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

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

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Harvey Weinstein’s ‘false memory’ defense is not backed by science

Anne DePrince & Joan Cook
The Conversation
Originally posted 10 Feb 20

Here is an excerpt:

In 1996, pioneering psychologist Jennifer Freyd introduced the concept of betrayal trauma. She made plain how forgetting, not thinking about and even mis-remembering an assault may be necessary and adaptive for some survivors. She argued that the way in which traumatic events, like sexual violence, are processed and remembered depends on how much betrayal there is. Betrayal happens when the victim depends on the abuser, such as a parent, spouse or boss. The victim has to adapt day-to-day because they are (or feel) stuck in that relationship. One way that victims can survive is by thinking or remembering less about the abuse or telling themselves it wasn’t abuse.

Since 1996, compelling scientific evidence has shown a strong relationship between amnesia and victims’ dependence on abusers. Psychologists and other scientists have also learned much about the nature of memory, including memory for traumas like sexual assault. What gets into memory and later remembered is affected by a host of factors, including characteristics of the person and the situation. For example, some individuals dissociate during or after traumatic events. Dissociation offers a way to escape the inescapable, such that people feel as if they have detached from their bodies or the environment. It is not surprising to us that dissociation is linked with incomplete memories.

Memory can also be affected by what other people do and say. For example, researchers recently looked at what happened when they told participants not to think about some words that they had just studied. Following that instruction, those who had histories of trauma suppressed more memories than their peers did.

The info is here.

Sharing Patient Data Without Exploiting Patients

McCoy MS, Joffe S, Emanuel EJ.
JAMA. Published online January 16, 2020.
doi:10.1001/jama.2019.22354

Here is an excerpt:

The Risks of Data Sharing

When health systems share patient data, the primary risk to patients is the exposure of their personal health information, which can result in a range of harms including embarrassment, stigma, and discrimination. Such exposure is most obvious when health systems fail to remove identifying information before sharing data, as is alleged in the lawsuit against Google and the University of Chicago. But even when shared data are fully deidentified in accordance with the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act reidentification is possible, especially when patient data are linked with other data sets. Indeed, even new data privacy laws such as Europe's General Data Protection Regulation and California's Consumer Privacy Act do not eliminate reidentification risk.

Companies that acquire patient data also accept risk by investing in research and development that may not result in marketable products. This risk is less ethically concerning, however, than that borne by patients. While companies usually can abandon unpromising ventures, patients’ lack of control over data-sharing arrangements makes them vulnerable to exploitation. Patients lack control, first, because they may have no option other than to seek care in a health system that plans to share their data. Second, even if patients are able to authorize sharing of their data, they are rarely given the information and opportunity to ask questions needed to give meaningful informed consent to future uses of their data.

Thus, for the foreseeable future, data sharing will entail ethically concerning risks to patients whose data are shared. But whether these exchanges are exploitative depends on how much benefit patients receive from data sharing.

The info is here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

American Psychological Association Calls for Immediate Halt to Sharing Immigrant Youths' Confidential Psychotherapy Notes with ICE

American Psychological Association
Press Release
Released 17 Feb 20

The American Psychological Association expressed shock and outrage that the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement has been sharing confidential psychotherapy notes with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deny asylum to some immigrant youths.

“ORR’s sharing of confidential therapy notes of traumatized children destroys the bond of trust between patient and therapist that is vital to helping the patient,” said APA President Sandra L. Shullman, PhD. “We call on ORR to stop this practice immediately and on the Department of Health and Human Services and Congress to investigate its prevalence. We also call on ICE to release any immigrants who have had their asylum requests denied as a result.”

APA was reacting to a report in The Washington Post focused largely on the case of then-17-year-old Kevin Euceda, an asylum-seeker from Honduras whose request for asylum was granted by a judge, only to have it overturned when lawyers from ICE revealed information he had given in confidence to a therapist at a U.S. government shelter. According to the article, other unaccompanied minors have been similarly detained as a result of ICE’s use of confidential psychotherapy notes. These situations have also been confirmed by congressional testimony since 2018.

Unaccompanied minors who are detained in U.S. shelters are required to undergo therapy, ostensibly to help them deal with trauma and other issues arising from leaving their home countries. According to the Post, ORR entered into a formal memorandum of agreement with ICE in April 2018 to share details about children in its care. The then-head of ORR testified before Congress that the agency would be asking its therapists to “develop additional information” about children during “weekly counseling sessions where they may self-disclose previous gang or criminal activity to their assigned clinician,” the newspaper reported. The agency added two requirements to its public handbook: that arriving children be informed that while it was essential to be honest with staff, self-disclosures could affect their release and that if a minor mentioned anything having to do with gangs or drug dealing, therapists would file a report within four hours to be passed to ICE within one day, the Post said.

"For this administration to weaponize these therapy sessions by ordering that the psychotherapy notes be passed to ICE is appalling,” Shullman added. “These children have already experienced some unimaginable traumas. Plus, these are scared minors who may not understand that speaking truthfully to therapists about gangs and drugs – possibly the reasons they left home – would be used against them.”

How to talk someone out of bigotry

Brian Resnick
vox.com
Originally published 29 Jan 20

Here is an excerpt:

Topping and dozens of other canvassers were a part of that 2016 effort. It was an important study: Not only has social science found very few strategies that work, in experiments, to change minds on issues of prejudice, but even fewer tests of those strategies have occurred in the real world.

Typically, the conversations begin with the canvasser asking the voter for their opinion on a topic, like abortion access, immigration, or LGBTQ rights. Canvassers (who may or may not be members of the impacted community) listen nonjudgmentally. They don’t say if they are pleased or hurt by the response. They are supposed “to appear genuinely interested in hearing the subject ruminate on the question,” as Broockman and Kalla’s latest study instructions read.

The canvassers then ask if the voters know anyone in the affected community, and ask if they relate to the person’s story. If they don’t, and even if they do, they’re asked a question like, “When was a time someone showed you compassion when you really needed it?” to get them to reflect on their experience when they might have felt something similar to the people in the marginalized community.

