Reviewed Books & Films

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Raising Confident or Arrogant Children?

APA

Philip T. Yanos reviewed Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love by Simon Blackburn. In reading this review, I was reminded of all the ways in which psychologists examine self-love. There are thousands of studies on self-esteem, narcissism (as a personality trait and as part of a psychological disorder), egocentricity, actor-observer biases, and self-serving biases just to name a few of the self-love incarnations.

To this day, Tony Greenwald's (1980) "Totalitarian Ego" article in American Psychologist is one of my favorites on this topic. Yanos's review suggests an important question—How do we raise our children to have a healthy self-esteem without raising them to be arrogant and insensitive to others? What one or two recommendations would you give parents and other adults who work with youths (e.g., teachers, coaches) to help achieve this goal?

 

Reference

Greenwald, A.G. (1980). The totalitarian ego: Fabrication and revision of personal history. American Psychologist, 35(7), 603-618.

 
Read the Review
ReviewIt’s a Thin Line Between Healthy Self-Esteem and Narcissism
By Philip T. Yanos
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(20)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Will We Remember Albert Ellis in 100 Years?

APA

Frank Farley and Mona Sarshar's review of Albert Ellis Revisited, edited by Jon Carlson and William Knaus, is very laudatory, and Farley and Sarshar use the review to underscore their appreciation for the significance of Ellis's work and Ellis's important role in the history of psychology.  For example, Farley and Sarshar write, "Ellis was one of the most colorful, provocative, and influential psychologists of the last 100 years" (para. 10).  

I knew Al, and I cherished his friendship.  He met his deadlines, and he had the distinction of being the only contributor to Current Psychotherapies (Wedding & Corsini, 2014) whose initial draft chapter was accepted without a single revision.

As I reminisced about my friend, after reading Farley and Sarshar's review, I found myself thinking about Isaiah Berlin's  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaiah_Berlin) discussion of the difference between the hedgehog and the fox, applied to describing different types of writers and thinkers. Hedgehogs have a single, superordinate, all-encompassing idea that defines and shapes all of their work; foxes, on the other hand, have myriad ideas that they draw on when they create new works.  Ellis was incredibly prolific, but he was clearly a hedgehog with one big idea, and almost all of his work links to the core concept of our predilection for irrational thinking.  Some critics have noted this common denominator in all of Ellis's work, and one critic joked that Ellis wrote the same book 85 times.

How will history judge Albert Ellis?  Will he be as highly regarded in 2115 as he is in 2015? Was he treated unfairly at the end of his life by the board of the Albert Ellis Institute (Dobkin, 2005)?

 

References

Dobkin, M. (2005, November 7). Behaviorists behaving badly. New York Magazine. Retrieved from http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/people/features/14947/

Wedding, D., & Corsini, R.J. (Eds.) (2014). Current psychotherapies (10th ed.).  Belmont, CA: Thompson Brooks/Cole.

 

Read the Review
ReviewThe Albert Ellis Legacy
By Frank Farley and Mona Sarshar
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(14)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

When Will We Overcome: Women of Color in the Academy

APA

I have been in academia for a very long time; it will be 26 years in August 2015. As a Woman of Color, I have noticed how few Women of Color there are among the faculty at majority institutions of higher education. Data for psychology indicate that in 2010-11 eight percent of full-time faculty were Women of Color; however, Women of Color had the lowest percentage of tenured positions. Furthermore, there were more Women of Color at the ranks of assistant and associate professor than at the rank of full professor (Bennett-Johnson, 2012). I attained promotion to associate professor with tenure on schedule, but the path to full professor was not as smooth. Having finally obtained promotion to full professor, I found Martha E. Banks’s review of The Duality of Women Scholars of Color: Transforming and Being Transformed in the Academy quite meaningful as I have spent the year analyzing how and why my progress stalled. 

In her review, Banks describes the use of auto-ethnographies to explore the experiences of Women of Color in the academy. She notes the authors’ use of feminist and womanist perspectives, as well as discussions of “the joint impact of static and dynamic socioeconomic status, and perceived and actual immigration status and ethnicity” (para. 2), in the discussions of attempts to balance academic life and personal life. Banks draws attention to the experience of “otherness” as a factor that undermines Women of Color and invalidates their scholarship. Other books have been written in this area, including Presumed Incompetent (Gutiérrez y Muhs, Niemann, Gonzalez, & Harris, 2012) and Making Our Voices Heard: Women of Color in Academia (Curtis-Boles, Adams, & Jenkins-Monroe, 2012) (reviewed in PsycCRITIQUES [Daniel, 2013]). All of these books provide narratives of the personal and professional struggles encountered by Women of Color and the strategies used to overcome the obstacles and barriers that result in their attrition at each “transition [point] (for example, the transition from postdoctoral scientist to assistant professor, assistant professor to associate professor, and associate professor to full professor)” (Sewer, 2012, para. 2). The themes have included balancing family obligations, having a social justice or a research agenda that addresses the realities or needs of the racial/ethnic communities, discrimination due to race/ethnicity and sex, and a lack of role models and mentoring. Women of Color who have been successful found mentors, even when they were not women or persons of color, and have used support networks in and outside of the academy to sustain their efforts. 

