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

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

New Threats to Academic Freedom

Francesca Minerva
Bioethics, (2014): 28(4); 157–162

Here is an excerpt:

In the first few days following online publication, we were deluged with an average of 30 death threats and hate emails a day. Many blogs and online newspapers reported the news and thousands of Twitter, Facebook and Google+ users shared the links and commented on the articles.

The discussion, largely in public rather than in academic journals, did not focus exclusively on the arguments of the paper but also on the authors. Perhaps attesting to an underlying current of sexism, the personal attacks were largely directed at me: I am a young woman and young women are supposed to have babies, not to argue in favour of after-birth abortion. This disparity got to the point that some newspapers even neglected to mention that the paper was co-authored, indicating me as the only author.

The different treatment of Singer’s and Tooley’s work on the same topic on the one hand,
and our paper on the other shows how the Web has changed the way academic ideas circulate. It is useful to highlight at least three aspects of this change:

1) The Internet has significantly speeded up the dissemination of academic ideas to the general public. Up to twenty years ago, access to academic work was almost exclusively through academic books and hard copy academic journals. Nowadays, many academic  journals maintain an online version which is easily and quickly accessible. Journalists can read academic papers and write a piece for an online newspaper, which may be shared by millions of users on other websites, or Blogs, and social network sites.

The entire paper is here.

What Is Consciousness? 4 Challenges

By Jonathan Erhardt
Crucial Considerations Blog
Originally posted February 26, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Explaining the subjective character of consciousness on the other hand seems much harder. It is not clear at all that the methodology we use to solve the easy problems works to explain consciousness. After all, this inner movie is at least not obviously a function which we can describe in functional terms, the way e.g. digestion can be described in functional terms as the breaking down of food into smaller components that can more easily be absorbed and assimilated by the body. Therefore, it is not clear how we could start the inquiry to find the mechanisms which satisfy these functions. This is why Chalmers has labeled it the hard problem of consciousness.

Various explanatory strategies have been suggested, and they can be classified into several distinct groups. Here we mention only two (the others can be found in Chalmer 2012, p. 111 ff.). One type of strategy centers around the view that once we’ve explained all the functions of the brain in terms of mechanisms, we have explained everything there is to explain. Some adherents of this view deny that consciousness exists, they claim that consciousness is just an especially stubborn illusion. Others accept that consciousness exists but think it can be wholly described in terms of functional concepts, namely those describing the various brain functions, such that we can pursue the usual explanatory strategy of finding (neural) mechanisms. Another type of strategy wants to explain consciousness not by reducing it to something else, but by positing it as fundamental, alongside certain physical quantities such as perhaps mass or charge (or whatever our ultimate physical theory will posit as fundamental). On this view, a theory of consciousness posits it as fundamental and then elucidates and describes its character and how it is related to other fundamental properties.

The entire blog post is here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Opportunistic Biases: Their Origins, Effects and an Integrated Solution

Jamie DeCoster, Erin A. Sparks, Jordan C. Sparks, Glenn G. Sparks, and Cheri W. Sparks
Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning

Researchers commonly explore their data in multiple ways before choosing the analyses they will present in the final versions of their papers. While this improves the chances of finding publishable results, it introduces an “opportunistic bias,” such that the reported effects are stronger or otherwise more supportive of the researcher’s theories than they would be without the exploratory process. Scientists across many disciplines are increasing their concern about how these biases are affecting the quality of research. After discussing why this occurs, we describe the research practices that create opportunistic biases, consider the impact of opportunistic biases on scientific research, and present a multifaceted solution to ameliorate these effects.

The entire article is here.

Modernizing Human Subjects Research Protections: Informed Consent for Genetic Research

Written by Nicolle Strand
September 24, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Despite these challenges, the Commission emphasized the importance of obtaining fully informed consent from all participants. Being asked to provide informed consent about the use of their data, the Commission argued, conveys respect to participants, separate and apart from their interest in preventing the unauthorized use or disclosure of their data. In other words—there is value to informed consent in and of itself, as it respects autonomy and personhood.

The entire blog post is here.

Note: The blog posts are short.  These are excellent resources from the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

Monday, September 28, 2015

VA watchdog shelves 36,000 complaints, draws ire from whistleblowers

By Donovan Slack
Originally published September 23, 2015

The chief watchdog at the Department of Veterans Affairs investigates less than 10 percent of the nearly 40,000 complaints it receives annually about problems at the agency, even when they concern potential harm to veteran health, Deputy Inspector General Linda Halliday said Tuesday.

The Office of Inspector General, which is responsible under federal law for rooting out mismanagement and abuse at the agency, simply doesn't have the resources, Halliday said at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

"There is a serious discrepancy between the size of our workforce and the size of our workload," Halliday said. She said her office has roughly 650 professional staff members while the agency they investigate has more than 350,000 employees and a budget greater than $160 billion. "The OIG is not right-sized to respond to all the complaints that we currently receive."

The entire article is here.

Your Right to Die Isn’t Enough

By Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig
The New Republic
Originally published July 15, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Some opponents of assisted suicide legislation are concerned that, with assisted suicide on the table, exhausted doctors and cash-strapped families might coerce ill family members into taking this cheap, quick way out rather than suffering through further treatments and payments for terminal illness. Others worry that legal assisted suicide will transform culture in such a way that the option to die will eventually be interpreted as an obligation to do so after a certain point, creating a slippery slope from legal to de-facto compulsory. Still others fear that euthanasia advocates don’t appropriately take into account the possibility of spontaneous remission, and worry that readiness to end the lives of terminally ill patients would foreclose the possibility of recovery for those with the potential for it, however slim.

There is little evidence that legal euthanasia contributes to the coercion of the poor, and numbers on spontaneous remission can usually be adduced for any given terminal disease, which helps prevent the what-if objection from gaining much traction. Yet there is reason to worry about a slippery slope forming between the legal but rare option of euthanasia for the terminally ill and the haphazard elective suicide of persons with no real physical illness. At this moment, for example, a 24-year-old Belgian woman is awaiting assisted suicide for no reason other than her unhappiness. She won’t be the first: a friend of hers who also suffered from depression was euthanized for that condition less than two years ago, following in the footsteps of numerous people with sad life experiences or momentary shocks who, thanks to Belgian law, sought death instead of treatment.

