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, May 10, 2021

Do Brain Implants Change Your Identity?

Christine Kenneally
The New Yorker
Originally posted 19 Apr 21

Here are two excerpts:

Today, at least two hundred thousand people worldwide, suffering from a wide range of conditions, live with a neural implant of some kind. In recent years, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Bryan Johnson, the founder of the payment-processing company Braintree, all announced neurotechnology projects for restoring or even enhancing human abilities. As we enter this new era of extra-human intelligence, it’s becoming apparent that many people develop an intense relationship with their device, often with profound effects on their sense of identity. These effects, though still little studied, are emerging as crucial to a treatment’s success.

The human brain is a small electrical device of super-galactic complexity. It contains an estimated hundred billion neurons, with many more links between them than there are stars in the Milky Way. Each neuron works by passing an electrical charge along its length, causing neurotransmitters to leap to the next neuron, which ignites in turn, usually in concert with many thousands of others. Somehow, human intelligence emerges from this constant, thrilling choreography. How it happens remains an almost total mystery, but it has become clear that neural technologies will be able to synch with the brain only if they learn the steps of this dance.

(cut)

For the great majority of patients, deep-brain stimulation was beneficial and life-changing, but there were occasional reports of strange behavioral reactions, such as hypomania and hypersexuality. Then, in 2006, a French team published a study about the unexpected consequences of otherwise successful implantations. Two years after a brain implant, sixty-five per cent of patients had a breakdown in their marriages or relationships, and sixty-four per cent wanted to leave their careers. Their intellect and their levels of anxiety and depression were the same as before, or, in the case of anxiety, had even improved, but they seemed to experience a fundamental estrangement from themselves. One felt like an electronic doll. Another said he felt like RoboCop, under remote control.

Gilbert describes himself as “an applied eliminativist.” He doesn’t believe in a soul, or a mind, at least as we normally think of them, and he strongly questions whether there is a thing you could call a self. He suspected that people whose marriages broke down had built their identities and their relationships around their pathologies. When those were removed, the relationships no longer worked. Gilbert began to interview patients. He used standardized questionnaires, a procedure that is methodologically vital for making dependable comparisons, but soon he came to feel that something about this unprecedented human experience was lost when individual stories were left out. The effects he was studying were inextricable from his subjects’ identities, even though those identities changed.

Many people reported that the person they were after treatment was entirely different from the one they’d been when they had only dreamed of relief from their symptoms. Some experienced an uncharacteristic buoyancy and confidence. One woman felt fifteen years younger and tried to lift a pool table, rupturing a disk in her back. One man noticed that his newfound confidence was making life hard for his wife; he was too “full-on.” Another woman became impulsive, walking ten kilometres to a psychologist’s appointment nine days after her surgery. She was unrecognizable to her family. They told her that they grieved for the old her.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

For Whom Does Determinism Undermine Moral Responsibility? Surveying the Conditions for Free Will Across Cultures

I. Hannikainen, et. al.
Front. Psychol., 05 November 2019
https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02428

Abstract

Philosophers have long debated whether, if determinism is true, we should hold people morally responsible for their actions since in a deterministic universe, people are arguably not the ultimate source of their actions nor could they have done otherwise if initial conditions and the laws of nature are held fixed. To reveal how non-philosophers ordinarily reason about the conditions for free will, we conducted a cross-cultural and cross-linguistic survey (N = 5,268) spanning twenty countries and sixteen languages. Overall, participants tended to ascribe moral responsibility whether the perpetrator lacked sourcehood or alternate possibilities. However, for American, European, and Middle Eastern participants, being the ultimate source of one’s actions promoted perceptions of free will and control as well as ascriptions of blame and punishment. By contrast, being the source of one’s actions was not particularly salient to Asian participants. Finally, across cultures, participants exhibiting greater cognitive reflection were more likely to view free will as incompatible with causal determinism. We discuss these findings in light of documented cultural differences in the tendency toward dispositional versus situational attributions.

Discussion

At the aggregate level, we found that participants blamed and punished agents whether they only lacked alternate possibilities (Miller and Feltz, 2011) or whether they also lacked sourcehood (Nahmias et al., 2005; Nichols and Knobe, 2007). Thus, echoing early findings, laypeople did not take alternate possibilities or sourcehood as necessary conditions for free will and moral responsibility.

Yet, our study also revealed a dramatic cultural difference: Throughout the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East, participants viewed the perpetrator with sourcehood (in the CI scenario) as freer and more morally responsible than the perpetrator without sourcehood (in the AS scenario). Meanwhile, South and East Asian participants evaluated both perpetrators in a strikingly similar way. We interpreted these results in light of cultural variation in dispositional versus situational attributions (Miller, 1984; Morris and Peng, 1994; Choi et al., 1999; Chiu et al., 2000). From a dispositionist perspective, participants may be especially attuned to the absence of sourcehood: When an agent is the source of their action, people may naturally conjure dispositionist explanations that refer to her goals, desires (e.g., because “she wanted a new life”) or character (e.g., because “she is ruthless”). In contrast, when actions result from a causal chain originating at the beginning of the universe, explanations of this sort – implying sourcehood – seem particularly unsatisfactory and incomplete. In contrast, from a situationist perspective, whether the agent could be seen as the source of her action may be largely irrelevant: Instead, a situationist may think of others’ behavior as the product of extrinsic pressures – from momentary upheaval, to the way they were raised, social norms or fate – and thus perceive both agents, in the CI and AS cases, as similar in matters of free will and moral responsibility.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

When does empathy feel good?

Ferguson, A. M., Cameron, D., & Inzlicht, M. 
(2021, March 12). 
https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/nfuz2

Abstract

Empathy has many benefits. When we are willing to empathize, we are more likely to act prosocially (and receive help from others in the future), to have satisfying relationships, and to be viewed as moral actors. Moreover, empathizing in certain contexts can actually feel good, regardless of the content of the emotion itself—for example, we might feel a sense of connection after empathizing with and supporting a grieving friend. Does this feeling come from empathy itself, or from its real and implied consequences? We suggest that the rewards that flow from empathy confound our experience of it, and that the pleasant feelings associated with engaging empathy are extrinsically tied to the results of some action, not to the experience of empathy itself. When we observe people’s decisions related to empathy in the absence of these acquired rewards, as we can in experimental settings, empathy appears decidedly less pleasant. Empathy has many benefits. When we are willing to empathize, we are more likely to act prosocially (and receive help from others in the future), to have satisfying relationships, and to be viewed as moral actors. Moreover, empathizing in certain contexts can actually feel good, regardless of the content of the emotion itself—for example, we might feel a sense of connection after empathizing with and supporting a grieving friend. Does this feeling come from empathy itself, or from its real and implied consequences? We suggest that the rewards that flow from empathy confound our experience of it, and that the pleasant feelings associated with engaging empathy are extrinsically tied to the results of some action, not to the experience of empathy itself. When we observe people’s decisions related to empathy in the absence of these acquired rewards, as we can in experimental settings, empathy appears decidedly less pleasant.

Friday, May 7, 2021

'Allergic reaction to US religious right' fueling decline of religion, experts say

Donald Trump with religious leaders for a national day of prayer in September 2017.
Adam Gabbatt
The Guardian
Originally published 5 Apr 21

Here is an excerpt:

“Many Americans – especially young people – see religion as bound up with political conservatism, and the Republican party specifically,” Campbell said.

