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
Showing posts with label Relationships. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Relationships. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Responding Effectively to Disruptive Patient Behaviors: Beyond Behavior Contracts

Fabi R, Johnson LSM. 
JAMA. 2024;331(10):823–824.

Here is an excerpt:

The epidemic of workplace violence has prompted the use of harsh responses that include “behavior contracts” (sometimes called “behavioral agreements”) that can undermine a hospital’s commitment to providing evidence-based, patient-centered care. There is no national repository of data on the use of behavior contracts, or on hospital policies, but in our experience as clinical ethics consultants, and through discussions with colleagues nationally, we have observed that hospitals increasingly try to manage so-called difficult patients and families through behavior contracts that impose paternalistic limits and punitive consequences on patients for a wide range of behaviors. Yet behavior contracts pose serious ethical challenges, especially when unilaterally imposed on patients whose behavior is upsetting and disrespectful but not unsafe. Moreover, the evidence supporting the efficacy of contracts is lacking.

Behavior contracts are used in a variety of health care contexts to promote patient adherence with treatment, including smoking cessation, weight loss, substance use disorder rehabilitation, and psychiatric treatment. A Cochrane systematic review found that evidence of their effectiveness at improving adherence is limited and mixed; it did not find evidence from randomized clinical trials outside of this context.1 Indeed, we could find no empirical evidence to support or challenge the effectiveness of behavior contracts as a tool for addressing the problems of undesirable patient or family behaviors, patient-staff conflicts, and workplace violence in health care. Absent such evidence, health care institutions committed to evidence-based medicine and workplace safety might hesitate before using these contracts. When viewed alongside the ethical considerations, which have been extensively explored in the bioethics literature, we argue that the lack of supportive evidence generates an ethical imperative to reconsider their use altogether. Such reconsideration should include internal audits of how and when they are used, address the lack of institutional transparency and accountability about their use, and impose consistency and ethical safeguards. Based on our own experience, and that of many colleagues, we suspect that institutions that engage in this kind of self-reflection will find worrisome disparities in their use of behavior contracts.

Quick summary:

The article discusses strategies for responding effectively to disruptive patient behaviors beyond behavior contracts. It emphasizes the importance of recognizing risks, de-escalating situations, and maintaining safety in healthcare settings. Key points include the impact of disruptive behavior on patient safety, the need for de-escalation techniques, and the significance of understanding triggers to prevent disruptive incidents. The article also highlights the role of training, policies, and protocols in managing disruptive behaviors successfully.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

A Large-Scale Investigation of Everyday Moral Dilemmas

Yudkin, D. A., Goodwin, G., et al. (2023, July 11).


Questions of right and wrong are central to daily life, yet how people experience everyday moral dilemmas remains uncertain. We combined state-of-the-art tools in machine learning with survey-based methods in psychology to analyze a massive online English-language repository of everyday moral dilemmas. In 369,161 descriptions (“posts”) and 11M evaluations (“comments”) of moral dilemmas extracted from Reddit’s “Am I the Asshole?” forum (AITA), users described a wide variety of everyday dilemmas, ranging from broken promises to privacy violations. Dilemmas involving the under-investigated topic of relational obligations were the most frequently reported, while those pertaining to honesty were the most widely condemned. The types of dilemmas people experienced depended on the interpersonal closeness of the interactants, with some dilemmas (e.g., politeness) being more prominent in distant-other interactions, and others (e.g., relational transgressions) more prominent in close-other interactions. A longitudinal investigation showed that shifts in social interactions prompted by the “shock” event of the global pandemic resulted in predictable shifts in the types of moral dilemmas that people encountered. A preregistered study using a census-stratified representative sample of the US population (N = 510), as well as other robustness tests, suggest our findings generalize beyond the sample of Reddit users. Overall, by leveraging a unique large dataset and new techniques for exploring this dataset, our paper highlights the diversity of moral dilemmas experienced in daily life, and helps to build a moral psychology grounded in the vagaries of everyday experience.

Significance Statement

People often wonder if what they did or said was right or wrong. In this paper we leveraged a massive online repository of descriptions of everyday moral situations, along with new methods in natural language processing, to explore a number of questions about how people experience and evaluate these moral dilemmas. Our results highlight just how often daily moral experiences concern questions about our responsibilities to friends, neighbors, and family. They also reveal the extent to which such experiences can change according to people’s social context—including large-scale social changes like the COVID-19 pandemic.

My take: 

This study may be very important to clinical psychologists. It provides insights into the diversity and prevalence of everyday moral dilemmas that people encounter in their daily lives.

Clinical psychologists often work with clients to navigate complex moral and interpersonal situations, so understanding the common types of dilemmas people face is valuable.  The study shows that dilemmas involving relational obligations are the most frequently reported, with honesty and betrayal as major themes.  This suggests that clinical work should pay close attention to how clients navigate moral issues within their close relationships and the importance they place on honesty.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Scientists are on the verge of a male birth-control pill. Will men take it?

Jill Filipovic
The Guardian
Originally posted 18 Dec 23

Here is an excerpt:

The overwhelming share of responsibility for preventing pregnancy has always fallen on women. Throughout human history, women have gone to great lengths to prevent pregnancies they didn’t want, and end those they couldn’t prevent. Safe and reliable contraceptive methods are, in the context of how long women have sought to interrupt conception, still incredibly new. Measured by the lifespan of anyone reading this article, though, they are well established, and have for many decades been a normal part of life for millions of women around the world.

To some degree, and if only for obvious biological reasons, it makes sense that pregnancy prevention has historically fallen on women. But it also, as they say, takes two to tango – and only one of the partners has been doing all the work. Luckily, things are changing: thanks to generations of women who have gained unprecedented freedoms and planned their families using highly effective contraception methods, and thanks to men who have shifted their own gender expectations and become more involved partners and fathers, women and men have moved closer to equality than ever.

Among politically progressive couples especially, it’s now standard to expect that a male partner will do his fair share of the household management and childrearing (whether he actually does is a separate question, but the expectation is there). What men generally cannot do, though, is carry pregnancies and birth babies.