The entire article is here.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Emotional and Utilitarian Appraisals of Moral Dilemmas Are Encoded in Separate Areas of the Brain

Cendri A. Hutcherson, Leila Montaser-Kouhsari, James Woodward, & Antonio Rangel
The Journal of Neuroscience, 9 September 2015, 35(36): 12593-12605
doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3402-14.2015


Moral judgment often requires making difficult tradeoffs (e.g., is it appropriate to torture to save the lives of innocents at risk?). Previous research suggests that both emotional appraisals and more deliberative utilitarian appraisals influence such judgments and that these appraisals often conflict. However, it is unclear how these different types of appraisals are represented in the brain, or how they are integrated into an overall moral judgment. We addressed these questions using an fMRI paradigm in which human subjects provide separate emotional and utilitarian appraisals for different potential actions, and then make difficult moral judgments constructed from combinations of these actions. We found that anterior cingulate, insula, and superior temporal gyrus correlated with emotional appraisals, whereas temporoparietal junction and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex correlated with utilitarian appraisals. Overall moral value judgments were represented in an anterior portion of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Critically, the pattern of responses and functional interactions between these three sets of regions are consistent with a model in which emotional and utilitarian appraisals are computed independently and in parallel, and passed to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex where they are integrated into an overall moral value judgment.

Significance statement

Popular accounts of moral judgment often describe it as a battle for control between two systems, one intuitive and emotional, the other rational and utilitarian, engaged in winner-take-all inhibitory competition. Using a novel fMRI paradigm, we identified distinct neural signatures of emotional and utilitarian appraisals and used them to test different models of how they compete for the control of moral behavior. Importantly, we find little support for competitive inhibition accounts. Instead, moral judgments resembled the architecture of simple economic choices: distinct regions represented emotional and utilitarian appraisals independently and passed this information to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex for integration into an overall moral value signal.

The entire article is here.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Morality as Cooperation: A Problem-Centred Approach

Curry, O. S. (2016). Morality as Cooperation: A Problem-Centred Approach. In T. K. Shackelford & R. D. Hansen (Eds.), The Evolution of Morality (pp. 27-51): Springer International Publishing.

Here is an excerpt:

First, the good, the bad, and the neutral. As we have seen, morality as coopera-tion predicts that people will regard specific types of cooperative behaviour—behaviour that solves some problem of cooperation—as morally good. Thus, people will regard helping your family, being loyal to your group, reciprocating favours, being brave, deferring to authority, dividing disputed resources, and respecting property, as morally good. And they will regard failing to cooperate—by neglecting your family, betraying your group, cheating, being cowardly, rebelling against  authority, being unfair, and stealing—as morally bad. The theory also predicts that behaviour that has nothing to do with cooperation—nonsocial behaviour or competition in zero-sum games (‘all’s fair in love and war’)—will be regarded as morally neutral.

Second, universality and diversity. Morality as cooperation also predicts that—because these problems are universal features of human social life—these cooperative behaviours will be considered morally good in every human culture, at all times and in all places. There will be no cultures where morality is about something other than cooperation—say, aesthetics or nutrition. And there will be no cultures where helping your family, being loyal to your group, reciprocating favours, being brave, deferring to authority, dividing disputed resources, respecting property, and so on are considered morally bad. However, the theory does not predict that moral systems will everywhere be identical. On the contrary, the prediction is that, to the extent that different people and different societies face different portfolios of prob-lems, different domains of morality will loom larger—different cultures will prioritise different moral values. For example, differences in family size, frequency of warfare, or degree of inequality may lead to differences in the importance attached to family values, bravery, and respect.

Third, uncharted territory. Morality as cooperation predicts that as yet poorly understood aspects of morality will also turn out to be about cooperation.

The entire article is here.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Effect of Probability Anchors on Moral Decision Making

By Chris Brand and Mike Oaksford


The role of probabilistic reasoning in moral decision making has seen relatively little research, despite having potentially profound consequences for our models of moral cognition. To rectify this, two experiments were undertaken in which participants were presented with moral dilemmas with additional information designed to anchor judgements about how likely the dilemma’s outcomes were. It was found that these anchoring values significantly altered how permissible the dilemmas were found when they were presented both explicitly and implicitly. This was the case even for dilemmas typically seen as eliciting deontological judgements.  Implications of this finding for cognitive models of moral decision making are discussed.

The entire research is here.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The murky morality of biobanking

By Sarah Wild
Mail & Guardian
Originally published September 6, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Yet biobanks are not mentioned in South Africa’s National Health Act of 2003, which governs human tissue usage, for therapies or research. Department of health deputy director general Terence Carter told the Mail & Guardian that workshops are planned to plug holes in the current law and regulations, and that ethicists will be included in these discussions.

This is “a scientific tissue issue, but also a major ethical issue, so we are bringing together the experts in ethics as well as cell technologies and genetics”, Carter said.

A major question in this area is the notion of consent, and what it means to give informed consent.

“Informed consent has different applications,” says the deputy dean of law at the University of South Africa, Professor Melodie Slabbert. “[You have] medical treatments on the one hand, such as between doctor and patient, and research between research participant and researcher on the other … Consent has specific legal requirements for it to be regarded lawful and valid consent.”

The entire article is here.

Why it’s time to legalise doping in athletics

By Julian Savulescu
The Conversation
Originally posted August 28, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Those athletes who are clean face a significantly doped field, and a climate of denial. They face a perverse dilemma: they must choose to either live with the disadvantage and accept the probable financial losses as a result, or to join the cheaters. If they do that, they face the risk of complete ruin as a scapegoat if they are caught. US runner Justin Gatlin, for example, has complained that previous doping bans have led to biased and unfair coverage of his performances.

