enacted
American Psychological Association

Ethics and Psychology Resources on Prescribing Psychologists/Medical Psychologists

APA Resources on the RxP movement

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Insufficient Punishment

By Keith Olbermann

Keith slams the National Football League for its tolerance for violence against women.  Keith also highlights larger cultural problems about demeaning women in American culture.

What’s Wrong with Experimental Philosophy?

Victor Kumar
University of Michigan
July 10, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Unsatisfied with armchair speculation, experimental philosophers have responded to empirical questions with empirical answers. Efforts are not always met with success, but the best objections this research faces are narrowly methodological, e.g., improper experimental design or substandard experimental methods. Experimental philosophers, often in collaboration with scientists, are developing new and better ways of testing hypotheses in cognitive science that inform philosophical inquiry. 

Outside of philosophically relevant cognitive science, experimental philosophy studies intuitions in an attempt to contribute to philosophical discussion surrounding those intuitions. A second type is experimental philosophical analysis. Philosophers interested in knowledge, moral judgment, free will, etc., often assume that the first step of philosophical inquiry is analysis of the corresponding ordinary concepts (Smith 1994; Jackson 1998). 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cognitive biases in moral judgments that affect political behavior

Jonathan Baron
January 2010, Volume 172, Issue 1, pp 7-35


Cognitive biases that affect decision making may affect the decisions of citizens that influence public policy. To the extent that decisions follow principles other than maximizing utility for all, it is less likely that utility will be maximized, and the citizens will ultimately suffer the results. Here I outline some basic arguments concerning decisions by citizens, using voting as an example. I describe two types of values that may lead to sub-optimal consequences when these values influence political behavior: moralistic values (which people are willing to impose on others regardless of the consequences) and protected values (PVs, values protected from trade-offs). I present evidence against the idea that voting is expressive, i.e., that voters aim to express their moral views rather than to have an effect on outcomes. I show experimentally that PVs are often moralistic. Finally, I present some data that citizens’ think of their duty in a parochial way, neglecting out-groups. I conclude that moral judgments are important determinants of citizen behavior, that these judgments are subject to biases and based on moralistic values, and that, therefore, outcomes are probably less good than they could be.

The entire article is here.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Trouble With Brain Science

By Gary Marcus
The New York Times
Originally published July 11, 2014

Are we ever going to figure out how the brain works?

After decades of research, diseases like schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s still resist treatment. Despite countless investigations into serotonin and other neurotransmitters, there is still no method to cure clinical depression. And for all the excitement about brain-imaging techniques, the limitations of fMRI studies are, as evidenced by popular books like “Brainwashed” and “Neuromania,” by now well known. In spite of the many remarkable advances in neuroscience, you might get the sinking feeling that we are not always going about brain science in the best possible way.

The entire article is here.

A new tactic to halt child abuse in Maryland

Focus now on helping low-risk families instead of punishing

By Yvonne Wenger
The Baltimore Sun
Originally posted July 5, 2014

Baltimore is changing the way it handles cases of alleged child abuse and neglect — part of a broad social-services strategy that has been touted by Maryland officials but abandoned in some other states.

The new approach, which is designed to lessen the adversarial relationship between families and caseworkers, puts cases on different tracks depending on whether they are deemed high or low risk. The tiered response, used in 23 states, is regarded as a best practice by many child advocates.

The entire story is here.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

‘She’s not a slag because she only had sex once’: Sexual ethics in a London secondary school

By Sarah Winkler Reid
Journal of Moral Education
Volume 43, Issue 2, 2014
Special Issue: ‘The good child’: Anthropological perspectives on morality and childhood


The premature sexualisation of young people is a source of intense public anxiety, often framed as an unprecedented crisis. Concurrently, a critical scholarship highlights problematic assumptions underpinning this discourse, including a positioning of young people as morally compromised passive subjects, and a disconnect between the reductionist framework and the complexity of young peoples’ lived experiences. Drawing from ethnographic research in a London school, in this article I argue that by attending to the everyday lives of pupils, a more nuanced picture of moral and sexual change and continuity emerges. Using the framework of ‘ordinary ethics’, which identifies ethics as pervasive in speech and action, I demonstrate the multiple ways by which young people define and act according to what they consider sexually good and right. In this way the analytical focus is shifted from passivity to activity and we can appreciate how young people today are evincing a sexual ethics of force and efficacy.

The entire article is here.

Should We 'Fix' Intersex Children?

Standard medical practice is often to operate to "normalize" genitals, but some families are fighting back.