The canvassers also share their own stories: about being an immigrant, about being a member of the LGBTQ community, or about just knowing people who are.

It’s a type of conversation that’s closer to what a psychotherapist might have with a patient than a typical political argument. (One clinical therapist I showed it to said it sounded a bit like “motivational interviewing,” a technique used to help clients work through ambivalent feelings.) It’s not about listing facts or calling people out on their prejudicial views. It’s about sharing and listening, all the while nudging people to be analytical and think about their shared humanity with marginalized groups.

The info is here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Is it okay to sacrifice one person to save many? How you answer depends on where you’re from.

Sigal Samuel
vox.com
Originally posted 24 Jan 20

Here is an excerpt:

It turns out that people across the board, regardless of their cultural context, give the same response when they’re asked to rank the moral acceptability of acting in each case. They say Switch is most acceptable, then Loop, then Footbridge.

That’s probably because in Switch, the death of the worker is an unfortunate side effect of the action that saves the five, whereas in Footbridge, the death of the large man is not a side effect but a means to an end — and it requires the use of personal force against him.

It turns out that people across the board, regardless of their cultural context, give the same response when they’re asked to rank the moral acceptability of acting in each case. They say Switch is most acceptable, then Loop, then Footbridge.

That’s probably because in Switch, the death of the worker is an unfortunate side effect of the action that saves the five, whereas in Footbridge, the death of the large man is not a side effect but a means to an end — and it requires the use of personal force against him.

The info is here.

Can an Evidence-Based Approach Improve the Patient-Physician Relationship?

A. S. Cifu, A. Lembo, & A. M. Davis
JAMA. 2020;323(1):31-32.
doi:10.1001/jama.2019.19427

Here is an excerpt:

Through these steps, the research team identified potentially useful clinical approaches that were perceived to contribute to physician “presence,” defined by the authors as a purposeful practice of “awareness, focus, and attention with the intent to understand and connect with patients.”

These practices were rated by patients and clinicians on their likely effects and feasibility in practice. A Delphi process was used to condense 13 preliminary practices into 5 final recommendations, which were (1) prepare with intention, (2) listen intently and completely, (3) agree on what matters most, (4) connect with the patient’s story, and (5) explore emotional cues. Each of these practices is complex, and the authors provide detailed explanations, including narrative examples and links to outcomes, that are summarized in the article and included in more detail in the online supplemental material.

If implemented in practice, these 5 practices suggested by Zulman and colleagues are likely to enhance patient-physician relationships, which ideally could help improve physician satisfaction and well-being, reduce physician frustration, improve clinical outcomes, and reduce health care costs.

Importantly, the authors also call for system-level interventions to create an environment for the implementation of these practices.

Although the patient-physician interaction is at the core of most physicians’ activities and has led to an entire genre of literature and television programs, very little is actually known about what makes for an effective relationship.

The info is here.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Religion’s Impact on Conceptions of the Moral Domain

S. Levine, and others
PsyArXiv Preprints
Last edited 2 Jan 20

Abstract

How does religious affiliation impact conceptions of the moral domain? Putting aside the question of whether people from different religions agree about how to answer moral questions, here we investigate a more fundamental question: How much disagreement is there across religions about which issues count as moral in the first place? That is, do people from different religions conceptualize the scope of morality differently? Using a new methodology to map out how individuals conceive of the moral domain, we find dramatic differences among adherents of different religions. Mormons and Muslims moralize their religious norms, while Jews do not. Hindus do not seem to make a moral/non-moral distinction at all. These results suggest that religious affiliation has a profound effect on conceptions of the scope of morality.

From the General Discussion:

The results of Study 3 and 3a are predicted by neither Social Domain Theory nor Moral Foundations Theory: It is neither true that secular people and religious people share a common conception of the moral domain (as Social Domain Theory argues), nor that religious morality is expanded beyond secular morality in a uniform manner (as Moral Foundations Theory suggests).When participants in a group did make a moral/non-moral distinction, there was broad agreement that norms related to harm, justice, and rights count as moral norms. However, some religious individuals (such as the Mormon and Muslim participants) also moralized norms from their own religion that are not related to these themes. Meanwhile, others (such as the Jewish participants) acknowledged the special status of their own norms but did not moralize them. Yet others (such as the Hindu participants) made no distinction between the moral and the non-moral. 

The research is here.

BlackRock’s New Morality Marks the End for Coal

Nathaniel Bullard
Bloomberg News
Originally posted 17 Jan 20

Here is an excerpt:

In the U.S., the move away from coal was well underway before the $7 trillion asset manager announced its restrictions. Companies have been shutting down coal-fired power plants and setting “transformative responsible energy plans” removing coal from the mix completely, even in the absence of robust federal policies. 

U.S. coal consumption in power generation fell below 600 million tons last year. This year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects it to fall much further still, below 500 million tons. That’s not only down by more than 50% since 2007, but it would also put coal consumption back to 1978 levels.

That decline is thanks to a massive number of plant retirements, now totaling more than 300 since 2010. The U.S. coal fleet has not had any net capacity additions since 2011. 2015 is the most significant year for coal retirements to date, as a suite of Obama-era air quality standards took effect. 2018 wasn’t far behind, however, and 2019 wasn’t far behind 2018.

The base effect of a smaller number of operational coal plants also means that consumption is declining at an accelerating rate. Using the EIA’s projection for 2020 coal burn in the power sector, year-on-year consumption will decline nearly 15%, the most since at least 1950.

Coal’s decline doesn’t exist in isolation. Most coal in the U.S. travels from mine to plant by rail, so there’s a predictable impact on rail cargoes. A decade ago, U.S. rail carriers shipped nearly 7 million carloads of coal. Last year, that figure was barely 4 million.