It is not as though sport is somehow bereft of human struggle or magnificence. The only thing that is bad about sport today is that some athletes are getting a small advantage that others aren’t, and people are regularly getting tossed out or brought under a cloud by rules that are unfit for purpose.

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Microaggression and Moral Cultures

By Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning
Comparative Sociology 13 (2014) 692–726

Here is an except:

A culture of victimhood is one characterized by concern with status and sensitivity to slight combined with a heavy reliance on third parties. People are intolerant of insults, even if unintentional, and react by bringing them to the attention of authorities or to the public at large. Domination is the main form of deviance, and victimization a way of attracting sympathy, so rather than emphasize either their strength or inner worth, the aggrieved emphasize their oppression and social marginalization. This culture shares some characteristics and conditions with the culture of dignity out of which it evolved, and it may even be viewed as a variant of this culture. It emerges in contemporary settings, such as college campuses, that increasingly lack the intimacy and cultural homogeneity that once characterized towns and suburbs, but in which organized authority and public opinion remain as powerful sanctions. Under such conditions complaint to third parties has supplanted both toleration
and negotiation. People increasingly demand help from others, and advertise their oppression as evidence that they deserve respect and assistance. Thus we might call this moral culture a culture of victimhood because the moral status of the victim, at its nadir in honor cultures, has risen to new heights.

The culture of victimhood is currently most entrenched on college campuses, where microaggression complaints are most prevalent. Other ways of campaigning for support from third parties and emphasizing one’s own oppression – from protest demonstrations to the invented victimization of
hate-crime hoaxes – are prevalent in this setting as well.

The entire article is here.

Microaggression and Changing Moral Cultures

By Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally posted July 9, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

We can better understand complaints about microaggression and the reactions to them if we understand that each side of the debate draws from a different moral culture. Those calling attention to microaggressions have rejected the morality dominant among middle-class Americans during the 20th century — what sociologists and historians have sometimes called a dignity culture, which abhors private vengeance and encourages people to go to the police or use the courts when they are seriously harmed. Less serious offenses might be ignored, and certainly any merely verbal offense should be. Parents thus teach their children to say, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."

Microaggression complaints make clear that this is no longer settled morality. Those who see microaggressions as a serious problem and who bring up minor and unintentional slights reject the idea that words can’t hurt, that slights should be brushed off, that even overt insults should be ignored. This attitude reveals the emergence of a new moral culture, one we call victimhood culture, since it valorizes victimhood.

Microaggression complaints are just one manifestation; from the same circles of campus activists also come calls for trigger warnings to alert sensitive students to course material that might disturb them, and the creation of "safe spaces" to shield students from offensive ideas.

The entire blog post is here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Anomalies: The Endowment Effect, Loss Aversion, and Status Quo Bias

Daniel Kahneman, Jack L. Knetsch, Richard H. Thaler
The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 5(1), pp. 193-206, Winter 1991

A wine-loving economist we know purchased some nice Bordeaux wines years ago at low prices. The wines have greatly appreciated in value, so that a bottle that cost only $10 when purchased would now fetch $200 at auction. This economist now drinks some of this wine occasionally, but would neither be willing to sell the wine at the auction price nor buy an additional bottle at that price. Thaler (1980) called this pattern—the fact that people often demand much more to give up an object than they would be willing to pay to acquire it—the endowment effect. The example also illustrates what Samuelson and Zeckhauser (1988) call a status quo bias, a preference for the current state that biases the economist against both buying and selling his wine. These anomalies are a manifestation of an asymmetry of value that Kahneman and Tversky (1984) call loss aversion—the disutility of giving up an object is greater that the utility associated with acquiring it. This column documents the evidence supporting endowment effects and status quo biases, and discusses their relation to loss aversion.

The entire article is here.

Re-engineering shared decision-making

By Muriel R Gillick
J Med Ethics 2015;41:785-788


Shared decision-making is widely accepted as the gold standard of clinical care. Numerous obstacles to achieving shared decision-making have been identified, including patient factors, physician factors and systemic factors. Until now, the paradigm is seldom successfully implemented in clinical practice, raising questions about the practicality of the process recommended for its use. A re-engineered model is proposed in which physicians elicit and prioritise patients’ goals of care and then help translate those goals into treatment options, after clarifying the patient's underlying health status. Preliminary evidence suggests that each step of this revised process is feasible and that patients and physicians are comfortable with this strategy. Adoption of this model, after further testing, would allow the goal of shared decision-making to be realised.

The entire article is here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Public trust has dwindled in America with rise in income inequality

Association for Psychological Science
Originally published September 4, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Trust in others and confidence in societal institutions are at their lowest point in over three decades, analyses of national survey data reveal. The findings are forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"Compared to Americans in the 1970s-2000s, Americans in the last few years are less likely to say they can trust others, and are less likely to believe that institutions such as government, the press, religious organizations, schools, and large corporations are 'doing a good job,'" explains psychological scientist and lead researcher Jean M. Twenge of San Diego State University.

The entire article is here.

Moral Perception

By Ana P. Gantman and Jay J. Van Bavel
Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Forthcoming


Based on emerging research, we propose that human perception is preferentially attuned to moral content. We describe how moral concerns enhance detection of morally relevant stimuli, and both command and direct attention. These perceptual processes, in turn, have important consequences for moral judgment and behavior.

The entire paper isis here.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Saturday, September 19, 2015

When Bad Doctors Happen to Good Patients

By Thomas Moore and Steve Cohen
The New York Times
Originally published August 31, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

That Lavern’s Law wasn’t allowed to come up for a final vote is Albany’s shame. The greater shame is that hospitals don’t put more emphasis on patient safety. As the Lavern’s Law travesty makes clear, we need better solutions. Don’t limit what injured people may collect, and don’t make it more difficult for victims to get their cases heard. Even better for all concerned, keep the negligent act from ever happening in the first place. And there are practical ways to do that.

Doctors and hospitals must do a better job of policing themselves. Six percent of all doctors were estimated to be responsible for 58 percent of all malpractice payments between 1991 and 2005. State licensing agencies must do a much better job of keeping those worst of the worst out of hospitals. The threshold for state medical licensing agencies to initiate reviews should be reduced; in New York it takes six malpractice judgments or settlements. It should be three at most.

