Reviewed Books & Films

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May 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What Do Our Students Need to Know About Detainee Interrogations?

APA Paul Kimmel and W. Brad Johnson offer separate reviews of clinical psychologist Martha Davis's film Doctors of the Dark Side in the May 8, 2013, release of PsycCRITIQUES. Kimmel is a former president of the APA's Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Peace Psychology (Division 48) and a highly respected peace advocate. Johnson is a former president of the APA Society for Military Psychology (Division 19), former chair of the APA Ethics Committee, and a professor in the Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law at the U.S. Naval Academy. Both reviewers offer thoughtful perspectives on the role of psychologists in interrogations, and both believe Doctors of the Dark Side might be a valuable training tool for psychologists and other health professionals preparing to work in national security jobs. For example, Johnson notes,

New professionals will hardly be able to absorb this film without appreciating the risks associated with detainee interview and interrogation work and the terrible toll associated with ignoring human rights.
Should this film routinely be shown in psychology training programs?

Read the Reviews
ReviewDo as Little Harm as Possible
By Paul Kimmel
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(19)

ReviewPsychologists' Roles in National Security: Getting Beyond Dichotomous Thinking
By W. Brad Johnson
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(19)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Are Parents Undermining Their Children's Success?

APA In the era of "Tiger Moms" and "Helicopter Parenting," a time when parents appear to be more focused than ever on their children's success and well-being, how could it be that U.S. children rank "average" when compared with children in other developed nations in areas like reading and math? How could it be that children and teens are experiencing depression and anxiety at ever-increasing rates? Issues like these are the focus of Madeline Levine's book, Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success. As reviewer Julie M. Rutledge summarizes, Levine argues that standardized test scores and GPAs, although the main focus of children's education, are not as important for being successful in work and in life as skills like problem solving, critical thinking, reasoning, communication, emotional competence, creativity, and relationship skills. Development of these "soft skills" is underemphasized. Levine promotes the value of unstructured play versus academic settings for developing these skills and also argues that children are "failure deprived"—not given enough opportunities to fail—which leads to a lack of awareness about their true strengths and weaknesses.

Is parental overfocus, particularly on academic outcomes, undermining children's chances of success and well-being? Are children failure deprived? Does this argument put too much emphasis on the influence of parents?

Read the Review

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Is Mary Jane Really More Dangerous Than Meth?

APA Ben Sessa's new book The Psychedelic Renaissance: Reassessing the Role of Psychedelic Drugs in 21st Century Psychiatry and Society argues that psychedelics have the potential to promote psychological growth. He points out that a number of important cultural figures (including the Beatles, Apple founder Steve Jobs, and Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson) have touted their value. In a double-blind study, participants reported that psilocybin induced experiences that were among the five most meaningful in their lives (Griffiths, Richards, Johnson, McCann, & Jesse, 2008). In addition, new evidence indicates the lasting therapeutic utility of substances such as MDMA for treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (Mithoefer et al., 2013). Nonetheless, most psychedelics (including marijuana) are classified in the United States as Schedule I drugs, meaning that they have no currently accepted medical use and greater abuse potential than cocaine or methamphetamine. Should psychedelics remain under Schedule I? Or is it time for the Drug Enforcement Administration to change their status?


Griffiths, R. R., Richards, W. A., Johnson, M. W., McCann, U. D., & Jesse, R. (2008). Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin mediate the attribution of personal meaning and spiritual significance 14 months later. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 22(6), 621-632. doi: 10.1177/0269881108094300

Mithoefer, M. C., Wagner, M. T., Mithoefer, A. T., Jerome, L., Martin, S. F., Yazar-Klosinski, B., . . . Doblin, R. (2013). Durability of improvement in post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and absence of harmful effects or drug dependency after 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine-assisted psychotherapy: A prospective long-term follow-up study. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 27(1), 28-39. doi: 10.1177/0269881112456611

Read the Review
ReviewCleansing the Doors of Misperception
By James Fadiman and Peter H. Addy
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(14)

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Shame on Us

APA I can't think of any one book that is a "must read" for all psychologists and psychology students. But I may have found one candidate: Jerome Kagan's Psychology's Ghosts: The Crisis in the Profession and the Way Back. In his review of this book, Robert Frank clearly summarizes Kagan's major ideas, including ignoring social class as a significant predictor of success, lack of specificity of our measures, weak generalizability from biased samples, and our limited view of cultural context. What kind of science is that?

In our undergraduate classrooms we tell students that psychology is a real science, and our graduate research programs admit students who will master narrow methods and sophisticated statistical manipulations. The APA accreditation system promotes a scientist–practitioner model that puts our practitioners on shaky ground, at least in Kagan's analysis.

How is it that a factor as important as social class is so often overlooked in our analyses and class discussions? I recently reviewed the book Controversy in the Psychology Classroom (review in April 3, 2013, issue of PsycCRITIQUES) that did not mention social class as a "hot topic." However, discussions of the relationship of class to success should disturb students at least as much as the topic of race.

Read the Review
ReviewPsychology Reconstructed
By Robert G. Frank
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(17)

Thursday, May 02, 2013

U.S. Voter Competence: Room for Improvement

APA Catherine Scott reviewed Paul Goren's On Voter Competence and noted the large amount of research suggesting the incompetence of voters in the United States.

What can be done to increase voter competence? This would include not only making citizens who are less informed about the issues and candidates more informed, but also helping those already fairly well informed to become even more so. Should schools do more to socialize youths to vote? For example, my wife, a pre-kindergarten teacher, had her students engage in a mock voting activity at the time of the presidential election. Should elementary, junior high/middle, and high schools (and maybe even colleges) do more to inform students about the candidates and the issues in some nonpartisan fashion? Or, is voter competence really not the issue? Should schools, parents, and community organizations engage in activities to increase the motivation to vote? Finally, maybe the system works the way it should—those who care and are engaged in political issues vote; those who are not engaged do not vote.

Read the Review
ReviewVoting: Right or Privilege?
By Catherine Scott
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(13)

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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