Reviewed Books & Films

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October 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Psychological Relevancy of the Love Story Genre

APA In her review of Feast of Love, Linda Young contends, "Viewers are given only superficial glimpses of the characters' histories … [and] … not given any indicators of how the characters work through the impasses and conflicts that are usually necessary to achieve relational growth. Growth and healing seem to happen spontaneously and magically."

Given that there are countless films that deal with love, but few that teach us about love itself, what are your criteria for a love film that is both psychologically relevant and educational? Does Feast of Love educate the viewer about important dynamics about love, or does it simply use love as an empty plot device?

Read the Review
ReviewFast-Food Love Feast
By Linda R. Young
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2008 Vol 53(43)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Maintaining Dignity for All: A Path to a More Peaceful World?

APA In the book Dignity for All: How to Create a World Without Rankism, authors Robert Fuller and Pamela Gerloff describe Fuller’s approach to understanding the problems of inequality and violence. The main components of his approach are rankism (in particular, the abuse of rank) and most importantly, dignity. And a third component is the bond, the bond between individuals and between groups. In his review of the book, Thomas Scheff describes, "Helping the other person or group maintain their dignity maintains the existing bond or strengthens it; disrespect disrupts it… Secure bonds lead to cooperation; disrupted ones, to conflict."

Scheff says, "Fuller's approach is powerful in several different ways. It is applicable to many ostensibly different issues: race, interethnic and international relations, gender, sexual orientation, social class, and so on. It also implies a theory that may explain gratuitous and/or interminable conflict between individuals and between groups." Scheff concludes, "Indeed, [Fuller’s] work could provide the foundation for a social movement to create dignitarian organizations and, ultimately, to build a dignitarian society."

Is there potential for a "dignitarian" social movement in the U.S. and in other countries? In the United States, is one political party more likely than the other to support dignitarian values?

Read the Review
ReviewA New Voice in Social and Behavioral Science
By Thomas Scheff
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2008 Vol 53(42)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Are Children Almost Always Better Off with Their Biological Parents?

APA In her review of Gone Baby Gone, Kim Kirkland argues that even desperately poor children belong with their biological parents, and she cites the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights to support her position.

Does psychological science have anything to contribute to this debate? How do you feel about this?

Read the Review
ReviewParental Rights Are Human Rights
By Kimberly Kirkland
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2008 Vol 53(25)

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Challenges of Diagnosing Psychopathology in Children

APA Bernard Rimland (1928–2006), one of the most respected researchers in the field of autism, coined the term "Dyslogic Syndrome" (described in Sheila O'Brien Quinn's review of the posthumously published book of the same name) to account for the commonalities he observed in attention-disordered, learning disabled, depressed, aggressive, defiant, and violent children.

Does this overarching label contribute anything to our understanding of the varied behavioral disorders that affect as many as one in three children in the United States, or does it only further muddy the conceptual and nosological waters associated with diagnosing psychopathology in children?

Read the Review
ReviewDoing Anything That Needs to Be Done to Help Children
By Sheila O'Brien Quinn
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2008 Vol 53(42)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Does Marital Conflict Predict Marital Satisfaction?

APA Karen Kayser and Jennifer L. Scott’s book Helping Couples Cope with Women's Cancers: An Evidence-Based Approach for Practitioners was positively reviewed by Leslie B. Rosen, who quotes the authors claim that "higher conflict in the relationship was related to a lower mood disturbance. While this seems counterintuitive, conflict was also positively correlated with marital satisfaction. These findings suggest that relationships in which spouses do not withdraw when there are differences, but confront them directly, can be productive."

Does this positive correlation between conflict and marital satisfaction hold up in other studies?

Read the Review
ReviewA Dyadic Approach to Coping With Women's Cancers
By Leslie B. Rosen
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2008 Vol 53(42)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sexuality and Asperger Syndrome

APA Writing about Love, Sex, and Long-Term Relationships: What People with Asperger Syndrome Really Really Want, Mardi Allen notes:

This book promotes a desire to understand what people with AS really want from relationships. Simple as it sounds, they want to be accepted and loved, and to enjoy intimacy with a partner. There is nothing simple about that for an individual with AS. Most would claim that we've come a long way from the eugenics, ovariectomy, and castration without consent but, really, how far? Do individuals who cope with AS daily still feel unwelcome on the metaphorical dance floor? The pretense of acceptance is halted by the wall of prejudice and stigma against those who experience the world a bit differently. Individuals who have AS continue to be relegated to dance alone or only with a few who are willing to embrace their divergent world. This book takes a positive step in pushing science and practice toward educating about and fostering empathy for a slight variation in a familiar dance.

How can psychologists promote the acceptance of sexuality for members of marginalized groups who have previously been actively discouraged from taking advantage of naturally occurring sexual opportunities?  At what point, if any, does such a proactive stance become problematic?

