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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Is a "Crisis Plan" Needed to Help the Nation’s Poor?


In Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, author Robert D. Putnam, tells us of the worsening plight of poor children in the United States. Putnam discusses some of the factors in the lives of poor families that research has shown may lead to negative outcomes, such as (a) the increasing absence of the father from the family, (b) "toxic stress" found in families living in poverty, which impedes healthy parenting practices and contributes to a chaotic family environment, and (c) the disintegration of communities and the isolation of poor children, resulting in the overall lack of adult guidance on how to navigate processes and institutions important for becoming a productive adult.

As Putnam describes the disappearing opportunity for poor children as a crisis, reviewer William Holcomb wonders about the need for a “crisis plan” to deal with it. A few recommendations are put forth in the book, including the controversial strategy of providing money to the poor to directly offset the effects of poverty.  Distributing money to the poor could include expanding earned income tax credits, expanding the existing child tax credit, and continuing some current antipoverty programs, as well as innovative wage and job supports for poor families. 

Is it time to be bold with policy recommendations to help end the cycle of intergenerational poverty? Is providing money to the poor directly a strategy worth considering? What other strategies are needed?

Read the Review
ReviewThe Disappearing Ladder of Opportunity
By William Holcomb
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(41)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Heritability Coefficients: When Will Text Books Catch Up?


Eric Turkheimer reviewed Jay Joseph's The Trouble With Twin Studies: A Reassessment of Twin Research in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Heritability is often discussed in psychology classes and textbooks. For example, in Introduction to Psychology texts, heritability coefficients are often discussed for several issues including intelligence and psychological disorders. The Introduction to Psychology text that I use spends two pages discussing the heritability of IQ scores, complete with the ubiquitous figure showing the correlations between twins reared together, twins reared apart, unrelated children raised together, and unrelated children raised apart (Similar graphs were in Intro texts when I was in college!)  One thing I do whenever my classes cover such information, is to emphasize that genes can influence our choice of environment and that environment can influence how genes influence our behavior, so that it is very difficult to disentangle genetic and environmental effects. In all fairness to my Intro text, the authors note this also.

Given Jay Joseph's book and Turkheimer's review, both of which suggest that these coefficients really do not provide much information, is it time to eliminate such discussions from textbooks?

Read the Review
ReviewArsonists at the Cathedral
By Eric Turkheimer
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(40)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Parenting From the Middle


We have changing structures and attitudes in the United States that affect the way that we parent. Who would have dreamed two or three decades ago that we would have a debate over children 10 to 6 years old walking to and from the park alone? Yet, in the summer of 2015 there was just such a debate.  Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, Maryland parents who allowed their 10- and 6-year-old children to walk home alone, had to defend themselves against charges of neglect (St. George, 2015).  While 8 Keys to Old School Parenting for Modern-Day Families, by Michael Mascolo, is not about this aspect of parenting, the book addresses one of the many concerns encountered by modern parents.

In the review of 8 Keys to Old School Parenting for Modern-Day Families, Elizabeth Soliday notes that our “prevailing parenting model is 'child–centered' ”(para. 3) in contrast to the authoritarian model of the past.  “Children, not parents, take the lead in their own self-determination” (para. 4). While not everyone will agree, Soliday notes that the book’s author argues that a child-centered approach has produced “over-indulged children who lack compassion and concern for others” (para. 5). Yet, no one is advocating a return to authoritarian parenting; what is put forward will be familiar to child and adolescent counseling and clinical psychologists, as well as developmental psychologists—authoritative parenting. So, what’s the issue?

Soliday notes the author’s replacement of familiar terms used in parenting such as “logical” or “natural” consequences with “meaningful” or “morally responsible” consequences. One example provided was that a child who is routinely disrespectful when reminded that the computer time limit is up could receive “a meaningful, morally responsible consequence of having to earn computer time through practicing respectful treatment” (para. 8). I don’t have a major problem with the consequence suggested or the language used. However, in an evidence-based era, where are the data showing that meaningful and responsible consequences will produce more compassionate, respectful, and responsible children than logical or natural consequences? To what extent will or does the outcome depend on the parent’s definition of moral and responsible? It’s worth a thought.


