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

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

Monday, October 31, 2016

Treatment of Deaf Clients: Ethical Considerations for Professionals in Psychology

Cassandra L. Boness
Ethics & Behavior-Volume 26, 2016 - Issue 7


Providing therapy to deaf clients raises important ethical considerations for psychologists related to competence; multiple relationships and boundary issues; confidentiality; assessment, diagnosis, and evaluation; and communication and using interpreters. In evaluating and addressing these, psychologists must consider the American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code and other relevant issues (e.g., Americans with Disabilities Act) necessary to provide ethical treatment. The current article provides background, ethical considerations, principles and standards relevant to the treatment of deaf clients, and recommendations to support psychologists, training programs, and the field. Psychologists have the responsibility to guarantee that the benefits of mental health treatment are fairly and justly provided to this traditionally underserved population.

The article is here.

A Plan To Defend Against the War on Science

By Shawn Otto
Scientific American
Originally published October 9, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

In the years since, the situation has gotten worse. We’ve seen the emergence of a “post-fact” politics, which has normalized the denial of scientific evidence that conflicts with the political, religious or economic agendas of authority. Much of this denial centers, now somewhat predictably, around climate change—but not all. If there is a single factor to consider as a barometer that evokes all others in this election, it is the candidates’ attitudes toward science.

Consider, for example, what has been occurring in Congress. Rep. Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, is a climate change denier. Smith has used his post to initiate a series of McCarthy-style witch-hunts, issuing subpoenas and demanding private correspondence and testimony from scientists, civil servants, government science agencies, attorneys general and nonprofit organizations whose work shows that global warming is happening, humans are causing it and that—surprise—energy companies sought to sow doubt about this fact.

The article is here.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The ethics of animal research: a survey of the public and scientists in North America

Ari R. Joffe, Meredith Bara, Natalie Anton and Nathan Nobis
BMC Medical Ethics
BMC series – open, inclusive and trusted 2016


To determine whether the public and scientists consider common arguments (and counterarguments) in support (or not) of animal research (AR) convincing.


After validation, the survey was sent to samples of public (Sampling Survey International (SSI; Canadian), Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT; US), a Canadian city festival and children’s hospital), medical students (two second-year classes), and scientists (corresponding authors, and academic pediatricians). We presented questions about common arguments (with their counterarguments) to justify the moral permissibility (or not) of AR. Responses were compared using Chi-square with Bonferonni correction.


There were 1220 public [SSI, n = 586; AMT, n = 439; Festival, n = 195; Hospital n = 107], 194/331 (59 %) medical student, and 19/319 (6 %) scientist [too few to report] responses. Most public respondents were <45 years (65 %), had some College/University education (83 %), and had never done AR (92 %). Most public and medical student respondents considered ‘benefits arguments’ sufficient to justify AR; however, most acknowledged that counterarguments suggesting alternative research methods may be available, or that it is unclear why the same ‘benefits arguments’ do not apply to using humans in research, significantly weakened ‘benefits arguments’. Almost all were not convinced of the moral permissibility of AR by ‘characteristics of non-human-animals arguments’, including that non-human-animals are not sentient, or are property. Most were not convinced of the moral permissibility of AR by ‘human exceptionalism’ arguments, including that humans have more advanced mental abilities, are of a special ‘kind’, can enter social contracts, or face a ‘lifeboat situation’. Counterarguments explained much of this, including that not all humans have these more advanced abilities [‘argument from species overlap’], and that the notion of ‘kind’ is arbitrary [e.g., why are we not of the ‘kind’ ‘sentient-animal’ or ‘subject-of-a-life’?]. Medical students were more supportive (80 %) of AR at the end of the survey (p < 0.05).


Responses suggest that support for AR may not be based on cogent philosophical rationales, and more open debate is warranted.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Genome Editing: An Ethical Review

Nuffield Council on Bioethics
Published September 2016

This review considers the impact of recent advances in genome editing, which have diffused rapidly across many fields of biological research, and the range of ethical questions to which they give rise. It was carried out by an interdisciplinary Working Group that included expertise in science, law, philosophy, ethics, sociology and industry. In coming to its conclusions, the Working Group invited contributions from a wide range of people, including through an open call for evidence that ran from November 2015 until February 2016.

The review sets out our preliminary findings on the impact of genome editing across different areas of biological research and applications, and the range of questions to which this gives rise.

Read on:

  • Genome editing in brief: what, why and how?
  • The context of genome editing
  • Moral perspectives
  • Human health
  • Food
  • Wildlife and ecosystems
  • Other applications: industrial, military and amateur use
  • Conclusions

The next stages of this programme of work will focus on examining and addressing the ethical and practical questions arising in two contexts where genome editing may have a significant impact: firstly, the avoidance of genetic disease and, secondly, livestock farming. Reports on each of these two areas, with recommendations for policy and practice, will be published in 2017.

The full resource can be downloaded here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

How Large Is the Role of Emotion in Judgments of Moral Dilemmas?

Zachary Horne and Derek Powell
Originally published: July 6, 2016


Moral dilemmas often pose dramatic and gut-wrenching emotional choices. It is now widely accepted that emotions are not simply experienced alongside people’s judgments about moral dilemmas, but that our affective processes play a central role in determining those judgments. However, much of the evidence purporting to demonstrate the connection between people’s emotional responses and their judgments about moral dilemmas has recently been called into question. In the present studies, we reexamined the role of emotion in people’s judgments about moral dilemmas using a validated self-report measure of emotion. We measured participants’ specific emotional responses to moral dilemmas and, although we found that moral dilemmas evoked strong emotional responses, we found that these responses were only weakly correlated with participants’ moral judgments. We argue that the purportedly strong connection between emotion and judgments of moral dilemmas may have been overestimated.

The article is here.

Is “Allison” more likely than “Lakisha” to get a call back from counseling professionals: A racism audit study.

Shin, R. Q., Smith, L.C., Welch, J., Ezeofor, I. (in press).
The Counseling Psychologist


Using an audit study, we studied racially biased call back responses in the mental health field by leaving voicemails soliciting services with practicing counselors and psychologists (N = 371). To manipulate perceived race, an actor identified herself with either a Black or White sounding name. While the difference in callback rate between the two names was not significant, the difference in voice messages from therapists that either promoted potential services or impeded services was significant. The caller with the White-sounding name received voice messages that promoted the potential for services at a 12% higher rate than the caller with the Black sounding name. Limitations, future directions for research, and counseling implications are discussed.