The entire article is here.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Devil is in the Details: How Patients' Mental Health Data is at Risk

By Farai Chideya
The Intercept
Aug. 21 2015

Here is an excerpt:

If the effort to blend the efficiency of technology with patients’ privacy needs has backfired in general health care (see “Medical Privacy Under Threat”), it is causing particular emotional and financial wounds in the world of mental health, where even a well-managed diagnosis can become a job-threatening stigma. HIPAA laws, long assumed by patients to protect their privacy, only apply in certain circumstances to certain entities. There’s a raging debate over how to regulate the new privacy issues around employee assistance plans and workplace wellness incentives. And the issue of how and when to track mental health patients has even become an issue at the U.S.-Canada border. Citing the high numbers of Americans who have experienced sexual abuse, major depression, or substance abuse, Dr. Deborah Peel, a psychiatrist who founded Patient Privacy Rights, a research and advocacy group, says, “You cannot force people to cough up information when it’s not private. They will hide it. How can we accept an electronic records system that drives people away from being open and honest?”

The entire article is here.

Are Arguments about GMO Safety Really About Something Else?

By Gregory E. Kaebnick
The Hastings Center Blog
Originally published August 28, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Saletan is trying to examine the impact of GMOs in more or less this objective way. Perhaps, however, the fiercer, dyed-in-the-wool opponents of GMOs are looking beyond health and safety, strictly construed in terms of quantifiable aspects of human well-being, to something else. One possibility is that they are indeed focused on health and safety but are put off by something about the particular form of the threat. Moral psychologists such as Paul Slovic and Daniel Kahneman have noted that the perception of a risk’s severity does not cleanly track the quantifiable outcomes. Different ways of dying may be perceived as better or worse, even though death is the measurable outcome in both cases. After September 11, 2001, air travel dropped significantly and many people who might have been expected to fly in planes, and safely reach their destinations, went by car instead and died in automobile accidents. Viewed strictly in terms of the quantifiable risk of death, the decision to go by car looks silly. But maybe, the risk assessor (and scholarly critic of risk assessment) Adam Finkel has proposed, what put people off flying was not the risk of death alone but the prospect of “death preceded by agonizing minutes of chaos and the awful opportunity of being able to contact loved ones before the grisly culmination of another’s suicide mission.”

The entire article is here.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Parenthood, the Great Moral Gamble

By Claire Creffield
Originally published August 20, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

This moral vulnerability to luck is pervasive, because nothing at all that we do as parents is fully under our control. Some people, for instance, have to do their parenting in very challenging circumstances. The parent of a child of difficult temperament, in a country whose gun laws make it easy for the mentally ill to obtain lethal weapons, is more likely than another parent to find him or herself morally implicated in murder. The essay “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” drew an enormous readership online and gave voice to the anxiety felt by parents who fear their emotionally troubled kids could become violent.

We are also vulnerable to chance in our own personalities—the good and bad traits we happen to possess, which of course affects our parenting. We have only a limited control over our characters; for some people, being a dedicated, attentive, engaged parent is just easier. That doesn’t make it wrong to praise them. It means that they are lucky enough to earn praise for good actions that come naturally to them. Others are unlucky enough to be blamed for deficits they did not choose. Of course, we can do battle with our shortcomings, and we can admire people who are good despite themselves, by a constant effort of will. But even this effort of will is something that some people are lucky enough to find easier than others. When it comes to our guilt or innocence as parents, we are at the mercy of chance.

The entire article is here.

Child euthanasia: should we just not talk about it?

By Luc Bovens
J Med Ethics 2015;41:630-634


Belgium has recently extended its euthanasia legislation to minors, making it the first legislation in the world that does not specify any age limit. I consider two strands in the opposition to this legislation. First, I identify five arguments in the public debate to the effect that euthanasia for minors is somehow worse than euthanasia for adults—viz, arguments from weightiness, capability of discernment, pressure, sensitivity and sufficient palliative care—and show that these arguments are wanting. Second, there is another position in the public debate that wishes to keep the current age restriction on the books and have ethics boards exercise discretion in euthanasia decisions for minors. I interpret this position on the background of Velleman's ‘Against the Right to Die’ and show that, although costs remain substantial, it actually can provide some qualified support against extending euthanasia legislation to minors.

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Biological Basis of Morality (part 1)

By E. O. Wilson
The Atlantic
April, 1998

Centuries of debate on the origin of ethics come down to this: Either ethical principles, such as justice and human rights, are independent of human experience, or they are human inventions. The distinction is more than an exercise for academic philosophers. The choice between these two understandings makes all the difference in the way we view ourselves as a species. It measures the authority of religion, and it determines the conduct of moral reasoning.

The two assumptions in competition are like islands in a sea of chaos, as different as life and death, matter and the void. One cannot learn which is correct by pure logic; the answer will eventually be reached through an accumulation of objective evidence. Moral reasoning, I believe, is at every level intrinsically consilient with -- compatible with, intertwined with -- the natural sciences. (I use a form of the word "consilience" -- literally a "jumping together" of knowledge as a result of the linking of facts and fact-based theory across disciplines to create a common groundwork of explanation -- because its rarity has preserved its precision.)

Every thoughtful person has an opinion on which premise is correct. But the split is not, as popularly supposed, between religious believers and secularists. It is between transcendentalists, who think that moral guidelines exist outside the human mind, and empiricists, who think them contrivances of the mind. In simplest terms, the options are as follows: I believe in the independence of moral values, whether from God or not, and I believe that moral values come from human beings alone, whether or not God exists.

Part 1 of the article is here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Explanatory Judgment, Moral Offense and Value-Free Science

By Matteo Colombo, Leandra Bucher, & Yoel Inbar
Review of Philosophy and Psychology
August 2015


A popular view in philosophy of science contends that scientific reasoning is objective to the extent that the appraisal of scientific hypotheses is not influenced by moral, political, economic, or social values, but only by the available evidence. A large body of results in the psychology of motivated-reasoning has put pressure on the empirical adequacy of this view. The present study extends this body of results by providing direct evidence that the moral offensiveness of a scientific hypothesis biases explanatory judgment along several dimensions, even when prior credence in the hypothesis is controlled for. Furthermore, it is shown that this bias is insensitive to an economic incentive to be accurate in the evaluation of the evidence. These results contribute to call into question the attainability of the ideal of a value-free science.