Here are some themes worthy of discussion:

Shifting responsibility: The potential availability of a reliable male contraceptive marks a significant departure from the historical norm where the burden of pregnancy prevention was primarily borne by women. This shift raises thought-provoking questions that delve into various aspects of societal dynamics.

Gender equality: A crucial consideration is whether men will willingly share responsibility for contraception on an equal footing, or whether societal norms will continue to exert pressure on women to take the lead in this regard.

Reproductive autonomy: The advent of accessible male contraception prompts contemplation on whether it will empower women to exert greater control over their reproductive choices, shaping the landscape of family planning.

Informed consent: An important facet of this shift involves how men will be informed about potential side effects and risks associated with the male contraceptive, particularly in comparison to existing female contraceptives.

Accessibility and equity: Concerns emerge regarding equitable access to the male contraceptive, particularly for marginalized communities. Questions arise about whether affordable and culturally appropriate access will be universally available, regardless of socioeconomic status or geographic location.

Coercion: There is a potential concern that the availability of a male contraceptive might be exploited to coerce women into sexual activity without their full and informed consent.

Psychological and social impact: The introduction of a male contraceptive brings with it potential psychological and social consequences that may not be immediately apparent.

Changes in sexual behavior: The availability of a male contraceptive may influence sexual practices and attitudes towards sex, prompting a reevaluation of societal norms.

Impact on relationships: The shift in responsibility for contraception could potentially cause tension or conflict in existing relationships as couples navigate the evolving dynamics.

Masculinity and stigma: The use of a male contraceptive may challenge traditional notions of masculinity, possibly leading to social stigma that individuals using the contraceptive may face.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

On Edge: Understanding and Preventing Young Adults’ Mental Health Challenges

Making Caring Common. (2023).

From the Executive Summary

Our recent data suggests that the young adults of Generation Z are experiencing emotional struggles at alarming rates. While the emotional struggles of teens have been in the national spotlight since the pandemic—and this attention has been vital—according to our nationally representative survey, young adults report roughly twice the rates of anxiety and depression as teens. Compared to 18% of teens, a whopping 36% of young adults in our survey reported anxiety; in contrast to 15% of teens, 29% of young adults reported depression. Far too many young adults report that they feel on edge, lonely, unmoored, directionless, and that they worry about financial security. Many are “achieving to achieve” and find little meaning in either school or work. Yet these struggles of young adults have been largely off the public radar.

From the Press Release:

The report identifies a variety of stressors that may be driving young adults’ high rates of anxiety and
depression. The top drivers of young adults’ mental health challenges include:
  • A lack of meaning, purpose, and direction: Nearly 3 in 5 young adults (58%) reported that they lacked “meaning or purpose” in their lives in the previous month. Half of young adults reported that their mental health was negatively influenced by “not knowing what to do with my life.
  • Financial worries and achievement pressure: More than half of young adults reported that financial worries (56%) and achievement pressure (51%) were negatively impacting their mental health.
  • A perception that the world is unraveling: Forty-five percent (45%) of young adults reported that a general "sense that things are falling apart” was impairing their mental health.
  • Relationship deficits: Forty-four percent (44%) of young adults reported a sense of not mattering to others and 34% reported loneliness.
  • Social and political issues: Forty-two percent (42%) reported the negative influence on their mental health of gun violence in schools, 34% cited climate change, and 30% cited worries that our political leaders are incompetent or corrupt.

The report also suggests strategies for promoting young adults’ mental health and mitigating their
emotional challenges. These include:
  • Cultivating meaning and purpose in young people, including by engaging them in caring for
  • others and service;
  • Supporting young people in developing gratifying and durable relationships; and
  • Helping young people experience their lives as more than the sum of their achievements.
“We need to do much more to support young adults’ mental health and devote more resources to prevention,” said Kiran Bhai, MCC’s Schools & Parenting Programs Director and a co-author of the
report. “This includes reducing the stressors that young people are facing and helping them develop
the skills they need to thrive.”

Sunday, October 29, 2023

We Can't Compete With AI Girlfriends

Freya India
Originally published 14 September 23

Here isn an excerpt:

Of course most people are talking about what this means for men, given they make up the vast majority of users. Many worry about a worsening loneliness crisis, a further decline in sex rates, and ultimately the emergence of “a new generation of incels” who depend on and even verbally abuse their virtual girlfriends. Which is all very concerning. But I wonder, if AI girlfriends really do become as pervasive as online porn, what this will mean for girls and young women? Who feel they need to compete with this?

Most obvious to me is the ramping up of already unrealistic beauty standards. I know conservatives often get frustrated with feminists calling everything unattainable, and I agree they can go too far — but still, it’s hard to deny that the pressure to look perfect today is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. And I don’t think that’s necessarily pressure from men but I do very much think it’s pressure from a network of profit-driven industries that take what men like and mangle it into an impossible ideal. Until the pressure isn’t just to be pretty but filtered, edited and surgically enhanced to perfection. Until the most lusted after women in our culture look like virtual avatars. And until even the most beautiful among us start to be seen as average.

Now add to all that a world of fully customisable AI girlfriends, each with flawless avatar faces and cartoonish body proportions. Eva AI’s Dream Girl Builder, for example, allows users to personalise every feature of their virtual girlfriend, from face style to butt size. Which could clearly be unhealthy for men who already have warped expectations. But it’s also unhealthy for a generation of girls already hating how they look, suffering with facial and body dysmorphia, and seeking cosmetic surgery in record numbers. Already many girls feel as if they are in constant competition with hyper-sexualised Instagram influencers and infinitely accessible porn stars. Now the next generation will grow up not just with all that but knowing the boys they like can build and sext their ideal woman, and feeling as if they must constantly modify themselves to compete. I find that tragic.


The article discusses the growing trend of AI girlfriends and the potential dangers associated with their proliferation. It mentions that various startups are creating romantic chatbots capable of explicit conversations and sexual content, with millions of users downloading such apps. While much of the concern focuses on the impact on men, the article also highlights the negative consequences this trend may have on women, particularly in terms of unrealistic beauty standards and emotional expectations. The author expresses concerns about young girls feeling pressured to compete with AI girlfriends and the potential harm to self-esteem and body image. The article raises questions about the impact of AI girlfriends on real relationships and emotional intimacy, particularly among younger generations. It concludes with a glimmer of hope that people may eventually reject the artificial in favor of authentic human interactions.

