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 Resources. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Resources. Show all posts

Friday, December 2, 2022

Rational use of cognitive resources in human planning

Callaway, F., van Opheusden, B., Gul, S. et al. 
Nat Hum Behav 6, 1112–1125 (2022).


Making good decisions requires thinking ahead, but the huge number of actions and outcomes one could consider makes exhaustive planning infeasible for computationally constrained agents, such as humans. How people are nevertheless able to solve novel problems when their actions have long-reaching consequences is thus a long-standing question in cognitive science. To address this question, we propose a model of resource-constrained planning that allows us to derive optimal planning strategies. We find that previously proposed heuristics such as best-first search are near optimal under some circumstances but not others. In a mouse-tracking paradigm, we show that people adapt their planning strategies accordingly, planning in a manner that is broadly consistent with the optimal model but not with any single heuristic model. We also find systematic deviations from the optimal model that might result from additional cognitive constraints that are yet to be uncovered.


In this paper, we proposed a rational model of resource-constrained planning and compared the predictions of the model to human behaviour in a process-tracing paradigm. Our results suggest that human planning strategies are highly adaptive in ways that previous models cannot capture. In Experiment 1, we found that the optimal planning strategy in a generic environment resembled best-first search with a relative stopping rule. Participant behaviour was also consistent with such a strategy. However, the optimal planning strategy depends on the structure of the environment. Thus, in Experiments 2 and 3, we constructed six environments in which the optimal strategy resembled different classical search algorithms (best-first, breadth-first, depth-first and backward search). In each case, participant behaviour matched the environment-appropriate algorithm, as the optimal model predicted.

The idea that people use heuristics that are jointly adapted to environmental structure and computational limitations is not new. First popularized by Herbert Simon, it has more recently been championed in ecological rationality, which generally takes the approach of identifying computationally frugal heuristics that make accurate choices in certain environments. However, while ecological rationality explicitly rejects the notion of optimality, our approach embraces it, identifying heuristics that maximize an objective function that includes both external utility and internal cognitive cost. Supporting our approach, we found that the optimal model explained human planning behaviour better than flexible combinations of previously proposed planning heuristics in seven of the eight environments we considered (Supplementary Table 1).

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Frequently asked questions about abortion laws and psychology practice

American Psychological Association
Updated 1 SEPT 2022

Since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, many states have proposed, enacted, or resurrected a range of laws to either prohibit, significantly restrict, or protect reproductive rights and health care. Currently, the main targets of these laws appear to be medical providers who provide abortions or individuals seeking to obtain an abortion.

APA and APA Services Inc. are striving to provide psychologists with accurate and adequate information about the potential impact on them of reproductive health care laws. Since psychologists have embraced telehealth and many use technology to provide services across state lines, it’s important to be familiar with the laws governing the jurisdiction(s) where you are licensed as well as the jurisdiction(s) where your patients live.

In addition to this FAQ and other APA resources, psychologists will want to be familiar with guidance issued by federal and state agencies, their state licensing board(s), and their liability carrier. Some frequently asked questions follow.

While the situation is dynamic, good psychological practice remains unchanged. The changing landscape in states regarding access to reproductive health care does not change the fundamental approach to psychological care. Psychologists should continue to prioritize the welfare of their patients, protect confidentiality, and ensure their patients’ safety.

Practicing in states with changing abortion laws

Am I practicing in a state where abortion is, or is soon to be, illegal under all or certain circumstances?

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has put the regulation of abortion in the hands of states. In anticipation of the ruling, 13 states enacted “trigger laws,” designed to ban or restrict abortion upon the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. Not all trigger laws immediately kicked in, and some that did were immediately challenged in court, delaying their enforcement.

