Reviewed Books & Films

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September 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How Do We Make "Culture" a More Usable Construct?

APA Susan Gelman highlights one of the important points of the book Developing Destinies: A Mayan Midwife and Town, by Barbara Rogoff, with Chona Pérez González, Chonita Chavajay Quiacaín, and Josué Chavajay Quiacaín.

[In the] United States, culture is typically essentialized (Gelman, 2003), viewed as an unchanging, inborn, encompassing identity that determines an individual's attributes.
This static view of culture, to some extent, stereotypes individuals and serves as another way to confine groups to spaces and places. Yet, this was never the intent of a focus on culture. The complexity of culture and its resistance to the research requirements of precise numerical measurement have hampered our use of this construct. How can the field of psychology break out of this "box" and optimize our use of this important aspect of human life and experience?

Read the Review
ReviewStability and Change in Individual and Culture
By Susan A. Gelman
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2011 Vol 56(38)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Can We Bring Academic Discussions on Prejudice to a More Public Forum?

APA In his review of Moving Beyond Prejudice Reduction: Pathways to Positive Intergroup Relations, Jeffrey Noel highlights an important observation in the book:

…opening the self to others makes one vulnerable to rejection or even victimization, and if we are to encourage a social practice, we must acknowledge the risks of that practice.
A casual perusal of the popular literature on the behaviors of ethnic minority children and workers illustrates how often we have failed to understand and address this reality. Why are all of the African Americans eating at the same lunch table? Why do minorities congregate in groups? Why do they speak another language when they know we don't understand? Noel goes on to state,
When history suggests that the intentions of an outgroup are not to be trusted, how can vulnerability be encouraged? From the perspective of a group that has been on the receiving end of prejudice and oppression, should vulnerability be encouraged?
Yet, I have not heard this response when these observations are made in the media or the questions are posed in public discussions. These are important insights, but, as with so much of psychology, relevant insights are shared only in journals and discipline-specific discussions. When do social psychologists become truly social and at least pose questions for rational discussion and debate in more public forums? Could this be one strategy for "moving beyond prejudice reduction"?

Read the Review
ReviewIncluding Outgroups in the Self: The Challenge and Promise of Positive Intergroup Relations
      By Jeffrey Noel
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2011 Vol 56(37)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ethical Issues and International Adoption

APA In her book Babies Without Borders: Adoption and Migration Across the Americas, Karen Dubinsky delves into how international and interracial adoption may negatively affect children as they sometimes bear the weight of adult political conflicts. Reviewer Judith Gibbons highlights some examples from the book, such as the 1960s' Operation Peter Pan in which 14,000 Cuban children were sent to the United States by their parents as a result of anti-Castro propaganda suggesting the communist government would terminate parental rights and force children to become wards of the state. This is but one of many intercountry adoption scandals addressed in Dubinsky's book, raising many important questions about the circumstances surrounding international adoption.

Are American parents adequately informed about the social and political implications of adopting a child from another country? What constitutes an ethical adoption?

Read the Review
ReviewDo Symbols of Children as Innocent, Orphaned, and Vulnerable Serve Children’s Best Interests?
      By Judith L. Gibbons
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2011 Vol 56(25)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

How Do We Implement Psychological Therapy to Prevent Future Heart Attacks?

APA In his review of the book Depression and Heart Disease, Matthew Newman notes that not only is depression a risk factor for heart disease, but "depression following a heart attack dramatically increases one's risk of cardiac-related death."

While medications may alleviate depression, what types of psychological therapeutic interventions are helpful in treating specifically depression following a heart attack? Are there interventions or therapies to increase the social support and social capital that might help treat or prevent depression following a cardiac event? What are possible mediating variables between depression and heart disease that might inform such therapeutic interventions?

Read the Review
By Matthew L. Newman
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2011 Vol 56(25)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Loss of Closeness Learning

APA The word revolutionary is not too extreme to apply to our ability to provide higher education to thousands of students via the Internet—that is, distance learning. In his review of Unlocking the Gates: How and Why Leading Universities Are Opening Up Access to Their Courses by Taylor Walsh, Donald Foss suggests that the federal government could launch an effort to develop a large number of courses on a distance learning model. His review refers to evidence that at least one such model is as effective as face-to-face learning.

The private sector (e.g., the University of Phoenix) already is doing this, and I suspect our Congress is not looking for new ways to spend. But isn't something lost in these real or imagined efforts? The log model (student on one end, teacher on the other) suggests a closeness that allows a focus on individual students, allowing frequent interaction and inspiration. Effective distance learning can certainly do well with cognitive objectives. However, I bet emotional and motivational outcomes would suffer, and the process clearly is different. Perhaps closeness learning in small classes is only for the well-off.

Read the Review
ReviewOnline Courses: A Public Good or a Disruptive Model for Higher Education?
By Donald J. Foss
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2011 Vol 56(34)

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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