The entire article is here.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Record-keeping controversies: Ethical, legal, and clinical challenges

By Ken Pope
Canadian Psychology
Vol. 56(3), August 2015, 348-356


The growing array of record-keeping laws, ethical standards, and professional guidelines has created controversy and confusion. Clinicians struggle with what to leave in, what to leave out, how to handle records securely, when to respond to requests for records versus when to refuse, and so on. This article focuses on 5 challenging areas: confidentiality; informed consent; the state, the law, and legal requirements; third-parties; and the implications of research findings for record keeping. It discusses published claims, critiques, proposals for change, and research reports, particularly those of Bemister and Dobson (2011, 2012); Castonguay (2013); Christie, Bemister, and Dobson (2014); Furlong (2013); and Mills (2012). It emphasizes the potential problems with any “1 size fits all” approach and the difficulties in creating sensible regulations that do justice to the diversity of values, contexts, cultures, and theoretical orientations.

The entire article is here.

Zygmunt Bauman accused of serial ‘self-plagiarism’

By Paul Jump
Times Higher Education
Originally published August 20, 2015

Here are two excerpts:

Last year, Times Higher Education reported allegations that Zygmunt Bauman, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Leeds and often hailed as the world’s greatest living sociologist, had included several unacknowledged passages in his 2013 book Does the Richness of the Few Benefit Us All? that were near-exact quotations from Wikipedia and other web resources. The book also allegedly included numerous passages from previous works written by Professor Bauman “without appropriate attribution”.


They acknowledge that some academics do not regard self-plagiarism as a serious issue. But “by failing to indicate that substantial parts of his newly authored works are not in fact new, in any conventional sense of the term, but are instead copied from his earlier works, Bauman deceives his readers”, they say.

Both Professor Bauman and Polity, the publisher of many of his most recent books, declined to comment.

Irene Hames, an editorial and publishing consultant and a former journal editor and council member of the Committee on Publication Ethics, said that self-plagiarism – she preferred to call it “recycling” – was “a topic of considerable current discussion, confusion and varying viewpoints”.

The entire article is here.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Beyond the APA: The Role of Psychology Boards and State Courts in Propping up Torture

By Deborah Popowski
Just Security
Originally posted August 24, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Licensing boards are legally mandated to protect people from the unsafe practice of psychology. This includes patients, all people with whom psychologists work, and the broader public. Yet, presented with evidence that their licensees had participated in or enabled torture, these state boards seemed to turn a blind eye. To truly understand how a profession dedicated to healing came to sanction brutality, we need a full investigation into how and why these boards dismissed misconduct complaints against psychologists James Mitchell, John Leso, Larry James, and Diane Zierhoffer. Did the state boards handle these complaints properly and in good faith, or did they, like the APA, strain their reading of the law to reach conclusions that would not restrict the government’s interrogation program — even if it included torture and cruelty? To what extent did they rely on compromised APA ethics policies and the now-discredited officials responsible for them?

The entire article is here.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Ethics of Creating Artificial Consciousness

By John Basl
Northeastern University


The purpose of this essay is to raise the prospect that engaging in artificial consciousness research, research that aims to create artifactual entities with conscious states of certain kinds, might be unethical on grounds that it wrongs or will very likely wrong the subjects of such research. I say might be unethical because, in the end, it will depend on how those entities are created and how they are likely to be treated. This essay is meant to be a starting point in thinking about the ethics of artificial consciousness research ethics, not, by any means, the final word on such matters. While the ethics of the creation and proliferation of artificial intelligences and artificial consciousnesses (see, for example, (Chalmers 2010) has often been explored both in academic settings and in popular media and literature, those discussions tend to focus on the consequences for humans or, at most, the potential rights of machines that are very much like us. However, the subjects of artificial consciousness research, at least those subjects that end up being conscious in particular ways, are research subjects in the way that sentient non-human animals or human subjects are research subjects and so should be afforded appropriate protections. Therefore, it is important to ask not only whether artificial consciousnesses that are integrated into our society should be afforded moral and legal protections and whether they are a risk to our safety or existence, but whether the predecessors to such consciousnesses are wronged in their creation or in the research involving them.

The entire article is here.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Safeguarding choice at the end of life

By Dominic Wilkinson
J Med Ethics 2015;41:575-576

Across the world, in countries with permissive or restrictive existing legislation, debates about Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide (EAS) continue to grip politicians, ethicists, physicians and the wider public.

Early debates about EAS focused on whether it could ever be ethical for a physician to actively cause the death of a patient. However, most contemporary writers, including most of the contributors to this special double issue of the JME appear to accept that such actions could, in some circumstances, be ethical. Current debate is mostly focused instead on which actions are permissible, when they are permissible, and what safeguards are necessary to protect the vulnerable.

There are two separate justifications for EAS. The first of these is based on the autonomy of competent patients, on their right to make important decisions about their own lives. Arguably, a decision about continuing or not continuing your life in the face of severe suffering is the most important decision that you could make. Correspondingly, we have strong autonomy based reasons for permitting that choice. (While some Kantians might claim that a decision to die, and thereby to end one's autonomous agency could not be compatible with autonomy and dignity, Michael Cholbi points out (see page 607) that a sophisticated Kantian position on EAS is neither completely restrictive nor permissive). The second justification for EAS is based on the interests of a patient, and a concern that continued life for some individuals may be so extraordinarily and intensely unpleasant that it would be better for them to die.

The entire article is here.

Moral Panic: Who Benefits From Public Fear?

By Scott Bohn
Psychology Today Blog
Originally published July 20, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Moral panics arise when distorted mass media campaigns are used to create fear, reinforce stereotypes and exacerbate pre-existing divisions in the world, often based on race, ethnicity and social class.