Staying current on laws affecting the states where you practice is important. For a list of existing abortion bans and restrictions within each state, the Center for Reproductive Rights has provided a map that is updated in real time. The Guttmacher Institute, a well-respected research group that collects information on abortion laws across the United States, also tracks current state abortion-related laws.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

As Suicide Attempts Rise in America, Mental Health Care Remains Stagnant

Kara Grant
Originally posted 19 JAN 22

Despite the substantial increase in suicide attempts among U.S. adults over the last decade, use of mental health services by these individuals didn't match that growth, data from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revealed.

From 2008 to 2019, suicide attempts among adults increased from 481.2 to 563.9 per 100,000 (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.23, 95% CI 1.05-1.44, P=0.01), reported Greg Rhee, PhD, of the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, and colleagues.

And according to their study in JAMA Psychiatry, there was a significant uptick in the number of individuals that attempted suicide within the past year who said they felt they needed mental health services but failed to receive it (34.8% in 2010-2011 vs 45.5% in 2018-2019).

Overall, the researchers found no significant changes in the likelihood of receiving past-year outpatient, inpatient, or medication services for mental health reasons, nor any change in substance use treatment services. An increase in the number of visits to mental health centers was detected, but even this change was no longer significant after correcting for different sources of mental health care.

"One would hope that as suicide attempts increase, the percentage of individuals who receive treatment in proximity to their attempt would also increase," Rhee and colleagues wrote. "Current suicide prevention interventions largely focus on individuals connected to treatment and high-risk individuals who have contact with the health care system."

"However, our finding that less than half of suicide attempters had clinical contact around the time of their attempt suggest[s] that it is not only important to expand initiatives for high-risk individuals with clinical contact, but also to implement public health-oriented strategies outside the formal treatment system," they suggested.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Shouldn’t We Make It Easy to Use Behavioral Science for Good?

Manasee Desai
Originally posted September 4, 2018

The evidence showing that applied behavioral science is a powerful tool for creating social good is growing rapidly. As a result, it’s become much more common for the world’s problem solvers to apply a behavioral lens to their work. Yet this approach can still feel distant to the people trying urgently to improve lives on a daily basis—those working for governments, nonprofits, and other organizations that directly tackle some of the most challenging and pervasive problems facing us today.

All too often, effective strategies for change are either locked behind paywalls or buried in inaccessible, jargon-laden articles. And because of the sheer volume of behavioral solutions being tested now, even people working in the fields that compose the behavioral sciences—like me, for instance—cannot possibly stay on top of every new intervention or application happening across countless fields and countries. This means missed opportunities to apply and scale effective interventions and to do more good in the world.

As a field, figuring out how to effectively report and communicate what we’ve learned from our research and interventions is our own “last mile” problem.

While there is no silver bullet for the problems the world faces, the behavioral science community should (and can) come together to make our battle-tested solutions available to problem solvers, right at their fingertips. Expanding the adoption of behavioral design for social good requires freeing solutions from dense journals and cost-prohibitive paywalls. It also requires distilling complex designs into simpler steps—uniting a community that is passionate about social impact and making the world a better place with applied behavioral science.

That is the aim of the Behavioral Evidence Hub (B-Hub), a curated, open-source digital collection of behavioral interventions proven to impact real-world problems.

The info is here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

As calls to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline surge, under-resourced centers struggle to keep up

Vivekae Kim
Originally posted August 5, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

To accommodate the rising call volume, Dr. Draper, the director of the Lifeline, says local crisis centers need more resources–and that a lack of resources contributes to centers leaving the network or shutting down. From 2008-2012, nine centers dropped out of the network and from 2013-2017, 23 centers dropped out. Just this year, three centers shut down.

Remaining centers do what they can to stay functioning. This often means taking on extra contracts, like running local crisis lines, to support their suicide prevention work.

Crisis Call Center, a Lifeline backup center in Nevada, operates a sexual assault support service program and a substance abuse hotline. They also provide child protective service reports and take elder protective service reports after hours. Rachelle Pellissier, its executive director, says they have to “cobble together” these different funding streams to offset the costs of the suicide prevention calls they take.