The article raises valid concerns about the proliferation of AI girlfriends and their potential societal impacts. It is indeed troubling to think about the unrealistic beauty and emotional standards that these apps may reinforce, especially among young girls and women. The pressure to conform to these virtual ideals can undoubtedly have damaging effects on self-esteem and mental well-being.

The article also highlights concerns about the potential substitution of real emotional intimacy with AI companions, particularly among a generation that is already grappling with social anxieties and less real-world human interaction. This raises important questions about the long-term consequences of such technologies on relationships and societal dynamics.

However, the article's glimmer of optimism suggests that people may eventually realize the value of authentic, imperfect human interactions. This point is essential, as it underscores the potential for a societal shift away from excessive reliance on AI and towards more genuine connections.

In conclusion, while AI girlfriends may offer convenience and instant gratification, they also pose significant risks to societal norms and emotional well-being. It is crucial for individuals and society as a whole to remain mindful of these potential consequences and prioritize real human connections and authenticity.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Neuroscience of Trust

Paul J. Zak
Harvard Business Review
Originally posted January-February 2017

Here is an excerpt:

The Return on Trust

After identifying and measuring the managerial behaviors that sustain trust in organizations, my team and I tested the impact of trust on business performance. We did this in several ways. First, we gathered evidence from a dozen companies that have launched policy changes to raise trust (most were motivated by a slump in their profits or market share). Second, we conducted the field experiments mentioned earlier: In two businesses where trust varies by department, my team gave groups of employees specific tasks, gauged their productivity and innovation in those tasks, and gathered very detailed data—including direct measures of brain activity—showing that trust improves performance. And third, with the help of an independent survey firm, we collected data in February 2016 from a nationally representative sample of 1,095 working adults in the U.S. The findings from all three sources were similar, but I will focus on what we learned from the national data since itʼs generalizable.

By surveying the employees about the extent to which firms practiced the eight behaviors, we were able to calculate the level of trust for each organization. (To avoid priming respondents, we never used the word “trust” in surveys.) The U.S. average for organizational trust was 70% (out of a possible 100%). Fully 47% of respondents worked in organizations where trust was below the average, with one firm scoring an abysmally low 15%. Overall, companies scored lowest on recognizing excellence and sharing information (67% and 68%, respectively). So the data suggests that the average U.S. company could enhance trust by
improving in these two areas—even if it didnʼt improve in the other six.

The effect of trust on self-reported work performance was powerful.  Respondents whose companies were in the top quartile indicated they had 106% more energy and were 76% more engaged at work than respondents whose firms were in the bottom quartile. They also reported being 50% more productive
—which is consistent with our objective measures of productivity from studies we have done with employees at work. Trust had a major impact on employee loyalty as well: Compared with employees at low-trust companies, 50% more of those working at high-trust organizations planned to stay with their employer over the next year, and 88% more said they would recommend their company to family and friends as a place to work.

Here is a summary of the key points from the article:
  • Trust is crucial for social interactions and has implications for economic, political, and healthcare outcomes. There are two main types of trust - emotional trust and cognitive trust.
  • Emotional trust develops early in life through attachments and is more implicit, while cognitive trust relies on reasoning and develops later. Both rely on brain regions involved in reward, emotion regulation, understanding others' mental states, and decision making.
  • Oxytocin and vasopressin play key roles in emotional trust by facilitating social bonding and attachment. Disruptions to these systems are linked to social disorders like autism.
  • The prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and striatum are involved in cognitive trust judgments and updating trustworthiness based on new evidence. Damage to prefrontal regions impairs updating of trustworthiness.
  • Trust engages the brain's reward circuitry. Betrayals of trust activate pain and emotion regulation circuits. Trustworthiness cues engage the mentalizing network for inferring others' intentions.
  • Neuroimaging studies show trust engage brain regions involved in reward, emotion regulation, understanding mental states, and decision making. Oxytocin administration increases trusting behavior.
  • Understanding the neuroscience of trust can inform efforts to build trust in healthcare, economic, political, and other social domains. More research is needed on how trust develops over the lifespan.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

The dark side of generosity: Employees with a reputation for giving are selectively targeted for exploitation

Stanley, M. L., Neck, C. P., & Neck, C. B. (2023). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 108, 104503.


People endorse generosity as a moral virtue worth exemplifying, and those who acquire reputations for generosity are admired and publicly celebrated. In an organizational context, hiring, retaining, and promoting generous employees can make organizations more appealing to customers, suppliers, and top talent. However, using complementary methods and experimental designs with large samples of full-time managers, we find consistent evidence that managers are inclined to take unfair advantage of employees with reputations for generosity, selectively targeting them for exploitation in ways that likely, and ironically, hamper long-term organizational success. This selective targeting of generous employees for exploitation was statistically explained by a problematic assumption: Since they have reputations for generosity, managers assume that, if they had the opportunity, they would have freely volunteered for their own exploitation. We also investigate a possible solution to the targeting of more generous employees for exploitative practices. Merely asking managers to make a judgment about the ethics of an exploitative request eliminates their propensity to target generous employees over other employees for exploitation.

The article is behind a paywall.

Here is a summary:

The research suggests that organizations should be aware of the potential for managers to exploit employees with a reputation for generosity. They also suggest that organizations should implement policies and procedures to protect employees from exploitation.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the study:
  • Employees with a reputation for generosity are more likely to be targeted for exploitation by managers.
  • Managers are more likely to make exploitative requests of employees who they have a personal relationship with.
  • Organizations should be aware of the potential for managers to exploit employees with a reputation for generosity and implement policies and procedures to protect employees from exploitation.
The study also suggests that there are a number of factors that may contribute to the exploitation of generous employees, including:
  • The manager's perception of the employee's willingness to comply with exploitative requests.
  • The manager's personal relationship with the employee.
  • The organization's culture and policies.
It is important to note that the study did not find that all managers exploit generous employees. However, the study does suggest that it is a phenomenon that organizations should be aware of and take steps to prevent.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Meaning in Life in AI Ethics—Some Trends and Perspectives

Nyholm, S., Rüther, M. 
Philos. Technol. 36, 20 (2023). 


