Jennifer Kelly, PhD & Arthur Evans, PhD
American Psychological AssociationJanuary 8, 2021
Dear APA Members,
The recent storming of the U.S. Capitol has shocked our nation and the world. After 200 years of peaceful transfers of power between political parties, we were assaulted with images of rioters desecrating one of our greatest symbols of democracy. Regardless of our political views, we can agree that hate and violence toward each other are never acceptable.
All of this took place as our nation has been emerging from a year dominated by trauma—a rapidly spreading virus, widespread divisiveness, and economic uncertainty. These layers of trauma are cumulative, and make it difficult to function.
Psychology is of immense value in a time of such complex tragedy and trauma. It is vital that our science and professional expertise are utilized to help heal the political, economic, and ideological divides in our country.
Misinformation and conspiracy theories are at the root of this week’s tragedies. Despite every state certifying the results, and those results being validated by dozens of courts across the nation, repeated claims from the President that the presidential election was “rigged” or “stolen” drove Wednesday’s demonstrators to engage in the mayhem we witnessed. As psychologists, we understand the human propensity toward confirmation bias. We must continue to educate people on how to resist seeking out information that supports their own viewpoint and promote the use of techniques that encourage more objective consideration. The continued propagation of mistruths fosters tribalism, outrage, and rancor, which prevents us as individuals from seeing our shared humanity and interests.
There is much to do, and APA is taking action. We have been educating reporters and the public on the science underlying trauma and resilience, political psychology and polarization, misinformation and conspiracy theories, and how to talk to children about traumatic events. We have been working with members of Congress and both the outgoing and the incoming administrations to ensure that psychology and our science is not just at the table, but informing vital decisions. Our APA task force on police use of force is underway and releasing recommendations early this year. And our members—all of you—are using your expertise to help individuals, communities, and policymakers.
The work that we do as a field is critical. It is understandable if you are feeling shaken, angry, or emotionally exhausted. But recognize that—as a part of the APA community—you are not alone. We are all in this together and we must be intentional in taking care of ourselves and supporting each other as we work through this national trauma in all its forms.
Our nation faces immense challenges that will not end on Inauguration Day. Psychology and our association must play a critical role in addressing those challenges. Most people—across the political spectrum—want the best for our country. Together, we must look toward the future. Psychologists offer science and expertise that can promote hope, resilience, and a path forward for a nation that is in trauma and in need of healing. APA is committed to doing that work with all of you.