Reviewed Books & Films

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Are Testing Accommodations Unjust?


In Testing Accommodations for Students With Disabilities: Research-Based Practice, Benjamin J. Lovett and Lawrence J. Lewandowski review current theory and research and offer guidelines for deciding when testing accommodations are appropriate for a student with disabilities. Reviewers Robert Furey and Colleen Furey point out that although there is general consensus on the idea of academic testing accommodations for students with disabilities, there is ample complexity in implementing accommodations fairly. Examples offered by the reviewers include nondisabled students intent on “gaming the system” (Hinshaw & Scheffler, 2014, p. 96) seeking accommodations; accommodations that actually “overaccommodate” (Lovett & Lewandowski, 2015, p. 113) thereby giving disabled students unfair advantage; accommodations with little scientific evidence of validity; and, lack of equal access to needed accommodations among lower socioeconomic students.  An alternative solution would be a systemic strategy—altering the testing environment to reduce the need for accommodations. This would involve establishing testing systems that accommodate the widest range of students, thus decreasing the need for individual testing modifications.

Do you agree that testing accommodations are difficult to implement fairly?  How has the current culture of “high-stakes testing” contributed to the complexity of implementing accommodations fairly?  Is a systemic strategy that attempts to reduce the need for accommodations a realistic solution? 


Hinshaw, S. P., & Scheffler, R. M. (2014). The ADHD explosion: Myths, medication, money, and today’s push for performance. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Read the Review
ReviewToo Accommodating? The Science and Myth of Testing Accommodations
By Robert Furey and Colleen Furey
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(7)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tolerance: Necessary but Insufficient


In his review of The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions Are Sabotaging Gay Equality, Scott Keiller analyzes arguments used to support the idea that “paternalistic benevolence maintains the status quo of structural and institutionalized power differentials” (section “Positioning Social Constructivism…,” para. 4). Although the book’s focus is the LGBTQ community, this is an issue relevant to other marginalized groups. The central concern is the value and sufficiency of tolerance, an expression of goodwill and kindness as those in power accept a limited range of behavior that runs counter to socially sanctioned ideals, in the quest for social justice. It’s not that The Tolerance Trap’s author ignores the increasing acceptance of gay marriage and military service or the fact that there are more television shows and movies featuring gay and lesbian characters. The author questions the extent to which these shifts represent true progress and acceptance of the entire continuum of non-heterosexual individuals, behaviors, and expression. Consider the fact that there is greater public acceptance of gay and lesbian individuals than of bisexual, transgender, and/or queer individuals. In addition, the public seems more comfortable when individuals are less openly gay than when individuals elect to engage in the same levels of self-expression afforded to heterosexuals. Finally, Keiller directs readers to the author’s observation that the “positioning of marriage as the optimal and most legitimate configuration for relationships and families is a tolerance trap that perpetuates hegemony and devalues other family arrangements” (section “Two Steps Forward…,” last para.).

The issues highlighted by Keiller led me to reflect on societal responses to other marginalized communities. For example, does the tolerance trap help to explain differences in White and African Americans’ responses to the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown? There appears to be an inherent expectation that Black male youths dress and respond within a certain range in order to be free of unwarranted scrutiny and response from police officers and civilians alike. Does the expectation that women in leadership dress in certain ways reinforce masculine hegemony in business and politics? The operation of these unspoken expectations of conformity to social, political, and cultural patterns that affirm the superiority of the majority and the ways that it limits the rights of marginalized communities is an issue for psychology. Can psychological research lead the way to social change that is more focused on full social acceptance and inclusion than tolerance? What has psychological research revealed that might contribute to efforts to create a more inclusive society, whether we are addressing sexual orientation, gender, race/ethnicity, or other marginalized identities? 

Read the Review
ReviewDeconstructing Tolerance: When Benevolence Stalls Progress for Gay Equality
By Scott Keiller
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(5)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What 2014 Films Would Win if Psychologists Gave out Academy Awards?