St. George, D. (2015, June 11) Maryland officials: Letting ‘free range’ kids walk or play alone is not neglect. The Washington Post, Retrieved from
Read the Review
ReviewHelp for Raising Morally Centered Children
By Elizabeth Soliday
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(39)

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Is Common Sense Commonly Wrong?


In his review of Gerd Gigerenzer’s new book Simply Rational: Decision Making in the Real World, Donald MacGregor argues that:

Cognitive heuristics have, in some senses, been given a bad rap.  As part of refuting utility theory by demonstrating that the intuitive tools people apply to some types of problems lead them to suboptimal behavior in an economic sense, we’ve come to see heuristics as a form of biased judgment with negative connotations. (para. 4)

According to the reviewer, Gigerenzer’s view is more in keeping with the “adaptive utility of relatively simple rules that are based on the kinds of information…readily available in the human’s natural cognitive environment” (para. 4).

Where do you stand on the value of cognitive heuristics such as common sense?  Do we overvalue them, or has their value been overlooked?

Read the Review
ReviewIn the Twilight of Probabilities
By Donald MacGregor
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(35)

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Why Don’t Students and Teachers Do What They Should?


Learning in college courses is hard work that requires strategies that few students use and few teachers teach. In Bruce Henderson’s review of Learning as a Generative Activity: Eight Learning Strategies That Promote Understanding, by Logan Fiorella and Richard E. Mayer, Henderson points out most students prefer strategies “such as rereading, recopying, and highlighting (Dunlosky, Rawson, Marsh, Nathan, & Willingham, 2013)” (para. 10), when they should be following the eight “generative strategies” presented in this book. These less effective strategies are strong habits acquired along the way from K through 12.

Teachers could help students acquire new, more effective study habits. Some of these, however, are counterintuitive and create what have been called “desirable difficulties” (para. 10). But that would not be fun for either the student or the teacher, and would take time away from perhaps the worst habit of many teachers—the need to “cover” the course content. It also would mean that teachers would have to learn how to use these strategies themselves.

Perhaps readers who do help students learn to learn could tell others how they find the time for this, and perhaps more importantly, whether they were able to motivate students to use generative strategies.


Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14, 1–47.
Read the Review
ReviewLearning as Thinking and Thinking as Learning
By Bruce B. Henderson
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(37)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Isn't Prevention Preferable to Treatment of Alcohol Abuse?


Cecile A. Marczinski’s review of Binge Drinking and Alcohol Misuse Among College Students and Young Adults, by Rachel P. Winograd and Kenneth J. Sher, notes that the book is a valuable resource guide for the assessment and treatment of alcohol abuse. While treatment of alcohol abuse is certainly needed, many health professionals now emphasize prevention. It is less expensive and probably easier. Frederick Douglass said, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." What can we do to prevent our youth from starting to drink alcohol in the first place? What are the best practices? What other persons or entities should get involved besides parents?

Read the Review
ReviewHelping Young People Drink Less: Empirically Based Strategies to Reduce Alcohol-Related Harm
      By Cecile A. Marczinski
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(34)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Should Psychologists Enter the Fray to End Corporal Punishment in Schools?


From Corporal Punishment in U.S. Public Schools: Legal Precedents, Current Practices, and Future Policy, by Elizabeth T. Gershoff, Kelly M. Purtell, and Igor Holas, we learn that corporal punishment (CP) is currently still a legal  disciplinary option in 19 states in the United States and in private schools in 48 states. In a given year, approximately 220,000 children are subjected to CP at school with approximately, 10,000 to 20,000 students a year requiring medical attention. Most school CP involves hitting a child or adolescent (from preschool through high school) on the behind with a wooden paddle.

The authors convey what science clearly tells us: CP is ineffective and harmful to children, and there are effective, evidence-based interventions that schools could be using instead to promote positive behavior. Given this, reviewer Alan Kazdin suggests that “moving into advocacy and saying 'should' to the public goes beyond what science is intended to accomplish and what scientists are uniquely trained to do. . .if we want to eliminate the use of CP and the violence and antisocial behavior that CP often begets, perhaps scientists cannot stay out of the fray” (para. 9).