The info is here.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Fast optimism, slow realism? Causal evidence for a two-step model of future thinking

Hallgeir Sjåstad and Roy F. Baumeister
PsyArXiv
Originally posted 6 Jan 20

Abstract

Future optimism is a widespread phenomenon, often attributed to the psychology of intuition. However, causal evidence for this explanation is lacking, and sometimes cautious realism is found. One resolution is that thoughts about the future have two steps: A first step imagining the desired outcome, and then a sobering reflection on how to get there. Four pre-registered experiments supported this two-step model, showing that fast predictions are more optimistic than slow predictions. The total sample consisted of 2,116 participants from USA and Norway, providing 9,036 predictions. In Study 1, participants in the fast-response condition thought positive events were more likely to happen and that negative events were less likely, as compared to participants in the slow-response condition. Although the predictions were optimistically biased in both conditions, future optimism was significantly stronger among fast responders. Participants in the fast-response condition also relied more on intuitive heuristics (CRT). Studies 2 and 3 focused on future health problems (e.g., getting a heart attack or diabetes), in which participants in the fast-response condition thought they were at lower risk. Study 4 provided a direct replication, with the additional finding that fast predictions were more optimistic only for the self (vs. the average person). The results suggest that when people think about their personal future, the first response is optimistic, which only later may be followed by a second step of reflective realism. Current health, income, trait optimism, perceived control and happiness were negatively correlated with health-risk predictions, but did not moderate the fast-optimism effect.

From the Discussion section:

Four studies found that people made more optimistic predictions when they relied on fast intuition rather than slow reflection. Apparently, a delay of 15 seconds is sufficient to enable second thoughts and a drop in future optimism. The slower responses were still "unrealistically optimistic"(Weinstein, 1980; Shepperd et al., 2013), but to a much lesser extent than the fast responses. We found this fast-optimism effect on relative comparison to the average person and isolated judgments of one's own likelihood, in two different languages across two different countries, and in one direct replication.All four experiments were pre-registered, and the total sample consisted of about 2,000 participants making more than 9,000 predictions.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Influencing the physiology and decisions of groups: Physiological linkage during group decision-making

Related imageThorson, K. R., and others.
(2020). Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 
https://doi.org/10.1177/1368430219890909

Abstract

Many of the most important decisions in our society are made within groups, yet we know little about how the physiological responses of group members predict the decisions that groups make. In the current work, we examine whether physiological linkage from “senders” to “receivers”—which occurs when a sender’s physiological response predicts a receiver’s physiological response—is associated with senders’ success at persuading the group to make a decision in their favor. We also examine whether experimentally manipulated status—an important predictor of social behavior—is associated with physiological linkage. In groups of 5, we randomly assigned 1 person to be high status, 1 low status, and 3 middle status. Groups completed a collaborative decision-making task that required them to come to a consensus on a decision to hire 1 of 5 firms. Unbeknownst to the 3 middle-status members, high- and low-status members surreptitiously were told to each argue for different firms. We measured cardiac interbeat intervals of all group members throughout the decision-making process to assess physiological linkage. We found that the more receivers were physiologically linked to senders, the more likely groups were to make a decision in favor of the senders. We did not find that people were physiologically linked to their group members as a function of their fellow group members’ status. This work identifies physiological linkage as a novel correlate of persuasion and highlights the need to understand the relationship between group members’ physiological responses during group decision-making.

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Moral Self and Moral Duties

J. Everett, J. Skorburg, and J. Savulescu
PsyArXiv
Created on 6 Jan 20

Abstract

Recent research has begun treating the perennial philosophical question, “what makes a person the same over time?” as an empirical question. A long tradition in philosophy holds that psychological continuity and connectedness of memories are at the heart of personal identity. More recent experimental work, following Strohminger & Nichols (2014), has suggested that persistence of moral character, more than memories, is perceived as essential for personal identity. While there is a growing body of evidence supporting these findings, a critique by Starmans & Bloom (2018) suggests that this research program conflates personal identity with mere similarity. To address this criticism, we explore how loss of someone’s morality or memories influence perceptions of identity change, and perceptions of moral duties towards the target of the change. We present participants with a classic ‘body switch’ thought experiment and after assessing perceptions of identity persistence, we present a moral dilemma, asking participants to imagine that one of the patients must die (Study 1) or be left alone in a care home for the rest of their life (Study 2). Our results highlight the importance of the continuity of moral character, suggesting lay intuitions are tracking (something like) personal identity, not just mere similarity.

The research is here.

Judgment and Decision Making

Baruch Fischhoff and Stephen B. Broomell
Annual Review of Psychology 
2020 71:1, 331-355

Abstract

The science of judgment and decision making involves three interrelated forms of research: analysis of the decisions people face, description of their natural responses, and interventions meant to help them do better. After briefly introducing the field's intellectual foundations, we review recent basic research into the three core elements of decision making: judgment, or how people predict the outcomes that will follow possible choices; preference, or how people weigh those outcomes; and choice, or how people combine judgments and preferences to reach a decision. We then review research into two potential sources of behavioral heterogeneity: individual differences in decision-making competence and developmental changes across the life span. Next, we illustrate applications intended to improve individual and organizational decision making in health, public policy, intelligence analysis, and risk management. We emphasize the potential value of coupling analytical and behavioral research and having basic and applied research inform one another.

The paper can be downloaded here.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Groundbreaking Court Ruling Against Insurer Offers Hope in 2020

Katherine G. Kennedy
Psychiatric News
Originally posted 9 Jan 20

Here is an excerpt:

In his 106-page opinion, Judge Spero criticized UBH for using flawed, internally developed, and overly restrictive medical necessity guidelines that favored protecting the financial interests of UBH over medical treatment of its members.

“By a preponderance of the evidence,” Judge Spero wrote, “in each version of the Guidelines at issue in this case the defect is pervasive and results in a significantly narrower scope of coverage than is consistent with generally accepted standards of care.” His full decision can be accessed here.

As of this writing, we are still awaiting Judge Spero’s remedies order (a court-ordered directive that requires specific actions, such as reparations) against UBH. Following that determination, we will know what UBH will be required to do to compensate class members who suffered damages (that is, protracted illness or death) or their beneficiaries as a result of UBH’s denial of their coverage claims.

But waiting for the remedies order does not prevent us from looking for answers to critical questions like these:

  • Will Wit. v. UBH impact the insurance industry enough to catalyze widespread reforms in how utilization review guidelines are determined and used?
  • How will the 50 offices of state insurance commissioners respond? Will these regulators mandate the use of clinical coverage guidelines that reflect the findings in Wit. v. UBH? Will they tighten their oversight with updated regulations and enforcement actions?


