Reviewed Books & Films

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June 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Are Black Feminists on to Something?


In the review of Race, Gender and the Activism of Black Feminist Theory: Working with Audre Lorde, Geneva Reynaga-Abiko comments on an aspect of racial scholarship that often goes unexamined in U.S. psychology. What is meant by the term Black and how do varying definitions of Black affect the validity and utility of scholarship addressing social issues that focus on or include race? How might this issue affect the way that we conceptualize and discuss issues of race daily? I am not sure that psychologists referencing literature, or those who seek to contribute to the literature on race, always consider the importance of the terms used or the need to be clear on what is being conveyed about whom. More importantly, Reynaga-Abiko’s review points to the potential contribution that Race, Gender and the Activism of Black Feminist Theory: Working with Audre Lorde and Black feminist thought can make to psychology’s approach to oppression and social justice.

The term Black typically references those of African descent, but can vary in the inclusion of those born only in the United States, those born in the diaspora, or those born on the continent. Over time, I have learned that when reading the European literature, I must broaden my focus to include all people of color, regardless of their relationship to the continent of Africa. However, Reynaga-Abiko notes an even broader use of the term; Black can also be seen as “a political term which includes all oppressed ethnic groups (Parmar & Kay, 2004, as cited on p. 23)" (para. 1). The political use of the term might be best represented today in the use of #BlackLivesMatter and the debate that ensued over its use. The critique and discussions have focused on the need for a statement that “all lives matter,” feelings of exclusion and alienation on the part of potential allies, feelings that we are too quick to turn social and economic issues into issues about race, etc.

It is interesting to observe and think through the solidarity shown toward #BlackLivesMatter around the world in contrast to concern and debate over its use in the United States, recognition of or a nod to the political definition and use of the term Black. Perhaps the world is suggesting a second look at psychology’s and the U.S. approach to race and oppression. Perhaps there is a role and a need for Black feminist thought in psychology and psychological research.


Parmar, P., & Kay, J. (2004). Frontiers. In J. Wylie Hall (Ed.), Conversations with Audre Lorde (pp. 171 – 180). Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.
Read the Review
ReviewWhat Can We Learn From Black Feminist Thought?
By Geneva Reynaga-Abiko
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(19)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Required Psychology Ethics Course?


 James H. Korn reviewed Ethical Challenges in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences: Case Studies and Commentaries by Robert J. Sternberg and Susan T. Fiske. Few would disagree with the importance of ethics in psychology research, practice, consulting, and teaching. Therefore, should an ethics course be required in psychology undergraduate and/or graduate curricula? Clinical graduate programs emphasize ethics, but do we also need a required course/training in the other areas of psychology (social, neuroscience, developmental, industrial-organizational, etc.) that covers ethics in research, teaching, and/or consultation?  Or are psychology undergraduates or graduate students already receiving sufficient ethics training in other ways—e.g., research in faculty labs, practice in the community, information in other courses/textbooks, and one-on-one interactions with mentors, etc.?

Read the Review
ReviewCases in Research and Teaching Ethics
By James H. Korn
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(23)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Is Environmental Pollution Causing Us to “Lose Our Minds”?


Losing Our Minds: How Environmental Pollution Impairs Human Intelligence and Mental Health by Barbara Demeneix examines the impact of chemical pollutants on thyroid hormone production, or thyroid hormone action, with negative effects on cognitive functioning and mental well-being. Demeneix suggests that the negative impacts include falling IQ and a rising incidence of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As discussed by reviewer Stuart Derbyshire, IQ is normative and has been rising for several decades, and while autism prevalence has indeed increased over the past 30 years, reasons for this trend could include actual changes in prevalence of autism or broadened diagnostic boundaries with an increased tendency to recognize autism. Nonetheless, Derbyshire concludes that there is a theoretical possibility that an environmental pollutant could be causing low-level cognitive impairment that may be related to reductions in IQ and increased autism and ADHD prevalence.

What do you think about possible links between environmental pollution, thyroid hormone production, and negative effects on mental well-being?  Is there enough evidence to warrant concern? 

Are psychologists taking the role of pollutants on cognitive functioning and mental health seriously enough?

Read the Review
ReviewFear and Uncertainty Regarding Environmental Pollution and Mental Health
By Stuart Derbyshire
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(18)

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Will the United States Ever Have a Rational Health Care System?


Kristofer J. Hagglund reviewed Ezekiel J. Emanuel's book Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act Will Improve Our Terribly Complex, Blatantly Unjust, Outrageously Expensive, Grossly Inefficient, Error Prone System.  The review was positive and enthusiastic.  Emanuel's book suggests that the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") will be good for both providers and the general public. Hagglund notes that Emanuel also makes specific predictions like this one:  "[He] foresees the ‘end of health insurance companies as we know them’ by 2025" (para. 7).  

Health insurance companies make money by delaying or denying payment, and their profits clearly drain off precious dollars that could go toward providing health care (as they do in Canada).  Is Emanuel correct in his assessment that health insurance "as we know it" is both unnecessary and obsolete?

 Read the Review

ReviewThe Long and Winding Road of Health Care Reform
By Kristofer J. Hagglund
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(16)

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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