Do you agree with Kazdin that given the harmful nature of CP, scientists cannot stay out of the fray? What role do you think psychologists should play in helping to end corporal punishment in schools?

Read the Review
ReviewWe Have Hit Bottom by Using Corporal Punishment in the Schools
By Alan E. Kazdin
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(34)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

All Booked Up?


In his review of Naomi Baron’s recent book Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, David Simpson suggests that Baron

makes compelling arguments that though digital reading devices have many advantages (convenience, open access, potential cost savings) they may be more suitable for skimming rather than reading in depth, for power browsing rather than reading and rereading in depth. (para. 5)

Do you agree?  Why or why not?  Are traditional printed books soon to be a thing of the past, or are they here forever?

Read the Review
ReviewLong Live the Printed Book: Lego, Ergo Sum!
By David D. Simpson
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(32)

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Why a Woman Doesn’t Reveal Her Age


In her review of Women and Aging: An International, Intersectional Power Perspective, Carol A. Gosselink notes our sexist, ageist culture, but indicats the need to consider the intersections of gender and age with economics, politics, race/ethnicity, religion, and so forth. Gosselink goes on to point out how these intersections “produce privilege and power differentials that disadvantage women in their later years compared with younger women and men of all ages” (para. 1). So, what does successful aging, defined as satisfaction with past and present life (Bowling & Dieppe, 2005), look like for women compared to men?

Gosselink discusses how Women and Aging highlights the variety in the aging experiences of women, while “offering insights and strategies for empowering women” (para. 1).  The review notes that it is not certain to what extent and which women are empowered to live satisfactory lives as they age. For example, older women with inherited wealth, pension income, or sufficient earnings during their working lives as well as low health burdens are able to avoid poverty. Ethnic minority women, whose beauty is marginalized by society in youth, may be more likely than majority women to be perceived as undesirable as they age.  Are the generation of women who have fought for control of their reproductive lives, as well as the freedom to explore their sexuality, as empowered to and applauded for maintaining vibrant sex lives as their male counterparts? Does a woman hide her age and continue with the life desired, pursue the employment options set aside for aging women, or gracefully take on the traditional grandmother, caregiver, and nurturer roles that society expects? 

What strategies, interventions, and supports are available to increase the likelihood that women are able to live the lives that they desire as opposed to the lives society grants them as they age? How might changes in societal attitudes and perspectives provide important options beyond medical interventions to improve appearance and repair those parts and aspects of women’s bodies deemed ugly and dysfunctional by virtue of aging?


Bowling, A., & Dieppe, P. (2005). What is successful ageing and who should define it? BMJ : British Medical Journal331, 1548–1551.
Read the Review
Review“Newer Every Day”? Women’s Aging Revealed, Revised, and Reinvented
By Carol A. Gosselink
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(34)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Is Narcissism Necessary to Lead?


For many years, I have been amazed that narcissistic characteristics can be one's weaknesses (e.g., they cause problems in the workplace, with interpersonal relationships) but also one's strengths (e.g., confidence, the ability try again after a failure).

C. Albert Bardi reviewed Narcissism and Politics: Dreams of Glory by Jerrold M. Post. Bardi states,

My last question, whether the act of finding narcissism in so many highly achieving people is merely a relabeling of ambition and achievement, is also not adequately addressed in this book.  Nevertheless, the question is an insistent one, especially given that in several instances Post uses an individual’s belief that one can lead (or rule) as evidence of narcissism. (para. 6)

So do leaders, even benevolent ones, have to be narcissists to be leaders?   Are these characteristics a strength? 

Read the Review
ReviewNarcissism, Narcissism Everywhere
By C. Albert Bardi
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(31)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

How Can We Bridge the Research-to-Practice Gap in Schools?