The info is here.

FDA and NIH let clinical trial sponsors keep results secret and break the law

Charles Piller
sciencemag.org
Originally posted 13 Jan 20

For 20 years, the U.S. government has urged companies, universities, and other institutions that conduct clinical trials to record their results in a federal database, so doctors and patients can see whether new treatments are safe and effective. Few trial sponsors have consistently done so, even after a 2007 law made posting mandatory for many trials registered in the database. In 2017, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tried again, enacting a long-awaited “final rule” to clarify the law’s expectations and penalties for failing to disclose trial results. The rule took full effect 2 years ago, on 18 January 2018, giving trial sponsors ample time to comply. But a Science investigation shows that many still ignore the requirement, while federal officials do little or nothing to enforce the law.

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Contacted for comment, none of the institutions disputed the findings of this investigation. In all 4768 trials Science checked, sponsors violated the reporting law more than 55% of the time. And in hundreds of cases where the sponsors got credit for reporting trial results, they have yet to be publicly posted because of quality lapses flagged by ClinicalTrials.gov staff.

The info is here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Judge holds Pa. psychologist in contempt, calls her defiance ‘extraordinary’ in trucker’s case

John Beague
PennLive.com
Originally 18 Jan 20

A federal judge has held a Sunbury psychologist in contempt and sanctioned her $8,288 for failing to comply with a subpoena and a court order in a civil case stemming from a 2016 traffic crash.

U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann, in an opinion issued Friday, said he has never encountered the “obstinance” displayed by Donna Pinter of Psychological Services Clinic Inc.

He called Pinter’s defiance “extraordinary” and pointed out that she never objected to the validity of the subpoena or court order and did not provide an adequate excuse.

“She forced the parties and this court to waste significant and limited resources litigating these motions and convening two hearings for what should have been a routine document production,” he wrote.

The defendants sought information about Kenneth Kerlin of Middleburg from Pinter because she has treated him for years and in his suit he claims the crash, which involved two tractor-trailers, has caused him mental suffering.

The info is here.

Empirical Work in Moral Psychology

Joshua May
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Taylor and Francis
Originally published in 2017

Abstract

How do we form our moral judgments, and how do they influence behaviour? What ultimately motivates kind versus malicious action? Moral psychology is the interdisciplinary study of such questions about the mental lives of moral agents, including moral thought, feeling, reasoning and motivation. While these questions can be studied solely from the armchair or using only empirical tools, researchers in various disciplines, from biology to neuroscience to philosophy, can address them in tandem. Some key topics in this respect revolve around moral cognition and motivation, such as moral responsibility, altruism, the structure of moral motivation, weakness of will, and moral intuitions. Of course there are other important topics as well, including emotions, character, moral development, self-deception, addiction, well-being, and the evolution of moral capacities.

Some of the primary objects of study in moral psychology are the processes driving moral action. For example, we think of ourselves as possessing free will, as being responsible for what we do; as capable of self-control; and as capable of genuine concern for the welfare of others. Such claims can be tested by empirical methods to some extent in at least two ways. First, we can determine what in fact our ordinary thinking is. While many philosophers investigate this through rigorous reflection on concepts, we can also use the empirical methods of the social sciences. Second, we can investigate empirically whether our ordinary thinking is correct or illusory. For example, we can check the empirical adequacy of philosophical theories, assessing directly any claims made about how we think, feel, and behave

Understanding the psychology of moral individuals is certainly interesting in its own right, but it also often has direct implications for other areas of ethics, such as metaethics and normative ethics. For instance, determining the role of reason versus sentiment in moral judgment and motivation can shed light on whether moral judgments are cognitive, and perhaps whether morality itself is in some sense objective. Similarly, evaluating moral theories, such as deontology and utilitarianism, often relies on intuitive judgments about what one ought to do in various hypothetical cases. Empirical research can again serve as an additional tool to determine what exactly our intuitions are and which psychological processes generate them, contributing to a rigorous evaluation of the warrant of moral intuitions.

The info is here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

How to build ethical AI

Carolyn Herzog
thehill.com
Originally posted 18 Jan 20

Here is an excerpt:

Any standard-setting in this field must be rooted in the understanding that data is the lifeblood of AI. The continual input of information is what fuels machine learning, and the most powerful AI tools require massive amounts of it. This of course raises issues of how that data is being collected, how it is being used, and how it is being safeguarded.

One of the most difficult questions we must address is how to overcome bias, particularly the unintentional kind. Let’s consider one potential application for AI: criminal justice. By removing prejudices that contribute to racial and demographic disparities, we can create systems that produce more uniform sentencing standards. Yet, programming such a system still requires weighting countless factors to determine appropriate outcomes. It is a human who must program the AI, and a person’s worldview will shape how they program machines to learn. That’s just one reason why enterprises developing AI must consider workforce diversity and put in place best practices and control for both intentional and inherent bias.

This leads back to transparency.

A computer can make a highly complex decision in an instant, but will we have confidence that it’s making a just one?

Whether a machine is determining a jail sentence, or approving a loan, or deciding who is admitted to a college, how do we explain how those choices were made? And how do we make sure the factors that went into that algorithm are understandable for the average person?

The info is here.

The Americans dying because they can't afford medical care

Michael Sainato
theguardian.com
Originally posted 7 Jan 2020

Here is an excerpt:

Finley is one of millions of Americans who avoid medical treatment due to the costs every year.

A December 2019 poll conducted by Gallup found 25% of Americans say they or a family member have delayed medical treatment for a serious illness due to the costs of care, and an additional 8% report delaying medical treatment for less serious illnesses. A study conducted by the American Cancer Society in May 2019 found 56% of adults in America report having at least one medical financial hardship, and researchers warned the problem is likely to worsen unless action is taken.

Dr Robin Yabroff, lead author of the American Cancer Society study, said last month’s Gallup poll finding that 25% of Americans were delaying care was “consistent with numerous other studies documenting that many in the United States have trouble paying medical bills”.