By Charlotte Greenfield
The Atlantic
Originally published July 8, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

M was born with genitals that were not clearly male or female. Also known as disorders of sex development (DSDs), the best guess by researchers is that intersex conditions affect one in 2,000 children.

The response by doctors is often to carry out largely unregulated and controversial surgeries that aim to make an infant’s genitals and reproductive organs more normal but can often have unintended consequences, according to intersex adults, advocates and some doctors.

A long and gut-wrenching list of damaging side effects—painful scarring, reduced sexual sensitivity, torn genital tissue, removal of natural hormones and possible sterilization—combined with the chance of assigning children a gender they don’t feel comfortable with has left many calling for the surgeries to be heavily restricted.

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Science Journal Pulls 60 Papers in Peer-Review Fraud

By Henry Fountain
The New York Times
Originally published July 10, 2014

A scientific journal has retracted 60 papers linked to a researcher in Taiwan, accusing him of “perverting the peer-review process” by creating fraudulent online accounts to judge the papers favorably and help get them published.

Sage Publications, publisher of The Journal of Vibration and Control, in which the papers appeared over the last four years, said the researcher, Chen-Yuan Chen, had established a “peer-review and citation ring” consisting of fake scientists as well as real ones whose identities he had assumed.

The entire story is here.

Examining empathy

By Louise Aronson
The Lancet, Volume 384, Issue 9937, pp 16-17, 5 July 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Although some of the eleven essays in the collection relate to medicine, the book considers empathy more broadly. “Another person's pain”, Jamison writes, “registers as an experience in the perceiver: empathy as forced symmetry, a bodily echo”. Jamison examines empathy not just across life choices and illness states but also across cultures, geographical borders, gender, and socioeconomic status. She travels, among other places, to Nicaragua where she's hit in the face during a robbery; to Bolivia where a larva emerges from her ankle after a botfly bite; to West Virginia for a visit to an acquaintance in a prison; and to the wilds of Tennessee to watch a particularly sadistic ultra-marathon. Jamison considers all forms of pain—physical, emotional, and psychological; her own and that of others—and often explores topics both literally and metaphorically.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Crack Down on Scientific Fraudsters

By Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky
The New York Times
Originally published July 10, 2014

DONG-PYOU HAN needed impressive lab results to help his team at Iowa State University move forward with its work on an AIDS vaccine — and to continue receiving millions of dollars in federal grants. So Dr. Han did what many scientists are probably tempted to do, but don’t: He faked the tests, spiking rabbit blood with human proteins to make it appear that the animals were responding to the vaccine to fight H.I.V.

The reason you’re reading about this story, and not about the glowing success of the therapy, is that Dr. Han was caught.

The entire story is here.

The Mind Report: Psychopaths, Morality, Neuroscience and Treatment

Laurie Santos (Yale) interviews Kent Kiehl (University of New Mexico) about his new book, The Psychopath Whisperer.  They discuss neuroscience on psychopathic prisoners, morality and the brain, and treatment research.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Neuroimaging study shows why antisocial youths are less able to take the perspective of others

By Max Planck Gesellshft
Originally published on March 11, 2014

Adolescents with antisocial personality disorder inflict serious physical and psychological harm on both themselves and others. However, little is yet known about the underlying neural processes. Researchers at the University of Leiden and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development have pinpointed a possible explanation: Their brain regions responsible for social information processing and impulse control are less developed.


Adolescents with antisocial personality disorder thus seem to have difficulties in taking into account all the relevant information in social interactions, such as other people’s intentions. The researchers hypothesize that this in turn leads to more antisocial behavior.

The entire article is here.

'Bad' video game behavior increases players' moral sensitivity

By Pat Donovan
Medical Xpress
Originally published June 27, 2014

New evidence suggests heinous behavior played out in a virtual environment can lead to players' increased sensitivity toward the moral codes they violated.


"Rather than leading players to become less moral," Grizzard says, "this research suggests that violent video-game play may actually lead to increased moral sensitivity. This may, as it does in real life, provoke players to engage in voluntary behavior that benefits others."

The entire article is here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

In Depth: Should We Design Our Babies?