In Implementation of Mental Health Programs in Schools, Susan Forman discusses the myriad of issues that need to be considered for effectively implementing evidence-based programs in schools. Implementing evidence-based behavioral interventions is complex, labor intensive, and requires great attention to detail to ensure fidelity to the intervention. Add to the mix the pressures teachers and administrators face in this “age of accountability,” and it becomes clear as to why, in spite of school professionals having knowledge of evidence-based interventions, the school community may not be all that eager to implement them.  As reviewer Rosemary Flanagan points out, the problem of failing to utilize a knowledge base that is supported by research is not limited to school-based professionals; there is a broad and extensive literature on implementation spanning fields illustrates this (para. 2).

 What is your experience, as a psychologist either working within a school setting or outside the school setting as a consultant, with implementing and/or evaluating evidence-based programs implemented in schools?  What strategies have you used to gain the stakeholder support needed for implementation?

 What should be the role of the developers of evidence-based programs in helping close the research-to-practice gap and supporting high-quality implementation?

Read the Review
ReviewDon’t Put the Cart Before the Horse: Implementation of Mental Health Programs in Schools
By Rosemary Flanagan
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(31)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rose-Colored Moral Development


“Are We Getting Better?” is the title of Geoffrey Cox’s review of Michael Shermer’s The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom. My answer to Cox’s question is, I doubt it, no matter who this collective “we” is. As the subtitle of Shermer’s book states, it is science and reason that are making us better. That must include big science (as in theories of everything), practical science (e.g., fiber optics), and the scientific enterprise in general. This somehow gets to all of “us” and makes us better.

Shermer uses 17th-century witch burning in Salem as an example. When other causes of unacceptable behavior were found, women were no longer burned. Perhaps science found other ways to deal with misbehaving women. Science then made great progress so that in the 19th and 20th centuries “we” lynched more people than the number of witches who were burned 200 years earlier. Now in the 20-teens our moral development has progressed to where we can use drones to blow up buildings and kill innocent people along with, probably, terrorists. The Holocaust of the last century continues into this one in other forms and other places.

Shermer’s book appears to be part of the social science genre that selectively assembles data so as not to spoil a good story. His optimism seems unjustified, especially if “us” is the world population over the past 100 years. Even if “us” is only the United States, the answer to Cox’s question seems unclear. Do our current forms of prejudice, greed, and violence show a positive moral arc from past forms? Cox concludes in the final paragraph, “faith in human progress is mere utopianism,” and “after all, entropy—the gradual decline into disorder—is also a force of nature and all too often, of social systems.”

Read the Review
ReviewAre We Getting Better?
By Geoffrey M. Cox
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(30)

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Is Psychotherapy All About the Relationship?


PsycCRITIQUES Associate Editor Fred Heide is enthusiastic about Irvin Yalom's new book, Creatures of a Day: And Other Tales of Psychotherapy, and he compares the work with another of Yalom's books, Love’s Executioner: And Other Tales of Psychotherapy.  Love's Executioner is a remarkable little book that I have had a generation of clinical psychology and social work students read.

In his review, Dr. Heide notes:

That psychotherapy reduces suffering seems increasingly clear. Meta-analyses indicate that typical clients emerge from therapy in better shape than almost 80% of those untreated (Wampold, 2007). What accounts for these effects, however, remains shrouded in mystery. Many have proposed that the alliance between therapist and client contributes substantially (Horvath, Del Re, Fluckiger, & Symonds, 2011), as do a host of other common factors that transcend theoretical camps (Laska, Gurman, & Wampold, 2014). However, robust disagreement continues about whether the role of specific techniques is major (Hofmann, Asnaani, Vonk, Sawyer, & Fang, 2012) or relatively trivial (American Psychological Association, 2013; Wampold & Imel, 2015). (para. 2)

After a lifetime reading about, thinking about, practicing and teaching psychotherapy, I still don't know how much of the variance in outcome is associated with technique and how much is simply due to the relationship the therapist establishes with his or her client.  I edit a book series for the Society of Clinical Psychology that is predicated on the idea that evidence based practice (technique) is an essential part of good practice, yet with individual clients, I often find myself agreeing with Yalom: "The one thing I’ve come to know with certainty is that if I can create a genuine and caring environment, my patients will find the help they need" (p. 81).