US spends the most on healthcare

Despite millions of Americans delaying medical treatment due to the costs, the US still spends the most on healthcare of any developed nation in the world, while covering fewer people and achieving worse overall health outcomes. A 2017 analysis found the United States ranks 24th globally in achieving health goals set by the United Nations. In 2018, $3.65tn was spent on healthcare in the United States, and these costs are projected to grow at an annual rate of 5.5% over the next decade.

The info is here.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Can Robots Reduce Racism And Sexism?

Kim Elsesser
Forbes.com
Originally posted 16 Jan 20

Robots are becoming a regular part of our workplaces, serving as supermarket cashiers and building our cars. More recently they’ve been tackling even more complicated tasks like driving and sensing emotions. Estimates suggest that about half of the work humans currently do will be automated by 2055, but there may be a silver lining to the loss of human jobs to robots. New research indicates that robots at work can help reduce prejudice and discrimination.

Apparently, just thinking about robot workers leads people to think they have more in common with other human groups according to research published in American Psychologist. When the study participants’ awareness of robot workers increased, they became more accepting of immigrants and people of a different religion, race, and sexual orientation.

Basically, the robots reduced prejudice by highlighting the existence of a group that is not human. Study authors, Joshua Conrad Jackson, Noah Castelo and Kurt Gray, summarized, “The large differences between humans and robots may make the differences between humans seem smaller than they normally appear. Christians and Muslims have different beliefs, but at least both are made from flesh and blood; Latinos and Asians may eat different foods, but at least they eat.” Instead of categorizing people by race or religion, thinking about robots made participants more likely to think of everyone as belonging to one human category.

The info is here.

The medications that change who we are

Zaria Gorvett
BBC.com
Originally published 8 Jan 20

Here are two excerpts:

According to Golomb, this is typical – in her experience, most patients struggle to recognise their own behavioural changes, let alone connect them to their medication. In some instances, the realisation comes too late: the researcher was contacted by the families of a number of people, including an internationally renowned scientist and a former editor of a legal publication, who took their own lives.

We’re all familiar with the mind-bending properties of psychedelic drugs – but it turns out ordinary medications can be just as potent. From paracetamol (known as acetaminophen in the US) to antihistamines, statins, asthma medications and antidepressants, there’s emerging evidence that they can make us impulsive, angry, or restless, diminish our empathy for strangers, and even manipulate fundamental aspects of our personalities, such as how neurotic we are.

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Research into these effects couldn’t come at a better time. The world is in the midst of a crisis of over-medication, with the US alone buying up 49,000 tonnes of paracetamol every year – equivalent to about 298 paracetamol tablets per person – and the average American consuming $1,200 worth of prescription medications over the same period. And as the global population ages, our drug-lust is set to spiral even further out of control; in the UK, one in 10 people over the age of 65 already takes eight medications every week.

How are all these medications affecting our brains? And should there be warnings on packets?

The info is here.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Ethical Practice of Psychotherapy: Clearly Within Our Reach

Jeff Barnett
Image result for ethical psychologyPsychotherapy, 56(4), 431-440
http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pst0000272

Abstract

This introductory article to the special section on ethics in psychotherapy highlights the challenges and ethical dilemmas psychotherapists regularly face throughout their careers, and the limits of the American Psychological Association Ethics Code in offering clear guidance for how specifically to respond to each of these situations. Reasons for the Ethics Code’s naturally occurring limitations are shared. The role of ethical decision-making, the use of multiple sources of guidance, and the role of consultation with colleagues to augment and support the psychotherapist’s professional judgment are illustrated. Representative ethics challenges in a range of areas of practice are described, with particular attention given to tele-mental health and social media, interprofessional practice and collaboration with medical professionals, and self-care and the promotion of wellness. Key recommendations are shared to promote ethical conduct and to resolve commonly occurring ethical dilemmas in each of these areas of psychotherapy practice. Each of the six articles that follow in this special section on ethics in psychotherapy are introduced, and their main points are summarized.

Here is an excerpt:

Yet, the ethical practice of psychotherapy is complex and multifaceted. This is true as well for psychotherapy research, the supervision of psychotherapy by trainees, and all other professional roles in which psychotherapists may serve. Psychotherapists engage in complex and challenging work in a wide range of practice settings, with a diverse range of clients/patients with highly individualized treatment needs, histories, and circumstances, using a plethora of possible treatment techniques and strategies. Each possible combination of these factors can yield a range of complexities, often presenting psychotherapists with challenges and situations that may not have been anticipated and that tax the psychotherapist’s ability to choose the correct or most appropriate course of action. In such circumstances, ethical dilemmas (situations in which no right or correct course of action is readily apparent and where multiple factors may influence or impact one’s decision on how to proceed) are common. Knowing how to respond to these challenges and dilemmas is of paramount importance for psychotherapists so that we may fulfill our overarching obligations to our clients and all others we serve in our professional roles.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Bursting the Filter Bubble: Democracy, Design, and Ethics

V. E. Bozdag
Book/Thesis
Originally published in 2015

Online web services such as Google and Facebook started using personalization algorithms. Because information is customized per user by the algorithms of these services, two users who use the same search query or have the same friend list may get different results. Online services argue that by using personalization algorithms, they may show the most relevant information for each user, hence increasing user satisfaction. However, critics argue that the opaque filters used by online services will only show agreeable political viewpoints to the users and the users never get challenged by opposing perspectives. Considering users are already biased in seeking like-minded perspectives, viewpoint diversity will diminish and the users may get trapped in a “filter bubble”. This is an undesired behavior for almost all democracy models. In this thesis we first analyzed the filter bubble phenomenon conceptually, by identifying internal processes and factors in online web services that might cause filter bubbles. Later, we analyzed this issue empirically. We first studied existing metrics in viewpoint diversity research of the computer science literature. We also extended these metrics by adding a new one, namely minority access from media and communication studies. After conducting an empirical study for Dutch and Turkish Twitter users, we showed that minorities cannot reach a large percentage of users in Turkish Twittersphere. We also analyzed software tools and design attempts to combat filter bubbles. We showed that almost all of the tools implement norms required by two popular democracy models. We argue that democracy is essentially a contested concept, and other less popular democracy models should be included in the design of such tools as well.