The Aspen Institute
Streamed live on July 2, 2014

The discussion of "designer babies" often revolves around gender or hair color, but the medical debate is far more complicated. Should we screen embryos for disease or other genetic modifications? These considerations raise ethical questions and call into question the validity of surrounding research. The lack of regulation and oversight make this particular biotechnology frightening to some, while the potential for disease eradicating techniques excites others. But how far is too far? What are the major scientific and ethical hurdles to assuage the skeptics? Underwritten by Booz Allen Hamilton

Saturday, July 19, 2014

SciCafe: The Evolution of Irrationality

Originally posted April 2014

Laurie Santos presented her research on the evolution of irrationality and insights from primates. Don't worry if you missed it: we have a video of her presentation, including clips of monkeys "shopping" for treats! Santos explores the roots of human irrationality by watching our primate relatives make decisions in "monkeynomics."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Electronic Health Records: First, Do No Harm?

EHRs are commonly promoted as boosting patient safety, but are we all being fooled?

By David F. Carr
Originally published June 26, 2014

One of the top stated goals of the federal Meaningful Use program encouraging adoption of electronic health records (EHR) technology is to improve patient safety. But is there really a cause-and-effect relationship between digitizing health records and reducing medical errors? Poorly implemented health information technology can also introduce new errors, whether from scrambled data or confusing user interfaces, sometimes causing harm to flesh-and-blood patients.

The entire article is here.

Tightness and Looseness: A New Way to Understand Differences in the US

By Jesse Harrington and Michele Gelfand
Scientific American
Originally posted July 2, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Tighter states—those with stronger rules and greater punishment for deviance—are located primarily in the South and the Midwest, while looser states are located in the North East, the West Coast, and some of the Mountain States. We calculated state tightness with a composite index, compiling multiple variables. This includes items that reflect the strength of punishments in states, including the legality of corporal punishment in schools, the percentage of students hit/punished in schools, the rate of executions from 1976 to 2011, and the severity of punishment for violating laws, as well as the degree of permissiveness or deviance tolerance in states, which includes the ratio of dry to total counties per state and the legality of same-sex civil unions. The index also captures the strength of institutions that constrain behavior and enforce moral order in states, including state-level religiosity and the percentage of the total state population that is foreign, an indicator of diversity and cosmopolitanism.

The entire article is here.

The original research is here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Furor Erupts Over Facebook's Experiment on Users

By Reed Albergotti
The Wall Street Journal
Originally published June 30, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

The research, published in the March issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sparked a different emotion - outrage - among some people who say Facebook toyed with its users emotions and uses members as guinea pigs.

"What many of us feared is already a reality: Facebook is using us as lab rats, and not just to figure out which ads we'll respond to but actually change our emotion," wrote Animalnewyork.com, a blog post that drew attention to the study Friday morning.

Facebook has long run social experiments.  Its Data Science Team is tasked with turning the reams of information created by the more than 800 million people who log on every day into usable scientific research.

The entire article is here.

Moral Dilemmas

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Revised June 30, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

What is common to the two well-known cases is conflict. In each case, an agent regards herself as having moral reasons to do each of two actions, but doing both actions is not possible. Ethicists have called situations like these moral dilemmas. The crucial features of a moral dilemma are these: the agent is required to do each of two (or more) actions; the agent can do each of the actions; but the agent cannot do both (or all) of the actions. The agent thus seems condemned to moral failure; no matter what she does, she will do something wrong (or fail to do something that she ought to do).

The Platonic case strikes many as too easy to be characterized as a genuine moral dilemma. For the agent's solution in that case is clear; it is more important to protect people from harm than to return a borrowed weapon. And in any case, the borrowed item can be returned later, when the owner no longer poses a threat to others. Thus in this case we can say that the requirement to protect others from serious harm overrides the requirement to repay one's debts by returning a borrowed item when its owner so demands. When one of the conflicting requirements overrides the other, we do not have a genuine moral dilemma. So in addition to the features mentioned above, in order to have a genuine moral dilemma it must also be true that neither of the conflicting requirements is overridden (Sinnott-Armstrong 1988, Chapter 1).

The entire page is here.

Editor's note: Anyone interested in ethics and morality needs to read this page.  It is an excellent source to understand moral dilemmas as well as ethical dilemmas when in the role of a psychologist.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Executive Beware: The SEC Now Wants To Police Unethical Corporate Conduct

By John Carney and Jenna Felz
Originally posted on June 26, 2014

With the appointment of Chairwoman Mary Jo White, President Obama made clear that a tough cop would run the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and make enforcement a top priority.  This pro-enforcement, “tough cop,” stance is nothing new to an agency with a storied history of investigating and civilly prosecuting some of the biggest frauds on Wall Street.  But what is new is the Chairwoman’s tactical decision to redeploy significant enforcement resources on small, non-criminal violations.  Chairwoman White underscored the importance of the SEC’s role as “tough cop” especially in cases “when there is no criminal violation,” declaring that the SEC “is the only agency that can play that role.”  These bold statements signal the SEC’s renewed focus on policing not only illegal, but also unethical, conduct.