Read the Review
ReviewThe Dance Inside ME
By Mardi Allen
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2008 Vol 53(42)

Friday, October 10, 2008

What Are the Limits to Cultural Sensitivity?

APA In her review of James Garbarino's Children and the Dark Side of Human Experience: Confronting Global Realities and Rethinking Child Development, Judith Gibbons writes "Another highlight of the book is Garbarino's reflections on cultural relativism. He gives the example of a colleague who tries to teach U.S. students not to quickly judge other customs and traditions. Although he sees this as worthy, he reaches the limits of his own nonjudgmental attitudes toward other cultures in the case of genital mutilation of girls that occurs in, among other countries, the Sudan. He argues that between cultural ethnocentricism and complete acceptance of other's practices, there should be a third option, that some cultural practices are wrong. In addition, Garbarino implies a strategy for change based on methods that ended the Chinese practice of foot binding. Enlightened Sudanese men (as well as women) can speak against the practice, and men can refuse to marry 'cut' women."

When a psychologist finds some cultural practice repugnant (e.g., female genital mutilation), is it responsible to speak out against these practices, or does respect for international cultural differences require a muted acceptance of those practices we find so troubling?

Read the Review
ReviewSaving Children: Notes From the Front Line
By Judith L. Gibbons
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2008 Vol 53(41)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Landmark Contribution in Research Ethics

APA In his review of James Dubois' Ethics in Mental Health Research: Principles, Guidance, and Cases (and the accompanying website and CD-ROM produced with Jean Campbell), Joseph G. Ponterotto notes "the DuBois and Campbell collaboration represents a landmark contribution, not only to the mental health field, but to sociology, education, and nursing as well…The book and DVD are ideal for an undergraduate or graduate course in research ethics. I would pair the book with Trimble and Fisher's (2006) classic edited text on ethical research with ethnocultural populations to bring in more culturally diverse voices and a more balanced qualitative–quantitative coverage. The book could also be a supplemental text in general ethics courses that focus primarily on clinical practice. I highly recommend the DuBois and Campbell ethics course package to my colleagues across disciplines."

How can you incorporate these superb teaching resources in your own courses?

Read the Review
ReviewA Context for Ethical Care in Mental Health Research
By Joseph G. Ponterotto
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2008 Vol 53(40)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Is There Anything Unique About Cyber Bullying?

APA In Susan Swearer's review of Cyber Bullying: Bullying in the Digital Age she suggests that parents and other adults are ill-informed about the extent of kids' usage of technology to communicate with one another (e.g., thousands of text messages sent per day, use of password protected networking sites such as Facebook, private email accounts, etc.). Parents and adults also may be largely unaware of the extent to which some youth are utilizing the web, email and cell phone technology to harass, demean, and humiliate their fellow students. As Swearer writes "the proliferation of cell phone and computer usage has propelled bullying into cyberspace where it can occur continuously." She adds that cyber bullying is a difficult set of behaviors to define.

Is cyber bullying simply the same problem in a new guise? In what ways might cyber bullying be more harmful than bullying that takes place in-person?  How might prevention/intervention approaches need to be tailored in order to address cyber bullying in addition to other forms of bullying?

Read the Review
ReviewRURD? The Nuances of Cyber Bullying
By Susan M. Swearer
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2008 Vol 53(39)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Is Anyone Listening When Somebody Prays?

APA In reviewing Ilene Serlin's Whole Person Healthcare, Luis Montesinos notes "Perhaps the most controversial question is that of intercessory prayer—the notion that the intention of one person (or a group of persons) can influence the medical condition of someone who is physically distant. It is interesting to note that trying to help someone from a distance through prayer is the most commonly used spiritual/religious practice outside conventional medicine."

Is there any compelling evidence that prayer actually benefits anyone other than the individual praying? (Also see Jim Korn's review, The Varieties of Prayer Experience, PsycCRITIQUES, 2006, Vol 51(21).)

Read the Review
ReviewBuilding the Future, Revisiting the Origins: A Truly Integrative Approach to Health
By Luis Montesinos
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2008 Vol 53(23)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Psychology and Physics: Uneasy Bedfellows?

APA In his review of Alan Wallace's Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and Consciousness, Simon McCrea writes "It is perhaps interesting to note that these quantum effects of consciousness are emanating from physicists, not psychologists; Wallace would argue that this is a direct result of the idolization by psychologists of the core unstated assumptions associated with the classical physical view so that they are not cognizant of contemporary quantum physical and cosmological views."

Is this hyperbole or a justified criticism of most psychologists?

Read the Review
ReviewMechanisms of Nonlocality and Its Implications to Physics and the Study of Consciousness
      By Simon M. McCrea
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2008 Vol 53(22)

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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