Reviewed Books & Films

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May 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Can Psychology Contribute to Designs of Less Stressful Environments?

APA In his review of the edited book The Handbook of Stress Science: Biology, Psychology, and Health, David Goldstein notes the definition of stress given in the opening chapter of the book:

[Stress is] a process in which environmental demands tax or exceed the adaptive capacity of an organism, resulting in psychological and biological changes that may place persons at risk for disease.
As psychologists work to develop the methods that will permit understanding of the role that stress plays in disease, are we paying attention to the methods available to assess the psychosocial environment and its contributions to people's adaptive capacity? What does psychology have to contribute to the development of environments that support adaptive capacity and reduce stress?

Read the Review
ReviewStress Science Comes of Age
By David Goldstein
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2011 Vol 56(15)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Etiolog(ies) of Homosexuality

APA In their review of Simon LeVay's book Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation, Louis Hoffman and Justin Lincoln write:

With the preponderance of scientific research supporting the genetic and biological influences on sexual orientation, it is very hard to justify a position that it is just a choice without ignoring or discounting scientific evidence.
Is identifying "the etiolog(ies) of homosexuality" relevant to psychologists? What are the moral and ethical implications of pursuing this line of study?

Read the Review

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Should Schools Make Cooperation Training a Priority?

APA In his review of Tom Tyler's Why People Cooperate: The Role of Social Motivations, Dana Dunn states:

Tyler's research suggests that connected identities, attitudes and values, and procedural justice, as well as trust, lead to cooperation within groups. In ideal settings, cooperation becomes a social norm, a fact of life that people witness, experience, and hopefully imitate. What began as an external influence is modeled, then internalized; although cooperation emerges within the group, it is really part of each person, a self-regulated quality.
How can we use the ideas in Tyler's book to improve cooperation in classrooms? Schools often have to accommodate many different types of students along dimensions of gender, SES, prior educational preparation, etc.

Many think that schools have not adapted research-based methods to improve cooperation (e.g., Aronson's jigsaw classrooms and similar programs). Should improving cooperation be a priority in the school system (given all of the other challenges schools face), and if so, how might these programs be implemented?

Read the Review
ReviewBeyond "Me First": Cooperation as Social Motivation
By Dana S. Dunn
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2011 Vol 56(11)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Can Psychotherapy Be Too Evidence Based?

APA In his review of Sex in Psychotherapy: Sexuality, Passion, Love, and Desire in the Therapeutic Encounter, Charles Golden notes:

As evidenced by Hedges's case studies, the book becomes clear on the emphasis of psychotherapy as art rather than science in the sense being promoted today by professional psychology. In our emphasis on science and attempts to emulate the medical model of evidence-based techniques, we may be shortchanging students in learning the art of psychotherapy. Too often I see cases in which techniques have replaced an ability to understand the client, causing the therapist to miss important clues that therapy has focused on the wrong issue despite generating pretty graphs and impressive data. The importance of the art must always be remembered if we are to produce the most effective psychologists.
Have clinical and counseling training programs gone too far in their attempt to be evidence based? Or are clinical and counseling training programs already striking a good balance between art and science in psychotherapy training? What would you consider to be the best balance between art and science in psychotherapy?

Read the Review
ReviewNot Your Evidence-Based Psychotherapy...
By Charles Golden
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2011 Vol 56(9)

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Mental Illness, Beauty, and Character Strength

APA In the poetic, experimental film Crooked Beauty: Navigating the Space Between Brilliance and Madness, director Ken Paul Rosenthal weaves photographic images and film of the mercurial weather patterns of the San Francisco Bay area with voice-over storytelling and artwork by activist/artist Jacks Ashley McNamara, a woman who suffers from a severe mental illness. This short film is stunning as a positive psychology film, one that depicts psychological struggle and turmoil, while simultaneously depicting the resilience, creativity, humanity, and ultimately triumph therein. The film elicits important questions for psychologists in the domain of mental illness and its treatment as well as the domain of positive psychological functioning. Here are some themes that offer reflection.

(1) In their PsycCRITIQUES review of Crooked Beauty, Larry Leitner and Hideaki Imai cite studies that have found people with schizophrenia can achieve better outcomes in particular treatment programs without medication. The pervasiveness of psychiatry and the medical model can often lead to the alternative: "The net result is that the client can be condemned to a lifetime of medication, and many of them will shorten the client’s life span by as much as 20 years." What do you believe are the limitations of psychiatric treatment? Should people with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, be encouraged to employ treatments without medication, or should treatments only be selected in conjunction with medication?

(2) Many psychologists, such as Dean Simonton, have done studies on the interrelationship of creativity and mental illness. In the film, Jacks discusses this connection as it relates to her life. What about other character strengths in addition to creativity? Which character strengths are most important for people suffering from a mental illness to employ? What will help them become more resilient and triumph over their suffering? Is it the character strengths of hope, wisdom, spirituality, perseverance, zest, kindness, humor, or self-regulation that make the critical difference, or is it some intricate combination of these strengths?

Read the Review
ReviewMany People Labeled Mentally Ill Have Broken Hearts
By Larry M. Leitner and Hideaki Imai
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2011 Vol 56(10)

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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