In this paper, we discuss the relation between recent philosophical discussions about meaning in life (from authors like Susan Wolf, Thaddeus Metz, and others) and the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI). Our goal is twofold, namely, to argue that considering the axiological category of meaningfulness can enrich AI ethics, on the one hand, and to portray and evaluate the small, but growing literature that already exists on the relation between meaning in life and AI ethics, on the other hand. We start out our review by clarifying the basic assumptions of the meaning in life discourse and how it understands the term ‘meaningfulness’. After that, we offer five general arguments for relating philosophical questions about meaning in life to questions about the role of AI in human life. For example, we formulate a worry about a possible meaningfulness gap related to AI on analogy with the idea of responsibility gaps created by AI, a prominent topic within the AI ethics literature. We then consider three specific types of contributions that have been made in the AI ethics literature so far: contributions related to self-development, the future of work, and relationships. As we discuss those three topics, we highlight what has already been done, but we also point out gaps in the existing literature. We end with an outlook regarding where we think the discussion of this topic should go next.


Meaning in Life in AI Ethics—Summary and Outlook

We have tried to show at least three things in this paper. First, we have noted that there is a growing debate on meaningfulness in some sub-areas of AI ethics, and particularly in relation to meaningful self-development, meaningful work, and meaningful relationships. Second, we have argued that this should come as no surprise. Philosophers working on meaning in life share the assumption that meaning in life is a partly autonomous value concept, which deserves ethical consideration. Moreover, as we argued in Section 4 above, there are at least five significant general arguments that can be formulated in support of the claim that questions of meaningfulness should play a prominent role in ethical discussions of newly emerging AI technologies. Third, we have also stressed that, although there is already some debate about AI and meaning in life, it does not mean that there is no further work to do. Rather, we think that the area of AI and its potential impacts on meaningfulness in life is a fruitful topic that philosophers have only begun to explore, where there is much room for additional in-depth discussions.

We will now close our discussion with three general remarks. The first is led by the observation that some of the main ethicists in the field have yet to explore their underlying meaning theory and its normative claims in a more nuanced way. This is not only a shortcoming on its own, but has some effect on how the field approaches issues. Are agency extension or moral abilities important for meaningful self-development? Should achievement gaps really play a central role in the discussion of meaningful work? And what about the many different aspects of meaningful relationships? These are only a few questions which can shed light on the presupposed underlying normative claims that are involved in the field. Here, further exploration at deeper levels could help us to see which things are important and which are not more clear, and finally in which directions the field should develop.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Why artificial intelligence needs to understand consequences

Neil Savage
Originally published 24 FEB 23

Here is an excerpt:

The headline successes of AI over the past decade — such as winning against people at various competitive games, identifying the content of images and, in the past few years, generating text and pictures in response to written prompts — have been powered by deep learning. By studying reams of data, such systems learn how one thing correlates with another. These learnt associations can then be put to use. But this is just the first rung on the ladder towards a loftier goal: something that Judea Pearl, a computer scientist and director of the Cognitive Systems Laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles, refers to as “deep understanding”.

In 2011, Pearl won the A.M. Turing Award, often referred to as the Nobel prize for computer science, for his work developing a calculus to allow probabilistic and causal reasoning. He describes a three-level hierarchy of reasoning4. The base level is ‘seeing’, or the ability to make associations between things. Today’s AI systems are extremely good at this. Pearl refers to the next level as ‘doing’ — making a change to something and noting what happens. This is where causality comes into play.

A computer can develop a causal model by examining interventions: how changes in one variable affect another. Instead of creating one statistical model of the relationship between variables, as in current AI, the computer makes many. In each one, the relationship between the variables stays the same, but the values of one or several of the variables are altered. That alteration might lead to a new outcome. All of this can be evaluated using the mathematics of probability and statistics. “The way I think about it is, causal inference is just about mathematizing how humans make decisions,” Bhattacharya says.

Bengio, who won the A.M. Turing Award in 2018 for his work on deep learning, and his students have trained a neural network to generate causal graphs5 — a way of depicting causal relationships. At their simplest, if one variable causes another variable, it can be shown with an arrow running from one to the other. If the direction of causality is reversed, so too is the arrow. And if the two are unrelated, there will be no arrow linking them. Bengio’s neural network is designed to randomly generate one of these graphs, and then check how compatible it is with a given set of data. Graphs that fit the data better are more likely to be accurate, so the neural network learns to generate more graphs similar to those, searching for one that fits the data best.

This approach is akin to how people work something out: people generate possible causal relationships, and assume that the ones that best fit an observation are closest to the truth. Watching a glass shatter when it is dropped it onto concrete, for instance, might lead a person to think that the impact on a hard surface causes the glass to break. Dropping other objects onto concrete, or knocking a glass onto a soft carpet, from a variety of heights, enables a person to refine their model of the relationship and better predict the outcome of future fumbles.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Too Good to be Liked? When and How Prosocial Others are Disliked

Boileau, L. L. A., Grüning, D. J., & Bless, H. (2021).
Frontiers in Psychology, 12.


Outstandingly prosocial individuals may not always be valued and admired, but sometimes depreciated and rejected. While prior research has mainly focused on devaluation of highly competent or successful individuals, comparable research in the domain of prosociality is scarce. The present research suggests two mechanisms why devaluation of extreme prosocial individuals may occur: they may (a) constitute very high comparison standards for observers, and may (b) be perceived as communal narcissists. Two experiments test these assumptions. We confronted participants with an extreme prosocial or an ordinary control target and manipulated comparative aspects of the situation (salient vs. non-salient comparison, Experiment 1), and narcissistic aspects of the target (showing off vs. being modest, Experiment 2). Consistent with our assumptions, the extreme prosocial target was liked less than the control target, and even more so when the comparison situation was salient (Experiment 1), and when the target showed off with her good deeds (Experiment 2). Implications that prosociality does not always breed more liking are discussed.