APA The decision to add selected psychologically relevant films to PsycCRITIQUES (a practice introduced by E. G. Boring, the first editor of Contemporary Psychology) has been widely applauded, and many readers report they read the film reviews before turning to the more pedestrian reviews of books.

Some of the 2014 films that have been (or will be) reviewed in PsycCRITIQUES include Boyhood, The Theory of Everything, American Sniper, Skeleton Twins, The Railway Man, Noah, Grand Budapest Hotel, Selma, Still Alice, Wild, Unbroken, and Birdman.

If you were giving awards for psychologically relevant films, which movies would you nominate?

Below are reviews of nine films from 2014 that are worth viewing with a psychological lens. To dig deeper, peruse these reviews published in PsycCRITIQUES.

Read the Reviews
ReviewTomorrow’s Another Day
By David G. Wall and Jacqueline Remondet Wall
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(10)
  • A review of the film The Theory of Everything
ReviewWhen Resilence Fails, Vulnerability Wreaks Havoc
      By Reshma Naidoo
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(9)
  • A review of the film Gone Girl


ReviewThe Railway Man: Next Stop PTSD
By Michael Fass
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(5)
  • A review of the film The Railway Man
ReviewInterstellar Dreams Big
By Christopher J. Ferguson
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(4)
  • A review of the film Intersellar


ReviewGus's Mamartia
By David G. Wall and Jacqueline Remondet Wall
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(2)
  • A review of the film The Fault in Our Stars
ReviewCoded Messages
By Keith Oatley
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(52)
  • A review of the film The Imitation Game


ReviewIf It Bleeds, It Leads
By Jason A. Cantone and Brandon Kuss PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(51)
  • A review of the film Nightcrawler

 ReviewGrowing Up in America
By Keith Oatley
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(50)

  • A review of the film Boyhood


ReviewWhat Is Left of Creation
By David Manier
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(43)
  • A review of the film Noah

Thursday, March 05, 2015

How to Make Workplace Mental Health a Priority


Susan L. Trumbetta reviewed Mental illness in the Workplace:  Psychological Disability Management by  Henry G. Harder,  Shannon L. Wagner, and  Joshua A. Rash. This topic raises a number of questions in my mind. For example, how can employers get senior management to "buy in" to the importance of preventing  and treating mental health problems in the workplace? Relatedly, how can employers convince cynical employees that taking steps to prevent and treat mental health problems in the workplace should be a priority?

Read the Review
ReviewA Comprehensive Introduction to Workplace Mental Health
By Susan L. Trumbetta
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(6)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Has Psychology Lost Its Humanity?


In his intriguing review of the multilayered film Interstellar, Chris Ferguson applauds the film for attempting to bring in some science (despite being a science fiction film) and for unveiling deeper meaning in its exploration of humanity. He contrasts this with the field of psychology that, in some ways, has taken steps backward rather than advanced itself as a science. Ferguson explains:

I worry that psychology has lost its humanity. Psychological science seems to have ceased asking the big questions, or trying to understand the human condition. Instead we squabble over small-scale theories, or attempt to defend the societal importance of correlational effect sizes of r = .20 or less. Our theories have become unfalsifiable, surviving in some undead like state even as they are rocked by replication crises. The conduct of our research has become so cynical that leading researchers openly acknowledge not reporting theory unfavorable results (see Schimmack, 2014). I argue that psychology has fundamentally lost sight of itself and what it was meant to study. (para. 10)

What do you think? Has psychology lost its humanity? 

Or, would you argue for the exact opposite, that some fields within psychological science have significantly advanced and deepened from a scientific perspective? 

In either case, what are the best next steps to advance our field?

Read the Review
ReviewInterstellar Dreams Big
By Christopher J. Ferguson
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(4)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Will Psychology Ever Have a Grand, Unifying Theory?


In a critical review of Warren W. Tryon’s book Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychotherapy: Network Principles for a Unified Theory, James Schmidt argues that “Global theories, like the end of the rainbow, are mirages: Although they appear very real and inviting at a distance, as you draw closer they pixelate into nothing” (last paragraph).  