Additionally, moral panics have three distinguishing characteristics.  First, there is a focused attention on the behavior, whether real or imagined, of certain individuals or groups that are transformed into what Cohen referred to as “folk devils” by the mass media. This is accomplished when the media strip these folk devils of all favorable characteristics and apply exclusively negative ones.

Second, there is a gap between the concern over a condition and the objective threat it poses. Typically, the objective threat is far less than popularly perceived due to how it is presented by authorities.

Third, there is a great deal of fluctuation over time in the level of concern over a condition. The typical pattern begins with the discovery of the threat, followed by a rapid rise and then peak in public concern, which then subsequently, and often abruptly, subsides.

Finally, public hysteria over a perceived problem often results in the passing of legislation that is highly punitive, unnecessary, and serves to justify the agendas of those in positions of power and authority.

The entire article is here.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Law and Ethics

Richard Marshall interviews Matthew Kramer
3:AM Magazine
Originally published on August 22, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

3:AM: If capital punishment is a central contemporary issue so is the use of torture. Why do you argue that torture is always wrong?

MK: There is no single answer to that question, because there are many different types of torture, and the explanation of the wrongness of torture is not uniform across those types. (When I refer to the sundry types of torture, I am not differentiating among them on the basis of the techniques employed; rather, I am differentiating among them with regard to the chief purposes for which torture is undertaken.) Let me say a bit here about the most frequently discussed type, interrogational torture. My 2014 book Torture and Moral Integrity maintains that such torture is always and everywhere morally wrong. The gravity of the wrong varies, but the wrongness itself does not. Hence, it should be apparent that that book is as robustly deontological as any of my previous volumes. (“Robustly deontological” is definitely not equivalent to “robustly Kantian.” My book on torture contains numerous objections to Kantianism as well as to consequentialism.)

Interrogational torture involves the deliberate infliction of severe pain for the purpose of extracting information from someone (either from the person on whom the pain is directly inflicted or from someone who is likely to care deeply about that person). The deliberate infliction of severe pain for that purpose is always morally wrong because of the overweeningness of the control exerted both through the infliction itself and through the aim which it is undertaken to achieve. The overweeningness of the control exerted by the infliction itself has been brought out especially incisively in recent years by David Sussman, and the overweeningness of the aim pursued has been brought out especially incisively in recent years by David Luban. Hence, I draw upon their writings as well as those of many other philosophers in my ruminations on torture.

The entire interview is here.

A tale of vigilante justice

Adulterers, hackers, and the Ashley Madison affair

By Russell Blackford
The Conversation
Originally published on August 23, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Whatever you think about adulterous liaisons – even if you regard them as outrageous, destructive, morally wicked breaches of trust – this sort of vigilante justice is unacceptable. When vigilantes set out to punish sinners or wrongdoers, the results can be perverse, disproportionate, sometimes extreme and often irreversible. Even the supposed victims of wrongdoers may end up worse off.

It is difficult enough to judge the wisdom of revealing an adulterous affair to an affected individual when the facts are fairly clear and the consequences are possibly manageable. Indiscriminately letting loose this kind of data, affecting millions of personal situations, is atrociously arrogant and callous.

I’m sure that customers signed up to Ashley Madison for a wide range of reasons. Some may have done little or nothing wrong, even by conventional standards of sexual morality, but will now be held up for public shaming. Some may have been sufficiently interested in a phenomenon such as Ashley Madison to want to research it from the inside. Many may simply have been curious.

Others may have toyed with the idea of an affair, but not in a serious way – they may have been driven by their curiosity and other emotions to browse the site, but gone no further. Some may have been in open relationships of one kind or another: but even so, they could be embarrassed, shamed and otherwise harmed by revelations about their memberships.

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

How can healthcare professionals better manage their unconscious racial bias?

By April Dembosky
MedCity News
Originally published August 21, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Racial Disparity In Medical Treatment Persists

Even as the health of Americans has improved, the disparities in treatment and outcomes between white patients and black and Latino patients are almost as big as they were 50 years ago.

A growing body of research suggests that doctors’ unconscious behavior plays a role in these statistics, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences has called for more studies looking at discrimination and prejudice in health care.

For example, several studies show that African-American patients are often prescribed less pain medication than white patients with the same complaints. Black patients with chest pain are referred for advanced cardiac care less often than white patients with identical symptoms.

Doctors, nurses and other health workers don’t mean to treat people differently, says Howard Ross, founder of management consulting firm Cook Ross, who has worked with many groups on diversity issues. But all these professionals harbor stereotypes that they’re not aware they have, he says. Everybody does.

The entire article is here.

Can generosity go too far?

By Julian Baggini
The New Statesman
Originally published on August 21, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

We have heard so many stories of misguided projects and misspent money over the years that surely the time has come to demand evidence that the charities we ­support are effective. But how do you measure whether a charity is effective? One answer would be to apply two tests: does it achieve its stated goal and does it do so as cost-efficiently as it can? A charity such as Guide Dogs might pass this test. But for effective altruists, in deciding whether to give to Guide Dogs, you ought to ask another question: could you get more altruistic bang for your buck by giving to something completely different instead?

They say you can. Guide Dogs UK says it costs £32,400 to train a guide dog and its owner and then another £12,800 “to support the working partnership”. In contrast, Singer says you can save someone from going blind in the developing world for between $20 and $100. “If you do the maths,” he writes, “you will see that the choice we face is to provide one person with a guide dog or prevent anywhere between 400 and 2,000 cases of blindness.”

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Doctors Behaving Badly

By Roni Caryn Rabin
The New York Times - Well
Originally published

Here is an excerpt:

Nancy Berlinger, a scholar at The Hastings Center who writes about ethical challenges in health care as well as issues of power between junior and senior clinicians, disagrees. “Doctors must be respectful even if a patient is sedated,” she said. And in these cases, she said, the supervising physicians also did harm to the medical students they were responsible for training and mentoring.