A review of the article is here.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sex and Other Sins: Public Morality, Public Health, and Funding PrEP

Guest Post by Nathan Emmerich
BMJ Blogs
Originally posted October 5, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Consider the following thought experiments. Imagine a drug that could be taken to significantly lessen the risk that a smoker would develop lung cancer, or a drug that would lessen the risk of ‘at risk’ individuals developing diabetes. In such cases would we be inclined to refuse public funds for such drugs merely because such individuals could lessen their risks even more by giving up smoking, or by losing weight and eating a healthy or, at least, healthier diet?

There is, certainly, something regrettable about having to spend public money on a drug that offsets risks generated by an individual’s own behaviour. Nevertheless, from an epidemiological – and therefore public health – perspective, the notion that an individual makes a choice about whether or not to smoke, or to have a bad diet, is too simplistic, even when we place the issue of addiction to one side. Thus, even when smoking cessation programmes are available and even when nutritional advice is within easy reach (as it increasingly is), plenty of people still smoke and consume a less than healthy diet.

Smoking and bad diets are correlated with a variety of demographic factors, and our choices are always made within particular cultural and socio-political contexts. Even so, some have questioned if the NHS should be funding stomach-stapling operations for those who are overweight, or if smokers and non-smokers can expect to receive the same level of treatment and care.

The entire blog post is here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

7 Ways We Know Systemic Racism Is Real


Here is an excerpt:

Racism at Every Level of Society

Systemic racism is about the way racism is built right into every level of our society. Many people point to what they see as less in-your-face prejudice and bias these days, compared to decades past, but as Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

While fewer people may consider themselves racist, racism itself persists in our schools, offices, court system, police departments, and elsewhere. Think about it: when white people occupy most positions of decision-making power, people of color have a difficult time getting a fair shake, let alone getting ahead. Bottom line: we have a lot of work to do.

The blog post is here.

Ethics of Coercive Treatment and Misuse of Psychiatry

Tilman Steinert
Psychiatric Services


The author discusses a pragmatic approach to decisions about coercive treatment that is based on four principles from principle-based ethics: respect for autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice. This approach can reconcile psychiatry’s perspective with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. Coercive treatment can be justified only when a patient’s capacity to consent is substantially impaired and severe danger to health or life cannot be prevented by less intrusive means. In this case, withholding treatment can violate the principle of justice. In the case of danger to others, social exclusion and loss of freedom can be seen as harming psychosocial health, which can justify coercive treatment. Considerable efforts are required to support patients’ informed decisions and avoid allowing others to make substitute decisions. Mental disorder alone without impaired capacity does not justify involuntary treatment, which can be considered a misuse of psychiatry. Involuntary detention without treatment can be justified for short periods for assessment and to offer treatment options.

The article is here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Leadership Blind Spots at Wells Fargo

By Susan M. Ochs
Harvard Business Review
Originally posted October 06, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

This leadership blind spot is the result of misguided reverence for their culture and its ability to inoculate the bank from systemic problems. It represents a governance breakdown of the highest order for executives and board members. But it appears that some red flags never even reached them: Investigations revealed the bank has ignored, discouraged, and even fired employees who tried to voice concerns about the intimidating culture and unethical practices.

In the worst cases, whistleblowers claim they were fired after reporting violations to the bank’s ethics hotline or trying to alert supervisors to illegal behavior.  Concerns raised by other employees were reportedly ignored, including an alleged email sent to Stumpf directly, and a petition, signed by 5,000 colleagues, that sought to lower sales quotas and combat unethical conduct. Stumpf called the firings “regrettable” and assured Congress that the bank has a policy of non-retaliation against whistleblowers.

But the damage goes beyond the employees who were terminated — it sends a signal to everyone else that they should keep quiet. At best, problem-raisers will be ignored; at worst, they will lose their jobs. Why risk it? If the bank doesn’t care, why should they?

The article is here.

Dear Donald Trump: I treat combat veterans with PTSD, and they are not weak

Joan Cook
The Conversation
Originally published October 5, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Combat trauma is a powerful predictor for a number of mental health problems. PTSD is, of course, the most notable consequence, but veterans who have served in war zones also suffer alarming rates of depression, anxiety and substance abuse. And in recent years, the high suicide rates among U.S. service members have soared to an estimated 22 dying by their own hand each day.

If knowing that isn’t enough to make most Americans – including you – hang their heads, pause in appreciation and potentially cry, I’m not sure what would.

Sadly, veterans with PTSD also have what health care professionals call a “reduced quality of life.” They go to work less and use more health care services.

Unless treated, PTSD typically runs a chronic course and haunts a person for many years or decades. Thus, the substantial burden of PTSD is not just on a veteran’s back, but on their families, their communities and society as well.

The article is here.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Should doctors have the legal right to refuse care?

By Lisa Rapaport
Reuters Health
Originally published October 5, 2016

Physicians shouldn’t have the legal right to act as conscientious objectors and refuse to provide services like abortion or assisted suicide even when these things conflict with their personal values, some doctors argue.

That’s because access to care should take priority, and conscientious objectors may make it more difficult for patients to get treatment they need, Dr. Julian Savulescu of the University of Oxford in the U.K. and Udo Schuklenk of Queens University in Ontario, Canada, argue in an article in the journal Bioethics.

They make their case as a growing number of countries worldwide are grappling with how much autonomy to give patients and doctors to make decisions about care at the very beginning and end of life, particularly in an era when new technology and social media keep pushing the boundaries of long-held personal and religious beliefs.

The article is here.

Are Biases Hurting Your Health?

By Stacey Colino
US New and World Report
Originally published October 5, 2016

It's human nature to have cognitive biases. These tendencies to think in certain ways or process information by filtering it through your personal preferences, beliefs and experiences are normal, but they can offer a skewed perspective.

"We all have these biases – they are the lenses through which we process information and they are a necessary part of the information-selection process," says Mark Reinecke, professor and chief psychologist at Northwestern University and Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Even physicians and mental health professionals have cognitive biases when making decisions for their own health and while treating patients.

Meanwhile, certain subtle mental biases can affect the health choices you make on a daily basis – often without your realizing it. This can include everything from the dietary and physical activity choices you make to the screening tests you choose to the medications you take. Sometimes these biases are harmless while other times they could be problematic.