Will this dilemma be resolved in my lifetime?

Read the Review
ReviewSoon You Will Be No One
By Frederick J. Heide
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(29)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Inequality: The Problem of Us All


In the review of Families in an Era of Increasing Inequality: Diverging Destinies, David S. Hargrove suggests that the book presents “objective data that reflect concerns from the inequality experienced by American families” (para. 5) and is an “effort to describe the process, consequences, and likely future of inequality” (para. 7). Hargrove discusses the atheoretical strategy used to present the information and the failure to integrate seemingly disparate findings.  As is typical in our society, there are sides in the family inequality debate, and Hargrove highlights the chapters that illustrate the divide: “Inequality Begins Outside the Home: Putting Parental Educational Investments Into Context” and “Inequality Begins at Home: The Role of Poverty in the Diverging Destinies of Rich and Poor Children.” While an objective data presentation may prove comforting to proponents of each side, how well does it serve the public?

Those of varying ideological perspectives generally use the same or portions of the same data to substantiate their positions. Hargrove points out that the solidifying of ideological positions “continues the social, political, and economic gridlock that, in part at least, lies at the basis for the inequality that drives the concern that led to the development of this book” (para. 7). How might psychologists work to develop theory and processes that permit the effective use of data to inform policies that lead to meaningful interventions that address the consequences of inequality among American families, as well as other social issues confronting the United States today?

How do we, as psychologists, avoid having our respective agendas influence the interventions tested and recommendations made based on the data assembled? As Hargrove notes, critical examination and review are a must. Does my agenda and perspective affect my presentation of Hargrove’s review? Did Hargrove’s agenda and perspective affect his presentation and review of the book?

Read the Review
ReviewTaking Family Systems Theory Beyond the Family
By David S. Hargrove
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(26)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Time for a Change in Doing Time?


In their review of The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Causes and Consequences, April Bradley and Beth Kliethermes cite the startling statistic that around 75% of inmates in the United States have a mental disorder.  These include depression (23%), psychotic disorders (15%), and mania (43%) (para. 3).  Not surprisingly, these inmates have a greater likelihood of misconduct in prison.  What should be done to address this grievous situation?

Read the Review
ReviewCriminalizing Our Community
By April R. Bradley and Beth C. Kliethermes
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(28)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Has Behavior Genetics Shaped Up?


Do you know about the power struggles that have happened in the field of behavior genetics? I sure didn’t. I thought that these struggles must have been pretty exciting after reading Erin E. Young’s review of Misbehaving Science: Controversy and the Development of Behavior Genetics by Aaron Panofsky. I wish Young had provided examples and named names when describing a field that “sometimes looks more like the Wild West than a group of ivory tower-dwelling academics” (para. 2).

The only example that came to mind for me was the issue of racial differences in intelligence. That controversy involved not only scholarly articles and books, but personal and physical attacks. I would expect Panofsky’s book to detail this and other examples of misbehavior.

But hasn’t the nature-nurture issue settled down in large part due to the Minnesota twin studies (see We know that genetics is a significant determinant of who we are, and we can, to some extent, say how much it influences various traits and behaviors. Perhaps more well-informed readers can tell us how or whether behavior genetics has shaped up.

Read the Review
ReviewNo One Wins and Everyone Loses: Power Struggles in Shaping Behavioral Genetics
By Erin E. Young
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(27)

Thursday, July 02, 2015

How Do We Solve the Problems of Poor Families: Turn Drifters Into Planners?


Tanya Telfair LeBlanc reviewed Generation Unbound: Drifting Into Sex and Parenthood Without Marriage by Isabel V. Sawhill. Sawhill and LeBlanc describe the myriad problems (physical health, mental health, etc.) of poor families and trace the problem back to the breakdown of the married two parent family structure. LeBlanc notes,

Sawhill makes an important distinction between the Planners (p. 3), those who plan for having children, and the Drifters (p. 3), young women who simply become sexually active, with no plan to use contraceptives, no plan to care for a potential pregnancy and no plan to take care of herself and raise a child. (para. 7)

 Later LeBlanc states,

Sawhill’s remedy for this social problem appears straightforward: Turn the Drifters into Planners (pp. 105-128).  One step toward turning Drifters into Planners is to help young girls take control over results of their introduction to sex and expanding the utility of long-term birth control methods.” (para. 10)

This in turn would improve educational attainment, income, and health outcomes.