“This is the worst thing a role model can do: to suggest that wrong behavior is acceptable, to nudge junior people to be callous and to misuse power,” Dr. Berlinger said. In both cases, the senior doctors made a trainee student complicit in their abuse and “made them feel dirty at an early stage of their careers.”

The entire article is here.

Feds oppose UO for releasing alleged gang-rape victim's therapy records

By Richard Read
The Oregonian
Originally published August 20, 2015

A federal official advised universities this week to not share a student's medical records without written consent, contradicting the University of Oregon's release of an alleged gang-rape victim's therapy records to the school's lawyers.

The six-page draft letter from Kathleen Styles, the U.S. Education Department's chief privacy officer, was issued this week after repeated inquiries by The Oregonian/Oregonlive and members of Oregon's congressional delegation.

In effect, the letter steamrolls a UO Counseling Center confidentiality policy weakened in March by center director Shelly Kerr, clinical director Joseph DeWitz and university associate general counsel Samantha Hill. The Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners is investigating four UO psychologists, including the two center managers, after Kerr secretly gave the woman's records to university attorneys in December without seeking her permission or notifying her therapist, Jennifer Morlok.

The entire article is here.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Science Isn’t Broken

By Christine Aschwanden
Originally published August 19, 2015

If you follow the headlines, your confidence in science may have taken a hit lately.

Peer review? More like self-review. An investigation in November uncovered a scam in which researchers were rubber-stamping their own work, circumventing peer review at five high-profile publishers.

Scientific journals? Not exactly a badge of legitimacy, given that the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology recently accepted for publication a paper titled “Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List,” whose text was nothing more than those seven words, repeated over and over for 10 pages. Two other journals allowed an engineer posing as Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel to publish a paper, “Fuzzy, Homogeneous Configurations.”

The entire article is here.

How to Know Whether to Believe a Health Study

By Austin Frakt
The New York Times - The Upshot
Originally posted on August 17, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Unfortunately, there’s no substitute for careful examination of studies by experts. Yet, if you’re not an expert, you can do a few simple things to become a more savvy consumer of research. First, if the study examined the effects of a therapy only on animals or in a test tube, we have very limited insight into how it will actually work in humans. You should take any claims about effects on people with more than a grain of salt. Next, for studies involving humans, ask yourself: What method did the researchers use? How similar am I to the people it examined?

Sure, there are many other important questions to ask about a study — for instance, did it examine harms as well as benefits? But just assessing the basis for what researchers call “causal claims” — X leads to or causes Y — and how similar you are to study subjects will go a long way toward unlocking its credibility and relevance to you.

The entire article is here.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

How to influence the right corporate culture in your business (and why it matters)

By Rick Spence
Financial Post
Originally published on August 17

Here is an excerpt:

A culture not built on authenticity is an illusion. But there are many things a good boss can do to influence development of the right culture:

  • Live the values you set for the company. If you want honesty, courage, creativity and collaboration, demonstrate those traits every day. Make sure your entire leadership team follows suit. Employees will sense – and resent – hypocrisy.
  • Make sure HR and/or your hiring managers understand and reinforce the culture you’re trying to create. Develop interview tools that identify candidates with desired characteristics. Weed out employees who don’t share these values. When employees see you tolerating people who don’t honor the culture, they will conclude that it’s not that important to you.
  • Identify other organizations with cultures similar to the culture you wish to build (e.g., Design = Apple; Innovation = Google, Happiness = Zappos). Communicate regularly with your staff to show how those companies build, maintain and benefit from their unique cultures.
  • Take every opportunity to restate your company’s values. If your employees can’t explain their culture using the same words you do, you’re not there yet.
  • Conduct regular satisfaction surveys to measure how engaged your employees feel with the culture.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Singularitarians, AItheists, and Why the Problem with Artificial Intelligence is Humanity At Large

By Luciano Floridi
The American Philosophical Association Newsletter
Spring 2015, Volume 14, Number 2, pp 8-11.

Here is an excerpt:

The success of our technologies largely depends on the fact that, while we were speculating about the possibility of true AI, we increasingly enveloped the world in so many devices, applications, and data that it became an IT-friendly environment, where technologies can replace us without having any understanding or semantic skills. Memory (as in algorithms and immense datasets) outperforms intelligence when landing an aircraft, finding the fastest route from home to the office, or discovering the best price for your next fridge. The BBC has made a two-minutes short animation to introduce the idea of a fourth revolution that is worth watching.  Unfortunately, like John Searle, it made a mistake in the end, equating “better at accomplishing tasks” with “better at thinking.” I never argued that digital technologies think better than us, but that they can do more and more things better than us by processing increasing amounts of data. What’s the difference? The same as between you and the dishwasher when washing the dishes. What’s the consequence? That any apocalyptic vision of AI is just silly. The serious risk is not the appearance of some superintelligence, but that we may misuse our digital technologies, to the detriment of a large percentage of humanity and the whole planet. We are and shall remain for the foreseeable future the problem, not our technology. We should be worried about real human stupidity, not imaginary artificial intelligence. The problem is not HAL but H.A.L., Humanity At Large.

The entire article is here.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Neurodegeneration and Identity

Nina Strohminger and Shaun Nichols
Psychological Science Online First, published on August 12, 2015


There is a widespread notion, both within the sciences and among the general public, that mental deterioration can rob individuals of their identity. Yet there have been no systematic investigations of what types of cognitive damage lead people to appear to no longer be themselves. We measured perceived identity change in patients with three kinds of neurodegenerative disease: frontotemporal dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Structural equation models revealed that injury to the moral faculty plays the primary role in identity discontinuity. Other cognitive deficits, including amnesia, have no measurable impact on identity persistence. Accordingly, frontotemporal dementia has the greatest effect on perceived identity, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has the least. We further demonstrated that perceived identity change fully mediates the impact of neurodegenerative disease on relationship deterioration between patient and caregiver. Our results mark a departure from theories that ground personal identity in memory, distinctiveness, dispositional emotion, or global mental function.

The entire article is here.

Memory and Morality: What Determines How Others See Us?