The article is here.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Preferences and beliefs in ingroup favoritism

Jim A. C. Everett, Nadira S. Faber, and Molly Crockett
Front. Behav. Neurosci., 13 February 2015

Ingroup favoritism—the tendency to favor members of one’s own group over those in other groups—is well documented, but the mechanisms driving this behavior are not well understood. In particular, it is unclear to what extent ingroup favoritism is driven by preferences concerning the welfare of ingroup over outgroup members, vs. beliefs about the behavior of ingroup and outgroup members. In this review we analyze research on ingroup favoritism in economic games, identifying key gaps in the literature and providing suggestions on how future work can incorporate these insights to shed further light on when, why, and how ingroup favoritism occurs. In doing so, we demonstrate how social psychological theory and research can be integrated with findings from behavioral economics, providing new theoretical and methodological directions for future research.

Across many different contexts, people act more prosocially towards members of their own group relative to those outside their group. Consequently, a number of scientific disciplines concerned with human cognition and behavior have sought to explain such ingroup favoritism (also known as parochial altruism). Here we explore to what extent ingroup favoritism is driven by preferences concerning the welfare of ingroup over outgroup members, vs. beliefs about the (future) behavior of ingroup and outgroup members.

The article is here.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Religious right suddenly decides morality’s not important in politics

Matthew Sheffield
Originally posted October 19, 2016

Throughout its history as a distinct political group, members of the so-called religious right have always made it a point to say that personal morals were important to political leadership. Thanks to Donald Trump’s becoming the Republican Party’s nominee against Hillary Clinton, however, it appears that white evangelical Protestants are changing their opinions.

Just five years ago, in 2011, a mere 30 percent of white evangelicals agreed with the idea that people who commit unethical acts in their personal lives could still behave ethically in their professional capacities, according to a study released today by PRRI, a nonpartisan research organization. Now, with Trump as the GOP standard-bearer, a huge majority — of 72 percent — do.

That immense shift in opinion means that the same types who made up former “Moral Majority” now comprise the religious group most likely to agree that public and private morality can be separate.

The article is here.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Is Character Necessary for Moral Behavior?

Angela Knobel
The Virtue Blog
Originally posted October 5, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

With these definitions in hand, we can reformulate our question. Is a given virtue necessary for the kind of morally good action characteristic of that virtue? For example, is the virtue of courage necessary for courageous actions? Is the virtue of kindness necessary for kind actions? (Let’s leave aside questions about the so-called “unity” of the virtues — that is, for instance, whether one can be courageous but unkind, or kind but cowardly.) At first blush, it might seem obvious that the answer is “no”: people who aren’t particularly courageous sometimes do courageous things, and people who aren’t particularly kind sometimes do kind things. This is true. But do they do these things in the same way that courageous or kind people do them?

The blog post is here.

When the Spirit Is Willing, but the Flesh Is Weak Developmental Differences in Judgments About Inner Moral Conflict

Christina Starmans & Paul Bloom
Psychological Science 
September 27, 2016


Sometimes it is easy to do the right thing. But often, people act morally only after overcoming competing immoral desires. How does learning about someone’s inner moral conflict influence children’s and adults’ moral judgments about that person? Across four studies, we discovered a striking developmental difference: When the outcome is held constant, 3- to 8-year-old children judge someone who does the right thing without experiencing immoral desires to be morally superior to someone who does the right thing through overcoming conflicting desires—but adults have the opposite intuition. This developmental difference also occurs for judgments of immoral actors: Three- to 5-year-olds again prefer the person who is not conflicted, whereas older children and adults judge that someone who struggles with the decision is morally superior. Our findings suggest that children may begin with the view that inner moral conflict is inherently negative, but, with development, come to value the exercise of willpower and self-control.

The article is here.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cultural Humility in Psychotherapy Supervision

Joshua Hook, et al
American Journal of Psychotherapy, Volume 70, Number 2, 2016, pp. 149-166


As a core component of multicultural orientation, cultural humility can be considered an important attitude for clinical supervisees to adopt and practically implement. How can cultural humility be most meaningfully incorporated in supervision? In what ways can supervisors stimulate the development of a culturally humble attitude in our supervisees? We consider those questions in this paper and present a model for addressing cultural humility in clinical supervision. The primary focus is given to two areas: (a) modeling and teaching of cultural humility through interpersonal interactions in supervision, and (b) teaching cultural humility through outside activities and experiences. Two case studies illustrating the model are presented, and a research agenda for work in this area is outlined.

The article is here.

Cognitive biases can affect moral intuitions about cognitive enhancement

Lucius Caviola, Adriano Mannino, Julian Savulescu and Nadira Faulmüller
Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience. 2014; 8: 195.
Published online 2014 Oct 15.


Research into cognitive biases that impair human judgment has mostly been applied to the area of economic decision-making. Ethical decision-making has been comparatively neglected. Since ethical decisions often involve very high individual as well as collective stakes, analyzing how cognitive biases affect them can be expected to yield important results. In this theoretical article, we consider the ethical debate about cognitive enhancement (CE) and suggest a number of cognitive biases that are likely to affect moral intuitions and judgments about CE: status quo bias, loss aversion, risk aversion, omission bias, scope insensitivity, nature bias, and optimistic bias. We find that there are more well-documented biases that are likely to cause irrational aversion to CE than biases in the opposite direction. This suggests that common attitudes about CE are predominantly negatively biased. Within this new perspective, we hope that subsequent research will be able to elaborate this hypothesis and develop effective de-biasing techniques that can help increase the rationality of the public CE debate and thus improve our ethical decision-making.

The article is here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Exploring the Association between Exposure to Suicide and Suicide Risk among Military Service Members and Veterans

Melanie A. Homa, Ian H. Stanley, Peter M. Gutierrezb, Thomas E. Joiner
Journal of Affective Disorders


Past research suggests that suicide has a profound impact on surviving family members and friends; yet, little is known about experiences with suicide bereavement among military populations. This study aimed to characterize experiences with suicide exposure and their associations with lifetime and current psychiatric symptoms among military service members and veterans


A sample of 1,753 United States military service members and veterans completed self-report questionnaires assessing experiences with suicide exposure, lifetime history of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, current suicidal symptoms, and perceived likelihood of making a future suicide attempt


The majority of participants (57.3%) reported knowing someone who had died by suicide, and of these individuals, most (53.1%) reported having lost a friend to suicide. Chi-square tests, one-way ANOVAs, and logistic regression analyses revealed that those who reported knowing a suicide decedent were more likely to report more severe current suicidal symptoms and a history of suicidal thoughts and behaviors compared to those who did not know a suicide decedent. Hierarchical linear regression analyses indicated that greater self-reported interpersonal closeness to a suicide decedent predicted greater self-reported likelihood of a future suicide attempt, even after controlling for current suicidal symptoms and prior suicidal thoughts and behaviors


This study utilized cross-sectional data, and information regarding degree of exposure to suicide was not collected


Military personnel and veterans who have been bereaved by suicide may themselves be at elevated risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Additional work is needed to delineate the relationship between these experiences.