General Discussion

The present research demonstrates that individuals who perform an outstanding degree of prosocial behaviors may be devaluated—due to their prosocial behaviors. Specifically, across two experiments, the prosocial target was liked less than the control target. This consistent pattern is unlikely to be due to participants' perception that the displayed behaviors did not unambiguously reflect prosocial behavior: When explicitly evaluating prosociality, the prosocial target was clearly perceived as prosocial (and more so than the control target). The finding that prosocial behaviors may decrease rather than increase liking seems rather surprising at first glance. Past research suggests that liking and perceptions of prosociality in others are in fact very highly correlated (Imhoff and Koch, 2017). However, the observed devaluation is in line with prior empirical research suggesting that superior prosocial others are indeed sometimes devaluated through rejection and dislike (Fisher et al., 1982; Herrmann et al., 2008; Parks and Stone, 2010; Pleasant and Barclay, 2018).

The present research goes beyond prior research that has similarly demonstrated a possible disliking of prosocial targets by suggesting and investigating two possible underlying processes. Thus, it responds to the call that mediating mechanisms for the dislike of very prosocial targets are yet to be investigated (Parks et al., 2013).

First, the reduced liking of the prosocial target was more pronounced when comparisons between the target and the observers were induced by the information that observers would first evaluate the target and then themselves on the very same items. Eliciting such a comparison expectation increased disliking of the prosocial target. Presumably, in this situation, the extremely prosocial target constituted a very high comparison standard, and this high standard would have negative consequences for participants' evaluations of themselves (Mussweiler, 2003; Bless and Schwarz, 2010; Morina, 2021). This conclusion extends indirect evidence by Parks and Stone (2010) by providing an experimental manipulation of the assumed comparison component.

Second, as predicted, the dislike of the prosocial target was increased when perceptions of communal narcissism (Gebauer et al., 2012; Nehrlich et al., 2019) were elicited by informing participants that the target actively sought to let others know about her prosocial behaviors. This finding suggests that a target's prosocial behavior will not turn into more liking but backfire when that target is perceived as someone who exerts “excessive self-enhancement” in the domain of prosociality and who is showing off with her good deeds (Rentzsch and Gebauer, 2019; p. 1373).

Friday, December 16, 2022

How Bullying Manifests at Work — and How to Stop It

Ludmila N. Praslova, Ron Carucci, & Caroline Stokes
Harvard Business Review
Originally posted 4 NOV 22

While the organizational costs of incivility and toxicity are well documented, bullying at work is still a problem. An estimated 48.6 million Americans, or about 30% of the workforce, are bullied at work. In India, that percentage is reported to be as high as 46% or even 55%. In Germany, it’s a lower but non-negligible 17%. Yet bullying often receives little attention or effective action.

To maximize workplace health and well-being, it’s critical to create workplaces where all employees — regardless of their position — are safe. Systemic, organizational-level approaches can help prevent the harms associated with different types of bullying.

The term workplace bullying describes a wide range of behaviors, and this complexity makes addressing it difficult and often ineffective. Here, we’ll discuss the different types of bullying, the myths that prevent leaders from addressing it, and how organizations can effectively intervene and create a safer workplace.

The Different Types of Bullying

To develop more comprehensive systems of bullying prevention and support employees’ psychological well-being, leaders first need to be aware of the different types of bullying and how they show up. We’ve identified 15 different features of bullying, based on standard typologies of aggression, data from the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), and Ludmila’s 25+ years of research and practice focused on addressing workplace aggression, discrimination, and incivility to create healthy organizational cultures.

These 15 features can be mapped to some of the common archetypes of bullies. Take the “Screamer,” who is associated with yelling and fist-banging or the quieter but equally dangerous “Schemer” who uses Machiavellian plotting, gaslighting, and smear campaigns to strip others of resources or push them out. The Schemer doesn’t necessarily have a position of legitimate power and can present as a smiling and eager-to-help colleague or even an innocent-looking intern. While hostile motivation and overt tactics align with the Screamer bully archetype and instrumental, indirect, and covert bullying is typical of the Schemer, a bully can have multiple motives and use multiple tactics — consciously or unconsciously.

Caroline mediated a situation that illustrates both conscious and unconscious dynamics. At the reception to celebrate Ewa’s* national-level achievement award, Harper, her coworker, spent most of the time talking about her own accomplishments, then took the stage to congratulate herself on mentoring Ewa and letting her take “ownership” of their collective work. But there had been no mentorship or collective work. After overtly and directly putting Ewa down and (perhaps unconsciously) attempting to elevate herself, Harper didn’t stop. She “accidentally” removed Ewa from crucial information distribution lists — an act of indirect, covert sabotage.  

In another example, Ludmila encountered a mixed-motive, mixed-tactic situation. Charles, a manager with a strong xenophobic sentiment, regularly berated Noor, a work visa holder, behind closed doors — an act of hostile and direct bullying. Motivated by a desire to take over the high-stakes, high-visibility projects Noor had built, Charles also engaged in indirect, covert bullying by falsifying performance records to make a case for her dismissal.

Friday, November 18, 2022

When Patients Become Colleagues

Charles C. Dike
Psychiatric News
Published Online:27 Oct 2022

Dr. Jones, a psychiatrist in private practice, described to me a conundrum she was trying to resolve. A patient she has been treating for eight years with psychotherapy and medication was recently certified as a therapist. The patient intends to terminate treatment with her and set up a private practice in the same district as the psychiatrist. The new therapist is asking for a collaborative relationship with the psychiatrist in which he would refer patients to the psychiatrist for medication management. The psychiatrist is not comfortable with the proposal and worries that her deep knowledge of her ex-patient’s flaws would negatively influence her view of the patient as a therapist. Most importantly, however, she is concerned about the risks of boundary violations and a breach in confidentiality, for example, when patients ask about the relationship between the psychiatrist and their referring therapist, as often happens.