“Since that is not their party, or their politics, they do not want to identify as being religious. Young people are especially allergic to the perception that many – but by no means all – American religions are hostile to LGBTQ rights.”

Research by Campbell shows that a growing number of Americans have turned away from religion as politicians – particularly Republicans – have mixed religion with their politics. Campbell says there has always been an ebb and flow in American adherence to religion, but he thinks the current decline is likely to continue.

“I see no sign that the religious right, and Christian nationalism, is fading. Which in turn suggests that the allergic reaction will continue to be seen – and thus more and more Americans will turn away from religion,” he said.

The number of people who identify as non-religious has grown steadily in recent decades, according to Michele Margolis, associate professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and author of From Politics to the Pews. More than 20% of all Americans are classed as “nones”, Margolis said, and more than a third of Americans under 30.

“That means non-identification is going to continue becoming a larger share of population over time as cohort replacement continues to occur,” Margolis said. But she agreed another factor is the rightwing’s infusion of politics with theism.

“As religion has been closed linked with conservative politics, we’ve had Democrats opting out of organized religion, or being less involved, and Republicans opting in,” she said.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

A chip off the (im)moral block? Lay beliefs about genetic heritability predicts whether family members’ actions affect self-judgments

Peetz, J., Wohl, M. J. A., Wilson, A. E., 
& Dawson, A. 
(2021, March 18).
https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/nfk9e

Abstract

The idea of heritability may have consequences for individuals’ sense of self by connecting identity to the actions of others who happen to share genetic ties. Across seven experimental studies (total N=2,628), recalling morally bad or good actions by family members influenced individuals’ moral self among those who endorse a lay belief that moral character is genetically heritable, but not among those who did not endorse this belief (Study 1-5). In contrast, recalling actions by unrelated individuals had no effect, regardless of lay beliefs (Study 2, 5), the endorsement of other relevant lay beliefs did not moderate the effect of parent’s actions on self-judgments (Study 3). Individuals who endorsed heritability beliefs also chose less helpful responses to hypothetical helping scenarios if they had recalled unhelpful (vs. helpful) acts by a genetically-related family member (Study 5). Taken together, these studies suggest that lay beliefs in the role of genetics are important for self-perceptions.

General Discussion 

In the present research, we examined whether a person’s convictions about their own moral character might be shaped, in part, by the actions of others. Across seven studies, we found evidence that past actions by genetically related family members, and specifically parents, can influence an individual’s sense of moral self –but only if that individual believes that the critical aspect of the self (in our studies, moral character) is genetically inherited (Study 1-5). Past actions by genetically unrelated individuals such as friends or strangers (Study 2), and unrelated family members (Study 5) did not affect participants’ moral self-judgment in the same way, and other lay beliefs(i.e., socialization and the malleability of morality) did not moderate the influence of parents’ actions in the same way (Study 3).

Theoretical Contributions

Self and Identity

This research helps disentangle some of the questions about whether and when other people’s action may influence individuals’ self-concept.  Although the existing literature has demonstrated that the actions of others can indeed have an impact on the self (e.g., people may feel threatened, embarrassed, proud or guilty when reminded of the actions of others and may sometimes believe they will be judged on the basis of others’ actions), past work has not focused on how actions of others might affect self-concept. Further, prior research in this vein has not typically systematically considered whether the effects of others’ actions on the self is the result of that relation being chosen (i.e., friendship), being due to group membership, or being due to genetics(i.e., family). We extend past knowledge in this field by examining whether people’s beliefs about genetic heritability can determine the degree to which family members’ actions predict one’s own self-judgments.   

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Top German psychologist found to have fabricated data—University Investigation Finds Anxiety Expert Pressured Whistleblowers

Hristio Boytchev
Science  09 Apr 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6538, pp. 117-118
DOI: 10.1126/science.372.6538.117

Here is an excerpt:

Wittchen was one of the top epidemiologists of psychiatry, and TU Dresden “has benefited greatly from him,” says Jürgen Margraf, a psychologist at Ruhr University, Bochum, who has collaborated with Wittchen. “If the commission’s findings turn out to be true, they are very disturbing for the entire field, and that would also have an impact on TU Dresden.” Thomas Pollmächer, director of the mental health center at Ingolstadt Hospital, says the allegations are “startling.” He worries about other possible irregularities in Wittchen’s extensive publication record. “Some time bombs may be ticking,” he says.

The study in question was a €2.4 million survey of staffing levels and quality at nearly 100 German psychiatric facilities. Working for TU Dresden’s Association for Knowledge and Technology Transfer (GWT), Wittchen was the principal investigator of the effort, which aimed to examine workloads at the clinics and inform government regulations.

But in February 2019, German media reported allegations, stemming from whistle-blowers close to the survey project, that study data had been fabricated. The university launched a formal investigation, led by law professor Hans-Heinrich Trute.

After 2 years of work, the commission, in its final report, has found that only 73 of 93 psychiatric clinics were actually surveyed. For the others, the report says, Wittchen instructed researchers to copy data from one clinic and apply them to another.

 “The violations were intentional, not negligent,” the report says. “Wittchen wanted to appear more successful than he was.”

Wittchen told Science he would not answer detailed questions “because they are the issue of legal proceedings.” But he denies any wrongdoing and says the study in question was “scientifically correct.”

The investigation report also shows how Wittchen sought to avoid repercussions. 

In April 2019, he sent an email to Hans Müller-Steinhagen, president of TU Dresden at the time, warning him to “stay out of the project” and stop the investigation, because otherwise there would be a “national political earthquake.” 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Human cells grown in monkey embryos reignite ethics debate

Nicola Davis
The Guardian
Originally published 15 Apr 21

Monkey embryos containing human cells have been produced in a laboratory, a study has confirmed, spurring fresh debate into the ethics of such experiments.

The embryos are known as chimeras, organisms whose cells come from two or more “individuals”, and in this case, different species: a long-tailed macaque and a human.

In recent years researchers have produced pig embryos and sheep embryos that contain human cells – research they say is important as it could one day allow them to grow human organs inside other animals, increasing the number of organs available for transplant.

Now scientists have confirmed they have produced macaque embryos that contain human cells, revealing the cells could survive and even multiply.

In addition, the researchers, led by Prof Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte from the Salk Institute in the US, said the results offer new insight into communications pathways between cells of different species: work that could help them with their efforts to make chimeras with species that are less closely related to our own.

“These results may help to better understand early human development and primate evolution and develop effective strategies to improve human chimerism in evolutionarily distant species,” the authors wrote.

The study confirms rumours reported in the Spanish newspaper El País in 2019 that a team of researchers led by Belmonte had produced monkey-human chimeras. The word chimera comes from a beast in Greek mythology that was said to be part lion, part goat and part snake.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Are Conspiracy Theories Harmless?

Douglas, K. M.
The Spanish Journal of Psychology
(2021). 24, e13, 1-7.

Abstract

In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the consequences of conspiracy theories and the COVID–19 pandemic raised this interest to another level. In this article, I will outline what we know about the consequences of conspiracy theories for individuals, groups, and society, arguing that they are certainly not harmless. In particular, research suggests that conspiracy theories are associated with political apathy, support for non-normative political action, climate denial, vaccine refusal, prejudice, crime, violence, disengagement in the workplace, and reluctance to adhere to COVID–19 recommendations. In this article, I will also discuss the challenges of dealing with the negative consequences of conspiracy theories, which present some opportunities for future research.