The article is here.

Moral Responsibility and Mental Illness: A Call for Nuance

Matt King & Joshua May
Draft Paper


Does having a mental illness, in general, affect whether someone is morally responsible for an action? Against this Naive view, we argue for a Nuanced account. Sometimes mental illness absolutely excuses, but other times it doesn't. In some cases, mental illness can actually enhance one’s responsibility. The problem is not just that different theories of responsibility yield different judgments about particular cases. Even in cases when all reasonable theories agree about what's relevant to responsibility, the ways mental illness can affect behavior are so varied that a more nuanced account is warranted.

The paper is here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The desire to fit in is the root of almost all wrongdoing

Christopher Freiman
Originally published in September 30, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Doing the wrong thing is, for most of us, pretty mundane. It’s not usurping political power or stealing millions of dollars. It’s nervously joining in the chorus of laughs for your co-worker’s bigoted joke or lying about your politics to appease your family at Thanksgiving dinner. We ‘go along to get along’ in defiance of what we really value or believe because we don’t want any trouble. Immanuel Kant calls this sort of excessively deferential attitude servility. Rather than downgrading the values and commitments of others, servility involves downgrading your own values and commitments relative to those of others. The servile person is thus the mirror image of the conventional, self-interested immoralist found in Plato, Hobbes and Hume. Instead of stepping on whomever is in his way to get what he wants, the servile person is, in Kant’s words, someone who ‘makes himself a worm’ and thus ‘cannot complain afterwards if people step on him’.

Kant thinks that your basic moral obligation is to not treat humanity as a mere means. When you make a lying promise that you’ll pay back a loan or threaten someone unless he hands over his wallet, you’re treating your victim as a mere means. You’re using him like a tool that exists only to serve your purposes, not respecting him as a person who has value in himself.

The article is here.

Folk Moral Relativism

Hagop Sarkissian, John Park, David Tien, Jennifer Wright & Joshua Knobe
Mind and Language 26 (4):482-505 (2011)


It has often been suggested that people's ordinary understanding of morality involves a belief in objective moral truths and a rejection of moral relativism. The results of six studies call this claim into question. Participants did offer apparently objectivist moral intuitions when considering individuals from their own culture, but they offered increasingly relativist intuitions considering individuals from increasingly different cultures or ways of life. The authors hypothesize that people do not have a fixed commitment to moral objectivism but instead tend to adopt different views depending on the degree to which they consider radically different perspectives on moral questions.

The article is here.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Affective nudging

Eric Schliesser
Digressions and Impressions blog
Originally published September 30, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Nudging is paternalist. But by making exit easy and avoidance cheap nudges are thought to avoid the worst moral and political problems of paternalism and (other) manipulative practices. (What counts as a significant change of economic incentives is, of course, very contestable, but we leave that aside here.) Nudges may, in fact, sometimes enhance autonomy and freedom, but the way Sunstein & Thaler define 'nudge' one may nudge also for immoral ends. Social engineering does not question the ends.

The modern administrative state is, however, not just a rule-following Weberian bureaucracy where the interaction between state and citizen is governed by the exchange of forms, information, and money. Many civil servants, including ones with very distinct expertise (physicians, psychologists, lawyers, engineers, social service workers, therapists, teachers, correction officers, etc.) enter quite intimately into the lives of lots of citizens. Increasingly (within the context of new public management), government professionals and hired consultants are given broad autonomy to meet certain targets (quotas, budget or volume numbers, etc.) within constrained parameters. (So, for example, a physician is not just a care provider, but also somebody who can control costs.) Bureaucratic management and the political class are agnostic about how the desired outcomes are met, as long as it is legal, efficient and does not generate bad media or adverse political push-back.

The blog post is here.

Do It Well and Do It Right: The Impact of Service Climate and Ethical Climate on Business Performance and theBoundary Conditions

Jiang, K., Hu, J., Hong, Y., Liao, H., & Liu, S.
Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.


Prior research has demonstrated that service climate can enhance unit performance by guiding employees’ service behavior to satisfy customers. Extending this literature, we identified ethical climate toward customers as another indispensable organizational climate in service contexts and examined how and when service climate operates in conjunction with ethical climate to enhance business performance of service units. Based on data collected in 2 phases over 6 months from multiple sources of 196 movie theaters, we found that service climate and ethical climate had disparate impacts on business performance, operationalized as an index of customer attendance rate and operating income per labor hour, by enhancing service behavior and reducing unethical behavior, respectively. Furthermore, we found that service behavior and unethical behavior interacted to affect business performance, in such a way that service behavior was more positively related to business performance when unethical behavior was low than when it was high. This interactive effect between service and unethical behaviors was further strengthened by high market turbulence and competitive intensity. These findings provide new insight into theoretical development of service management and offer practical implications about how to maximize business performance of service units by managing organizational climates and employee behaviors synergistically.

The article is here.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Crossing the Line: Daubert, Dual Roles, and the Admissibility of Forensic Mental Health Testimony

Sara Gordon
Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 37, No. 4, 2016


Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals often testify as forensic experts in civil commitment and criminal competency proceedings. When an individual clinician assumes both a treatment and a forensic role in the context of a single case, however, that clinician forms a dual relationship with the patient — a practice that creates a conflict of interest and violates professional ethical guidelines. The court, the parties, and the patient are all affected by this conflict and the biased testimony that may result from dual relationships. When providing forensic testimony, the mental health professional’s primary duty is to the court, not to the patient, and she has an obligation to give objective and truthful testimony. But this testimony can result in the patient’s detention or punishment, a legal outcome that implicates the mental health professional’s corresponding obligation to “do no harm” to the patient. Moreover, the conflict of interest created by a dual relationship can affect the objectivity and reliability of forensic testimony.