Could this suggestion be a major solution for which many have craved to help eliminate unplanned pregnancies and consequently poverty, poorer physical health, lower education, etc.? LeBlanc notes that long-term birth control methods such as Depo-Provera are controversial.  But even if this particular method is not acceptable, are there other methods and programs that could accomplish the same outcome?

Read the Review
ReviewEnd of Denial: Family Structure Predicts Life Chances for Children
By Tanya Telfair LeBlanc
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol. 60(24)

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)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Raising Confident or Arrogant Children?


Philip T. Yanos reviewed Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love by Simon Blackburn. In reading this review, I was reminded of all the ways in which psychologists examine self-love. There are thousands of studies on self-esteem, narcissism (as a personality trait and as part of a psychological disorder), egocentricity, actor-observer biases, and self-serving biases just to name a few of the self-love incarnations.

To this day, Tony Greenwald's (1980) "Totalitarian Ego" article in American Psychologist is one of my favorites on this topic. Yanos's review suggests an important question—How do we raise our children to have a healthy self-esteem without raising them to be arrogant and insensitive to others? What one or two recommendations would you give parents and other adults who work with youths (e.g., teachers, coaches) to help achieve this goal?



Greenwald, A.G. (1980). The totalitarian ego: Fabrication and revision of personal history. American Psychologist, 35(7), 603-618.

Read the Review
ReviewIt’s a Thin Line Between Healthy Self-Esteem and Narcissism
By Philip T. Yanos
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(20)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Will We Remember Albert Ellis in 100 Years?


Frank Farley and Mona Sarshar's review of Albert Ellis Revisited, edited by Jon Carlson and William Knaus, is very laudatory, and Farley and Sarshar use the review to underscore their appreciation for the significance of Ellis's work and Ellis's important role in the history of psychology.  For example, Farley and Sarshar write, "Ellis was one of the most colorful, provocative, and influential psychologists of the last 100 years" (para. 10).  

I knew Al, and I cherished his friendship.  He met his deadlines, and he had the distinction of being the only contributor to Current Psychotherapies (Wedding & Corsini, 2014) whose initial draft chapter was accepted without a single revision.

As I reminisced about my friend, after reading Farley and Sarshar's review, I found myself thinking about Isaiah Berlin's  ( discussion of the difference between the hedgehog and the fox, applied to describing different types of writers and thinkers. Hedgehogs have a single, superordinate, all-encompassing idea that defines and shapes all of their work; foxes, on the other hand, have myriad ideas that they draw on when they create new works.  Ellis was incredibly prolific, but he was clearly a hedgehog with one big idea, and almost all of his work links to the core concept of our predilection for irrational thinking.  Some critics have noted this common denominator in all of Ellis's work, and one critic joked that Ellis wrote the same book 85 times.

How will history judge Albert Ellis?  Will he be as highly regarded in 2115 as he is in 2015? Was he treated unfairly at the end of his life by the board of the Albert Ellis Institute (Dobkin, 2005)?



Dobkin, M. (2005, November 7). Behaviorists behaving badly. New York Magazine. Retrieved from

Wedding, D., & Corsini, R.J. (Eds.) (2014). Current psychotherapies (10th ed.).  Belmont, CA: Thompson Brooks/Cole.