Behavioral Ethics

Originally posted June 27, 2014

Why are people dishonest? From Main Street to Wall Street, at home and at work, questionable behavior defies people’s best intentions. Now experts in the social sciences are examining why people so often behave contrary to their own ethical aims and what can be done about it, especially in the world of business. “What we find is that when people are thinking about honesty versus dishonesty,” says Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business, “it’s all about being able, at the moment, to rationalize something and make yourself think that this is actually okay.”

The entire page is here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Moral bioenhancement: a neuroscientific perspective

By Molly Crockett
J Med Ethics 2014;40:370-371

Can advances in neuroscience be harnessed to enhance human moral capacities? And if so, should they? De Grazia explores these questions in ‘Moral Enhancement, Freedom, and What We (Should) Value in Moral Behaviour’.1 Here, I offer a neuroscientist's perspective on the state of the art of moral bioenhancement, and highlight some of the practical challenges facing the development of moral bioenhancement technologies.

The science of moral bioenhancement is in its infancy. Laboratory studies of human morality usually employ highly simplified models aimed at measuring just one facet of a cognitive process that is relevant for morality. These studies have certainly deepened our understanding of the nature of moral behaviour, but it is important to avoid overstating the conclusions of any single study.

The entire article is here.

Sexual Assault and Rape Culture

Constructive liberal discourse has been a source of important gains on these issues. The alternatives are toxic.

By Conor Friedersdorf
The Atlantic
Originally posted June 27, 2014

The description of "rape culture" that sums up its insidiousness better than any I've ever seen was published several years ago at the Washington City Paper by Amanda Hess.

"Rape culture does not just encourage men to proceed after she says 'no,'" she wrote. "Rape culture does not simply teach men that a lack of physical resistance is an invitation. Rape culture does not only tell men to assert ownership over whichever female body they desire. Rape culture also tells women not to claim ownership over their own bodies. Rape culture also informs women that they should not desire sex. Rape culture also tells women that saying yes makes them bad women."

The entire article is here.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Episode 11: Why Marketing is our Ethical Duty (and why Public Education is an ideal way to do it)

In this episode, John talks with Pauline Wallin, PhD, expert in marketing, public education, and media as well as a cofounder of The Practice Institute, where she helps clinicians build their practices.  It is important for psychologists to understand why marketing a psychological practice helps protect the public and raise awareness of how psychotherapy can improve people's lives.  Pauline makes the distinction between marketing and selling.  We also discuss four ethical ways to market psychological services via public education.

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

1. Describe two ways that marketing your practice benefits the public.
2. List four ways to use public education to market your practice.
3. Describe two potential ethical pitfalls in marketing via public education, and how to avoid them.

Find this podcast on iTunes

For 1 APA-approved credit, click here.

Listen directly on this site here.


Dr. Pauline Wallin's website  @DoctorWallin

The Practice Institute  @PracticeHelp

APA Code of Conduct: Standard 5 - Advertising and Other Public Statements

National Institute of Health Information on Mental Health

American Psychological Association Media Referral Service

"Psychology Works" Facts Sheets - Canadian Psychological Association

Help a Reporter Out

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Using informed consent to save trust

By Nir Eyal
J Med Ethics 2014;40:437-444


Increasingly, bioethicists defend informed consent as a safeguard for trust in caretakers and medical institutions. This paper discusses an ‘ideal type’ of that move. What I call the trust-promotion argument for informed consent states:

1. Social trust, especially trust in caretakers and medical institutions, is necessary so that, for example, people seek medical advice, comply with it, and participate in medical research.

2. Therefore, it is usually wrong to jeopardise that trust.

3. Coercion, deception, manipulation and other violations of standard informed consent requirements seriously jeopardise that trust.

4. Thus, standard informed consent requirements are justified.

This article describes the initial promise of this argument, then identifies challenges to it. As I show, the value of trust fails to account for some commonsense intuitions about informed consent. We should revise the argument, commonsense morality, or both.

The entire article is here.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Who’s Googled whom?

Trainees’ Internet and online social networking experiences, behaviors, and attitudes with clients and supervisors.