A dual clinical and forensic relationship with a single patient is contrary to quality patient care, and existing clinical and forensic ethical guidelines strongly discourage the practice. Notwithstanding the mental health community’s general consensus about the impropriety of the practice, many courts do not question the mental health professional’s ability to provide forensic testimony for a patient with whom she has a simultaneous clinical relationship. Moreover, some state statutes require or encourage clinicians at state-run facilities to engage in these multiple roles. This Article argues that the inherent conflict created by these dual roles does not provide a reliable basis for forensic mental health testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and should not be admitted as reliable expert testimony by courts. Because dual relationships are often initiated due to provider shortages and the unavailability of neutral forensic examiners, this Article will also discuss the use of telemedicine as a way to provide forensic evaluations in under served areas, especially those where provider shortages have prompted mental health professionals to engage in dual clinical and forensic roles. Finally, this Article argues that courts should exercise their powers more broadly under Federal Rule of Evidence 706 to appoint neutral and independent mental health experts to conduct forensic evaluations in civil commitment and criminal competency proceedings.

The article is here.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Should non-disclosures be considered as morally equivalent to lies within the doctor–patient relationship?

Caitriona L Cox and Zoe Fritz
J Med Ethics 2016;42:632-635


In modern practice, doctors who outright lie to their patients are often condemned, yet those who employ non-lying deceptions tend to be judged less critically. Some areas of non-disclosure have recently been challenged: not telling patients about resuscitation decisions; inadequately informing patients about risks of alternative procedures and withholding information about medical errors. Despite this, there remain many areas of clinical practice where non-disclosures of information are accepted, where lies about such information would not be. Using illustrative hypothetical situations, all based on common clinical practice, we explore the extent to which we should consider other deceptive practices in medicine to be morally equivalent to lying. We suggest that there is no significant moral difference between lying to a patient and intentionally withholding relevant information: non-disclosures could be subjected to Bok's ‘Test of Publicity’ to assess permissibility in the same way that lies are. The moral equivalence of lying and relevant non-disclosure is particularly compelling when the agent's motivations, and the consequences of the actions (from the patient's perspectives), are the same. We conclude that it is arbitrary to claim that there is anything inherently worse about lying to a patient to mislead them than intentionally deceiving them using other methods, such as euphemism or non-disclosure. We should question our intuition that non-lying deceptive practices in clinical practice are more permissible and should thus subject non-disclosures to the same scrutiny we afford to lies.

The article is here.

Friday, October 14, 2016

First 'three person baby' born using new method

By Michelle Roberts
BBC News online
Originally published September 27, 2016

The world's first baby has been born using a new "three person" fertility technique, New Scientist reveals.

The five-month-old boy has the usual DNA from his mum and dad, plus a tiny bit of genetic code from a donor.

US doctors took the unprecedented step to ensure the baby boy would be free of a genetic condition that his Jordanian mother carries in her genes.

Experts say the move heralds a new era in medicine and could help other families with rare genetic conditions.

But they warn that rigorous checks of this new and controversial technology, called mitochondrial donation, are needed.

It's not the first time scientists have created babies that have DNA from three people - that breakthrough began in the late 1990s - but it is an entirely new and significant method.

Economic Inequality: It’s Far Worse Than You Think

By Nicholas Fitz
Scientific American
Originally published on March 31, 2015 (and likely worse today)

Here is an excerpt:

The average American believes that the richest fifth own 59% of the wealth and that the bottom 40% own 9%. The reality is strikingly different. The top 20% of US households own more than 84% of the wealth, and the bottom 40% combine for a paltry 0.3%. The Walton family, for example, has more wealth than 42% of American families combined.

We don’t want to live like this. In our ideal distribution, the top quintile owns 32% and the bottom two quintiles own 25%. As the journalist Chrystia Freeland put it,  “Americans actually live in Russia, although they think they live in Sweden. And they would like to live on a kibbutz.” Norton and Ariely found a surprising level of consensus: everyone — even Republicans and the wealthy—wants a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo.

The article is here.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Richard Swinburne’s Toxic Lecture on Christian Morality

By J. Edward Hackett
Philosophical Percolations
Originally published September 24, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

While Swinburne did not think homosexuality was intrinsically wrong in the same way that adultery was wrong, he argued (if that’s the right verb under some principle of charity) that homosexuality was extrinsically wrong. Homosexuality was a disability in the lacking of the ability to have children, and God’s commands of abstaining from homosexuality might prevent others from fostering this incurable condition in others.

Yeah. I know.

My response was mixture of abhorrence and overwhelming anger, and I tried as I might to encounter this idea calmly. I told him he medicalized being gay in the same way that phrenology medicalized racism. It was obnoxious to listen to Christians lay claim to sacrificial love at this conference, but at the same time not see the virtue of that same love as a possible quality underlying other configurations, yet I told others this is the reason why Christians should read Foucault. When you do, you start to notice how power manifests in local contexts in which those discourses occur.

There was a way power was working in this discourse. Specifically, Foucault exposes how medicalizing discourse divorces the condition apart from the body of the patient. Swinburne advocated “sympathy and not censure” for homosexuals, those with the “incurable condition” and “disability.” In this medical context, medicine acts as a way to dehumanize the person without appearing as if that’s what you’re doing.

The blog post his here.

The influence of intention, outcome and question-wording on children’s and adults’ moral judgments

Gavin Nobes, Georgia Panagiotaki, Kimberley J. Bartholomew
Volume 157, December 2016, Pages 190–204


The influence of intention and outcome information on moral judgments was investigated by telling children aged 4–8 years and adults (N = 169) stories involving accidental harms (positive intention, negative outcome) or attempted harms (negative intention, positive outcome) from two studies (Helwig, Zelazo, & Wilson, 2001; Zelazo, Helwig, & Lau, 1996). When the original acceptability (wrongness) question was asked, the original findings were closely replicated: children’s and adults’ acceptability judgments were based almost exclusively on outcome, and children’s punishment judgments were also primarily outcome-based. However, when this question was rephrased, 4–5-year-olds’ judgments were approximately equally influenced by intention and outcome, and from 5–6 years they were based considerably more on intention than outcome primarily intention-based. These findings indicate that, for methodological reasons, children’s (and adults’) ability to make intention-based judgment has often been substantially underestimated.

