Reviewed Books & Films

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September 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Should a Course in the History of Psychology Be Part of Every Psychologist's Education?

APA The History of Psychology course is of basic importance for the education of all psychologists. Undergraduate curriculum reports have suggested that course as a capstone, and accreditation guidelines require instruction in the history of psychology. However, in his review of Wade Pickren and Alexandra Rutherford's A History of Modern Psychology in Context, Bruce Henderson points out that history "is frequently taught by amateurs; few teachers of [this] course have formal training in the history of philosophy of psychology."

Only two universities (New Hampshire and York) offer specialties in the history of psychology, and few psychology departments are likely to hire those specialists. If a department offers the course at all, students will be fortunate if their teacher took the course herself or himself.

What's to be done? We could forget about it; other sciences do not require courses in their history yet seem to produce competent graduates. I would prefer to consider two other possibilities: one, an intensive 3- to 4-week institute to prepare teachers of the history of psychology; two, offer an online history course that departments could buy to fill the gap. Henderson's "amateurs" could lead discussions and administer examinations.

Read the Review
ReviewPsychology's History for the Postmodern Student
By Bruce B. Henderson
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(37)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Psychological Science, Prosocial Behavior, and Schools

APA In her review of Mikulincer and Shaver's Prosocial Motives, Emotions, and Behavior: The Better Angels of Our Nature, Nakia Gordon notes:

In sum, [this book] does more than simply summarize types of prosocial motives, emotions, and behaviors. It provides a foundation for thinking about how to manage interpersonal, group, and perhaps societal (intergroup) relationships. Given our country's military involvement abroad, it was refreshing to see work that highlights how we might attain positive social behavior.
Should schools make more use of what psychologists know about prosocial behavior (cognitive, physiological, affective, etc.) in teaching younger and older students to be better people? Some schools try to teach students to be "men and women for others," to encourage community service, and to be good global citizens—can knowledge of the psychology of prosocial behavior help with this?

Read the Review
ReviewModulating Emotion to Understand Prosocial Behavior
By Nakia S. Gordon
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(33)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What Should Be the Role of Psychologists on the Issue of Childhood Obesity?

APA In his review of Michael L. Power and Jay Schulkin's The Evolution of Obesity, Randall Flanery states,

Some see obesity as a public health concern…capable of overwhelming our health care system beneath the costs of treatment and lost wages attributable to diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and sleep apnea, among other diseases. A counterargument is that the problem is greatly exaggerated, if not wholly manufactured, by the health-industrial complex (Oliver, 2006) in order to maximize pharmaceutical companies' profits, grant monies, and the demand for new medical services.

Yet others see the current campaign to eliminate obesity as a further reflection of a socially defined prejudice against heavy people for not conforming to the norms of interpersonal attractiveness…Should obesity be the province of the Health Department or the fashion police?
Given these views, what should be the role of psychologists on the issue of childhood obesity? Is it ethical for psychologists to help the fast food or junk food companies develop advertising that is targeted or tailored to children, who may not have the knowledge or psychological defenses that adults have when processing fast/junk food ads?

Read the Review
ReviewThe Other Energy Crisis
By Randall C. Flanery
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(24)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A Horrific Dilemma

APA In so many films these days, the use of violence is gratuitous—there to shock viewers and to sell tickets. The acclaimed French film A Prophet appears to be a notable exception. PsycCRITIQUES film reviewers Gabriel Rupp and James Atkison describe one particularly violent scene this way: "This scene, like so many in the movie, is neither a Tarantino-esque cartoon of violence nor a slick, film noir realism, but rather something hurtful, disturbing, and inevitable." What do you believe is the purpose and meaning of the violence in this film?

Rupp and Atkison explain,

[T]he film is what we call a successful failure in that it presents all too accurately the human condition in a world of uncertainty, violence, and suffocating social roles. The success is in the director's masterful choice of very human actors living out prescribed roles. The failure, we believe, is in current society itself, where underneath the surface of civilization lurks the bestial, the violent.
Part of this poignant description emerges from a major plot device in the film in which the protagonist, Malik, finds himself in a situation where he must murder a fellow prisoner in order to save his own life. How is the director commenting on today's society by presenting this dilemma? Do you believe Malik had exhausted his options? What psychological mechanisms must be employed to commit such an act? How might you have handled the situation?

Read the Review
ReviewA Prophet: A Study in the Dialogics of the Social and the Psychological
By Gabriel V. Rupp [and] James Atkison
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(33)

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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