When I was a graduate student, I spent considerable time studying the work of Yale psychologist Clark Hull who attempted to develop an overarching theory that would explain learning, motivation, and all of human behavior.  Hull expressed his ideas in complicated mathematical formulas like this one:

sEr = V x D x K x J x sHr - sIr - Ir - sOr - sLr

Graduate students today may learn about Hull in a History and Systems class, but his work is not taken seriously as an overarching theory of human behavior.

Many of my professors at the University of Hawaii went on to develop elaborate theories that attempted to unify psychology; these luminaries include Raymond Cattell (Dreger, 1982), Art Staats (Spiegler, 1998), Roland Tharp (Salzinger, 2012), and Ian Evans (Arnkoff, 2014).  However, we still don’t have a generally accepted unifying theory of human behavior or even of psychotherapy. Will we ever?



Arnkoff, D. B. (2014). A great foundation that needs a castle. [Review of the book How and why people change: Foundations of psychological therapy, by I. M. Evans]. PsycCRITIQUES, 59(1).

Dreger, R. M. (1982). Another magnum opus. [Review of the book Personality and learning theory, Vol. 2: A systems theory of maturation and structured learning, by R. B. Cattell]. PsycCRITIQUES, 27(1), 9-11.

Salzinger, K. (2012). Nietzsche, Sequoia, the Reichstag, contingency management, and tango therapy. [Review of the book Delta theory and psychosocial systems: The practice of influence and change, by R. G. Tharp]. PsycCRITIQUES, 57(22).

Spiegler, M. D. (1998). Another behaviorism, or a new psychology? [Review of the book Behavior and personality: Psychological behaviorism, by A. W. Staats]. PsycCRITIQUES, 43(5), 358-359.

Read the Review
ReviewDeveloping a Unified Theory of Psychotherapy: Mission Accomplished or a Bridge Too Far?
      By Warren W. Tryon
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(52)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Does Forensic Science Lack a Scientific Basis?


In her review of Acquittal: An Insider Reveals the Stories and Strategies Behind Today’s Most Infamous Verdicts by Richard Gabriel, Susan Goldberg states,  "In fact, Gabriel criticizes the work of forensic psychologists, viewing forensic psychological treatment and assessment as lacking any 'basis in scientific fact' (p. 43)"  (section "Summary," para. 1).  Do you agree that the the field is not based on scientific findings?

Read the Review
ReviewGetting Away With Murder: Acquittals in High-Profile Cases
By Susan G. Goldberg
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(49)

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Psychology Among the Liberal Arts and Sciences


In textbooks and classrooms psychologists proclaim our discipline’s standing as a science. In his review of Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, Tom McGovern asks whether psychology could “become a ‘hub discipline’ in undergraduate education in the [liberal] arts and sciences” (para. 7). I understand the liberal arts to be the humanities disciplines including literature, history, and philosophy. As a “hub discipline” then, Michael Roth (book author) “affirms the scientific paradigms of critical inquiry in tandem with the wider narratives of human interdependence created by arts and humanities scholars” (para. 8). McGovern’s (2007) own work in multicultural life narratives is an exemplar of this paradigm.

Except for the History of Psychology course and sporadically offered special topics courses, it is unusual to find the humanities explicitly represented in psychology curricula. There is no shortage of material in the psychology literature from which to draw to present psychology as a humanity (Korn, 1985). Perhaps a stronger link to the humanities would be seen as weakening psychology’s status as a science, which would in turn lead to lower academic standing.

If we can put status seeking aside, how could we make this stronger humanities link? Two possibilities come to mind: one, recognition in textbooks of psychology’s “hub discipline” position; two, acceptance of thesis topics based in literature and philosophy. What are some others, or should we discourage this sort of thing?


Korn, J. H. (1985). Psychology as a humanity. Teaching of Psychology, 12, 188-193.

McGovern, T. V. (2007). Memory’s stories: Multidisciplinary readings of multicultural life narratives. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Read the Review
ReviewWhat Can I Do With a Degree in . . .?
By Thomas V. McGovern
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(4)

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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