Reviewed Books & Films

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November 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Do Current Diagnostic Labels Impede Scientific Progress?

APA In her review of Jerome Kagan's book The Temperamental Thread: How Genes, Culture, Time, and Luck Make Us Who We Are, Kristin Buss quotes from Kagan's book that "the practice of pooling diseases with diverse causes into one diagnostic group will delay discovery of the unique biological characteristics and best therapy for each disease (p. 165)." She suggests that this underlies one of the main take-home messages of the book—that behavior is influenced by a myriad of factors, with temperamental variation, biology, and experiences each being a factor that forms only part of the story. Thus, Kagan believes that using the same labels for disorders that include a heterogeneous set of characteristics impedes scientific advancement in understanding the cause(s) of psychopathology.

Do you agree or disagree with Kagan's perspective? What are some examples of disorders that have been grouped into the same category yet likely have different sets of causes? What are the implications of this for diagnosis and treatment? How flexible are current approaches for treating disorders as more specific etiologies are discovered?

Read the Review
ReviewFitting Temperament Into an Interdisciplinary View of Individual Variation
By Kristin A. Buss
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(41)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


APA According to Rosie Bingham, Derald Wing Sue's major goal in writing Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation "is to end microaggressions, particularly against all marginalized groups, by presenting research, data, and theories that show how such amelioration can be achieved." Bingham notes that Sue argues that "microaggressions must be made visible," and presumably this is a part of "the way forward." Although each chapter of the book ends with a section that suggests interventions to address the issues raised, how successful can these efforts be with people who deny the existence of microaggressions or see the topic as an overreaction on the part of members of stigmatized groups? What role do the privileged have in ensuring that microaggressions are made visible, and to what extent are these and other social justice efforts a part of the development of virtues espoused in positive psychology?

Read the Review
ReviewShining a Light on Invisible Microaggressions
By Rosie Phillips Bingham
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(38)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Revenge and Retribution

APA The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a poignant and gripping story, based on a widely popular novel from Swedish author Stieg Larsson. There are a number of relevant psychological themes in the film—revenge, trauma, aggression, and trait anger—each discussed by Lauren Seifert in her review of the film. After one protagonist, Lisbeth, is abused and raped, she seeks revenge in a similar manner—surprising, aggressive, and brutal. Seifert cites research in her review that "one of the most important aspects of revenge is the avenger's expectation that the message of retribution will be understood by the other party." Do you agree? In your experience, is this the key psychosocial aspect of revenge? If you viewed this film, is there a parallel process akin to satisfaction that occurs for you as the viewer witnessing Lisbeth get her revenge? What is the meaning behind such occurrences?

Read the Review
ReviewAbsorbing Loathing
By Lauren S. Seifert
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(37)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Older Workers in a New Economic Age

APA Tracey Ryan, reviewer of Dirk Hofäcker's Older Workers in a Globalizing World: An International Comparison of Retirement and Late-Career Patterns in Western Industrialized Countries, commends the multidisciplinary approach of the book. Written largely from a sociological and economic perspective, the book deals with the complex problems pertaining to older workers. For example, as Ryan summarizes, with the added dilemmas involved in an increasingly global employment market, national and political boundaries are less important to employers than in the past. She states, summarizing Hofäcker:

Technological change happens so quickly in this intensely competitive environment that many older—especially male—workers are seen as inflexible, outdated, and burdensome to employers. Paradoxically, the labor unions and "welfare" systems primarily based on seniority, designed to protect many of these older workers, backfire in this new economic age.
One solution offered in the book is to reduce institutional ageism at all levels of society, from educational systems to retirement systems.

What are possible approaches to reducing institutional ageism within major societal systems, like education and retirement? How have older workers, in particular, been affected by the global economic recession? What can psychology offer to the discourse about current problems facing older workers in the labor market?

Read the Review
ReviewUndervalued, Outdated, and Over the Hill? The Fate of Aging Workers
By Tracey Ellen Ryan
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(38)

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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