The article is here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Why psychology lost its soul: everything comes from the brain

George Paxinos
The Conversation
Originally published September 22, 2016

Many people today believe they possess a soul. While conceptions of the soul differ, many would describe it as an “invisible force that appears to animate us”.

It’s often believed the soul can survive death and is intimately associated with a person’s memories, passions and values. Some argue the soul has no mass, takes no space and is localised nowhere.

But as a neuroscientist and psychologist, I have no use for the soul. On the contrary, all functions attributable to this kind of soul can be explained by the workings of the brain.

Psychology is the study of behaviour. To carry out their work of modifying behaviour, such as in treating addiction, phobia, anxiety and depression, psychologists do not need to assume people have souls. For the psychologists, it is not so much that souls do not exist, it is that there is no need for them.

It is said psychology lost its soul in the 1930s. By this time, the discipline fully became a science, relying on experimentation and control rather than introspection.

The article is here.

Utilitarian preferences or action preferences? De-confounding action and moral code in sacrificial dilemmas

Damien L. Crone & Simon M. Laham
Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 104, January 2017, Pages 476-481


A large literature in moral psychology investigates utilitarian versus deontological moral preferences using sacrificial dilemmas (e.g., the Trolley Problem) in which one can endorse harming one person for the greater good. The validity of sacrificial dilemma responses as indicators of one's preferred moral code is a neglected topic of study. One underexplored cause for concern is that standard sacrificial dilemmas confound the endorsement of specific moral codes with the endorsement of action such that endorsing utilitarianism always requires endorsing action. Two studies show that, after de-confounding these factors, the tendency to endorse action appears about as predictive of sacrificial dilemma responses as one's preference for a particular moral code, suggesting that, as commonly used, sacrificial dilemma responses are poor indicators of moral preferences. Interestingly however, de-confounding action and moral code may provide a more valid means of inferring one's preferred moral code.

The article is here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

When fairness matters less than we expect

Gus Cooney, Daniel T. Gilbert, and Timothy D. Wilson
PNAS 2016 ; published ahead of print September 16, 2016


Do those who allocate resources know how much fairness will matter to those who receive them? Across seven studies, allocators used either a fair or unfair procedure to determine which of two receivers would receive the most money. Allocators consistently overestimated the impact that the fairness of the allocation procedure would have on the happiness of receivers (studies 1–3). This happened because the differential fairness of allocation procedures is more salient before an allocation is made than it is afterward (studies 4 and 5). Contrary to allocators’ predictions, the average receiver was happier when allocated more money by an unfair procedure than when allocated less money by a fair procedure (studies 6 and 7). These studies suggest that when allocators are unable to overcome their own preallocation perspectives and adopt the receivers’ postallocation perspectives, they may allocate resources in ways that do not maximize the net happiness of receivers.


Human beings care a great deal about the fairness of the procedures that are used to allocate resources, such as wealth, opportunity, and power. But in a series of experiments, we show that those to whom resources are allocated often care less about fairness than those who allocate the resources expect them to. This “allocator’s illusion” results from the fact that fairness seems more important before an allocation is made (when allocators are choosing a procedure) than afterward (when receivers are reacting to the procedure that allocators chose). This illusion has important consequences for policy-makers, managers, health care providers, judges, teachers, parents, and others who are charged with choosing the procedures by which things of value will be allocated.

The article is here.

How US prisons violate three principles of criminal justice

Judith Lichtenberg
Originally published September 19, 2016

The United States has 5 per cent of the world’s population but 25 per cent of its prisoners. Right now, 2.2 million people are locked up across the country, and while crime has been decreasing since the 1990s, rates of imprisonment are at historic highs. Americans across the political spectrum are deeply dissatisfied with this state of affairs, and agree that mass incarceration costs too much and achieves too little. But there’s also much disagreement – about the role of systemic racism, about the causes of police violence, about the importance of personal responsibility and retribution.

Nevertheless, people can find common ground on three fundamental moral norms that should govern the use of imprisonment as punishment. First, punishments should be proportional to crimes. Second, like cases should be treated alike. Third, criminal punishment should not do more harm than good. Unfortunately, the US system violates each of these principles.

Proportionality requires that the punishment fit the crime. This is more than a mere cliché. It means punishments should be neither excessive nor insufficient. Imprisonment for a parking ticket would be wrong, but so would a slap on the wrist for rape.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Why do suicidal patients wait hours for a hospital bed?

By Corinne Segal
PBS News Hour
September 18, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Health workers and lawmakers are working to accommodate patients like Durant as America endures a suicide surge, with suicide deaths rising from 29,000 people to 43,000 people between 1999 and 2014. Some have tried to increase the number of psychiatric beds available to suicidal patients, a disappearing resource in recent years that forces patients like Durant to wait longs hours for care. Meanwhile, others are assessing whether the hospital is even the right place to start considering treatment.

In recent decades, “We closed thousands of beds and we didn’t cure mental health,” David Mattodeo, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems, said. “The problem didn’t go away.”

The article is here.

Federal Court Certifies Nationwide Class Action Challenging UBH Coverage Criteria

Press Release
Originally released September 20, 2016

In a significant mental health ruling, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California has come one step closer to ordering health insurance giant United Behavioral Health (UBH) to revamp its medical necessity criteria and reprocess thousands of outpatient, intensive outpatient and residential treatment claims it denied since 2011. Plaintiffs in two companion class-action lawsuits, Wit et al. v. UnitedHealthcare et al. and Alexander et al. v. United Behavioral Health, allege that UBH systematically denies coverage for mental health treatment by developing and applying "medical necessity" criteria that are far more stringent than generally accepted standards of care.

"Yesterday's class certification order is an important victory in the fight for mental health parity," said Meiram Bendat, president of Psych-Appeal, Inc. and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. "It signals that health insurers can be held responsible, on a class-wide basis, for denying insurance coverage for mental health treatment to those desperately in need. Without class certification, few, if any, patients will have the financial or emotional resources necessary to challenge this type of misconduct individually."

The plaintiffs' health plans, governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), require UBH to evaluate medical necessity according to generally accepted standards of care. UBH's proprietary medical necessity criteria purport to reflect these standards. However, the plaintiffs allege that a push for profits has led UBH to develop criteria that overemphasize acute mental health and substance use disorder symptoms and disregard chronic or complex conditions that require ongoing care, in contravention of generally accepted standards.