Conclusions

Conspiracy theories are associated with a range of negative consequences for political engagement, political behavior, climate engagement, trust in science, vaccine uptake, civic behavior, work-related behavior, inter-group relations, and more recently the COVID-19 response.  A significant challenge for researchers is to learn how to deal with conspiracy theories and their associated effects.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Quest to Tell Science from Pseudoscience

Michael D. Gordin
Boston Review
Originally published 23 Mar 21

Here is an excerpt:

Two incidents sparked a reevaluation. The first was the Soviet Union’s launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, on October 4, 1957. The success triggered an extensive discussion about whether the United States had fallen behind in science education, and reform proposals were mooted for many different areas. Then the centenary of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) prompted biologists to decry that “one hundred years without Darwinism are enough!” The Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, an educational center funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, recommended an overhaul of secondary school education in the life sciences, with Darwinism (and human evolution) given a central place.

The cease-fire between the evolutionists and Christian fundamentalists had been broken. In the 1960s religious groups countered with a series of laws insisting on “equal time”: if Darwinism (or “evolution science”) was required, then it should be balanced with an equivalent theory, “creation science.” Cases from both Arkansas and Louisiana made it to the appellate courts in the early 1980s. The first, McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, saw a host of expert witnesses spar over whether Darwinism was science, whether creation science also met the definition of science, and the limits of the Constitution’s establishment clause. A crucial witness for the evolutionists was Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at the University of Guelph in Ontario. Ruse testified to several different demarcation criteria and contended that accounts of the origins of humanity based on Genesis could not satisfy them. One of the criteria he floated was Popper’s.

Judge William Overton, in his final decision in January 1982, cited Ruse’s testimony when he argued that falsifiability was a standard for determining whether a doctrine was science—and that scientific creationism did not meet it. (Ruse walked his testimony back a decade later.) Overton’s appellate court decision was expanded by the U.S. Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), the Louisiana case; the result was that Popper’s falsifiability was incorporated as a demarcation criterion in a slew of high school biology texts. No matter that the standard was recognized as bad philosophy; as a matter of legal doctrine it was enshrined. (In his 2005 appellate court decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Judge John E. Jones III modified the legal demarcation standards by eschewing Popper and promoting several less sharp but more apposite criteria while deliberating over the teaching of a doctrine known as “intelligent design,” a successor of creationism crafted to evade the precedent of Edwards.)

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Could you hate a robot? And does it matter if you could?

Ryland, H. 
AI & Soc (2021).
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-021-01173-5

Abstract

This article defends two claims. First, humans could be in relationships characterised by hate with some robots. Second, it matters that humans could hate robots, as this hate could wrong the robots (by leaving them at risk of mistreatment, exploitation, etc.). In defending this second claim, I will thus be accepting that morally considerable robots either currently exist, or will exist in the near future, and so it can matter (morally speaking) how we treat these robots. The arguments presented in this article make an important original contribution to the robo-philosophy literature, and particularly the literature on human–robot relationships (which typically only consider positive relationship types, e.g., love, friendship, etc.). Additionally, as explained at the end of the article, my discussions of robot hate could also have notable consequences for the emerging robot rights movement. Specifically, I argue that understanding human–robot relationships characterised by hate could actually help theorists argue for the rights of robots.

Conclusion

This article has argued for two claims. First, humans could be in relationships characterised by hate with morally considerable robots. Second, it matters that humans could hate these robots. This is at least partly because such hateful relations could have long-term negative effects for the robot (e.g., by encouraging bad will towards the robots). The article ended by explaining how discussions of human–robot relationships characterised by hate are connected to discussions of robot rights. I argued that the conditions for a robot being an object of hate and for having rights are the same—being sufficiently person-like. I then suggested how my discussions of human–robot relationships characterised by hate could be used to support, rather than undermine, the robot rights movement.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Experimental Philosophy of Technology

Steven Kraaijeveld
Philosophy & Technology

Abstract 

Experimental philosophy is a relatively recent discipline that employs experimental methods to investigate the intuitions, concepts, and assumptions behind traditional philosophical arguments, problems, and theories. While experimental philosophy initially served to interrogate the role that intuitions play in philosophy, it has since branched out to bring empirical methods to bear on problems within a variety of traditional areas of philosophy—including metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and epistemology. To date, no connection has been made between developments in experimental philosophy and philosophy of technology. In this paper, I develop and defend a research program for an experimental philosophy of technology.

Conclusion 

The field of experimental philosophy has, through its engagement with experimental methods, become an important means of obtaining knowledge about the intuitions, concepts, and assumptions that lie behind philosophical arguments, problems, and theories across a wide variety of philosophical disciplines. In this paper, I have extended this burgeoning research program to philosophy of technology, providing both a general outline of how an experimental philosophy of technology might look and a more specific methodology and set of programs that engages with research already being conducted in the field. I have responded to potential objections to an experimental philosophy of technology and I have argued for a number of unique strengths of the approach. Aside from engaging with work that already involves intuitions in techno-philosophical research, a booming experimental philosophy of technology research program can offer a unifying methodology for a diverse set of subfields, a way of generating knowledge across disciplines without necessarily requiring specialized knowledge; and, at the very least, it can make those working in philosophy of technology—and those in society who engage with technology, which is all of us—more mindful of the intuitions about technology that we may, rightly or wrongly, hold.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Why evolutionary psychology should abandon modularity

Pietraszewski, D., & Wertz, A. E. 
(2021, March 29).
https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691621997113

Abstract

A debate surrounding modularity—the notion that the mind may be exclusively composed of distinct systems or modules—has held philosophers and psychologists captive for nearly forty years. Concern about this thesis—which has come to be known as the massive modularity debate—serves as the primary grounds for skepticism of evolutionary psychology’s claims about the mind. Here we will suggest that the entirety of this debate, and the very notion of massive modularity itself, is ill-posed and confused. In particular, it is based on a confusion about the level of analysis (or reduction) at which one is approaching the mind. Here, we will provide a framework for clarifying at what level of analysis one is approaching the mind, and explain how a systemic failure to distinguish between different levels of analysis has led to profound misunderstandings of not only evolutionary psychology, but also of the entire cognitivist enterprise of approaching the mind at the level of mechanism. We will furthermore suggest that confusions between different levels of analysis are endemic throughout the psychological sciences—extending well beyond issues of modularity and evolutionary psychology. Therefore, researchers in all areas should take preventative measures to avoid this confusion in the future.

Conclusion

What has seemed to be an important but interminable debate about the nature of (massive) modularity is better conceptualized as the modularity mistake.  Clarifying the level of analys is at which one is operating will not only resolve the debate, but render it moot.  In its stead, researchers will be free to pursue much simpler, clearer, and more profound questions about how the mind works. If we proceed as usual, we will end up back in the same confused place where we started in another 40 years —arguing once again about who’s on first. Confusing or collapsing across different levels of analysis is not just a problem for modularity and evolutionary psychology.  Rather, it is the greatest problem facing early-21st-century psychology, dwarfing even the current replication crisis. Since at least the days of the neobehaviorists (e.g. Tolman, 1964), the ontology of the intentional level has become mingled with the functional level in all areas of the cognitive sciences (see Stich, 1986). Constructs such as thinking, reasoning, effort, intuition, deliberation, automaticity, and consciousness have become misunderstood and misused as functional level descriptions of how the mind works.  Appeals to  a central agency who uses “their” memory, attention, reasoning, and soon have become commonplace and unremarkable. Even the concept of cognition itself has fallen into the same levels of analysis confusion seen in the modularity mistake.  In the process, a shared notion of what it means to provide a coherent functional level (or mechanistic) description of the mind has been lost.

