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March 2012

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Psychological Science Applied to Real World Problems

APA Yale psychologist Alan Kazdin was APA President in 2008, and one of his presidential themes was "Psychology's Contributions to the Grand Challenges of Society." This made him the perfect person to review Gernsbacher, Pew, Hough, and Pomerantz's edited book Psychology and the Real World: Essays Illustrating Fundamental Contributions to Society, and I am grateful that Dr. Kazdin took on this challenging task. Describing the qualifications of the chapter authors, he notes,

Over 40 scholars contributed; they constitute a Who's Who of our science, including Elliot Aronson, Paul Ekman, Susan Goldin-Meadow, E. Tory Higgins, Elizabeth Loftus, Barbara Rogoff—and the list continues at this same level.
Kazdin concludes his review by noting,
Psychology and the Real World is excellent in the genre it pioneers and in conveying the vibrancy and relevance of our field. The human experience, the mind, brain, and the underpinnings of all we do are filled with amazement, intrigue, and the unexpected. The book conveys in user-delicious ways that psychology has theory, methods, and findings that provide answers, and answers that make a difference.
Can you give examples of situations in which psychological science has had a significant impact on real world problems?

Read the Review
ReviewRigor and Relevance: Psychological Science's Multiple Contributions to Everyday Life
By Alan E. Kazdin
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(9)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What Is Really Wrong With Treating Juvenile Offenders More Like Adults?

APA In his review of Slobogin and Fondacaro's book Juveniles at Risk: A Plea for Preventive Justice, Norman White states,

I agree with the authors that it is very important to use evidence-based research in the process of trying to understand how to provide quality care and treatment of youths; it is imperative that we examine current functioning and practices of the court as it has moved far from its basic foundation of parens patriae. The movement toward treating children as adults, viewing them as adults, and punishing them as adults is harmful to their lives' trajectories. We need reasoned and clearly vetted program development. I am not sure that preventive justice provides that solution.
Does good research evidence exist that treating youths like adults in the juvenile justice system is harmful? Isn't it part of society's role to prepare youths for adult responsibilities? Don't we as parents, teachers, neighbors, etc. try to teach our young people what it means to be an adult by instilling in them adult values and habits (such as be on time for class/work, empathize with others, learn to cooperate with classmates/co-workers, and that acting unethically or illegally—e.g., cheating on an exam, stealing—has negative consequences)? So, shouldn't juvenile offenders be treated, at least to some extent, like adult offenders? And isn't there research evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of this type of training in preventing further delinquent behavior?

Read the Review
ReviewIt's Broke; We Must Fix It: A Selective Incapacitation Approach to Juvenile Justice
By Norman A. White
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(12)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What Leads to a Loveless Childhood?

APA In his book The Loveless Family: Getting Past Estrangement and Learning How to Love, Jon P. Bloch describes how the wounds from a "loveless childhood" can be long lasting and result in deep feelings of insecurity and uncertainty throughout life. And he isn't exclusively referring to children who have experienced extreme forms of abuse or neglect; he also focuses on those who are well provided for but have nonetheless grown up not feeling loved or cherished within their own families. The author describes situations that may result in lovelessness, such as favoritism, or parents who exhibit hostility, are overly intrusive, have extremely high expectations, or are highly critical.

Reviewer Alice Sterling Honig points out the need to also consider the role of attachment relationships, temperament, and parental discipline styles in producing the adult who feels "unloved." How might each of these impact a "loveless childhood"? How does a child's temperament, in particular, play a role in the development of the child's feelings of being loved? How does "goodness of fit" between caregiver and child play a role?

Read the Review
ReviewWhat Happens When You Did Not Feel Loved as a Child?
By Alice Sterling Honig
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(10)

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Society and Disordered Eating

APA The book Developing an Evidence-Based Classification of Eating Disorders: Scientific Findings for DSM–5 provides an overview of the controversies surrounding the classification of eating disorders. Among the topics discussed are the advantages of changing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) from a categorical to a dimensional framework and the value of reducing the use of the classification Eating Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (ED-NOS). In her review of the book, Marla Sanzone highlights the focus on a dimensional versus a categorical framework for classification. She notes from the book that the dimensional framework is meant to

increase the consistency and meaning of differences among symptoms and minimize the confusion common to descriptive methods that frequently introduce subtypes within each category and overlapping qualities between diagnostic categories. Examples in current DSM-IV eating disorder classifications would include anorexia, restricting type; anorexia, binge-eating/purging type; bulimia, purging type; and bulimia, nonpurging type (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
However, some researchers and clinicians might ask if this change is sufficient to achieve the goals of a diagnostic manual. Wilfley et al. (2007) state,
There are numerous examples in medicine where the line between disease (such as diabetes or hypertension) and normality is blurred, and cutpoints are defined based on prognostic indicators, thus simultaneously employing a dimensional and categorical model. (p. S124)
Sanzone points to the suggestions of Becker et al. in Chapter 20. These authors propose
that considering anxiety and mood disorders as the primary diagnosis and eating disorders as a secondary diagnosis could allow for integration of idiosyncratic presentations such as anxiety with and without food- or weight-phobic behavior. This could significantly reduce the frequency of eating disturbances garnering the ED NOS diagnosis.
While it is true that the use of ED NOS might decrease, such a change complicates the diagnostic framework for mood disorders.

Despite the discussion, the most significant change in the DSM-5 is the proposal of binge eating as a stand-alone diagnostic category and removal of the amenorrhea criteria from the anorexia diagnosis. What of the other diagnostic criteria provided? Given the variety of suggestions offered to address concerns related to the classification of eating disorders, researchers and clinicians alike may be left wondering whether DSM-5 will resolve the major issues of concern. Are there preferences in approach among psychologists providing treatment? To what extent will any of the proposed changes in the DSM-5 eating disorders classification affect treatment planning and intervention?


Wilfley, D., Bishop, M., Wilson, G., & Agras, W. (2007). Classification of eating disorders: Toward DSM-V. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 40, S123-S129.

Read the Review
ReviewReviewing the Research Regarding the Reclassification of Eating Disorders for DSM–5
      By Marla M. Sanzone
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(10)

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Should Psychologists Use the Term "Evil"?

APA Robert Furey reviews Mario Mikulincer and Phillip R. Shaver's book The Social Psychology of Morality: Exploring the Causes of Good and Evil. Should psychologists even approach the topic of morality using terms like "evil"? Should we not examine the causes, moderators, mediators, and consequences of positive behaviors (such as altruism, providing social support) and negative behaviors (such as harassment, bullying, theft, infidelity, violence) without labels such as "evil"? Doesn't the use of terms such as "evil" ignore, to use Furey's phrasing, "the depth, complexity, and importance of moral psychology"?

Read the Review
ReviewThe Good, the Bad, and the Bystanders
By Robert Furey
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(6)

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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