By P. Asay and Ashwini Lal
Training and Education in Professional Psychology, Vol 8(2), May 2014, 105-111.
doi: 10.1037/tep0000035


The ubiquity of the Internet and online social networking creates rapidly developing opportunities and challenges for psychologists and trainees in the domains of relationships, privacy, and connection. As trainees increasingly are natives of an Internet culture, questions arise about the ways in which developing psychologists may view Internet issues and the guidance they receive from professional psychologists for whom the Internet is a significant cultural shift. A national survey of graduate students (n = 407) assessed student Internet behaviors (e.g., “Googling” clients, online social networking), training about online issues, attitudes toward online social networking and client or supervisor contact via these networks, and fears and comfort about making decisions regarding these networks. The survey also assessed what students reported they would do and what they would think if clients and supervisors contacted them via social networks. Results indicate that most trainees have changed and monitored their online presence since beginning graduate school. A quarter of respondents had “Googled” clients, and almost half had “Googled” supervisors. A small number indicated that both clients and supervisors had reported “Googling” the trainee. Students expressed concerns about making ethical decisions about online social networks. Half reported discussing Internet issues in their graduate training programs, whereas a quarter indicated they had discussed Internet issues at their training sites. Implications for training are discussed, with recommendations of program disclosure of Internet policies to students, discussion of Internet issues before trainee clinical work, role plays of ethical issues, and supervisor-initiated discussions of Internet issues.

The entire article is here.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Why haven't more states expanded Medicaid yet?

By California Healthline
Originally posted June 26, 2014

Two years after Roberts issued the majority opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act, the decision to expand Medicaid is far from settled. Despite predictions that all states will eventually embrace Medicaid expansion, a significant number continue to hold out.

At last count, 26 states and the District of Columbia intend to expand Medicaid, while four are actively considering it and 20 have no plans to expand the program at this time.

The Medicaid expansion was considered the sleeper issue in the legal case against the ACA that ultimately made its way up to the Supreme Court. Stakeholders were closely watching issues like the constitutionality of the individual mandate, not thinking Medicaid would be significant. And yet, in a surprise decision, the Supreme Court effectively took the teeth out of one of the law's major efforts to expand health insurance, by making it illegal to penalize states for not participating in the Medicaid expansion.

The entire article is here.

Replication Crisis in Psychology Research Turns Ugly and Odd

By Tom Bartlett
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally published June 23, 2014

Another salvo was fired recently in what's become known...as "repligate."

In a blog post published last week, Timothy D. Wilson, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and the author of Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change, declared that "the field has become preoccupied with prevention and error detection--negative psychology--at the expense of exploration and discovery."

The evidence that psychology is beset with false positives is weak, according to Mr. Wilson, and he pointed instead to the danger of inept replications that serve only to damage "the reputation of the original researcher and the progression of science."

While he called for finding common ground, Mr. Wilson pretty firmly sided with those who fear that psychology's growing replication movement, which aims to challenge what some critics see as a tsunami of suspicious science, is more destructive than corrective.

Still, Mr. Wilson was polite. Daniel Gilbert, less so.

The entire article is here.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Facebook’s Unethical Experiment

It intentionally manipulated users’ emotions without their knowledge.

By Katy Waldman
Originally published on June 28, 2014

Facebook has been experimenting on us. A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that Facebook intentionally manipulated the news feeds of almost 700,000 users in order to study “emotional contagion through social networks.”

The researchers, who are affiliated with Facebook, Cornell, and the University of California–San Francisco, tested whether reducing the number of positive messages people saw made those people less likely to post positive content themselves. The same went for negative messages: Would scrubbing posts with sad or angry words from someone’s Facebook feed make that person write fewer gloomy updates?

They tweaked the algorithm by which Facebook sweeps posts into members’ news feeds, using a program to analyze whether any given textual snippet contained positive or negative words. Some people were fed primarily neutral to happy information from their friends; others, primarily neutral to sad. Then everyone’s subsequent posts were evaluated for affective meanings.

The entire story is here.

The Tragedy of Moral Licensing

A non-replication that threatens the public trust in psychology

By Rolf Degen
Google+ page
Shared publicly on May 20, 2014

Moral licensing is one of the most influential psychological effects discovered in the last decade. It refers to our increased tendency to act immorally if we have already displayed our moral righteousness. In essence, it means, that after you have done something nice, you think you have the license to do something not so nice. The effect was immediately picked up by all new psychological textbooks, portrayed repeatedly in the media, and it even got its own Wikipedia page (Do we have to take that one down?).