We do not bring up these broader issues to resolve them here.  Rather, we wish to emphasize what is at stake when it comes to being clear about levels of analysis.  If we do not respect the distinctions between levels, no amount of hard work, nor mountains of data that we will ever collect will resolve the problems created by conflating them.  The only question is whether or not we are willing to begin the slow, difficult — but ultimately clarifying and redeeming — process of unconfounding the intentional and functional levels of analysis. The modularity mistake is as good a place as any to start.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

When your authenticity is an act, something’s gone wrong

Joseph E. Davis
psyche.co
Originally published 31 Mar 21

Here is an excerpt:

But, as an ethical ideal – as a standard of what it is good to be, both in the way that we relate to ourselves and others – authenticity means more than self-consistency or a lack of pretentiousness. It also concerns features of the inner life that define us. While there is no one ‘essence’ of authenticity, as Marino observes, the ideal has often been expressed as a commitment to being true to yourself, and ordering your soul and living your life so as to give faithful expression to your individuality, cherished projects and deepest convictions.

Authenticity in this ethical sense also had a critical edge, standing against and challenging the utilitarian practices and conformist tendencies of the conventional social and economic order. Society erects barriers that the authentic person must break through. Finding your true self means self-reflection, engaging in candid self-appraisal and seeking ‘genuine self-knowledge’, in the words of the American philosopher Charles Guignon. It means making your own those truths that matter crucially to you, as the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor stresses, the truths that it’s right and necessary to be true to. In this understanding, the inward turn is not an end in itself. It’s a means to personal wholeness and access to shared horizons of meaning that transcend the self and contribute to a richer, more human world.

The meanings of authenticity that concern the inner life are now fading away. They are not, as Marino suggests, and as I too have argued, consistent with how life is generally lived today. But there is an alternative meaning – an authenticity that is harmonious with our times. Here is a mode of authenticity that we might say ‘everyone wants to be’, because here is the mode that everyone is expected to be.


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Recruiting Dark Personalities for Earnings Management

Harris, L., and others
Available at SSRN

Abstract

Prior research indicates that managers’ dark personality traits increase their tendency to engage in disruptive and unethical organizational behaviors including accounting earnings management. Other research suggests that the prevalence of dark personalities in management may represent an accidental byproduct of selecting managers with accompanying desirable attributes that fit the stereotype of a “strong leader.” Our paper posits that organizations may hire some managers who have dark personality traits because their willingness to push ethical boundaries aligns with organizational objectives, particularly in the accounting context where ethical considerations are especially important. Using several validation studies and experiments, we find that experienced executives and recruiting professionals favor hiring a candidate with dark personality traits into an accounting management position over an otherwise better-qualified candidate when the hiring organization faces pressure to manage earnings. Our results help to illuminate why individuals with dark personality traits may effectively compete for high-level accounting positions.

 Conclusion

This paper provides provocative evidence about the types of individuals who are hired into positions of power and authority in the accounting function of organizations. The results of our studies support our research hypothesis that, in the presence of earnings management pressure, job candidates who possess more dark personality traits (i.e., Candidate A) are more likely to be hired than candidates who possess fewer dark personality traits (i.e., Candidate B).  We also find that executive recruitment professionals are more likely to screen out candidates without dark personalities before they are considered by prospective employers. Our results arise despite the fact that (1) Candidate A is considered to be a significantly worse manager than Candidate B, (2) Candidate A is perceived to be more likely to engage in fraud than Candidate B, (3) Candidate A is perceived to be less likely to maintain high ethical standards in the face of
adversity than Candidate B, and (4) Candidate A is viewed by many as generally less likeable than Candidate B. We therefore conclude that the perceived willingness to push ethical boundaries, as signaled by dark personality traits, represents an important dimension of candidate fit and hiring potential when organizations face pressure to manage earnings. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

When democracy lacks morality

Mohammad Mazhari 
Tehran Times
Originally posted 5 Apr 2021

Here is an excerpt:

Democracy certainly helps us to hold governments more responsible, but cannot guarantee accountability. A responsible government must be democratic, but a democratic government is not necessarily accountable.

Being unrestricted, relying on monetary cartels and pure capitalism rather than human rights may undermine democracy and mislead the masses, as we have seen in right-wing populist democracies. 

It seems that the U.S. needs to prioritize repairing its value system before the sanctification of democracy; ethical rules and human rights must be considered as sacred as a democracy so that the elected person in a democratic country cannot decide impulsively with regard to domestic foreign policy matters; he won’t be free to withdraw his country from the international treaties overnight.

This is a completely irresponsible way of governance when you disregard fundamental values. This is a very example of an irresponsible democracy. So, not only the governments must be encouraged to be democratic, but democracy must be responsible based on morality and human values.

Political systems always need to be updated and reevaluated at least every decade to find their defects. For instance, today many experts consider the electoral college an outdated undemocratic mechanism that is partly rooted in slavery. 

Likewise, absolute power in the hands of the democratically elected president can act against democracy and peace.

 Democracy also needs boundaries drawn by morality and fundamental human rights. Suppose people of a country vote for the atomic bombing of a neighboring country. Obviously, this would be a violation of human rights. 

Then respecting valuable experiences of the past is a must, especially when it comes to democracy as one of the most important achievements of human rationality. But we must also learn from our mistakes.

Our democracies are supposed to serve peace, equality, and development, regardless of nationality, religion, or ethnicity. 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Training for Wisdom: The Distanced-Self-Reflection Diary Method

Grossmann, I., et al.  (2019, May 8). 
Psychological Science. 2021;32(3):381-394. 
doi:10.1177/0956797620969170

Abstract

Two pre-registered longitudinal experiments (Study 1: Canadians/Study 2: Americans and Canadians; N=555) tested the utility of illeism—a practice of referring to oneself in the third person—during diary-reflection for the trainability of wisdom-related characteristics in everyday life: emotional complexity (Study 1) and wise reasoning (intellectual humility, open-mindedness about how situations could unfold, consideration of and attempts to integrate diverse viewpoints; Studies 1-2). In a month-long experiment, instruction to engage in third- (vs. first-) person diary-reflections on most significant daily experiences resulted in growth in wise reasoning and emotional complexity assessed in laboratory sessions after vs. before the intervention. Additionally, third- (vs. first-) person participants showed alignment between forecasted and month-later experienced feelings toward close others in challenging situations. Study 2 replicated the third-person self-reflections effect on wise reasoning (vs. first-person- and no-pronoun-controls) in a week-long intervention. The present research demonstrates a path to evidence-based training of wisdom-related processes.

General Discussion

Two interventions demonstrated the effectiveness of distanced self-reflection for promoting wiser reasoning about interpersonal challenges, relative to control conditions. The effect of using distanced self-reflection on wise reasoning was in part statistically accounted for by a corresponding broadening of people’s habitually narrow self-focus into a more expansive sense of self (Aron & Aron, 1997). Distanced self-reflection effects were particularly pronounced for intellectual humility and social-cognitive aspects of wise reasoning (i.e., acknowledgement of others’ perspectives, search for conflict resolution). This project provides the first evidence that wisdom-related cognitive processes can be fostered in daily life. The results suggest that distanced self-reflections in daily diaries may cultivate wiser reasoning about challenging social interactions by promoting spontaneous self-distancing (Ayduk & Kross, 2010).