UBH is a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group and is the country's largest managed behavioral health care organization, serving more than 60 million members.

Psych-Appeal, Inc. and Zuckerman Spaeder LLP have been appointed class counsel by the federal court and also represent plaintiffs in similar cases against Health Care Service Corporation (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Texas, New Mexico, Montana and Oklahoma), Magellan Health Services of California and Blue Shield of California.

The pressor is here.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Why some people are more altruistic than others

Abigail Marsh
TED Talk
Originally posted June 2016

Why do some people do selfless things, helping other people even at risk to their own well-being? Psychology researcher Abigail Marsh studies the motivations of people who do extremely altruistic acts, like donating a kidney to a complete stranger. Are their brains just different?

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Irrational Idea That Humans Are Mostly Irrational

Paul Bloom
The Atlantic
Originally posted September 16, 2016

Last summer I was at a moral psychology conference in Chile, listening to speaker after speaker discuss research into how people think about sexuality, crime, taxation, and other politically and socially fraught issues. The consensus was that human moral reasoning is a mess—irrational, contradictory, and incoherent.

And how could it be otherwise? The evolutionary psychologists in the room argued that our propensity to reason about right and wrong arises through social adaptations calibrated to enhance our survival and reproduction, not to arrive at consistent or objective truth. And according to the social psychologists, we are continually swayed by irrelevant factors, by gut feelings and unconscious motivations. As the primatologist Frans de Waal once put it, summing up the psychological consensus: “We celebrate rationality, but when push comes to shove we assign it little weight.”

I think that this is mistaken. Yes, our moral capacities are far from perfect. But—as I’ve argued elsewhere, including in my forthcoming book on empathy—we are often capable of objective moral reasoning. And so we can arrive at novel, sometimes uncomfortable, moral positions, as when men appreciate the wrongness of sexism or when people who really like the taste of meat decide that it’s better to go without.

The article is here.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Difference Between Rationality and Intelligence

By David Hambrick and Alexander Burgoyne
The New York Times
Originally published September 16, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Professor Morewedge and colleagues found that the computer training led to statistically large and enduring decreases in decision-making bias. In other words, the subjects were considerably less biased after training, even after two months. The decreases were larger for the subjects who received the computer training than for those who received the video training (though decreases were also sizable for the latter group). While there is scant evidence that any sort of “brain training” has any real-world impact on intelligence, it may well be possible to train people to be more rational in their decision making.

The article is here.

Three Ways To Prevent Getting Set Up For Ethical Failure

Ron Carucci
Originally posted

Here are two excerpts:

To survive the injustice of unresolved competing goals, leaders, usually middle management, become self-protective, putting the focus of their team or department ahead of others. Such self-protection turns to self-interest as chronic pain persists from living in the gap between unrealistic demands and unfair resource allocation. Resentment turns to justification as people conclude, “I’m not going down with the ship.” And eventually, unfettered self-interest and its inherent justification become conscious choices to compromise, usually from a sense of entitlement. People simply conclude, “I have no choice” or “I deserve this.” Says Jonathan Haidt, Professor of Business Ethics at NYU and founder of Ethical Systems, “Good people will do terrible things when people around them are even gently encouraging them to do so.” In many cases, that “gentle encouragement” comes in the form of simply ignoring what might provoke poor choices.


3. Clarify decision rights. Organizational governance – which is different from “Corporate Governance” – is the distribution of authority, resources, and decision rights across an organization. Carefully designed, it synchronizes an organization and ensures natural tensions are openly managed. Knowing which leaders are accountable for which decisions and resources removes the uncertainty many organizations suffer from. When there is confusion about decision rights, competing priorities proliferate, setting the stage for organizational contradictions to arise.

The article is here.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

How Morality Changes in a Foreign Language

By Julie Sedivy
Scientific American
Originally published September 14, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Why does it matter whether we judge morality in our native language or a foreign one? According to one explanation, such judgments involve two separate and competing modes of thinking—one of these, a quick, gut-level “feeling,” and the other, careful deliberation about the greatest good for the greatest number. When we use a foreign language, we unconsciously sink into the more deliberate mode simply because the effort of operating in our non-native language cues our cognitive system to prepare for strenuous activity. This may seem paradoxical, but is in line with findings that reading math problems in a hard-to-read font makes people less likely to make careless mistakes (although these results have proven difficult to replicate).

An alternative explanation is that differences arise between native and foreign tongues because our childhood languages vibrate with greater emotional intensity than do those learned in more academic settings. As a result, moral judgments made in a foreign language are less laden with the emotional reactions that surface when we use a language learned in childhood.

How Unconscious Bias Is Affecting Our Ability To Listen

Vivian Giang
The Fast Company
Originally published September 8, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Meghan Sumner, an associate professor of linguistics at Stanford University, stumbled into the unconscious bias realm after years of investigating how listeners extract information from voices, and how the pieces of information are stored in our memory. Study after study, she found that we all listen differently based on where we’re from and our feelings toward different accents. It’s not a conscious choice, but the result of social biases that form unconscious stereotyping which then influences that way we listen.

"It’s not always what someone said, it’s also how they said it," Sumner tells Fast Company. "How we view people socially from their voice, influences how we attend to them, how we listen to them."

For instance, in one experiment, Sumner found that the "average American listener" preferred a "Southern Standard British English" voice rather than one who had a New York City accent, even if both voices are saying the same words. Consequently, the listener will remember more of what the English speaker says and will deem them as smarter. All of this is impacted by the stereotypes that we have of British people and New Yorkers.

The article is here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Can Morality Be Taught?

Ashley Lamb-Sinclair
The Atlantic
Originally published September 14, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

I am especially disheartened, as are many Americans, when I consider the events of this past summer alone—bombings, riots, shootings—every bit of which derive from a need to identify and destroy the other, or, at the very least, a refusal to understand each other’s perspective. Then there is the presidential campaign with Donald Trump proclaiming “the other” as the source of many societal ills.

Arguments abound regarding laws to pass and policies to implement as solutions to these issues. And while passing bills might feel like a solution—and in some ways it would be—policy can only go so far in changing habits and perception. The only surefire solution to developing tolerance and openness to the perspectives of others is through educating young people.

I believe that the problem is not what is taught in schools, but how it is taught. It is not enough to simply offer curriculum about the ills of racism, homophobia, or bullying, and then expect lasting results from students who are entrenched in cultural beliefs that are reinforced by society.