The book/thesis can be downloaded here.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Business ethics and morality have their limitations, new analysis suggests

Jayne Smith
workplaceinsight.net
Originally published 16 Jan 20

Morality has its limitations in the business domain, according to a new analysis of available research by Dr Hannes Leroy from Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) Erasmus University and his co-authors. This is despite the fact that there is a widespread belief that morality and business ethics matter in the way organisations act, although there is also a concomitant belief that there is a general lack of attention to morality in the world of leadership. This appears to be true regardless of industry, firm size, or the status and level of a leader in a company.

The researchers reviewed 300 studies on moral leadership and discovered the pitfalls of morality at work.The study, Taking Stock of Moral Approaches to Leadership: An Integrative Review of Ethical, Authentic, and Servant Leadership was published in the journal Academy of Management Annals.

The info is here.


People Who Second-Guess Themselves Make Worse Decisions

Christopher Ingraham
The Washington Post
Originally posted 9 Jan 20

Here is an excerpt:

The researchers specifically wanted to know whether the revisions were more accurate than the originals.

In theory, there are a lot of reasons to believe this might be the case. A person would presumably revise a prediction after obtaining new information, such as an analyst’s match forecast or a team roster change.

In practice, however, the opposite was true: Revised forecasts accurately predicted the final match score 7.7 percent of the time. But the unaltered forecasts were correct 9.3 percent of the time.

In other words, revised forecasts were about 17 percent less accurate than those that had never changed.

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So where did the second-guessers go wrong? For starters, the researchers controlled for match-to-match and player-to-player variation — it isn’t likely the case, in other words, that matches receiving more revisions were more difficult to predict, or that bad guessers were more likely to revise their forecasts.

The researchers found that revisions were more likely to go awry when forecasters dialed up the scores — by going, say, from predicting a 2-1 final score to 3-2. Indeed, across the data set, the bettors systematically underestimated the likelihood of a 0-0 draw: an outcome anticipated 1.5 percent of the time that actually occurs in 8.4 percent of matches.

The info is here.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Taking Stock of Moral Approaches to Leadership: An Integrative Review of Ethical, Authentic, and Servant Leadership

FIGURE 2G. James Lemoine, Chad A. Hartnell,
and Hannes Leroy
Academy of Management AnnalsVol. 13, No. 1
Published Online:16 Jan 2019
https://doi.org/10.5465/annals.2016.0121

Abstract

Moral forms of leadership such as ethical, authentic, and servant leadership have seen a surge of interest in the 21st century. The proliferation of morally based leadership approaches has resulted in theoretical confusion and empirical overlap that mirror substantive concerns within the larger leadership domain. Our integrative review of this literature reveals connections with moral philosophy that provide a useful framework to better differentiate the specific moral content (i.e., deontology, virtue ethics, and consequentialism) that undergirds ethical, authentic, and servant leadership, respectively. Taken together, this integrative review clarifies points of integration and differentiation among moral approaches to leadership and delineates avenues for future research that promise to build complementary rather than redundant knowledge regarding how moral approaches to leadership inform the broader leadership domain.

From the Conclusion section

Although morality’s usefulness in the leadership domain has often been questioned (e.g., Mumford & Fried, 2014), our comparative review of the three dominant moral approaches (i.e., ethical, authentic, and servant leadership) clearly indicates that moral leadership behaviors positively impact a host of desirable organizationally relevant outcomes. This conclusion counters old critiques that issues of morality in leadership are unimportant (e.g., England & Lee, 1974; Rost, 1991; Thompson, 1956). To the contrary, moral forms of leadership have much potential to explain leadership’s influence in a manner substantially distinct from classical forms of leadership such as task-oriented, relationship-oriented, and change-oriented leadership (DeRue, Nahrgang, Wellman, & Humphrey, 2011; Yukl, Gordon, & Taber, 2002).

Whither Bioethics Now?: The Promise of Relational Theory

Susan Sherwin and Katie Stockdale
International Journal of Feminist 
Approaches to Bioethics 10 (1): 7-29. 2017.

Abstract

This article reflects on the work of feminist bioethicists over the past ten years, reviewing how effective feminists have been in using relational theory to reorient bioethics and where we hope it will go from here. Feminist bioethicists have made significant achievements using relational theory to shape the notion of autonomy, bringing to light the relevance of patients' social circumstances and where they are situated within systems of privilege and oppression. But there is much work to be done to reorient bioethics so that it is capable of addressing some current public health challenges. We argue that relational theory holds promise for beginning this work.

Here is an excerpt:

One reason to think that it is important to see feminist relational theory as the shaping sensibility through which other normative concepts and ideals can be understood is that a relational lens enables us to see the ways in which the very possibility of solidarity can depend on whether social, political, and economic circumstances make possible the choices and actions that are constitutive of solidarity. For example, drawing upon feminist conceptions of relational personhood and autonomy, author Susan Sherwin (2012) points out that the choices and actions available to individuals are bound up with the choices and actions of agents at other levels of human organization, such as international bodies, corporations, social groups, and governments. Since moral responsibility is limited to what agents actually can choose and do, moral responsibilities across all levels of human organization are intertwined and thus also relational.

The article is here.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Psychologist sentenced to four years in prison for healthcare fraud

Macomb Daily Staff
Iosco County News-Herald
Originally posted 13 Jan 20

An Armada Township psychologist was ordered to spend more than four years in federal prison for overbilling an insurance company more than $3 million partly to fund opening a Michigan hotel. He also attempted to expand a museum in his hometown.

Paul L. Smith, who most recently practiced in Shelby Township, received 51 months behind bars last Tuesday from Judge Judge Bernard A. Friedman after pleading guilty to health care fraud and unlawful monetary transactions, according to U.S. Attorneys.

Smith submitted approximately 1,700 false claims for neuropsychological testing and 140 false claims for psychological testing from January 2015 to February 2018, the indictment says.