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Bias Blind Spot: Structure, Measurement, and Consequences

Irene Scopelliti,  et al.
Management Science 61(10):
2468-2486.

Abstract

People exhibit a bias blind spot: they are less likely to detect bias in themselves than in others. We report the development and validation of an instrument to measure individual differences in the propensity to exhibit the bias blind spot that is unidimensional, internally consistent, has high test-retest reliability, and is discriminated from measures of intelligence, decision-making ability, and personality traits related to self-esteem, self-enhancement, and self-presentation. The scale is predictive of the extent to which people judge their abilities to be better than average for easy tasks and worse than average for difficult tasks, ignore the advice of others, and are responsive to an intervention designed to mitigate a different judgmental bias. These results suggest that the bias blind spot is a distinct metabias resulting from naïve realism rather than other forms of egocentric cognition, and has unique effects on judgment and behavior.

Conclusion

We find that bias blind spot is a latent factor in self-assessments of relative vulnerability to bias. This meta-bias affected the majority of participants in our samples, but exhibited considerable variance across
participants. We present a concise, reliable, and valid measure of individual differences in bias blind spot
that has the ability to predict related biases in self-assessment, advice taking, and responsiveness to bias
reduction training. Given the influence of bias blind spot on consequential judgments and decisions, as
well as receptivity to training, this measure may prove useful across a broad range of domains such as personnel assessment, information analysis, negotiation, consumer decision making, and education.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Justin Welby tells Church of England to stop using NDAs amid racism claims

BBC.com
Originally posted 20 Apr 21

Justin Welby said he had not been aware confidentiality agreements were being used to stop people speaking publicly.

He told Times Radio the documentary was "rightly shaming".

Mr Welby added that he was "horrified" to hear the extent of racist abuse within the Church.

"I have said many times that I am totally against NDAs [non-disclosure agreements]. NDAs are unacceptable. I am just horrified by that and horrified by the fact of racism," he said.

Together with the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, he has written to senior members of the Church, telling them confidentiality agreements are no longer to be used.

The Church of England is releasing a report later this week, which it says will include plans to address racism within its own ranks.

Dr Elizabeth Henry, the Church's former adviser on race relations, quit her job last year because she said she felt disillusioned.

"I felt frustrated by the lack of progress with issues of racism," she told Panorama.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Liberty University vs. Jerry Falwell Jr.: A white Christian morality tale

Anthea Butler
MSNBC.com
Originally posted 20 Apr 21

Here is an excerpt:

The story of Falwell's fall from grace, the Liberty lawsuit and the struggle to regain Liberty's moral high ground is a larger morality tale for the white evangelical movement. After years of proclaiming that sexual, fiscal and spiritual morality were important for their faith and institutions, white evangelicals showed America otherwise by overwhelmingly supporting Donald Trump. Falwell's role in solidifying that support, like his father's Moral Majority movement, was about aligning white evangelicals to Republican power, money and prestige.

But now that's coming back to haunt him. His sin, in the eyes of Liberty University, was to betray the carefully crafted image his father, Jerry Falwell Sr., created, with social media posts and an unseemly public persona that worshipped wealth. White evangelicals have been very good at consolidating power, which they often prioritize over true morality. But heaven help the man who tarnishes the brand.

In response to the lawsuit, Falwell claims that the university has "gone off the rails" and that the suit is "full of lies and half-truths." Falwell filed his own defamation lawsuit against Liberty in October, only to drop it two months later. He continues, however, to claim that the university has damaged his reputation.

Responding to the lawsuit via Twitter, Falwell alleged that "the Exec. Comm of the LU board has made another attempt to defame me and discredit my record following a series of harsh and unnecessary actions against my children, Becki and me."

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Target Dehumanization May Influence Decision Difficulty and Response Patterns for Moral Dilemmas

Bai, H., et al. (2021, February 25). 
https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/fknrd

Abstract

Past research on moral dilemmas has thoroughly investigated the roles of personality and situational variables, but the role of targets in moral dilemmas has been relatively neglected. This paper presents findings from four experiments that manipulate the perceived dehumanization of targets in moral dilemmas. Studies 1, 2 and 4 suggest that dehumanized targets may render the decision easier, and with less emotion. Findings from Studies 1 and 3, though not Studies 2 and 4, show that dehumanization of targets in dilemmas may lead participants to make less deontological judgments. Study 3, but not Study 4, suggests that it is potentially because dehumanization has an effect on reducing deontological, but not utilitarian judgments. Though the patterns are somewhat inconsistent across studies, overall, results suggest that targets’ dehumanization can play a role in how people make their decisions in moral dilemmas.

General Discussion

Together, the four studies described in this paper contribute to the literature by providing evidence that the dehumanization of targets may play an important role in how people make decisions in moral dilemmas. In particular, we found some evidence in Studies 1, 2 and 4 suggesting that dehumanized targets may affect how people experience their decisions, rendering the decisions easier and less emotional. We also found some evidence from Studies 1 and 3, though not Studies 2 and 4, that dehumanization of targets in dilemmas may affect what decision people eventually make, suggesting that dehumanized targets may elicit less deontological responses to some extent. Finally, Study 3, but not Study 4, suggests that the decreased level of deontological response pattern may be potentially explained by dehumanization’s effect on reducing deontological, but not utilitarian tendencies. To this point, we conducted a mini-meta-analysis across the combined data for Studies 3 and 4 and compared the differences in the D parameter between the dehumanized condition and humanized conditions. We found an effect size of d = .135, which suggests that if dehumanization has an effect, it may not be a very big effect.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

State Medical Board Recommendations for Stronger Approaches to Sexual Misconduct by Physicians

King PA, Chaudhry HJ, Staz ML. 
JAMA. 
Published online March 29, 2021. 
doi:10.1001/jama.2020.25775

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) recently engaged with its member boards and investigators, trauma experts, physicians, resident physicians, medical students, survivors of physician abuse, and the public to critically review practices related to the handling of reports of sexual misconduct (including harassment and abuse) toward patients by physicians. The review was undertaken as part of a core responsibility of boards to protect the public and motivated by concerning reports of unacceptable behavior by physicians. Specific recommendations from the review were adopted by the FSMB’s House of Delegates on May 2, 2020, and are highlighted in this Viewpoint.

Sexual misconduct by physicians exists along a spectrum of severity that may begin with “grooming” behaviors and end with sexual assault. Behaviors at any point on this spectrum should be of concern because unreported minor violations (including sexually suggestive comments or inappropriate physical contact) may lead to greater misconduct. In 2018, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine identified sexual harassment as an important problem in scientific communities and medicine, finding that greater than 50% of women faculty and staff and 20% to 50% of women students reportedly have encountered or experienced sexually harassing conduct in academia. Data from state medical boards indicate that 251 disciplinary actions were taken against physicians in 2019 for “sexual misconduct” violations (Table). The actual number may be higher because boards often use a variety of terms, including unprofessional conduct, physician-patient boundary issues, or moral unfitness, to describe such actions. The FSMB has begun a project to encourage boards to align their categorization of all disciplinary actions to better understand the scope of misconduct.

