Reviewed Books & Films

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June 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Have We All Exceeded Dunbar's Number?

APA In reviewing Psychological Aspects of Cyberspace: Theory, Research, Applications, Matthew Hile of the Missouri Institute of Mental Health alludes to "Dunbar's number," the theoretical upper limit on the number of persons with whom one can maintain meaningful, stable, and coherent social connections (estimated to be approximately 150 people). This number is hypothesized to be set by relative neocortex size.

With our numerous links to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and other social networking sites, have many of us exceeded the cognitive limits set by Dunbar's number?

Read the Review
ReviewA Brave New World
By Matthew G. Hile
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2009 Vol 54(23)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Does Gender Research Facilitate Sexism?

APA Alejandra Suarez begins her review of The Neuropsychology of Women by noting,

From the time when Aristotle claimed that the leader of a hive is the king bee, that women have smaller brains than men, and that the female of the species has fewer teeth than the male (Mayhew, 2004), there have been attempts to pass off misogyny as science. In particular, pseudoscientific claims of biological differences have been used to justify oppression and disdain (see discussion in Gould, 1981). A book documenting sex and gender dimorphism is like a comedy routine—timing is everything. If the text appears before its time, it can be a breeding ground for prejudiced rationalization of flimsy conclusions. If the book is thoughtfully published when the field is ripe enough, it can combat those same prejudices.
Can you think of other examples of research in gender differences in which the resulting data have been used to stigmatize women?

Read the Review
ReviewNeuropsychology: Hers and His
By Alejandra Suarez
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2009 Vol 54(23)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Did Psychologists Practice on the Dark Side?

APA In his review of The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, Edward J. Tejirian writes,

[A secret] memo provided the rationalization for a whole range of abusive "techniques" that were put into practice at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, and in the CIA's secret prisons. It also enabled the president to flatly declare, "We don't torture," and, in his own mind, to believe that he was telling the truth. Yet, in practice—and this is what makes The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals so critically relevant to psychologists and to psychology—almost all the torture inflicted on those detained was psychological in means and intent. It is true that physical abuse that adversely affected the health and safety of detainees was also used—the occasional beating, exposure to extremes of heat and cold, and, of course, water boarding. But it was the "dark side" of psychological theory that provided the rationale for the suffering that was inflicted on those detained in the "war on terror."
Psychologists interested in these issues are encouraged to read Tejirian's review of The Dark Side, along with the companion review by Steven Behnke, and Charles Figley's review of The Trauma of Psychological Torture in the same release.

Read the Review
ReviewAlternate Realities
By Edward J. Tejirian
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2009 Vol 54(22)

Monday, June 01, 2009

Is an Interdisciplinary Approach Key to Studying Interethnic Violence and Conflict?

APA In his review of Explaining the Breakdown of Ethnic Relations: Why Neighbors Kill (edited by Victoria Esses and Richard Vernon), Jeffrey Noel notes that a strength of the book is its interdisciplinary nature, which "includes contributions from psychology, education, sociology, philosophy, and political science." He highlights a quote from contributors Miles Hewstone, Nicole Tausch, and colleagues: "Social conflict is more complex than intergroup bias. … Real-world intergroup relations owe at least as much of their character to history, economics, politics, and ideology as they do to social psychological variables such as self-esteem, ingroup identification, group size, and group threat. (p. 65)."

Are social scientists of any discipline doomed to fail at understanding interethnic violence if they refuse to collaborate to study this very complex set of causes? For example, should social psychologists (in psychology) who often study prejudice in the lab actively collaborate with historians, economists, sociologists, and others? Should this be the future of studying interethnic violence and conflict?

Read the Review
ReviewAgainst the Blood-Dimmed Tide: Psychology’s Response to Mass Killing and Genocide
      By Jeffrey Noel
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2009 Vol 54(18)

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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