“We really need about $1.1 million to run this organization,” said Pellissier.

Centers like Provident in Missouri rely on their local United Way. The money they receive from the Lifeline, even as a backup center with more support, “pays for maybe two salaries of my 15 person team,” said Jane Smith, the director of life crisis services for Provident. “We’re a money-losing entity at Provident.”

If backup centers are unable to take a call, that call is routed from one backup center to the next, until a counselor can talk. “All the calls can be answered. The only question is, how long do people wait?” Draper said.

The info is here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

This Cat Sensed Death. What if Computers Could, Too?

Siddhartha Mukherjee
The New York Times
Originally published January 3, 2017

Here are two excerpts:

But what if an algorithm could predict death? In late 2016 a graduate student named Anand Avati at Stanford’s computer-science department, along with a small team from the medical school, tried to “teach” an algorithm to identify patients who were very likely to die within a defined time window. “The palliative-care team at the hospital had a challenge,” Avati told me. “How could we find patients who are within three to 12 months of dying?” This window was “the sweet spot of palliative care.” A lead time longer than 12 months can strain limited resources unnecessarily, providing too much, too soon; in contrast, if death came less than three months after the prediction, there would be no real preparatory time for dying — too little, too late. Identifying patients in the narrow, optimal time period, Avati knew, would allow doctors to use medical interventions more appropriately and more humanely. And if the algorithm worked, palliative-care teams would be relieved from having to manually scour charts, hunting for those most likely to benefit.


So what, exactly, did the algorithm “learn” about the process of dying? And what, in turn, can it teach oncologists? Here is the strange rub of such a deep learning system: It learns, but it cannot tell us why it has learned; it assigns probabilities, but it cannot easily express the reasoning behind the assignment. Like a child who learns to ride a bicycle by trial and error and, asked to articulate the rules that enable bicycle riding, simply shrugs her shoulders and sails away, the algorithm looks vacantly at us when we ask, “Why?” It is, like death, another black box.

The article is here.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Prince Harry: mental health should be at heart of armed forces training

Caroline Davies
The Guardian
Originally posted October 9, 2017

Prince Harry has said mental health strategies for armed forces personnel are crucial to create a “more confident, focused and, ultimately, more combat-ready military”.

In a speech at the Ministry of Defence, the 33-year-old prince, who spent 10 years in the army, said that as the number of active-duty personnel had been reduced there was a premium on “every individual being fighting fit and deployable”.

Announcing a joint initiative between the MoD and the Royal Foundation, created by the prince and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to tackle mental health issues, Harry said mental health strategies needed to be at the forefront of armed forces personnel training.

“Quite simply, these men and women are prized assets which need to be continually invested in. We surely have to think of them as high-performance athletes, carrying all their kit, equipment and a rifle,” he said. “Crucially, fighting fitness is not just about physical fitness. It is just as much about mental fitness too.”

The MoD said the move would build upon a recently launched government strategy aimed at improving mental health among military workers, civilian staff, their families and veterans.

The article is here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

When fairness matters less than we expect

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


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


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

The article is here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

South Dakota Wrongly Puts Thousands in Nursing Homes, Government Says

By Matt Apuzzomay
The New York Times
Originally posted May 2, 2016

When patients in South Dakota seek help for serious but manageable disabilities such as severe diabetes, blindness or mental illness, the answer is often the same: With few alternatives available, they end up in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, whether they need such care or not.

In a scathing rebuke of the state’s health care system, the Justice Department said on Monday that thousands of patients were being held unnecessarily in sterile, highly restrictive group homes. That is discrimination, it said, making South Dakota the latest target of a federal effort to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities and mental illnesses, outlined in a Supreme Court decision 17 years ago.

