Reviewed Books & Films

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January 2013

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Terrorists and Their Victims: Exploring Their Psychological Parallels

APA In his review of The Psychology of Terrorism Fears, Arie Kruglanski notes the neglect of "the concept of fear" and the focus "on conventional indices of negative emotionality such as depression, anxiety, or stress" in psychological research on terrorism. He goes on to question the actual object of the fear experienced in relation to terrorism, the management of this fear, and the role that terror management theory might play in our understanding of these phenomena.

The most interesting proposition offered by Kruglanski is the notion that there may be a close parallel between the psychology of those accused of terrorism and those victimized by it. As psychologists, we might benefit from exploring the consequences of acknowledging this potential parallel. Might the empathy derived from acknowledging how totally different perceptions of reality result in a similar emotional response—we are afraid—allow each party greater psychological space to consider paths to peaceful coexistence? How might psychologists advise those in charge of dealing with captured terrorists if fear, probably in combination with ideology and misinformation, contributes to terrorism? Of great interest to me is whether there is any experiment or proof that might be offered to counter our intuitive response, which is to strike greater fear and terror in the hearts of our adversaries in response to the fear they seek and likely do strike in us.

Read the Review
ReviewFear and the Psychological Response to Terrorism
By Arie W. Kruglanski
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(2)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

What Drives Our Relationship With Food?

APA In his review of John Allen's book The Omnivorous Mind: Our Evolving Relationship With Food, Regan Gurung notes the "debate on the values of different components of food," and reminds us "food has been explored from many different angles—politics, economics, public health." Allen's book focuses on "different elements of the thesis that how we think about food is a function of our evolutionary history and culture." I would suggest that how we think about food today is driven less by evolutionary history and more by what is good for agribusiness and the food industry, presented to us in marketing and advertising campaigns.

How do psychologists and others interested in behavior change address problematic relationships with food that are likely produced and maintained by using the very science that psychologists use to alter these behaviors? Is it individual willpower or marketing genius?

Read the Review
ReviewI Think, Therefore I Am Hungry: The Mind, Food, and Evolution
By Regan A. R. Gurung
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(4)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Should We Call for a Truce in the War on Cannabis?

APA Mitch Earleywine, in his review of Doug Fine's (2012) Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution, briefly summarizes moral and economic arguments for ending our decades-long prohibition on cannabis. These include the following: (1) even though the Drug Enforcement Agency spends $2 billion a year on the war on drugs and someone is arrested in the United States for cannabis possession every 40 seconds, teenagers still report that it is easier to obtain than beer; (2) people of color are arrested and locked up at rates far in excess of Whites; and (3) almost twice as much of California's budget goes to prisons than to higher education. Earleywine might have added other arguments from his own work, e.g., legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco are addictive and together lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths per year, whereas cannabis is not addictive and has never caused death due to health complications in recorded history. Is it time to stop throwing people in jail for cannabis and instead regulate it as we do cigarettes and alcohol?

Read the Review
ReviewA Legal Marijuana Economy Without Puns
By Mitchell Earleywine
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(3)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What Can Psychologists Say About Gun Control?

APA Robert Brown wrote his review of the book Ending Campus Violence: New Approaches to Prevention before the horrible killing in Newtown, Connecticut, but the book and the review are relevant. The book's author, Brian Van Brunt, calls for a team approach to preventing campus violence. He proposes establishing three teams that will focus on the following issues: threat assessment, behavior intervention, and risk assessment. Psychologists working in schools at any level might benefit from studying this approach and the case studies Van Brunt presents.

Given the strong, emotional national reaction to the Newtown tragedy, gun violence is likely to be a topic for discussion in graduate and undergraduate psychology courses. How will those discussions be framed? I imagine that in graduate professional courses grief management and prevention of violence will be the focus. However, in most of the rest of the country, if my middle-class neighborhood is any indication, the debate will focus on gun control issues. That debate should not be simply political bluster. There is a psychological side to owning and using weapons of all kinds.

The Newtown killer used guns, including an assault rifle, that were part of a collection belonging to his mother. Leaving aside the Freudian implications, this example raises questions about parental modeling, the desire for owning many weapons, and the basis for the thrill of firing powerful guns. Many people are using dispositional explanations for mass killings—the killers are crazy. An official of the National Rifle Association is blaming video games. How can psychologists contribute to this discussion?

Read the Review
ReviewCollege Campuses Are No Longer Ivory Towers
By Robert D. Brown
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(1)

Thursday, January 03, 2013

What Would the IRB Say About Online Symbolic Taboo Activities Research?

APA In his review of Transcending Taboos: A Moral and Psychological Examination of Cyberspace by Garry Young and Monica Whitty, Vincent W. Hevern states,

As far-fetched as this example might seem, the authors of Transcending Taboos: A Moral and Psychological Examination of Cyberspace present their readers with a vivid and enlightening introduction to a growing world of online symbolic taboo activities (STAs) involving extreme, graphic, and gratuitous violence, rape, pedophilia, and other behaviors held abhorrent in most societies. Garry Young and Monica Whitty describe the architecture and contents of a proliferating digital world. These include voyeuristic sites of real-world photographs and videos featuring torture and executions (for example, beheadings carried out by terrorists) as well as both single-player computer-based or online VR games and the growing universe of multiplayer online role-playing games that encourage or demand STAs among the characters whom participants enact. The authors raise fundamental and broad questions about the moral and psychological acceptability of such venues and the implications for individuals who engage in such STAs.
As someone who has been active in my university's IRB protocol-screening process, I could not help thinking about the ethical issues involved in this research from the IRB's perspective:
  • Do the potential (psychological or physiological) costs outweigh the benefits of this research?
  • Are the risks too great if confidentiality and anonymity are somehow lost? Could any type of debriefing undo any potentially negative effects?
  • Could any data collected be misused or misinterpreted by the software developers to mislead the public?
  • If researchers find few negative effects of this type of activity, is our discipline giving credibility to the activities?
  • And, is there just something morally wrong about even considering the benefits of such a virtual world?
  • Are there other issues that would be considered relevant to the IRB?

Read the Review
ReviewHow Should We Judge Deviant Behaviors in Virtual Worlds?
By Vincent W. Hevern
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(50)

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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