Monday, April 19, 2021

The Military Is Funding Ethicists to Keep Its Brain Enhancement Experiments in Check

Sara Scoles
Medium.com
Originally posted 1 April 21

Here is an excerpt:

The Department of Defense has already invested in a number of projects to which the Minerva research has relevance. The Army Research Laboratory, for example, has funded researchers who captured and transmitted a participant’s thoughts about a character’s movement in a video game, using magnetic stimulation to beam those neural instructions to another person’s brain and cause movement. And it has supported research using deep learning algorithms and EEG readings to predict a person’s “drowsy and alert” states.

Evans points to one project funded by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA): Scientists tested a BCI that allowed a woman with quadriplegia to drive a wheelchair with her mind. Then, “they disconnected the BCI from the wheelchair and connected to a flight simulator,” Evans says, and she brainfully flew a digital F-35. “DARPA has expressed pride that their work can benefit civilians,” says Moreno. “That helps with Congress and with the public so it isn’t just about ‘supersoldiers,’” says Moreno.

Still, this was a civilian participant, in a Defense-funded study, with “fairly explicitly military consequences,” says Evans. And the big question is whether the experiment’s purpose justifies the risks. “There’s no obvious therapeutic reason for learning to fly a fighter jet with a BCI,” he says. “Presumably warfighters have a job that involves, among other things, fighter jets, so there might be a strategic reason to do this experiment. Civilians rarely do.”

It’s worth noting that warfighters are, says Moreno, required to take on more risks than the civilians they are protecting, and in experiments, military members may similarly be asked to shoulder more risk than a regular-person participant.

DARPA has also worked on implants that monitor mood and boost the brain back to “normal” if something looks off, created prosthetic limbs animated by thought, and made devices that improve memory. While those programs had therapeutic aims, the applications and follow-on capabilities extend into the enhancement realm — altering mood, building superstrong bionic arms, generating above par memory.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Antiscience Movement Is Escalating, Going Global and Killing Thousands

Peter J. Hotez
Scientific American
Originally posted 29 MAR 21

Antiscience has emerged as a dominant and highly lethal force, and one that threatens global security, as much as do terrorism and nuclear proliferation. We must mount a counteroffensive and build new infrastructure to combat antiscience, just as we have for these other more widely recognized and established threats.

Antiscience is the rejection of mainstream scientific views and methods or their replacement with unproven or deliberately misleading theories, often for nefarious and political gains. It targets prominent scientists and attempts to discredit them. The destructive potential of antiscience was fully realized in the U.S.S.R. under Joseph Stalin. Millions of Russian peasants died from starvation and famine during the 1930s and 1940s because Stalin embraced the pseudoscientific views of Trofim Lysenko that promoted catastrophic wheat and other harvest failures. Soviet scientists who did not share Lysenko’s “vernalization” theories lost their positions or, like the plant geneticist, Nikolai Vavilov, starved to death in a gulag.

Now antiscience is causing mass deaths once again in this COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning in the spring of 2020, the Trump White House launched a coordinated disinformation campaign that dismissed the severity of the epidemic in the United States, attributed COVID deaths to other causes, claimed hospital admissions were due to a catch-up in elective surgeries, and asserted that ultimately that the epidemic would spontaneously evaporate. It also promoted hydroxychloroquine as a spectacular cure, while downplaying the importance of masks. Other authoritarian or populist regimes in Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua, Philippines and Tanzania adopted some or all of these elements.   

As both a vaccine scientist and a parent of an adult daughter with autism and intellectual disabilities, I have years of experience going up against the antivaccine lobby, which claims vaccines cause autism or other chronic conditions. This prepared me to quickly recognize the outrageous claims made by members of the Trump White House staff, and to connect the dots to label them as antiscience disinformation. Despite my best efforts to sound the alarm and call it out, the antiscience disinformation created mass havoc in the red states. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Binding Moral Values Gain Importance in the Presence of Close Others

Yudkin, D. A., et al. (2019, April 12). 
https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/tcq65

Abstract

A key function of morality is to regulate social behavior. Research suggests moral values may be divided into two types: binding values, which govern behavior in groups, and individualizing values, which promote personal rights and freedoms. Because people tend to mentally activate concepts in situations in which they may prove useful, the importance they afford moral values may vary according to whom they are with in the moment. In particular, because binding values help regulate communal behavior, people may afford these values more importance when in the presence of close (versus distant) others. Five studies test and support this hypothesis. First, we use a custom smartphone application to repeatedly record participants’ (n = 1,166) current social context and the importance they afforded moral values. Results show people rate moral values as more important when in the presence of close others, and this effect is stronger for binding than individualizing values—an effect that replicates in a large preregistered online sample (n = 2,016). A lab study (n = 390) and two preregistered online experiments (n = 580 and n = 752) provides convergent evidence that people afford binding, but not individualizing, values more importance when in the real or imagined presence of close others. Our results suggest people selectively activate different moral values according to the demands of the situation, and show how the mere presence of others can affect moral thinking.

Discussion

Centuries of thought in moral philosophy suggest that the purpose of moral values is to regulate social behavior. However, the psychology underlying this process remains underspecified. Here we show that the mere presence of close others increases the importance people afford binding moral values. By contrast, individualizing values are not reliably associated with relational context. In other words, people appear to selectively activate those moral values most relevant to their current social situation. This “moral activation” may play a functional role by helping people to abide by the relevant moral values in a given relational context and monitor adherence to those values in others. 

Our results are consistent with the view that different values play different functional roles in social life. Past research contrasts the values that encourage cohesion in groups and relationships with those that emphasize individual rights and freedoms10.Because violations to individualizing values may be considered wrong regardless of where and when they occur, the importance people ascribe to them may be unaffected by who they are with. By contrast, because binding values concern the moral duties conferred by specific social relationships, they may be particularly subject to social influence. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Reduced decision bias and more rational decision making following ventromedial prefrontal cortex damage

S. Manohar, et al.
Cortex, Volume 138, 
May 2021, Pages 24-37

Abstract

Human decisions are susceptible to biases, but establishing causal roles of brain areas has proved to be difficult. Here we studied decision biases in 17 people with unilateral medial prefrontal cortex damage and a rare patient with bilateral ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) lesions. Participants learned to choose which of two options was most likely to win, and then bet money on the outcome. Thus, good performance required not only selecting the best option, but also the amount to bet. Healthy people were biased by their previous bet, as well as by the unchosen option's value. Unilateral medial prefrontal lesions reduced these biases, leading to more rational decisions. Bilateral vmPFC lesions resulted in more strategic betting, again with less bias from the previous trial, paradoxically improving performance overall. Together, the results suggest that vmPFC normally imposes contextual biases, which in healthy people may actually be suboptimal in some situations.

From the Discussion

The findings presented here show that it is indeed possible for more rational decision making to emerge at least on a value based reversal learning task after bilateral vmPFC lesions. This is not to say that all decisions and behaviours become more rational after such brain damage. Clearly, although he managed to continue to work in a demanding job, patient MJ showed evidence of dysfunction in social cognition
and some aspects of decision making and judgment in everyday life, just as previous reported cases (Bechara et al., 2000; Berlin et al., 2004; Eslinger & Damasio, 1985; ShamayTsoory et al., 2005).