Smith, who practiced for over 20 years at various locations throughout metro Detroit, submitted claims to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for reimbursement for services that he did not provide, U.S. Attorneys said in a news release. In three years, Smith fraudulently obtained $3.16 million from Blue Cross Blue Shield. Smith subsequently used hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase real property, liquor licenses and furniture, in his venture to become a hotelier in Arcadia in northwest Michigan, reportedly known as “Swan Resort.”

The info is here.

A Reality Check On Artificial Intelligence: Are Health Care Claims Overblown?

Liz Szabo
Kaiser Health News
Originally published 30 Dec 19

Here is an excerpt:

“Almost none of the [AI] stuff marketed to patients really works,” said Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, professor of medical ethics and health policy in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The FDA has long focused its attention on devices that pose the greatest threat to patients. And consumer advocates acknowledge that some devices ― such as ones that help people count their daily steps ― need less scrutiny than ones that diagnose or treat disease.

Some software developers don’t bother to apply for FDA clearance or authorization, even when legally required, according to a 2018 study in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Industry analysts say that AI developers have little interest in conducting expensive and time-consuming trials. “It’s not the main concern of these firms to submit themselves to rigorous evaluation that would be published in a peer-reviewed journal,” said Joachim Roski, a principal at Booz Allen Hamilton, a technology consulting firm, and co-author of the National Academy’s report. “That’s not how the U.S. economy works.”

But Oren Etzioni, chief executive officer at the Allen Institute for AI in Seattle, said AI developers have a financial incentive to make sure their medical products are safe.

The info is here.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Researchers: Are we on the cusp of an ‘AI winter’?

Sam Shead
bbc.com
Originally posted 12 Jan 20

Hype surrounding AI has peaked and troughed over the years as the abilities of the technology get overestimated and then re-evaluated.

The peaks are known as AI summers, and the troughs AI winters.

The 10s were arguably the hottest AI summer on record with tech giants repeatedly touting AI's abilities.

AI pioneer Yoshua Bengio, sometimes called one of the "godfathers of AI", told the BBC that AI's abilities were somewhat overhyped in the 10s by certain companies with an interest in doing so.

There are signs, however, that the hype might be about to start cooling off.

"I have the sense that AI is transitioning to a new phase," said Katja Hoffman, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research in Cambridge.

Given the billions being invested in AI and the fact that there are likely to be more breakthroughs ahead, some researchers believe it would be wrong to call this new phase an AI winter.

The info is here.

Bounded awareness: Implications for ethical decision making

Max H. Bazerman and Ovul Sezer
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Volume 136, September 2016, Pages 95-105

Abstract

In many of the business scandals of the new millennium, the perpetrators were surrounded by people who could have recognized the misbehavior, yet failed to notice it. To explain such inaction, management scholars have been developing the area of behavioral ethics and the more specific topic of bounded ethicality—the systematic and predictable ways in which even good people engage in unethical conduct without their own awareness. In this paper, we review research on both bounded ethicality and bounded awareness, and connect the two areas to highlight the challenges of encouraging managers and leaders to notice and act to stop unethical conduct. We close with directions for future research and suggest that noticing unethical behavior should be considered a critical leadership skill.

Bounded Ethicality

Within the broad topic of behavioral ethics is the much more specific topic of bounded ethicality (Chugh, Banaji, & Bazerman, 2005). Chugh et al. (2005) define bounded ethicality as the psychological processes that lead people to engage in ethically questionable behaviors that are inconsistent with their own preferred ethics. That is, if they were more reflective about their choices, they would make a different decision. This definition runs parallel to the concepts of bounded rationality (March & Simon, 1958) and bounded awareness (Chugh & Bazerman, 2007). In all three cases, a cognitive shortcoming keeps the actor from taking the action that she would choose with greater awareness. Importantly, if people overcame these boundaries, they would make decisions that are more in line with their ethical standards. Note that behavioral ethicists do not ask decision makers to follow particular values or rules, but rather try to help decision makers adhere more closely
to their own personal values with greater reflection.

The paper can be downloaded here.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Explaining moral behavior: A minimal moral model.

Osman, M., & Wiegmann, A.
Experimental Psychology (2017)
64(2), 68-81.

Abstract

In this review we make a simple theoretical argument which is that for theory development, computational modeling, and general frameworks for understanding moral psychology researchers should build on domain-general principles from reasoning, judgment, and decision-making research. Our approach is radical with respect to typical models that exist in moral psychology that tend to propose complex innate moral grammars and even evolutionarily guided moral principles. In support of our argument we show that by using a simple value-based decision model we can capture a range of core moral behaviors. Crucially, the argument we propose is that moral situations per se do not require anything specialized or different from other situations in which we have to make decisions, inferences, and judgments in order to figure out how to act.

From the Implications section:

If instead moral behavior is viewed as a domain-general process, the findings can easily be accounted for based on existing literature from judgment and decision-making research such as Tversky’s (1969) work on intransitive preferences.

The same benefits of this research approach extend to the moral philosophy domain. As we described at the beginning of the paper, empirical research can inform philosophers as to which moral intuitions are likely to be biased. If moral judgments, decisions, and behavior can be captured by well-developed domain-general theories then our theoretical and empirical resources for gaining  knowledge about moral intuitions would be much greater, as compared to the recourses provided by moral psychology alone.

The paper can be downloaded here.

Buddhist Ethics

Maria Heim
Elements in Ethics
DOI: 10.1017/9781108588270
First published online: January 2020

Abstract

“Ethics” was not developed as a separate branch of philosophy in Buddhist traditions until the modern period, though Buddhist philosophers have always been concerned with the moral significance of thoughts, emotions, intentions, actions, virtues, and precepts. Their most penetrating forms of moral reflection have been developed within disciplines of practice aimed at achieving freedom and peace. This Element first offers a brief overview of Buddhist thought and modern scholarly approaches to its diverse forms of moral reflection. It then explores two of the most prominent philosophers from the main strands of the Indian Buddhist tradition – Buddhaghosa and Śāntideva – in a comparative fashion.