The entire Google+ essay is here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Calibration View of Moral Reflection

By Eric Schwitzgebel
The Splintered Mind blog
Originally posted June 23, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

As regular readers will know, Joshua Rust and I have done a number of studies -- eighteen different measures in all -- consistently finding that professors of ethics behave no morally better than do socially similar comparison groups. These findings create a challenge for what we call the booster view of philosophical moral reflection. On the booster view, philosophical moral reflection reveals moral truths, which the person is then motivated to act on, thereby becoming a better person. Versions of the booster view were common in both the Eastern and the Western philosophical traditions until the 19th century, at least as a normative aim for the discipline: From Confucius and Socrates through at least Wang Yangming and Kant, philosophy done right was held to be morally improving.

The entire blog post is here.

The Next Giant Leap in Human Evolution

The Next Giant Leap in Human Evolution will not Come from New Field Like Genetic Engineering or Artificial Intelligence

By Mark Changizi
Seed Maganize
Originally published on June 28, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

There is, however, another avenue for human evolution, one mostly unappreciated in both science and fiction. It is this unheralded mechanism that will usher in the next stage of human, giving future people exquisite powers we do not currently possess, powers worthy of natural selection itself. And, importantly, it doesn’t require us to transform into cyborgs or bio-engineered lab rats. It merely relies on our natural bodies and brains functioning as they have for millions of years.

This mystery mechanism of human transformation is neuronal recycling, coined by neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene, wherein the brain’s innate capabilities are harnessed for altogether novel functions.

This view of the future of humankind is grounded in an appreciation of the biologically innate powers bestowed upon us by hundreds of millions of years of evolution. This deep respect for our powers is sometimes lacking in the sciences, where many are taught to believe that our brains and bodies are taped-together, far-from-optimal kluges.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Lack of Material Resources Causes Harsher Moral Judgments

By Marko Pitesa and Stefan Thau
Psychological Science 
March 2014 vol. 25 no. 3 702-710


In the research presented here, we tested the idea that a lack of material resources (e.g., low income) causes people to make harsher moral judgments because a lack of material resources is associated with a lower ability to cope with the effects of others’ harmful behavior. Consistent with this idea, results from a large cross-cultural survey (Study 1) showed that both a chronic (due to low income) and a situational (due to inflation) lack of material resources were associated with harsher moral judgments. The effect of inflation was stronger for low-income individuals, whom inflation renders relatively more vulnerable. In a follow-up experiment (Study 2), we manipulated whether participants perceived themselves as lacking material resources by employing different anchors on the scale they used to report their income. The manipulation led participants in the material-resources-lacking condition to make harsher judgments of harmful, but not of nonharmful, transgressions, and this effect was explained by a sense of vulnerability. Alternative explanations were excluded. These results demonstrate a functional and contextually situated nature of moral psychology.

The entire article is here.

Embodied free will beliefs: Some effects of physical states on metaphysical opinions.

Ent, M. R., & Baumeister, R. F. (2014). Embodied free will beliefs: Some effects of physical states on metaphysical opinions. Consciousness and Cognition, 27, 147-154.


The present research suggests that people's bodily states affect their beliefs about free will. People with epilepsy and people with panic disorder, which are disorders characterized by a lack of control over one's body, reported less belief in free will compared to people without such disorders (Study 1). The more intensely people felt sexual desire, physical tiredness, and the urge to urinate, the less they believed in free will (Study 2). Among non-dieters, the more intensely they felt hunger, the less they believed in free will. However, dieters showed a trend in the opposite direction (Study 3).


A growing body of literature suggests that people’s bodily states and sensations affect how they process information (Niedenthal, Barsalou, Winkielman, Krauth-Gruber, & Ric, 2005). To date, much of the research on this topic has focused on how bodily cues activate specific responses to specific stimuli. For example, many studies have demonstrated that making approach versus avoidance arm movements can affect people’s judgments of a target stimulus (e.g., Cacioppo, Priester, & Berntson, 1993; Glenberg & Kaschak, 2002). Taking that work a bold and meaningful step further, recent work has suggested
that bodily states and sensations may also affect people’s broad, abstract views about the social world. Specifically, having a proclivity toward feeling physically disgusted has been linked to political conservatism (Inbar, Pizarro, & Bloom, 2009; Inbar, Pizarro, Iyer, & Haidt, 2011; Terrizzi, Shook, & Ventis, 2010). In the present research, we tested the hypothesis that bodily states are related to a different type of broad, abstract view: belief in free will.