There is some previous circumstantial evidence that mPFC lesions may reduce decision biases. For example, patients with mPFC damage show smaller biases in probabilistic estimation (O’Callaghan et al., 2018), reduced affective contributions to reasoning (Shamay-Tsoory et al., 2005), and may indeed make more utilitarian moral judgements, suggesting more rational valuation with less affective bias (Ciaramelli
et al., 2007; Koenigs et al., 2007; Krajbich et al., 2009). These effects might be underpinned by a more general increase in rationality after damage to this region. One possible explanation for this is that individuals with vmPFC lesions might be free of affective biases that normally contribute to such decision making but this remains to be established.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Anchoring Effect in Legal Decision-Making: A Meta-Analysis

Bystranowski, P., Janik, B., Próchnicki, M., 
& Skórska, P. 
(2021). Law and Human Behavior, 45(1), 1-23. 
http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/lhb0000438

Objective
We conducted a meta-analysis to examine whether numeric decision-making in law is susceptible to the effect of (possibly arbitrary) values present in the decision contexts (anchoring effect) and to investigate which factors might moderate this effect. 

Hypotheses
We predicted that the presence of numeric anchors would bias legal decision-makers’ judgment in the direction of the anchor value. We hypothesized that the effect size of anchoring would be moderated by several variables, which we grouped into three categories: methodological (type of stimuli; type of sample), psychological (standard vs. basic paradigm; anchor value; type of scale on which the participants assessed the target value), and legal (relevance of the anchor; type of the anchor; area of law to which the presented case belonged; presence of any salient numeric values other than the main anchor). 

Method
Twenty-nine studies (93 effect sizes; N = 8,549) met the inclusion criteria. We divided them into two groups, depending on whether they included a control group, and calculated the overall effect size using a random-effects Model with robust variance estimation. We assessed the influence of moderators using random effects metaregression. 

Results
The overall effect sizes of anchoring for studies with a control group (z = .27, 95% CI [.21, .33], d = .58, 95% CI [.44, .73]) and without a control group (z = .39, 95% CI [.31, .47], d = .91, 95% CI [.69, 1.12]) were both significant, although we provide some evidence of possible publication bias. We found preliminary evidence of a potential moderating effect of some legally relevant factors, such as legal expertise or the anchor relevance. 

Conclusions
Existing research indicates anchoring effects exist in legal contexts. The influence of anchors seems to depend on some situational factors, which paves the way for future research on countering the problematic effect in legal settings.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Signaling When No One Is Watching: A Reputation Heuristics Account of Outrage and Punishment In One-Shot Anonymous Interactions

Jordan, J. J., & Rand, D. G. (2020). 
Journal of Personality and 
Social Psychology, 118(1), 57–88. 

Abstract

Moralistic punishment can confer reputation benefits by signaling trustworthiness to observers. However, why do people punish even when nobody is watching? We argue that people often rely on the heuristic that reputation is typically at stake, such that reputation concerns can shape moralistic outrage and punishment even in one-shot anonymous interactions. We then support this account using data from Amazon Mechanical Turk. In anonymous experiments, subjects (total n = 8,440) report more outrage in response to others’ selfishness when they cannot signal their trustworthiness through direct prosociality (sharing with a third party)—such that if the interaction were not anonymous, punishment would have greater signaling value. Furthermore, mediation analyses suggest that sharing opportunities reduce outrage by influencing reputation concerns. Additionally, anonymous experiments measuring costly punishment (total n = 6,076) show the same pattern: subjects punish more when sharing is not possible. Moreover, and importantly, moderation analyses provide some evidence that sharing opportunities do not merely reduce outrage and punishment by inducing empathy toward selfishness or hypocrisy aversion among non-sharers. Finally, we support the specific role of heuristics by investigating individual differences in deliberateness. Less deliberative individuals (who typically rely more on heuristics) are more sensitive to sharing opportunities in our anonymous punishment experiments, but, critically, not in punishment experiments where reputation is at stake (total n = 3,422); and not in our anonymous outrage experiments (where condemning is costless). Together, our results suggest that when nobody is watching, reputation cues nonetheless can shape outrage and—among individuals who rely on heuristics—costly punishment. 

Conclusion

Third-party punishment is central to human morality, and plays a key role in promoting cooperation. However, from an ultimate perspective, it is also puzzling, especially in the context of oneshot anonymous interactions: why should we make personal sacrifices to punish wrongdoing toward others? Our results support the theory that even in such contexts, some people rely on the heuristic that reputation is typically at stake. As a result, even when reputation is not actually at stake, reputation cues can shape moral outrage—and, among less deliberative individuals, costly punishment. Our results thus demonstrate how a reputation framework can shed light on these key features of human morality.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Can Clinical Empathy Survive? Distress, Burnout, and Malignant Duty in the Age of Covid‐19

A. Anzaldua & J. Halpern
Hastings Report
Jan-Feb 2021 22-27.

Abstract

The Covid‐19 crisis has accelerated a trend toward burnout in health care workers, making starkly clear that burnout is especially likely when providing health care is not only stressful and sad but emotionally alienating; in such situations, there is no mental space for clinicians to experience authentic clinical empathy. Engaged curiosity toward each patient is a source of meaning and connection for health care providers, and it protects against sympathetic distress and burnout. In a prolonged crisis like Covid‐19, clinicians provide care out of a sense of duty, especially the duty of nonabandonment. We argue that when duty alone is relied on too heavily, with fear and frustration continually suppressed, the risk of burnout is dramatically increased. Even before Covid‐19, clinicians often worked under dehumanizing and unjust conditions, and rates of burnout were 50 percent for physicians and 33 percent for nurses. The Covid‐19 intensification of burnout can serve as a wake‐up call that the structure of health care needs to be improved if we are to prevent the loss of a whole generation of empathic clinicians.

(cut)

The Dynamics of Clinical Empathy

Clinical empathy, a specific form of empathy that has therapeutic impact in the medical setting and is professionally sustainable, was first conceptualized by one of us, Jodi Halpern, as emotionally engaged curiosity. Her work challenged the expectation that physicians should limit themselves to detached cognitive empathy, showing how affective resonance, when redirected into curiosity about the patient, is essential for therapeutic impact. Halpern's interactive model of affective and cognitive empathy has been supported by empirical research, including findings regarding improved diagnosis, treatment adherence, and coping as well as studies of specific diseases (for example, about improved diabetes outcomes), though more research is needed to precisely identify the specific ways that affective resonance and cognitive curiosity contribute to meeting specific clinical needs. This model is also supported by neuroscientific findings showing how affective attunement improves cognitive empathy.

