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November 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Are We Asking the Right Questions About Media Violence?

APA In the book The The Lust for Blood: Why We Are Fascinated by Death, Murder, Horror, and Violence, author Jeffrey Kottler argues that people's fascination with media violence is part of human nature. His premise is that researchers have focused on the wrong question, investigating how media violence affects our minds and behavior. Instead, the real question to ask is, what in our nature leads us to be so fascinated with media violence?

In his review of Kottler's book, Christopher Ferguson discusses how the field of media effects research has been plagued with inconclusive findings and dubious methodology, as has been noted in various court opinions. He asks,

How did the field stop functioning as a science…and instead become more like an advocacy group, with the process of data collection little more than a pro forma effort to support a predetermined conclusion? There is a certain "sociology of media violence research" question lingering: how the sociology of a science can itself distort the scientific process.
In his concluding remarks about the book, Ferguson says,
Kottler puts a mirror on the human condition that is, perhaps, unflattering, noting both our fears and our natural fascination with death and violence. Perhaps this explains the reification of media effects theory in psychology, that is, that media effects theory is a kind of moral reaction and dismissal of our baser urges (Ferguson, 2010). It is, perhaps, comforting to think that our darker nature is a product of the media rather than the inverse.
What is your opinion on the state of the field of media effects research? Do you see the field changing direction in terms of types of questions asked and methodology used? Are there findings from other fields in psychology that have not been adequately applied to exploring media effects?

Read the Review
ReviewThe Intrinsic Appeal of Violence
By Christopher J. Ferguson
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2011 Vol 56(38)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Do Psychological Scientists Need to Use More Qualitative Methods?

APA In his review of Sue A. Kuba's book The Role of Sisters in Women's Development, Victor Cicirelli states,

[T]he book demonstrates how important it is to go beyond questionnaires and scales to assess the sibling relationship and to examine the unbiased qualitative narratives of those actually experiencing the relationship in question. Finally, any reader of The Role of Sisters in Women's Development will come away with a greater understanding of the complexity and meaning of relationships between sisters.
Are psychologists missing important aspects of the human experience by focusing on quantitative methods and using fewer qualitative methods? Are we so enamored with rating scales, ANOVAs, multiple regressions, structural equations, and hierarchical linear models that we miss the "complexity and meaning" of our participants' cognitions, affect, relationships, and behaviors? Or, are researchers proficient at using a balance of qualitative and quantitative methods as appropriate?

Read the Review
ReviewWhat's So Special About Sisters' Relationships?
By Victor Cicirelli
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2011 Vol 56(36)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Hopeful Search for How We Can Overcome Evil

APA In their review of Ervin Staub's book Overcoming Evil: Genocide, Violent Conflict, and Terrorism, Fathali Moghaddam and Zachary Warren write,

Staub's core question is how to make violence less likely.…Staub gives central place to the behavior of bystanders.…The defining component for Staub is that bystanders [such as government leaders, members of the media, or ordinary individuals, as well as groups, organizations, and nations] have opportunities and responsibilities to respond to, and prevent, violence.…

Among the strengths of Staub's text is his effective integration of theory with practical steps, including concrete examples of active bystandership.…Active engagement, he says, requires sustained education and engagement, including engagement with indigenous cultures and religions.

In practice, this claim carries rather complex implications. For example, religious engagement remains a controversial component of U.S. foreign policy.…President Obama's historic speech in Cairo on June 4, 2009, promised to engage Muslim communities, but what this religious engagement looks like in practice remains controversial. So, too, are goals of "developing pluralism" and "democratization," which are understood differently in different regions of the world.
Of the various groups of "bystanders"(and consider others not specifically mentioned in the quotation), which ones would be more likely to improve their active responsiveness? Do you think it pragmatic that active bystandership can be improved, at either smaller levels, such as organizations or communities, or larger levels? What is an example of active bystandership that impressed you?

Read the Review
ReviewThe Universal Challenge of Combating Evil
By Fathali M. Moghaddam and Zachary Warren
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2011 Vol 56(41)

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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