The APA Ethics Committee has received questions about similar situations. One such question involved a patient who had received psychiatric treatment at an institution for years and was now applying to work as a clinician at the same institution a decade later. In this case, the Ethics Committee affirmed the need for psychiatrists “to support the concept that treatment matters and that people can recover and live full lives by addressing the challenges of mental illness. Psychiatrists should model that seeking treatment is a healthful and positive behavior and not a stigmatized act that will forever preclude a person, once a patient, from joining a team of respected mental health professionals. A history of mental health treatment should not be used to ban employment; a history of appropriate qualifications and pursuit of necessary medical treatment should be positive indicators for employment.”

Nonetheless, every such situation requires deep reflection to avoid potential ethics breaches. In some cases, the guidance is clear. For example, it is unethical for a psychiatrist in a solo private practice to employ a former patient because the pre-existing doctor-patient relationship is likely to influence the working relationship on both sides with potential negative consequences. In Dr. Jones’s case, however, the situation has ethics considerations that need to be addressed. Here is the advice that I gave to Dr. Jones: After celebrating her patient’s success, she should schedule a private meeting to discuss the contours of their new professional relationship. She should clarify that it would be a challenge to be his psychiatrist in the future should he suffer a relapse and need care. Further, Dr. Jones should point out that a personal relationship with a former patient could be unethical, especially if intimate, and therefore, all social interactions should be avoided as much as possible. When it is not possible to avoid them, they should carefully manage their interactions, social or professional, making sure boundaries are not breached. Dr. Jones should also discuss possible circumstances that could insinuate to others that she and the therapist had a prior treatment relationship as any such acknowledgment on her part would be a breach of her patient’s confidentiality. The fact that her former patient discloses their relationship to others does not absolve the psychiatrist of this ethical injunction. Such a discussion would prevent future problems and set the stage for the next chapter of their relationship.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Record-High 50% of Americans Rate U.S. Moral Values as 'Poor'

Megan Brenan & Nicole Willcoxon
Originally posted 15 June 22

Story Highlights
  • 50% say state of moral values is "poor"; 37% "only fair"
  • 78% think moral values in the U.S. are getting worse
  • "Consideration of others" cited as top problem with state of moral values
A record-high 50% of Americans rate the overall state of moral values in the U.S. as "poor," and another 37% say it is "only fair." Just 1% think the state of moral values is "excellent" and 12% "good."

Although negative views of the nation's moral values have been the norm throughout Gallup's 20-year trend, the current poor rating is the highest on record by one percentage point.

These findings, from Gallup's May 2-22 Values and Beliefs poll, are generally in line with perceptions since 2017 except for a slight improvement in views in 2020 when Donald Trump was running for reelection. On average since 2002, 43% of U.S. adults have rated moral values in the U.S. as poor, 38% as fair and 18% as excellent or good.

Republicans' increasingly negative assessment of the state of moral values is largely responsible for the record-high overall poor rating. At 72%, Republicans' poor rating of moral values is at its highest point since the inception of the trend and up sharply since Trump left office.

At the same time, 36% of Democrats say the state of moral values is poor, while a 48% plurality rate it as only fair and 15% as excellent or good. Independents' view of the current state of moral values is relatively stable and closer to Democrats' than Republicans' rating, with 44% saying it is poor, 40% only fair and 16% excellent or good.

Outlook for State of Moral Values Is Equally Bleak

Not only are Americans feeling grim about the current state of moral values in the nation, but they are also mostly pessimistic about the future on the subject, as 78% say morals are getting worse and just 18% getting better. The latest percentage saying moral values are getting worse is roughly in line with the average of 74% since 2002, but it is well above the past two years' 67% and 68% readings.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Cooperation as a signal of time preferences

Lie-Panis, J., & André, J. (2021, June 23).


Many evolutionary models explain why we cooperate with non kin, but few explain why cooperative behavior and trust vary. Here, we introduce a model of cooperation as a signal of time preferences, which addresses this variability. At equilibrium in our model, (i) future-oriented individuals are more motivated to cooperate, (ii) future-oriented populations have access to a wider range of cooperative opportunities, and (iii) spontaneous and inconspicuous cooperation reveal stronger preference for the future, and therefore inspire more trust. Our theory sheds light on the variability of cooperative behavior and trust. Since affluence tends to align with time preferences, results (i) and (ii) explain why cooperation is often associated with affluence, in surveys and field studies. Time preferences also explain why we trust others based on proxies for impulsivity, and, following result (iii), why uncalculating, subtle and one-shot cooperators are deemed particularly trustworthy. Time preferences provide a powerful and parsimonious explanatory lens, through which we can better understand the variability of trust and cooperation.

From the Discussion Section

Trust depends on revealed time preferences

Result (iii) helps explain why we infer trustworthiness from traits which appear unrelated  to cooperation,  but  happen  to  predict  time  preferences.   We  trust known partners and strangers based on how impulsive we perceive them to be (Peetz & Kammrath, 2013; Righetti & Finkenauer, 2011); impulsivity being associated to both time preferences and cooperativeness in laboratory experiments (Aguilar-Pardo et al., 2013; Burks et al., 2009; Cohen et al., 2014; Martinsson et al., 2014; Myrseth et al., 2015; Restubog et al., 2010).  Other studies show we infer cooperative motivation from a wide variety of proxies for partner self-control, including indicators of their indulgence in harmless sensual pleasures (for a review see  Fitouchi et al.,  2021),  as well as proxies for environmental affluence (Moon et al., 2018; Williams et al., 2016).

Time preferences further offer a parsimonious explanation for why different forms of cooperation inspire more trust than others.  When probability of observation p or cost-benefit ratio r/c are small in our model, helpful behavior reveals large time horizon- and cooperators may be perceived as relatively genuine or disinterested.  We derive two different types of conclusion from this principle.  (Inconspicuous and/or spontaneous cooperation)

Thursday, April 14, 2022

AI won’t steal your job, just make it meaningless

John Danaher
Originally published 18 MAR 22

New technologies are often said to be in danger of making humans redundant, replacing them with robots and AI, and making work disappear altogether. A crisis of identity and purpose might result from that, but Silicon Valley tycoons assure us that a universal basic income could at least take care of people’s material needs, leaving them with plenty of leisure time in which to forge new identities and find new sources of purpose.