The narratives being presented are important, as they give voice to the perspective of Women of Color. They validate experiences and make it clear that we, as Women of Color, are not alone in the struggle. However, when do we transition to the in-depth analyses that move us toward greater representation of Women of Color among tenured faculty and those at the highest ranks in academia?  

 

References

Bennett-Johnson, S. (2012, June 7-8). Written statement of Suzanne Bennett Johnson, PhD, ABPP, 2012 president, American Psychological Association, presented on behalf of the American Psychological Association before the National Academies Committee for Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine on the subject of “Seeking solutions: Maximizing American talent by advancing women of color in academia.” Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/pi/women/bennet-testimony.pdf

Curtis-Boles, H., Adams, D. M., & Jenkins-Monroe, J. (Eds.), 2012. Making our voices heard: Women of color in academia. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Daniel, J. (2013). Anchored and linked: Women of color write about life in the academy [Review of the book Making our voices heard: Women of color in academia, by H. Curtis-Boles, D. M. Adams, & J. Jenkins-Monroe (Eds.)]. PsycCRITIQUES, 58(22). doi: 10.1037/a0032579

Gutiérrez y Muhs, G., Niemann, Y. F., Gonzalez, C. G., & Harris, A. P. (Eds.). (2012). Presumed incompetent: The intersections of race and class for women in academia. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.

Sewer, M. B. (2012, August). Advancing women of color in academia. American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Today. Retrieved from http://www.asbmb.org/asbmbtoday/201208/minorityaffairs/WomenOfColor/

 
 
Read the Review

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Is There a Dark Side of Resilience?

APA

Resilience Interventions for Youth in Diverse Populations, edited by Sandra Prince-Embury and Donald H. Saklofske, discusses a three-factor model of resilience that includes (a) having a sense of mastery, which involves elements such as identifying strengths and encouraging self-praise; (b) having a sense of relatedness, which includes, obviously, relationships with caring adults who are trusted, the development of support networks, and from the individual’s side, enhanced social skills and empathy; and (c) having the ability to regulate emotional reactivity. The book overviews interventions designed to enhance resilience for diverse groups of youths, including youths from low-income communities, families who are homeless, youths in foster care, transsexual youths, youths with chronic illness, youths with mental health needs, and youths with specific developmental disorders (e.g., autism).

Reviewers Ian M. Evans and Heather Nakahara offer the following commentary on the concept of resilience, particularly as it applies to the United States and other industrialized nations:

When you then look at the children in the world who are denied education, who are chronically hungry, who are refugees living in United Nations tents in a foreign country, who are orphaned by HIV/AIDS and Ebola, or who are genitally mutilated, stoned, whipped or otherwise denigrated in the name of religion, it is a little difficult to get too concerned about worried Australian teens, financially strapped Greek families, or kids with too many smartphones. All resilience challenges are not created equal.

That may be a harsh comment, but we consider there is a dark side of resilience work: It seems to judge children and youth to be at risk because they are not adequate to weather inequitable systems and flawed institutions…But resilience work, however much we need to be open to its possibilities, also represents a form of political philosophy—an extension of the great American dream: suck it up[,] kid, toughen up[.] [S]uccess comes to those individuals willing to take responsibility (control their emotions), work hard, feel powerful, and reward themselves (paras. 14, 15).

Do you agree with the reviewers’ viewpoint regarding the “dark side of resilience work”? Why or why not?  Does the resilience construct lack applicability across the variety of adversities that youths face globally?

Read the Review
ReviewResilience Interventions Are Here: The Psychology of Toughen Up and Suck It Up
By Ian M. Evans and Heather Nakahara
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(15)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Best Practices for Diversity/Inclusion Efforts

APA

Richard Harvey and Ana Hernandez Kent reviewed The Color Bind: Talking (and not Talking) About Race at Work by Erica Gabrielle Foldy and Tamara R. Buckley. Like many organizations, my university has struggled and continues to struggle with diversity/inclusion (D/I) efforts. The administration has included D/I information on the website, as have individual departments. Human resource professionals and associate deans with D/I experience have been hired. Committees have been formed. Student government has become involved. Speakers, workshops, seminars, open forums, and other activities have been scheduled. My own department recently proposed a D/I essay contest for our psychology majors. Earlier in my career, I had some interest in program evaluation, so I often wonder to what extent have these efforts made a difference and how can we evaluate their effectiveness.

So, what are the best practices for instituting D/I efforts? What recommendations would you make to organizations, including higher educational institutions? And if you feel really ambitious, provide suggestions on how to evaluate their effectiveness.

Read the Review
By Richard D. Harvey and Ana Hernandez Kent
       PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(15)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Drug Wars

APA

The War on Drugs of the 20th century continues today with a more appropriate military metaphor. The armies of good and evil are not lined up on fronts. Now good fights a complexity of scattered forces – ISIS and others – as well as terrorists within our communities. The 21st century War on Drugs has metaphorical car bombers (drunk drivers), battles for urban territory, and terrorist enclaves in remote areas (Ozark meth labs).