By Kathleen Lees
Science World Report
Originally published August 17, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Statistical models also showed that perceived identity change was strongly linked with change in moral traits, with close to no other symptom, including depression, amnesia, and changes in personality traits, holding observable impact on perceived identity change.

Furthermore, the researchers based the degree of perceived identity change on how much they felt their relationship with the patient had deteriorated, as well as the association that was driven by the degree of change in the patient's moral traits.

Researchers also found that the degree of perceived identity change was associated with how much the participants thought their relationship with the patient had deteriorated, and this association was driven by the degree of change in the patient's moral traits.

The entire article is here.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Blaming Mental Illness for Gun Violence

BY Alex Yablon
The Trace
Originally posted September 1, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Add it all up, and the “mental health” post-shooting playbook looks as calculated to ensure political inaction as it is the appearance of sensitivity. The general public would hardly disagree with statements by Trump, Bush, and others that the severely mentally ill pose a danger; in fact, surveys show that more Americans blame failures of the mental health system for mass shootings than any other factor. Meanwhile the Republican base — not to mention mental health professionals — would hardly countenance any action to expand the reach of background checks to block gun purchases by people with personality disorders or other mental health issues that are not quite so debilitating as conditions that require hospitalization, like schizophrenia or psychosis. So politicians can make statements like “The common thread we see in many of these cases is a failure in the system to help someone who is suffering from mental illness” (Scott Walker, the day after the WDBJ shooting), knowing full well they will not result in any action that could anger their pro-gun supporters.

In fact, framing incidents of gun violence as the product of unsettled perpetrators, versus firearms risks, may influence support for given solutions among the general public. An NPR article published on August 31 describes a psychiatric study in which two groups of subjects were given hypothetical news articles about a mass shooting, slightly altered to emphasize different underlying causes. Readers of the version emphasizing the need to “keep dangerous guns off our streets” were more likely to support limits on gun magazine capacity.

The irony of the psychiatric turn in debate on new gun law is that, for the most part, a body of research shows the severely mentally ill are among the least of our worries when it comes to violent crime, especially when compared to other risk factors. Alcohol, for example, is a factor in 40 percent of all violent acts committed in the United States today, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

The entire article is here.

The full title is: The Political Strategy Behind the GOP’s Post-Shooting ‘Mental Health’ Playbook

How the Brain Changes Its Mind

Emily Falk discusses concealed knowledge in the brain that can help predict what types of messages will be most effective in helping people change their behavior and reach their goals.

Note: This video describes an important method regarding how psychologists need to communicate to patients in order to enhance behavioral change.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Quebec doctors to get standard euthanasia kits

Sharon Kirkey
The Montreal Gazette
Published on 08.27.2015

Quebec doctors will soon be given standardized kits with which to end the lives of patients seeking euthanasia — including drugs to calm the nerves and stop the breathing  — along with detailed instructions as the province prepares to usher in legalized aid in dying.

The Collège des médecins du Québec has developed a new guideline for doctors unlike any in the history of Canadian medicine: a step-by-step guide to follow before, during and after administering euthanasia to an eligible patient, including the type of drugs to be used, the dose, the injection site and what to do in the event of complications.

The guideline, which was developed in collaboration with the Order of Pharmacists of Quebec and the Order of Nurses of Quebec, will be available to doctors, nurses and other health professionals on a secure area of the college’s website. “We don’t want these recipes made too easily available to everyone,” college secretary Dr. Yves Robert told the Post.

In December, Quebec will become the first jurisdiction in the country to allow competent adults experiencing intolerable suffering at the end of life to request “medical aid in dying.”

The entire article is here.

Antidepressants Make it Harder to Empathize, Harder to Climax, and Harder to Cry

Big Think
Published on Apr 7, 2015

Dr. Julie Holland argues that women are designed by nature to be dynamic and sensitive – women are moody and that is a good thing. Yet millions of women are medicating away their emotions because we are out of sync with our own bodies and we are told that moodiness is a problem to be fixed. One in four women takes a psychiatric drug. If you add sleeping pills to the mix the statistics become higher. Overprescribed medications can have far-reaching consequences for women in many areas of our lives: sex, relationships, sleep, eating, focus, balance, and aging. Dr. Holland's newest book is titled Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having and What’s Really Making You Crazy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The moral naivete of ethics by numbers

By Susan Dwyer
Aljazeera America
Originally posted August 13, 2015

What do bioethicists do? According to a recent Boston Globe op-ed by the Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, they needlessly get in the way of saving and improving human lives by throwing up ethical red tape and slowing the speed of research, and in so doing, they undermine their right to call themselves ethicists at all.

In principle, it is correct that if 250,000 people die each year of a disease that is potentially treatable, the cost of every year’s delay in research is 250,000 lives. And it is certainly terrible to lose so many people to unnecessary delays. But Pinker doesn’t cite a single specific example in which bioethical scrutiny has produced such a result. Certainly, the withholding of experimental drugs has cost lives; for example, ZMapp, an experimental drug to treat Ebola, was not readily available to people in several African nations who were dying of the disease. Yet there was little of the drug on hand, in any case. But the problem here was not ethical red tape; it was the underfunding of research to treat “exotic” infectious disease.

The entire article is here.

Role of self-control failure in immoral and unethical actions

Roy F Baumeister and Nawal G Alghamdi
Current Opinion in Psychology
Volume 6, December 2015, Pages 66–69

Moral virtue depends on self-control to override immoral impulses, so self-control failure can impair moral action. We discuss three components of self-control and how failure of any component can affect moral behavior. Lack of clear standards and lack of commitment to standards deprives the individual of clear inner guidance. Failure to monitor one's actions, as when self-awareness is low such as due to emotion or alcohol, deprives the individual of the ability to know whether behavior conforms to moral standards. Ego depletion signifies inadequate willpower to make oneself do what is right. Evidence supports these hypotheses but more is needed.


• Self-control underpins moral action.
• Unethical actions often reflect failure of self-control.
• Failures of self-control can be caused by unclear or conflicting standards, by failure to monitor relevant actions, and by ego depletion (loss of capacity to alter actions).

The article is here.