This, however, paints an overly simplistic picture. What seems more likely to happen is that new technologies will not make humans redundant at a mass scale, but will change the nature of work, making it worse for many, and sapping the elements that give it some meaning and purpose. It’s the worst of both worlds: we’ll continue working, but our jobs will become increasingly meaningless. 

History has some lessons to teach us here. Technology has had a profound effect on work in the past, not just on the ways in which we carry out our day-to-day labour, but also on how we understand its value. Consider the humble plough. In its most basic form, it is a hand-operated tool, consisting of little more than a pointed stick that scratches a furrow through the soil. This helps a farmer to sow seeds but does little else. Starting in the middle ages, however, more complex, ‘heavy’ ploughs began to be used by farmers in Northern Europe. These heavy ploughs rotated and turned the earth, bringing nutrient rich soils to the surface, and radically altering the productivity of farming. Farming ceased being solely about subsistence. It started to be about generating wealth.

The argument about how the heavy plough transformed the nature of work was advanced by historian Lynn White Jr in his classic study Medieval Technology and Social Change. Writing in the idiom of the early 1960s, he argued that “No more fundamental change in the idea of man’s relation to the soil can be imagined: once man had been part of nature; now he became her exploiter.”

It is easy to trace a line – albeit one that takes a detour through Renaissance mercantilism and the Industrial revolution – from the development of the heavy plough to our modern conception of work. Although work is still an economic necessity for many people, it is not just that. It is something more. We don’t just do it to survive; we do it to thrive. Through our work we can buy into a certain lifestyle and affirm a certain identity. We can develop mastery and cultivate self-esteem; we make a contribution to our societies and a name for ourselves. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Could we fall in love with robots?

Rich Wordsworth
Originally published 6 DEC 21

Here is an excerpt:

“So what are people’s expectations? They’re being fed a very particular idea of how [robot companions] should look. But when you start saying to people, ‘They can look like anything,’ then the imagination really opens up.”

Perhaps designing companion robots that deliberately don’t emulate human beings is the answer to that common sci-fi question of whether or not a relationship with a robot can ever be reciprocal. A robot with a Kindle for a head isn’t likely to hoodwink many people at the singles bar. When science fiction shows us robotic lovers, they are overwhelmingly portrayed as human (at least outwardly). This trips something defensive in us: the sense of unease or revulsion we feel when a non-human entity tries to deceive us into thinking that it’s human is such a common phenomenon (thanks largely to CGI in films and video games) that it has its own name: ‘the Uncanny Valley’. Perhaps in the future, the engineering of humanoid robots will progress to the point where we really can’t tell (without a signed waiver and a toolbox) whether a ‘person’ is flesh and blood or wires and circuitry. But in the meantime, maybe the best answer is simply not to bother attempting to emulate humans and explore the outlandish.

“You can form a friendship; you can form a bond,” says Devlin of non-humanlike machines. “That bond is one-way, but if the machine shows you any form of response, then you can project onto that and feel social. We treat machines socially because we are social creatures and it’s almost enough to make us buy into it. Not delusionally, but to suspend our disbelief and feel a connection. People feel connections with their vacuum cleaners: mine’s called Babbage and I watch him scurrying around, I pick him up, I tell him, ‘Don’t go there!’ It’s like having a robot pet – but I’m perfectly aware he’s just a lump of plastic. People talk to their Alexas when they’re lonely and they want to chat. So, yes: you can feel a bond there.

“It’s not the same as a human friendship: it’s a new social category that’s emerging that we haven’t really seen before.”

As for the question of reciprocity, Devlin doesn’t see a barrier there with robots that doesn’t already exist in human relationships.

“You’ll get a lot of people going, ‘Oh, that’s not true friendship; that’s not real.’,” Devlin says, sneeringly. “Well, if it feels real and if you’re happy in it, is that a problem? It’s the same people who say you can’t have true love unless it’s reciprocated, which is the biggest lie I’ve ever heard because there are so many people out there who are falling in love with people they’ve never even met! Fictional people! Film stars! Everybody! Those feelings are very, very valid to someone who’s experiencing them.”

“How are you guys doing here?” The waitress asks with perfect waitress-in-a-movie timing as Twombly and Catherine sit, processing the former’s new relationship with Samantha in silence.

“Fine,” Catherine blurts. “We’re fine. We used to be married but he couldn’t handle me; he wanted to put me on Prozac and now he’s madly in love with his laptop.”

In 2013, Spike Jonze’s script for ‘Her’ won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay (it was nominated for four others including Best Picture). A year later, Alex Garland’s script for ‘Ex Machina’ would be nominated for the same award while arguably presenting the same conclusion: we are a species that loves openly and to a fault. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Don't ask where I'm from, ask where I'm a local - Taiye Selasi

When someone asks you where you're from … do you sometimes not know how to answer? Writer Taiye Selasi speaks on behalf of "multi-local" people, who feel at home in the town where they grew up, the city they live now and maybe another place or two. "How can I come from a country?" she asks. "How can a human being come from a concept?"

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Sexbots as Synthetic Companions: Comparing Attitudes of Official Sex Offenders and Non-Offenders.

Zara, G., Veggi, S. & Farrington, D.P. 
Int J of Soc Robotics (2021). 


This is the first Italian study to examine views on sexbots of adult male sex offenders and non-offenders, and their perceptions of sexbots as sexual partners, and sexbots as a means to prevent sexual violence. In order to explore these aspects 344 adult males were involved in the study. The study carried out two types of comparisons. 100 male sex offenders were compared with 244 male non-offenders. Also, sex offenders were divided into child molesters and rapists. Preliminary findings suggest that sex offenders were less open than non-offenders to sexbots, showed a lower acceptance of them, and were more likely to dismiss the possibility of having an intimate and sexual relationship with a sexbot. Sex offenders were also less likely than non-offenders to believe that the risk of sexual violence against people could be reduced if a sexbot was used in the treatment of sex offenders. No differences were found between child molesters and rapists. Though no definitive conclusion can be drawn about what role sexbots might play in the prevention and treatment of sex offending, this study emphasizes the importance of both exploring how sexbots are both perceived and understood. Sex offenders in this study showed a high dynamic sexual risk and, paradoxically, despite, or because of, their sexual deviance (e.g. deficits in sexual self-regulation), they were more inclined to see sexbots as just machines and were reluctant to imagine them as social agents, i.e. as intimate or sexual arousal partners. How sex offenders differ in their dynamic risk and criminal careers can inform experts about the mechanisms that take place and can challenge their engagement in treatment and intervention.