Models of compassion in medical care add valuable practices of mindfulness but do not emphasize an individualized appreciation of each patient's predicament. We thus work with Halpern's model, which emphasizes using emotional resonance to inform imagining the world from each patient's perspective. Halpern defines the cognitive aim of imagining each patient's perspective as “curiosity” because the practice of clinical empathy as engaged curiosity is founded on the recognition that each patient brings their own distinct world, with a unique set of values and needs that the physician cannot presume to know. This is a subtle but vital point. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Structuring Local Environments to Avoid Diversity: Anxiety Drives Whites’ Geographical and Institutional Self-Segregation Preferences

Anicich, E., Jachimowicz, J., 
(2021, February 16). 
https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/yzpr2

Abstract

The current research explores how local racial diversity affects Whites’ efforts to structure their local communities to avoid incidental intergroup contact. In two experimental studies (N=509; Studies 1a-b), we consider Whites’ choices to structure a fictional, diverse city and find that Whites choose greater racial segregation around more (vs. less) self-relevant landmarks (e.g., their workplace and children’s school). Specifically, the more time they expect to spend at a landmark, the more they concentrate other Whites around that landmark, thereby reducing opportunities for incidental intergroup contact. Whites also structure environments to reduce incidental intergroup contact by instituting organizational policies that disproportionately exclude non-Whites: Two large-scale archival studies (Studies 2a-b) using data from every U.S. tennis (N=15,023) and golf (N=10,949) facility revealed that facilities in more racially diverse communities maintain more exclusionary barriers (e.g., guest policies, monetary fees, dress codes) that shield the patrons of these historically White institutions from incidental intergroup contact. In a final experiment (N=307; Study 3), we find that Whites’ anticipated intergroup anxiety is one driver of their choices to structure environments to reduce incidental intergroup contact in more (vs. less) racially diverse communities. Our results suggest that despite increasing racial diversity, White Americans structure local environments to fuel a self-perpetuating cycle of segregation.

General Discussion

Across five studies using a mix of experimental, archival, and survey methods, we provide evidence of a cycle of intergroup avoidance that is reflected in Whites’ efforts to structure their local environments in ways that reduce incidental intergroup contact: Whites experience more intergroup anxiety in the face of local racial diversity, and as such, work to segregate themselves geographically and institutionally from racial outgroup members. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of incidental intergroup contact, which has the potential for debiasing effects.Specifically, in Studies 1a and 1b, we found that when given the opportunity to do so, Whites exhibited a preference to racially self-segregate when making decisions about the racial distribution of residents in a diverse city even in a controlled experimental setting. In Studies 2a and 2b, we constructed a rich archival dataset using information about every tennis and golf facility in the United States. We found that the gatekeepers of these historically White institutions restrict access in more versus less racially diverse communities by maintaining private (vs. public) access, higher monetary barriers, and stricter dress codes. Finally, Study 3experimentally manipulated the racial composition of a fictitious city and found that Whites who imagined living in a more versus less racially diverse city more strongly endorsed exclusionary policies in their institutions and anticipated feeling more stressed when confronted with the prospect of navigating through a diverse part of town, effects which were statistically mediated by feelings of intergroup anxiety.

Taken together, the current research offers important insights into how local racial diversity shapes Whites’ intergroup avoidance strategies, and ultimately results in Whites structuring communities in ways that reduce incidental intergroup contact and the frequency of potentially debiasing encounters.Moreover, such decisions block critical opportunities (economic, social, etc.) for racial minorities themselves, thus contributing to the persistence of structural racism, even in the face of increasing racial diversity (see also Kraus & Torrez, 2020).

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Personal experiences bridge moral and political divides better than facts

E. Kubin, C. Puryear, C. Shein, & K. Gray
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 
Feb 2021, 118 (6) e2008389118
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2008389118

Abstract

Both liberals and conservatives believe that using facts in political discussions helps to foster mutual respect, but 15 studies—across multiple methodologies and issues—show that these beliefs are mistaken. Political opponents respect moral beliefs more when they are supported by personal experiences, not facts. The respect-inducing power of personal experiences is revealed by survey studies across various political topics, a field study of conversations about guns, an analysis of YouTube comments from abortion opinion videos, and an archival analysis of 137 interview transcripts from Fox News and CNN. The personal experiences most likely to encourage respect from opponents are issue-relevant and involve harm. Mediation analyses reveal that these harm-related personal experiences increase respect by increasing perceptions of rationality: everyone can appreciate that avoiding harm is rational, even in people who hold different beliefs about guns, taxes, immigration, and the environment. Studies show that people believe in the truth of both facts and personal experiences in nonmoral disagreement; however, in moral disagreements, subjective experiences seem truer (i.e., are doubted less) than objective facts. These results provide a concrete demonstration of how to bridge moral divides while also revealing how our intuitions can lead us astray. Stretching back to the Enlightenment, philosophers and scientists have privileged objective facts over experiences in the pursuit of truth. However, furnishing perceptions of truth within moral disagreements is better accomplished by sharing subjective experiences, not by providing facts.

Significance

All Americans are affected by rising political polarization, whether because of a gridlocked Congress or antagonistic holiday dinners. People believe that facts are essential for earning the respect of political adversaries, but our research shows that this belief is wrong. We find that sharing personal experiences about a political issue—especially experiences involving harm—help to foster respect via increased perceptions of rationality. This research provides a straightforward pathway for increasing moral understanding and decreasing political intolerance. These findings also raise questions about how science and society should understand the nature of truth in the era of “fake news.” In moral and political disagreements, everyday people treat subjective experiences as truer than objective facts.


Saturday, April 10, 2021

Ethical and Professionalism Implications of Physician Employment and Health Care Business Practices

De Camp, M, & Sulmasy, L. S.
Annals of Internal Medicine
Position Paper: 16 March 21

Abstract

The environment in which physicians practice and patients receive care continues to change. Increasing employment of physicians, changing practice models, new regulatory requirements, and market dynamics all affect medical practice; some changes may also place greater emphasis on the business of medicine. Fundamental ethical principles and professional values about the patient–physician relationship, the primacy of patient welfare over self-interest, and the role of medicine as a moral community and learned profession need to be applied to the changing environment, and physicians must consider the effect the practice environment has on their ethical and professional responsibilities. Recognizing that all health care delivery arrangements come with advantages, disadvantages, and salient questions for ethics and professionalism, this American College of Physicians policy paper examines the ethical implications of issues that are particularly relevant today, including incentives in the shift to value-based care, physician contract clauses that affect care, private equity ownership, clinical priority setting, and physician leadership. Physicians should take the lead in helping to ensure that relationships and practices are structured to explicitly recognize and support the commitments of the physician and the profession of medicine to patients and patient care.

Here is an excerpt:

Employment of physicians likewise has advantages, such as financial stability, practice management assistance, and opportunities for collaboration and continuing education, but there is also the potential for dual loyalty when physicians try to be accountable to both their patients and their employers. Dual loyalty is not new; for example, mandatory reporting of communicable diseases may place societal interests in preventing disease at odds with patient privacy interests. However, the ethics of everyday business models and practices in medicine has been less explored.

Trust is the foundation of the patient–physician relationship. Trust, honesty, fairness, and respect among health care stakeholders support the delivery of high-value, patient-centered care. Trust depends on expertise, competence, honesty, transparency, and intentions or goodwill. Institutions, systems, payers, purchasers, clinicians, and patients should recognize and support “the intimacy and importance of patient–clinician relationships” and the ethical duties of physicians, including the primary obligation to act in the patient's best interests (beneficence).

Business ethics does not necessarily conflict with the ethos of medicine. Today, physician leadership of health care organizations may be vital for delivering high-quality care and building trust, including in health care institutions. Truly trustworthy institutions may be more successful (in patient care and financially) in the long term.

Blanket statements about business practices and contractual provisions are unhelpful; most have both potential positives and potential negatives. Nevertheless, it is important to raise awareness of business practices relevant to ethics and professionalism in medical practice and promote the physician's ability to advocate for arrangements that align with medicine's core values. In this paper, the American College of Physicians (ACP) highlights 6 contemporary issues and offers ethical guidance for physicians. Although the observed trends toward physician employment and organizational consolidation merit reflection, certain issues may also resonate with independent practices and in other practice settings.