The info is here.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Empirical Work in Moral Psychology

 Joshua May
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy

How do we form our moral judgments, and how do they influence behavior? What ultimately motivates kind versus malicious action? Moral psychology is the interdisciplinary study of such questions about the mental lives of moral agents, including moral thought, feeling, reasoning, and motivation. While these questions can be studied solely from the armchair or using only empirical tools, researchers in various disciplines, from biology to neuroscience to philosophy, can address them in tandem. Some key topics in this respect revolve around moral cognition and motivation, such as moral responsibility, altruism, the structure of moral motivation, weakness of will, and moral intuitions. Of course there are other important topics as well, including emotions, character, moral development, self-deception, addiction, well-being, and the evolution of moral capacities.

Some of the primary objects of study in moral psychology are the processes driving moral action. For example, we think of ourselves as possessing free will; as being responsible for what we do; as capable of self-control; and as capable of genuine concern for the welfare of others. Such claims can be tested by empirical methods to some extent in at least two ways. First, we can determine what in fact our ordinary thinking is. While many philosophers investigate this through rigorous reflection on concepts, we can also use the empirical methods of the social sciences. Second, we can investigate empirically whether our ordinary thinking is correct or illusory. For example, we can check the empirical adequacy of philosophical theories, assessing directly any claims made about how we think, feel, and behave.

Understanding the psychology of moral individuals is certainly interesting in its own right, but it also often has direct implications for other areas of ethics, such as metaethics and normative ethics. For instance, determining the role of reason versus sentiment in moral judgment and motivation can shed light on whether moral judgments are cognitive, and perhaps whether morality itself is in some sense objective. Similarly, evaluating moral theories, such as deontology and utilitarianism, often relies on intuitive judgments about what one ought to do in various hypothetical cases. Empirical research can again serve as a tool to determine what exactly our intuitions are and which psychological processes generate them, contributing to a rigorous evaluation of the warrant of moral intuitions.

The paper can be downloaded here.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Bringing Ethics Back To Business

Tamara Pupic
entrepreneur.com
Originally posted 30 Dec 19

In the business world, detecting, preventing, and remedying compliance issues, or a lack thereof, has evolved from academic research, investigative reporting, and businesses applying best practice initiatives, often clumsily, into a niche sector - regtech,  a new sector for ‘treps to develop innovative technologies to address challenges involving regulations.

It is considered the most promising part of the global enterprise governance, risk, and compliance (EGRC) market, whose size has grown rapidly, from US$27.8 billion in 2018 to an expected $64.2 billion by 2025, according to a report by Grand View Research. In the MENA region, transparency and ethical compliance have been at the forefront of shareholder and board of directors’ discussions, especially since non-compliance cases at leading firms have started making headlines just about every other week.

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According to the leadership team, Alethia solves several of the main current challenges in compliance. Firstly, it addresses the lack of anonymity in traditional compliance hotlines and emails “People are naturally skeptical when it comes to technology and personal data,” Roets says. “We instill confidence by requiring no personal information when downloading the app, and we don’t track IP addresses. All interactions are protected with SSL encryption using digitally signed tokens to ensure 100% anonymity for the whistleblower to safeguard against any form of retaliation.” Secondly, the app urges organizations to try different reporting channels. “Most still rely on outdated anonymous telephone hotlines, but in a digital world, when we think about workforce demographics, GDPR compliance, cost implications, and the overall decline in telephone usage, hotlines are no longer best practice,” Roets says. “Other channels include intranet solutions, cumbersome online forms, or personal interactions with HR or ombudsmen. Unfortunately, these offer little by way of a follow-up feature, call handlers’ subjectivity can impact the quality of reports, and most importantly, they all present a real or perceived threat of compromising the reporter’s identity.”

The info is here.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Most scientists 'can't replicate studies by their peers'

Test tubesTom Feilden
BBC.com
Originally posted 22 Feb 17

Here is an excerpt:

The authors should have done it themselves before publication, and all you have to do is read the methods section in the paper and follow the instructions.

Sadly nothing, it seems, could be further from the truth.

After meticulous research involving painstaking attention to detail over several years (the project was launched in 2011), the team was able to confirm only two of the original studies' findings.

Two more proved inconclusive and in the fifth, the team completely failed to replicate the result.

"It's worrying because replication is supposed to be a hallmark of scientific integrity," says Dr Errington.

Concern over the reliability of the results published in scientific literature has been growing for some time.

According to a survey published in the journal Nature last summer, more than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist's experiments.

Marcus Munafo is one of them. Now professor of biological psychology at Bristol University, he almost gave up on a career in science when, as a PhD student, he failed to reproduce a textbook study on anxiety.

"I had a crisis of confidence. I thought maybe it's me, maybe I didn't run my study well, maybe I'm not cut out to be a scientist."

The problem, it turned out, was not with Marcus Munafo's science, but with the way the scientific literature had been "tidied up" to present a much clearer, more robust outcome.

The info is here.

Strength of conviction won’t help to persuade when people disagree

Brain areaPressor
ucl.ac.uk
Originally poste 16 Dec 19

The brain scanning study, published in Nature Neuroscience, reveals a new type of confirmation bias that can make it very difficult to alter people’s opinions.

“We found that when people disagree, their brains fail to encode the quality of the other person’s opinion, giving them less reason to change their mind,” said the study’s senior author, Professor Tali Sharot (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences).

For the study, the researchers asked 42 participants, split into pairs, to estimate house prices. They each wagered on whether the asking price would be more or less than a set amount, depending on how confident they were. Next, each lay in an MRI scanner with the two scanners divided by a glass wall. On their screens they were shown the properties again, reminded of their own judgements, then shown their partner’s assessment and wagers, and finally were asked to submit a final wager.

The researchers found that, when both participants agreed, people would increase their final wagers to larger amounts, particularly if their partner had placed a high wager.

Conversely, when the partners disagreed, the opinion of the disagreeing partner had little impact on people’s wagers, even if the disagreeing partner had placed a high wager.

The researchers found that one brain area, the posterior medial prefrontal cortex (pMFC), was involved in incorporating another person’s beliefs into one’s own. Brain activity differed depending on the strength of the partner’s wager, but only when they were already in agreement. When the partners disagreed, there was no relationship between the partner’s wager and brain activity in the pMFC region.

The info is here.