The Obama administration has opened more than 50 such investigations and reached settlements with eight states. One investigation, into Florida’s treatment of children with disabilities, ended in a lawsuit over policies that placed those children in nursing homes. With its report Monday, the Justice Department signaled that it might also sue South Dakota.

The article is here.

Friday, April 29, 2016

No, You Can’t Feel Sorry for Everyone

BY Adam Waytz
Originally posted April 14, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Morality can’t be everywhere at once—we humans have trouble extending equal compassion to foreign earthquake victims and hurricane victims in our own country. Our capacity to feel and act prosocially toward another person is finite. And one moral principle can constrain another. Even political liberals who prize universalism recoil when it distracts from a targeted focus on socially disadvantaged groups. Empathy draws our attention toward particular targets, and whether that target represents the underprivileged, blood relatives, refugees from a distant country, or players on a sports team, those targets obscure our attention from other equally (or more) deserving ones.

That means we need to abandon an idealized cultural sensitivity that gives all moral values equal importance. We must instead focus our limited moral resources on a few values, and make tough choices about which ones are more important than others. Collectively, we must decide that these actions affect human happiness more than those actions, and therefore the first set must be deemed more moral than the second set.

The article is here.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Economic Games and Social Neuroscience Methods Can Help Elucidate The Psychology of Parochial Altruism

Everett Jim A.C., Faber Nadira S., Crockett Molly J, De Dreu Carsten K W
Opinion Article
Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00861

The success of Homo sapiens can in large part be attributed to their highly social nature, and particularly their ability to live and work together in extended social groups. Throughout history, humans have undergone sacrifices to both advance and defend the interests of fellow group members against non-group members. Intrigued by this, researchers from multiple disciplines have attempted to explain the psychological origins and processes of parochial altruism: the well-documented tendency for increased cooperation and prosocial behavior within the boundaries of a group (akin to ingroup love, and ingroup favoritism), and second, the propensity to reject, derogate, and even harm outgroup members (akin to ‘outgroup hate’, e.g. Brewer, 1999; Choi & Bowles, 2007; De Dreu, Balliet, & Halevy, 2014, Hewstone, Rubin, & Willis, 2002; Rusch, 2014; Tajfel & Turner, 1979). Befitting its centrality to a wide range of human social endeavors, parochial altruism is manifested in a large variety of contexts that may differ psychologically. Sometimes, group members help others to achieve a positive outcome (e.g. gain money); and sometimes group members help others avoid a negative outcome (e.g. avoid being robbed). Sometimes, group members conflict over a new resource (e.g. status; money; land) that is currently ‘unclaimed’; and sometimes they conflict over a resource that is already held by one group.

The entire article is here.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Is parenthood morally respectable?

By Thomas Rodham Wells
The Philosopher's Beard
Originally published November 5, 2014

Parents' private choices to procreate impose public costs without public accountability. Society is presented with expensive obligations to ensure every child a decent quality of life and their development into successful adults and citizens, and that means massive tax-subsidies for their health, education, parental income, and so forth. In addition, children have a demographic impact on public goods like the environment which creates additional costs for society and perhaps humanity as a whole.

So, is parenthood an irresponsible and selfish lifestyle choice?

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Lack of Material Resources Causes Harsher Moral Judgments

By Marko Pitesa and Stefan Thau
Psychological Science 
March 2014 vol. 25 no. 3 702-710


In the research presented here, we tested the idea that a lack of material resources (e.g., low income) causes people to make harsher moral judgments because a lack of material resources is associated with a lower ability to cope with the effects of others’ harmful behavior. Consistent with this idea, results from a large cross-cultural survey (Study 1) showed that both a chronic (due to low income) and a situational (due to inflation) lack of material resources were associated with harsher moral judgments. The effect of inflation was stronger for low-income individuals, whom inflation renders relatively more vulnerable. In a follow-up experiment (Study 2), we manipulated whether participants perceived themselves as lacking material resources by employing different anchors on the scale they used to report their income. The manipulation led participants in the material-resources-lacking condition to make harsher judgments of harmful, but not of nonharmful, transgressions, and this effect was explained by a sense of vulnerability. Alternative explanations were excluded. These results demonstrate a functional and contextually situated nature of moral psychology.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Preventing Weight Bias: A Toolkit for Professionals in Clinical Practice

Yale Rudd Center
Resource for Clinicians

Weight bias jeopardizes patients' emotional and physical health. As the majority of Americans are now overweight or obese, this is an important clinical concern, one that no provider can afford to ignore.