Read the Review
ReviewThe Albert Ellis Legacy
By Frank Farley and Mona Sarshar
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(14)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

When Will We Overcome: Women of Color in the Academy


I have been in academia for a very long time; it will be 26 years in August 2015. As a Woman of Color, I have noticed how few Women of Color there are among the faculty at majority institutions of higher education. Data for psychology indicate that in 2010-11 eight percent of full-time faculty were Women of Color; however, Women of Color had the lowest percentage of tenured positions. Furthermore, there were more Women of Color at the ranks of assistant and associate professor than at the rank of full professor (Bennett-Johnson, 2012). I attained promotion to associate professor with tenure on schedule, but the path to full professor was not as smooth. Having finally obtained promotion to full professor, I found Martha E. Banks’s review of The Duality of Women Scholars of Color: Transforming and Being Transformed in the Academy quite meaningful as I have spent the year analyzing how and why my progress stalled. 

In her review, Banks describes the use of auto-ethnographies to explore the experiences of Women of Color in the academy. She notes the authors’ use of feminist and womanist perspectives, as well as discussions of “the joint impact of static and dynamic socioeconomic status, and perceived and actual immigration status and ethnicity” (para. 2), in the discussions of attempts to balance academic life and personal life. Banks draws attention to the experience of “otherness” as a factor that undermines Women of Color and invalidates their scholarship. Other books have been written in this area, including Presumed Incompetent (Gutiérrez y Muhs, Niemann, Gonzalez, & Harris, 2012) and Making Our Voices Heard: Women of Color in Academia (Curtis-Boles, Adams, & Jenkins-Monroe, 2012) (reviewed in PsycCRITIQUES [Daniel, 2013]). All of these books provide narratives of the personal and professional struggles encountered by Women of Color and the strategies used to overcome the obstacles and barriers that result in their attrition at each “transition [point] (for example, the transition from postdoctoral scientist to assistant professor, assistant professor to associate professor, and associate professor to full professor)” (Sewer, 2012, para. 2). The themes have included balancing family obligations, having a social justice or a research agenda that addresses the realities or needs of the racial/ethnic communities, discrimination due to race/ethnicity and sex, and a lack of role models and mentoring. Women of Color who have been successful found mentors, even when they were not women or persons of color, and have used support networks in and outside of the academy to sustain their efforts. 

The narratives being presented are important, as they give voice to the perspective of Women of Color. They validate experiences and make it clear that we, as Women of Color, are not alone in the struggle. However, when do we transition to the in-depth analyses that move us toward greater representation of Women of Color among tenured faculty and those at the highest ranks in academia?  



Bennett-Johnson, S. (2012, June 7-8). Written statement of Suzanne Bennett Johnson, PhD, ABPP, 2012 president, American Psychological Association, presented on behalf of the American Psychological Association before the National Academies Committee for Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine on the subject of “Seeking solutions: Maximizing American talent by advancing women of color in academia.” Retrieved from

Curtis-Boles, H., Adams, D. M., & Jenkins-Monroe, J. (Eds.), 2012. Making our voices heard: Women of color in academia. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Daniel, J. (2013). Anchored and linked: Women of color write about life in the academy [Review of the book Making our voices heard: Women of color in academia, by H. Curtis-Boles, D. M. Adams, & J. Jenkins-Monroe (Eds.)]. PsycCRITIQUES, 58(22). doi: 10.1037/a0032579

Gutiérrez y Muhs, G., Niemann, Y. F., Gonzalez, C. G., & Harris, A. P. (Eds.). (2012). Presumed incompetent: The intersections of race and class for women in academia. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.

Sewer, M. B. (2012, August). Advancing women of color in academia. American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Today. Retrieved from

Read the Review

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Is There a Dark Side of Resilience?


Resilience Interventions for Youth in Diverse Populations, edited by Sandra Prince-Embury and Donald H. Saklofske, discusses a three-factor model of resilience that includes (a) having a sense of mastery, which involves elements such as identifying strengths and encouraging self-praise; (b) having a sense of relatedness, which includes, obviously, relationships with caring adults who are trusted, the development of support networks, and from the individual’s side, enhanced social skills and empathy; and (c) having the ability to regulate emotional reactivity. The book overviews interventions designed to enhance resilience for diverse groups of youths, including youths from low-income communities, families who are homeless, youths in foster care, transsexual youths, youths with chronic illness, youths with mental health needs, and youths with specific developmental disorders (e.g., autism).