The article is here.

Is Robust Moral Realism a kind of Religious Belief?

John Danaher
Philosophical Disquisitions
Originally posted September 11, 2016

Robust moral realism is the view that moral facts exist, but that they are not reducible to non-moral or natural facts. According to the robust realist, when I say something like ‘It is morally wrong to torture an innocent child for fun’, I am saying something that is true, but whose truth is not reducible to the non-moral properties of torture or children. Robust moral realism has become surprisingly popular in recent years, with philosophers like Derek Parfit, David Enoch, Erik Wielenberg and Russell Shafer-Landau all defending versions of it.

What is interesting about these philosophers is that they are all avowedly non-religious in their moral beliefs. They don’t think there is any connection between morality and the truths of any particular religion. Indeed, several of them are explicitly atheistic in their moral outlook. In a recent paper, however, David Killoren has argued that robust moral realism is a kind of religious belief: one that must be held on faith and that shares other properties with popular religions. At the same time, he argues that it is an ‘excellent’ kind of religious belief, one that could be attractive to the non-religious and religious alike.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Whatever you think, you don’t necessarily know your own mind

Keith Frankish
Originally published May 27, 2016

Do  you think racial stereotypes are false? Are you sure? I’m not asking if you’re sure whether or not the stereotypes are false, but if you’re sure whether or not you think that they are. That might seem like a strange question. We all know what we think, don’t we?

Most philosophers of mind would agree, holding that we have privileged access to our own thoughts, which is largely immune from error. Some argue that we have a faculty of ‘inner sense’, which monitors the mind just as the outer senses monitor the world. There have been exceptions, however. The mid-20th-century behaviourist philosopher Gilbert Ryle held that we learn about our own minds, not by inner sense, but by observing our own behaviour, and that friends might know our minds better than we do. (Hence the joke: two behaviourists have just had sex and one turns to the other and says: ‘That was great for you, darling. How was it for me?’) And the contemporary philosopher Peter Carruthers proposes a similar view (though for different reasons), arguing that our beliefs about our own thoughts and decisions are the product of self-interpretation and are often mistaken.

Replacing the Moral Foundations: An Evolutionary-Coalitional Theory of Liberal-Conservative Differences

Jeffrey S. Sinn, Matthew W. Hayes
Political Psychology
First published: August 2016


Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) explains liberal-conservative differences as arising from different moral intuitions, with liberals endorsing “individualizing” foundations (Harm and Fairness) and conservatives also endorsing “binding” foundations (Authority, Respect, and Purity). We argue these labels misconstrue ideological differences and propose Evolutionary-Coalitional Theory (ECT) as an alternative, explaining how competitive dynamics in the ancestral social environment could produce the observed ideological differences. We test ECT against MFT across three studies. Study 1 shows the so-called “binding” orientation entails the threat-sensitivity and outgroup antagonism predicted by ECT; that is, an authoritarian motive. Similarly, Study 2 shows the so-called “individualizing” orientation is better described as a universalizing motive, one reflecting a broader set of moral commitments (e.g., to nature) and a broader sociality than the egocentrism implied by MFT. Study 3 provides a factor analysis reducing “binding” to authoritarianism and “individualizing” to universalism, with the latter loading against social dominance orientation (SDO). A hierarchical regression then provides additional evidence for ECT, showing this dominating motive (SDO) accounts for variance in conservatism that MFT leaves unexplained. Collectively, these three studies suggest that ECT offers a more accurate and precise explanation of the key psychological differences between liberals and conservatives.

The article is here.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Prep school abuse victims file complaints about psychologist

by Michelle R. Smith
Associated Press
Originally published September 8, 2016

Two victims of sexual abuse at the elite Rhode Island boarding school St. George's have filed complaints with state licensing officials about the school's former psychologist.

They tell The Associated Press that Peter Kosseff did not do enough to address and prevent abuse during his 35 years at the school, and they want his license revoked.

Kosseff, who still practices and has offices in South Kingstown and Newport, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The first complaint was filed in December and the other soon after, the two women told the AP.  Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman for the Department of Health, which oversees such licenses, said such complaints are confidential and he could not confirm them. The department said Kosseff's license was last renewed in May.

The Associated Press typically doesn't name sexual abuse victims unless they come forward publicly.

The article is here.

Moral learning: Why learning? Why moral? And why now?

Peter Railton


What is distinctive about a bringing a learning perspective to moral psychology? Part of the answer lies in the remarkable transformations that have taken place in learning theory over the past two decades, which have revealed how powerful experience-based learning can be in the acquisition of abstract causal and evaluative representations, including generative models capable of attuning perception, cognition, affect, and action to the physical and social environment. When conjoined with developments in neuroscience, these advances in learning theory permit a rethinking of fundamental questions about the acquisition of moral understanding and its role in the guidance of behavior. For example, recent research indicates that spatial learning and navigation involve the formation of non-perspectival as well as ego-centric models of the physical environment, and that spatial representations are combined with learned information about risk and reward to guide choice and potentiate further learning. Research on infants provides evidence that they form non-perspectival expected-value representations of agents and actions as well, which help them to navigate the human environment. Such representations can be formed by highly-general mental processes such as causal and empathic simulation, and thus afford a foundation for spontaneous moral learning and action that requires no innate moral faculty and can exhibit substantial autonomy with respect to community norms. If moral learning is indeed integral with the acquisition and updating of casual and evaluative models, this affords a new way of understanding well-known but seemingly puzzling patterns in intuitive moral judgment—including the notorious “trolley problems.”

The article is here.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Why you should worry about the privatization of genetic data

Kayte Spector-Bagdady
The Conversation
Originally posted September 8, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

But genetic data banks amassed by private companies don’t necessarily have to follow the same regulations regarding access to their data that federally funded researchers do. And a recent proposal to change consent regulations for human research may make it cheaper for private companies to collect and use this data than public ones.

As bioethicists (myself included) have warned, we need to pay attention to concerns about how these private genetic data banks are used and accessed before we enable a system where the future of public genetic research lies in private hands.

The article is here.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Why So Many Americans Don't Want Social Justice and Don't Trust Scientists

Jonathan Haidt. PhD
2013 Boyarsky Lecture in Law, Medicine & Ethics

This lecture focuses on Moral Foundations Theory and its application to politics, polarization, science, and inequality.