Reviewed Books & Films

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August 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How Can We Help Gang Members Leave the Violence Behind?

APA In his review of Gregory Boyle's Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, Michael Greene notes,

Father Boyle illustrates and extols the importance of helping gang members understand and feel that they are "somebody" and that someone takes them seriously, listens to them, and, yes, loves them unconditionally.
It is also noted that there are no program evaluation data on the effectiveness of Fr. Boyle's methods.

To what extent is this "unconditional positive regard" important in developing a systematic, evidence-based program to help members leave the violence of gang life? Can Fr. Boyle's qualitative book be used to develop a program whose effectiveness can be assessed? What (else) needs to be built into such a program?

Read the Review
ReviewSermons on the Psychology of Gangbangers
By Michael B. Greene
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(31)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chasing Ghosts with an Open Mind

APA William James devoted a significant part of his attention as a psychologist to the search for paranormal (psi) phenomena. He encountered a few cases that seemed at first to be promising, but after careful examination by James and others, the phenomena evaporated. Nevertheless, he kept an open mind with the hope that scientists of the future would have the proper tools.

Brian Hughes reviewed Mysterious Minds: The Neurobiology of Psychics, Mediums, and Other Extraordinary People edited by Stanley Krippner and Harris Friedman, a collection of chapters whose authors think they are on the right track (100 plus years after James), even though they have trouble demonstrating the existence of any paranormal ability. Hughes points out the general contradiction in this volume, which is the use of scientific methods (especially the magical fMRI), while rejecting the general validity of objective, deterministic science.

Is it worth anyone's time to attempt to demonstrate, and perhaps manage, psychic phenomena? William James provides an excellent example of faith and rationality. He believed that the human mind had unusual abilities that could be discovered through careful, controlled observation. I hope the search continues—but young researchers probably should not bet their tenure on it.

Read the Review
ReviewExtraordinary People, Ordinary Evidence: New Paradigms for Parapsychology, Same Old Problem
      By Brian M. Hughes
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(30)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Threads of Religious Thought in the Development of Psychotherapy

APA In his review of Maimonides’ Cure of Souls: Medieval Precursor of Psychoanalysis, Etzel Cardeña states:

…Maimonides, who had a therapeutic practice besides being a philosopher…sought to cure the confusion of reality and fantasy through a prescription of behaviors that went counter to sinful dispositions, and through the harmonization of rationality with sacred Jewish texts. He also prescribed rational meditation and analysis of sacred texts, besides interpreting what might underlie fantasy and symbolism, rather than taking them literally.
Cardeña's review and the book itself return our focus to debates about the role of religion in psychotherapy and psychological health in daily life. Do we as psychologists underestimate the role that existential and religious struggles play in psychological health and well-being? Is there a need to consider ways to harmonize and integrate matters of faith and spirituality into psychotherapeutic interventions? Is there a need to reconsider the integration of psychology's "intellectual traditions and religious perspectives"?

Read the Review
ReviewThe Last Words of a Wise Man
By Etzel Cardeña
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(30)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beyond the Breaking Point in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq

APA Wendell Steavenson's book The Weight of a Mustard Seed: The Intimate Story of an Iraqi General and His Family During Thirty Years of Tyranny describes the moral dilemmas of military officers in Saddam Hussein's Iraq through the story of General Kamel Sachet. Steavenson and the book's reviewer, H. Russell Searight, discuss the role that social psychological research can play in explaining responses to Saddam Hussein's regime, including the obedience work of Milgram and Zimbardo's prison study. Searight notes that the book generates new opportunities to consider the circumstances under which situations overwhelm personal traits and lead to behaviors and actions that defy the personal and moral characteristics of the individual. While noting that learned helplessness was not considered, Searight does not ask what the trauma literature might tell us about General Sachet's responses to requests of the Baathie regime.

What have psychologists learned from trauma studies that might help the United States public in understanding and interacting with countries and cultures with modern histories that include oppressive regimes? How do we integrate social and clinical psychology knowledge to achieve this objective?

Read the Review
Review"But What Could I Do?" The Moral Dilemmas of Military Officers in Saddam Hussein's Iraq
      By H. Russell Searight
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(31)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Mirror Neurons and Understanding Human Behavior

APA In his review of The Intersubjective Mirror in Infant Learning and Evolution of Speech by Stein Bråten, Stephen Truhon describes how the discovery of mirror neurons in macaque monkeys and subsequently in humans signified a major advance in neuroscience. Truhon summarizes Bråten's thesis as "a complex theory of human development, in both the phylogenetic and ontogenetic sense, and of the intersubjectivity that humans possess with one another." Bråten's theory draws from research on mirror neurons and their involvement in empathy, language, theory of mind, and autism.

As a relatively recent discovery in neuroscience, what do mirror neurons add to our understanding of human behavior and development? What are the limitations of Bråten's theory?

Read the Review
ReviewThat's Why I'm Starting With Me
By Stephen A. Truhon
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(23)

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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