Drug wars also take place in historical and political contexts. In his review of Brain-Robbers: How Alcohol, Cocaine, Nicotine, and Opiates Have Changed Human History, Ben Sessa observes, “This war [on drugs} has always been about bigotry and economics and not, as we are still told today, about health or morals” (para. 4).  He writes, 

[W]e see racism, prohibition, greed, oppression and control of the poor; our chronic inability to see the wood for the trees that allows these passionately sought-after drugs to run roughshod over human sensibility and judgment. (para. 3)

Later in his review Sessa adds this is “still a battle of ‘good versus evil’; a war where the casualties are common people, collateral damage in political greed games . . . ” (para. 8).

Where are psychologists in this battle? Our clinics surely do some heavy lifting when treating addictions and mounting prevention programs. I am not a clinician so can only admire those professionals who face this challenge. I wonder, however, if there is agreement that social control of the poor and the economics of the drug market make this challenge more difficult. If so, is there much that psychologists can do, individually or collectively, about those factors? And do we only fight this battle when it reaches our middle-class suburban enclaves?

Read the Review

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Once Again, It’s Race to the Top

APA

Recently we published a pair of dramatically contrasting reviews of Nicolas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance:  Genes, Race, and Human History.  On the one hand, James Flynn argues that all psychologists should read the book, “particularly those who dismiss hypotheses about whether genetic differences between races or ethnic groups are correlated with trait differences” (para. 1). Although acknowledging we must await direct genetic evidence, he raises the possibility that American Blacks might be “a race whose genes give them collectively a greater inclination toward impetuosity” (para. 8).

On the other hand, Robert Sternberg writes that the book’s premise of “a biological concept of race... is not tenable” (para. 7), describes the book as “deeply flawed” scientifically (last para.), and suggests that race is a social construction rather than a biological fact. As one example, Sternberg points out that “there is more difference in genetic makeup among different black-skinned groups in Africa than there is between typically white- and black-skinned people in the United States” (para. 15).  

Where do you stand on the question of whether race is a biological reality or social construction?

 

Read the Reviews
ReviewWrong Problem, Wrong Solution
By Robert J. Sternberg
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(13)

 

ReviewGenetic Differences Between Races for Desirable Traits
By James R. Flynn
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(13)

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Modern Slavery, Human Trafficking: The Never-Ending Evil

APA

Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state, wrote:

Elementary students across America are taught that slavery ended in the 19th century. But, sadly, nearly 150 years later, the fight to end this global scourge is far from over. Today it takes a different form and we call it by a different name - “human trafficking” - but it is still an affront to basic human dignity in the United States and around the world. (Clinton, 2010, para. 1)

In her review of Laura Murphy’s book Survivors of Slavery: Modern-Day Slave Narratives Martha Banks presents the realities and complexities of modern slavery in its global context. Slavery today is a system of forced labor that involves no or little pay, involving mostly women. Although most victims are adults, children are also enslaved around the world.  I went to the Web to get a sense of the scope of the population of interest: The two most prevalent types of slavery in the world involve sex work and forced labor. According to United Nations (UN) reports, we may underestimate the rates of human trafficking related to labor because it is less visible, reported, and/or prosecuted. While it is difficult to estimate, UN reports suggest that as many as 2.5 million individuals are trafficked at any one time and billions of dollars of profit are generated annually (United Nations, 2015). Banks notes that while the percentage of those enslaved throughout the world is lower than it has ever been, the sheer number of people enslaved is greater.

Banks goes on to describe how in Survivors of Slavery Murphy organizes the narratives of individuals who because of extreme poverty, and the extreme greed of some, are forced into exploitative systems, through kidnapping, deception, and manipulation. What is startling is the realization that we need to hear these voices to evoke what should be readily provided—human concern for the conditions of those enslaved and a resolve to address their plight. 

The issues highlighted in the book review led me to reflect on the preparation of clinicians who might be called on to treat victims of modern slavery. Do we have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the issues that victims face and the resources that they need? More importantly, are psychologists prepared to understand and respect victims’ right to choice, including the right to refuse treatments and interventions? What impact might our research have on efforts to collaborate in anti-slavery advocacy and social justice initiatives, particularly efforts to persuade the countries that have not signed onto the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2004) to do so?

 

References

Clinton, H. R. (2010, November 9).  Op-Ed: An end to human trafficking. Washington, DC: Office of the Spokesman, U. S. State Department. Retrieved March 20, 2015, from http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2010/11/150701.htm

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2004). Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. In United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto, Annex II (pp. 41-52). New York, NY: United Nations. Available at http://www.unodc.org/documents/treaties/UNTOC/Publications/TOC%20Convention/TOCebook-e.pdf

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2015). Human trafficking FAQs. Retrieved March 21, 2015, from http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/faqs.html#How_widespread_is_human_trafficking
 
 
Read the Review
ReviewListening to the Reality of Slavery
By Martha E. Banks
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 60(11)







Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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