Belief in free will has important behavioral consequences. People’s aggression, dishonesty, helpfulness, job performance, and conformity have all been found to be related to their beliefs about free will (Alquist & Baumeister, 2010; Baumeister, Masicampo, & DeWall, 2009; Stillman, Baumeister, & Mele, 2011; Vohs & Schooler, 2008). Therefore, the factors that shape people’s free will beliefs may have far-reaching effects. However, research about the factors that affect free will beliefs is scarce.

The entire article here, behind a paywall.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Can Classic Moral Stories Promote Honesty in Children?

K. Lee, V. Talwar, A. McCarthy, I. Ross, A. Evans, C. Arruda. Can Classic Moral Stories Promote Honesty in Children? Psychological Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0956797614536401


The classic moral stories have been used extensively to teach children about the consequences of lying and the virtue of honesty. Despite their widespread use, there is no evidence whether these stories actually promote honesty in children. This study compared the effectiveness of four classic moral stories in promoting honesty in 3- to 7-year-olds. Surprisingly, the stories of “Pinocchio” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” failed to reduce lying in children. In contrast, the apocryphal story of “George Washington and the Cherry Tree” significantly increased truth telling. Further results suggest that the reason for the difference in honesty-promoting effectiveness between the “George Washington” story and the other stories was that the former emphasizes the positive consequences of honesty, whereas the latter focus on the negative consequences of dishonesty. When the “George Washington” story was altered to focus on the negative consequences of dishonesty, it too failed to promote honesty in children.

The entire article is here.

A review of the article from ScienceDaily is here.

Multiculturalism & Comedy: If Asians Said the Stuff White People Say

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Empirical neuroenchantment: from reading minds to thinking critically

Sabrina S. Ali, Michael Lifshitz, and Amir Raz
Front. Hum. Neurosci., 27 May 2014 | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00357

While most experts agree on the limitations of neuroimaging, the unversed public—and indeed many a scholar—often valorizes brain imaging without heeding its shortcomings. Here we test the boundaries of this phenomenon, which we term neuroenchantment. How much are individuals ready to believe when encountering improbable information through the guise of neuroscience? We introduced participants to a crudely-built mock brain scanner, explaining that the machine would measure neural activity, analyze the data, and then infer the content of complex thoughts. Using a classic magic trick, we crafted an illusion whereby the imaging technology seemed to decipher the internal thoughts of participants. We found that most students—even undergraduates with advanced standing in neuroscience and psychology, who have been taught the shortcomings of neuroimaging—deemed such unlikely technology highly plausible. Our findings highlight the influence neuro-hype wields over critical thinking.

The entire article is here.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Do You Really Have Free Will?

Of course.  Here's how it evolved.

By Roy F. Baumeister
Originally published September 25, 2013

It has become fashionable to say that people have no free will. Many scientists cannot imagine how the idea of free will could be reconciled with the laws of physics and chemistry. Brain researchers say that the brain is just a bunch of nerve cells that fire as a direct result of chemical and electrical events, with no room for free will. Others note that people are unaware of some causes of their behavior, such as unconscious cues or genetic predispositions, and extrapolate to suggest that all behavior may be caused that way, so that conscious choosing is an illusion.

Scientists take delight in (and advance their careers by) claiming to have disproved conventional wisdom, and so bashing free will is appealing. But their statements against free will can be misleading and are sometimes downright mistaken, as several thoughtful critics have pointed out.

The entire article is here.

Friday, July 4, 2014

18 Things White People Should Know/Do Before Discussing Racism

By Tiffanie Drayton and Joshua McCarther
Originally posted June 12, 2014

Discussions about racism should be all-inclusive and open to people of all skin colors. However, to put it simply, sometimes White people lack the experience or education that can provide a rudimentary foundation from which a productive conversation can be built. This is not necessarily the fault of the individual, but pervasive myths and misinformation have dominated mainstream racial discourse and often times, the important issues are never highlighted. For that reason, The Frisky has decided to publish this handy list that has some basic rules and information to better prepare anyone for a worthwhile discussion about racism.

1. It is uncomfortable to talk about racism. It is more uncomfortable to live it.

2. “Colorblindness” is a cop-out. The statements “but I don’t see color” or “I never care about color” do not help to build a case against systemic racism. Try being the only White person in an environment. You will notice color then.

The rest of the article is here.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Irresponsible brains? The role of consciousness in guilt

By Neil Levy
The Conversation
Originally posted June 5, 2014

Can human beings still be held responsible in the age of neuroscience?