From the Discussion

Being in a Relationship with a Sexbot: a Comparison Between Sex Offenders and Non-Offenders
Notwithstanding that previous studies suggest that those who are quite open in admitting their interest in having a relationship with a sexbot were not necessarily problematic in terms of psycho-sexual functioning and life satisfaction, some anecdotal evidence seems to indicate otherwise. In this study, sex offenders were more reluctant to speak about their preferences towards sexbots. While male non-offenders appeared to be open to sexbots and quite eager to imagine themselves having a relationship with a sexbot or having sexual intercourse with one of them, sex offenders were reluctant to admit any interest towards sexbots. No clinical data are available to support the assumption about whether the interaction with sexbots is in any way egodystonic (inconsistent with one’s ideal self) or egosyntonic (consistent with one’s ideal self). Thus, no-one can discount the influence of being in detention upon the offenders’ willingness to feel at ease in expressing their views. It is not unusual that, when in detention, offenders may put up a front. This might explain why the sex offenders in this study kept a low profile on sex matters (e.g. declaring that “sexbots are not for me, I’m not a pervert”, to use their words). Sexuality is a dirty word for sex offenders in detention and their willingness to be seen as reformed and «sexually normal» is what perhaps motivated them to deny that they had any form of curiosity or attraction for any sexbot presented to them.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Dominant groups support digressive victimhood claims to counter accusations of discrimination

F. Danbold, et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume 98, January 2022, 104233


When dominant groups are accused of discrimination against non-dominant groups, they often seek to portray themselves as the victims of discrimination instead. Sometimes, however, members of dominant groups counter accusations of discrimination by invoking victimhood on a new dimension of harm, changing the topic being discussed. Across three studies (N = 3081), we examine two examples of this digressive victimhood – Christian Americans responding to accusations of homophobia by claiming threatened religious liberty, and White Americans responding to accusations of racism by claiming threatened free speech. We show that members of dominant groups endorse digressive victimhood claims more strongly than conventional competitive victimhood claims (i.e., ones that claim “reverse discrimination”). Additionally, accounting for the fact that these claims may also stand to benefit a wider range of people and appeal to more abstract principles, we show that this preference is driven by the perception that digressive victimhood claims are more effective at silencing further criticism from the non-dominant group. Underscoring that these claims may be used strategically, we observed that individuals high in outgroup prejudice were willing to express a positive endorsement of the digressive victimhood claims even when they did not fully support the principle they claimed to be defending (e.g., freedom of religion or speech). We discuss implications for real-world intergroup conflicts and the psychology of dominant groups.


• Charged with discrimination, dominant groups often claim victimhood.

• These claims can be digressive, shifting the topic of conversation.

• Members of dominant groups prefer digressive claims over competitive claims.

• They see digressive claims as effective in silencing further criticism.

• Digressive victimhood claims are endorsed strategically and sometimes insincerely.

Friday, December 10, 2021

How social relationships shape moral wrongness judgments

Earp, B.D., McLoughlin, K.L., Monrad, J.T. et al. 
Nat Commun 12, 5776 (2021).


Judgments of whether an action is morally wrong depend on who is involved and the nature of their relationship. But how, when, and why social relationships shape moral judgments is not well understood. We provide evidence to address these questions, measuring cooperative expectations and moral wrongness judgments in the context of common social relationships such as romantic partners, housemates, and siblings. In a pre-registered study of 423 U.S. participants nationally representative for age, race, and gender, we show that people normatively expect different relationships to serve cooperative functions of care, hierarchy, reciprocity, and mating to varying degrees. In a second pre-registered study of 1,320 U.S. participants, these relationship-specific cooperative expectations (i.e., relational norms) enable highly precise out-of-sample predictions about the perceived moral wrongness of actions in the context of particular relationships. In this work, we show that this ‘relational norms’ model better predicts patterns of moral wrongness judgments across relationships than alternative models based on genetic relatedness, social closeness, or interdependence, demonstrating how the perceived morality of actions depends not only on the actions themselves, but also on the relational context in which those actions occur.

From the General Discussion

From a theoretical perspective, one aspect of our current account that requires further attention is the reciprocity function. In contrast with the other three functions considered, relationship-specific prescriptions for reciprocity did not significantly predict moral judgments for reciprocity violations. Why might this be so? One possibility is that the model we tested did not distinguish between two different types of reciprocity. In some relationships, such as those between strangers, acquaintances, or individuals doing business with one another, each party tracks the specific benefits contributed to, and received from, the other. In these relationships, reciprocity thus takes a tit-for-tat form in which benefits are offered and accepted on a highly contingent basis. This type of reciprocity is transactional, in that resources are provided, not in response to a real or perceived need on the part of the other, but rather, in response to the past or expected future provision of a similarly valued resource from the cooperation partner. In this, it relies on an explicit accounting of who owes what to whom, and is thus characteristic of so-called “exchange” relationships.

In other relationships, by contrast, such as those between friends, family members, or romantic partners – so-called “communal” relationships – reciprocity takes a different form: that of mutually expected responsiveness to one another’s needs. In this form of reciprocity, each party tracks the other’s needs (rather than specific benefits provided) and strives to meet these needs to the best of their respective abilities, in proportion to the degree of responsibility each has assumed for the other’s welfare. Future work on moral judgments in relational context should distinguish between these two types of reciprocity: that is, mutual care-based reciprocity in communal relationships (when both partners have similar needs and abilities) and tit-for-tat reciprocity between “transactional” cooperation partners who have equal standing or claim on a resource.