This toolkit is designed to help clinicians across a variety of practice settings with easy-to-implement solutions and resources to improve delivery of care for overweight and obese patients. The resources are designed for busy professionals and customized for various practice settings. They range from simple strategies to improve provider-patient communication and ways to make positive changes in the office environment , to profound ones, including self-examination of personal biases.

The entire 8 Module Toolkit is here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Your Privacy Online

A Project by the Markkula Center of Applied Ethics - Santa Clara University

This looks to be a great teaching tool.

Your Privacy Online

Should you care about privacy?

This group of resources addresses that question, including an exploration of what privacy has to do with ethics, threats to privacy, and steps you can take to protect your privacy.

The site has sections labeled:
*   Defining Privacy
*   A Privacy Quiz
*   Loss of Privacy: What's the Harm?
*   Information about you = $
*   Are Attitudes Changing about Privacy?
*   A Case Study on Online Privacy
*   How to Protect Your Online Privacy
*   The Ethics of Online Privacy Protection

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A High Risk Situation: The Suicidal Client

Gary Schoener

From our experience, psychologists and students frequently look for excellent resources for dealing with suicidal patients.  Working with suicidal patients can become time intensive and emotionally draining.  Psychologists need to become educated and remain current with their training.  Consulting with other psychologists when dealing with at-risk patients is always recommended.

Gary Schoener, noted ethics educator, permitted our committee to post this resource when dealing with suicidal patients.

Suicide Handout

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Ethics Committee: Part 3

This is the third and final installment of what we do as the Ethics Committee. 

We hope that these three blog posts give PPA’s membership a better idea of what we do.  The hope is also that other state associations learn from what we are doing.  If there are Ethics Committees in other state associations that engage in some creative activities, we would certainly enjoy hearing about them.


·    PPA staff will respond to requests from members for consultation on ethical issues and often supplement their telephone or email consultations by referencing articles on the PPA Web site.

·    Ethics Committee members often respond to ethical issues that PPA members post on the PPA listserv, which has more than 700 subscribers.

·    For a fee PPA members may receive up to 3 hours per year of legal consultation from psychologist/attorneys through a legal consultation plan.

Resources for Ethics Educators

·    The Ethics Committee hosts an annual one-day workshop for Pennsylvania psychologists who teach ethics. For purposes of this conference, an ethics educator is defined broadly to include those who teach ethics in graduate school, teach ethics continuing education programs, supervise interns, belong to the ethics committees of local psychological associations, or who otherwise express an interest in teaching ethics. Topics include in-depth presentations on ethics as well as teaching strategies.

·    The Ethics Committee gives the annual Patricia M. Bricklin Award consisting of $500 to a Pennsylvania graduate student who submits the best work product (such as a paper) on ethics.

·    The Ethics Committee gives an annual award to a Pennsylvania psychologist who has made an outstanding contribution to ethics education.

·    Ethics Educators may use vignettes created by the Ethics Committee. For several years, the Ethics Committee posted an ethical dilemma on the PPA Bulletin Board. This allowed psychologists to comment on the dilemma, read the comments of other psychologists, and comment on the comments if they so choose. Several of these vignettes have had several thousand hits. We now post ethical vignettes on our Ethics Blog.

As a final thought on this theme, I invite those who are interested to visit our wikispace.  We stay organized via our wiki.  As a non-member, you can see the wiki, but not edit it.