Some people say no: they say once we understand how the brain processes information and thereby causes behaviour, there’s nothing left over for the person to do.

This argument has not impressed philosophers, who say there doesn’t need to be anything left for the person to do in order to be responsible. People are not anything over and above the causal systems involved in information processing, we are our brains (plus some other, equally physical stuff).

The entire article is here.

Recession Linked to More Than 10,000 Suicides in North America, Europe

By Mary Elizabeth Dallas
Originally published June 12, 2014

The Great Recession that began in 2007 appears to have taken more than a financial toll: New research suggests that the economic downturn could be linked with more than 10,000 suicides across North America and Europe.

The study found that between 2008 and 2010, rates of suicide surged in the European Union, Canada and the United States. The increase was four times higher among men than women, according to the report published in the current issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What Do We Owe to Child Migrants?

By Rachel Fabi and Mohini Banerjee
Bioethics Forum
Originally posted June 26, 2014

From October 1, 2013, through June 15, 2014, more than 52,000 child migrants crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas, overwhelming the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Obama administration has declared this an “urgent humanitarian situation” and has authorized DHS to establish a Unified Coordinating Group led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide for the children’s humanitarian needs. While the recent upsurge, and the myths circulating among migrants that there is a window of opportunity for children seeking asylum (or for women with young children), have caught the attention of policy-makers and the media, a May 2014 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) concludes that this pattern of “mixed” migration, which includes children fleeing violent home countries, in addition to more typical economic migrants, began in 2009.

What do we owe these children?  What is an appropriate ethical and legal framework for exploring and articulating our obligations, both in terms of immediate humanitarian aid and beyond?

The entire article is here.

A Few Prolific Liars: Variation in the Prevalence of Lying

Serota, K., & Levine, T. (2014). A Few Prolific Liars: Variation in the Prevalence of Lying
Journal of Language and Social Psychology DOI: 10.1177/0261927X14528804


It has been commonplace in the deception literature to assert the pervasive nature of deception in communication practices. Previous studies of lie prevalence find that lying is unusual compared to honest communication. Recent research, and reanalysis of previous studies reporting the frequency of lies, shows that most people are honest most of the time and the majority of lies are told by a few prolific liars. The current article reports a statistical method for distinguishing prolific liars from everyday liars and provides a test of the few prolific liars finding by examining lying behavior in the United Kingdom. Participants (N = 2,980) were surveyed and asked to report on how often they told both little white lies and big important lies. Not surprisingly, white lies were more common than big lies. Results support and refine previous findings about the distinction between everyday and prolific liars, and implications for theory are discussed.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

An analysis of electronic health record-related patient safety concerns

By D. W. Meeks, M. W. Smith, L. Taylor and others
J Am Med Inform Assoc doi:10.1136/amiajnl-2013-002578

Here is a portion of the Discussion Section

Our findings underscore the importance of continuing the process of detecting and addressing safety concerns long after EHR implementation and ‘go-live’ has occurred. Having a mature EHR system clearly does not eliminate EHR-related safety concerns, and a majority of reported incidents were phase 1 or unsafe technology. However, few healthcare systems have robust reporting and analytic infrastructure similar to the VA's IPS. In light of increasing use of EHRs, activities to achieve a resilient EHR-enabled healthcare system should include a reporting and analysis infrastructure for EHR-related safety concerns. Proactive risk assessments to identify safety concerns, such as through the use of SAFER guides released recently by The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, can be used by healthcare organizations or EHR users to facilitate meaningful conversations and collaborative efforts with vendors to improve patient safety, including developing better and safer EHR designs.

When good people do bad things

Being in a group makes some people lose touch with their personal moral beliefs, researchers find

By Anne Trafton
MIT News
Originally posted June 12, 2014

When people get together in groups, unusual things can happen — both good and bad. Groups create important social institutions that an individual could not achieve alone, but there can be a darker side to such alliances: Belonging to a group makes people more likely to harm others outside the group.

“Although humans exhibit strong preferences for equity and moral prohibitions against harm in many contexts, people’s priorities change when there is an ‘us’ and a ‘them,’” says Rebecca Saxe, an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at MIT. “A group of people will often engage in actions that are contrary to the private moral standards of each individual in that group, sweeping otherwise decent individuals into ‘mobs’ that commit looting, vandalism, even physical brutality.”

Several factors play into this transformation. When people are in a group, they feel more anonymous, and less likely to be caught doing something wrong. They may also feel a diminished sense of personal responsibility for collective actions.

The entire article is here.