Reviewed Books & Films

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September 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The More You Forgive, the Better You Live?

APA In reviewing Robert Enright's new book The Forgiving Life: A Pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating a Legacy of Love, Robert Zettle and Suzanne Gird suggest Enright has gone beyond the model of forgiveness proffered in his earlier books to promote the value of "a forgiving life" as a whole. Here, forgiveness is not merely an act that reduces negative emotion, but "is ultimately undertaken to engender a morally virtuous lifestyle." They further suggest,

Although we are certainly not arguing that fostering forgiveness or any other moral virtues is undesirable, Enright's apparent suggestion that if forgiveness is good, more forgiveness is therefore better appears to be a philosophical and conceptual argument rather than one based on sufficient empirical support.
Do you believe forgiveness should be undertaken only in specific instances, or should we pursue it as broadly as possible? Does it have moral value above and beyond whatever immediate emotional benefits might accrue to the person engaging in it?

Read the Review
ReviewSelecting a Self-Help Book on Forgiveness as a Choice
By Robert D. Zettle and Suzanne R. Gird
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(37)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Is There an Undercurrent of Beliefs That Helps to Maintain Prejudice?

APA In his review of Steven K. Baum's book Antisemitism Explained, Brien Ashdown notes,

Baum also dedicates an entire chapter to the idea of what he calls the social voice. This voice is the undercurrent of social beliefs, or social consciousness, that seems to provide a running commentary on our social relationships and the way that we view and think about other people.

Baum claims that the voice, in a relatively cautious, calm, and monotone fashion, subtly influences, and even controls, social opinion, popularity, and political correctness. People who ignore the voice do so at risk of negative repercussions. It is this voice—popularly held beliefs, stereotypes, rumors, and superstitions—that perpetuates anti-Semitic views. It provides the social control necessary to ensure that anti-Semitic opinions (and, I think, one could argue other ethnic prejudices) are omnipresent in society via those social-psychological concepts discussed above, such as persuasion, social conformity, and gossip.
Are there any concepts in psychology or sociology that are similar to or provide evidence for the social voice? Is there a way to operationalize and empirically investigate the social voice?

Read the Review
Review"He Is Not a Man; He Is a Jew": Anti-Semitism Explained
By Brien K. Ashdown
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(36)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What Is “Normal” Sexual Expression in Old Age?

APA Gayle A. Doll's book Sexuality and Long-Term Care: Understanding and Supporting the Needs of Older Adults tackles the complex issue of sexual expression among older adults living in long-term care facilities. Reviewer Susan Regas points out several of the complicating factors discussed in the book, including residents developing a sexual relationship with another resident when there is still a living spouse(s), preventing unsafe and abusive relationships, and addressing sexuality among those with dementia.

Nursing homes and long-term health care facilities have typically avoided addressing these issues, except perhaps to simply forbid sexual behavior among their residents. Yet, such "abstinence" policies do not consider how intimacy can bolster residents' quality of life and do nothing to resolve the difficulty/discomfort that many caregivers have with sexuality and intimacy among those in their care.

What is "normal" sexual expression in old age? What sexual freedoms should be allowed in long-term health facilities? Do the benefits of allowing sexual behavior outweigh the potential risks (e.g., potential for legal action)?

Read the Review
ReviewMust Long-Term Care Residents Be Celibate?
By Susan Regas
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(28)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Darkness, Violence, and Hope Connected With The Dark Knight Rises

APA Hope and excitement filled the audience members at the opening, midnight showing of one of the most anticipated movies of the last half-decade. But The Dark Knight Rises will not be remembered for its captivating action sequences, surprising plot twists, cinematic mastery, or its attentive and meaningful encapsulation of one of the most remarkable trilogies in film history. Instead, the film will forever be linked with the horrifying massacre of 12 people and injuries to 58 others in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, allegedly by recent graduate school dropout James Holmes.

Holmes's actions have experts—desperate to find comforting causation for such incomprehensible behavior—reaching for mental illness as a solitary explanation. Holmes apparently made claims connecting himself to "the Joker," a character with a psychopathic personality from the second film in the trilogy. News reports indicate he had been treated by more than one mental health professional, and various diagnostic labels have been suggested.

The violence perpetrated at the Aurora movie theater mirrors a common stereotype perpetrated in movies—that all people with mental illness are violent. In reality, people with a mental illness are much more likely to be victims of a violent crime than to perpetrate one. Choe et al. (2008) found that 2 to 13 percent of outpatients with a mental illness perpetrated violence in the previous 3 years, whereas 20 to 34 percent had been violently victimized.

As stories of mental illness and violence shroud the Aurora tragedy, equal weight should be given to the heroism, bravery, and self-sacrifice of many of the deceased and survivors of the shooting. In this spirit of reframing, the PsycCRITIQUES review of The Dark Knight Rises by Jeremy Clyman helps viewers focus their attention on the artistic and thematic merits of the film. Clyman highlights the science surrounding the character strength of hope as it is deftly portrayed in the film. If there was a strength of value for not only film-goers studying the movie, but also those afflicted with a mental illness and most especially those victims and families struggling to move forward, it would be hope.

What strikes you most about the film and the events surrounding the film?

What factors might most contribute to such extreme violent acts? To what degree do you believe mental illness played a role?


Choe, J. Y., Teplin, L. A., & Abram, K. M. (2008). Perpetration of violence, violent victimization, and severe mental illness: Balancing public health concerns. Psychiatric Services, 59, 153-164.

Read the Review
ReviewA Ray of Hope in a World of Darkness
By Jeremy Clyman
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(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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