Reviewers Ian M. Evans and Heather Nakahara offer the following commentary on the concept of resilience, particularly as it applies to the United States and other industrialized nations:

When you then look at the children in the world who are denied education, who are chronically hungry, who are refugees living in United Nations tents in a foreign country, who are orphaned by HIV/AIDS and Ebola, or who are genitally mutilated, stoned, whipped or otherwise denigrated in the name of religion, it is a little difficult to get too concerned about worried Australian teens, financially strapped Greek families, or kids with too many smartphones. All resilience challenges are not created equal.

That may be a harsh comment, but we consider there is a dark side of resilience work: It seems to judge children and youth to be at risk because they are not adequate to weather inequitable systems and flawed institutions…But resilience work, however much we need to be open to its possibilities, also represents a form of political philosophy—an extension of the great American dream: suck it up[,] kid, toughen up[.] [S]uccess comes to those individuals willing to take responsibility (control their emotions), work hard, feel powerful, and reward themselves (paras. 14, 15).

Do you agree with the reviewers’ viewpoint regarding the “dark side of resilience work”? Why or why not?  Does the resilience construct lack applicability across the variety of adversities that youths face globally?

Read the Review
ReviewResilience Interventions Are Here: The Psychology of Toughen Up and Suck It Up
By Ian M. Evans and Heather Nakahara
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(15)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Best Practices for Diversity/Inclusion Efforts


Richard Harvey and Ana Hernandez Kent reviewed The Color Bind: Talking (and not Talking) About Race at Work by Erica Gabrielle Foldy and Tamara R. Buckley. Like many organizations, my university has struggled and continues to struggle with diversity/inclusion (D/I) efforts. The administration has included D/I information on the website, as have individual departments. Human resource professionals and associate deans with D/I experience have been hired. Committees have been formed. Student government has become involved. Speakers, workshops, seminars, open forums, and other activities have been scheduled. My own department recently proposed a D/I essay contest for our psychology majors. Earlier in my career, I had some interest in program evaluation, so I often wonder to what extent have these efforts made a difference and how can we evaluate their effectiveness.

So, what are the best practices for instituting D/I efforts? What recommendations would you make to organizations, including higher educational institutions? And if you feel really ambitious, provide suggestions on how to evaluate their effectiveness.

Read the Review
By Richard D. Harvey and Ana Hernandez Kent
       PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(15)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Drug Wars


The War on Drugs of the 20th century continues today with a more appropriate military metaphor. The armies of good and evil are not lined up on fronts. Now good fights a complexity of scattered forces – ISIS and others – as well as terrorists within our communities. The 21st century War on Drugs has metaphorical car bombers (drunk drivers), battles for urban territory, and terrorist enclaves in remote areas (Ozark meth labs).

Drug wars also take place in historical and political contexts. In his review of Brain-Robbers: How Alcohol, Cocaine, Nicotine, and Opiates Have Changed Human History, Ben Sessa observes, “This war [on drugs} has always been about bigotry and economics and not, as we are still told today, about health or morals” (para. 4).  He writes, 

[W]e see racism, prohibition, greed, oppression and control of the poor; our chronic inability to see the wood for the trees that allows these passionately sought-after drugs to run roughshod over human sensibility and judgment. (para. 3)

Later in his review Sessa adds this is “still a battle of ‘good versus evil’; a war where the casualties are common people, collateral damage in political greed games . . . ” (para. 8).

Where are psychologists in this battle? Our clinics surely do some heavy lifting when treating addictions and mounting prevention programs. I am not a clinician so can only admire those professionals who face this challenge. I wonder, however, if there is agreement that social control of the poor and the economics of the drug market make this challenge more difficult. If so, is there much that psychologists can do, individually or collectively, about those factors? And do we only fight this battle when it reaches our middle-class suburban enclaves?

Read the Review

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Once Again, It’s Race to the Top


Recently we published a pair of dramatically contrasting reviews of Nicolas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance:  Genes, Race, and Human History.  On the one hand, James Flynn argues that all psychologists should read the book, “particularly those who dismiss hypotheses about whether genetic differences between races or ethnic groups are correlated with trait differences” (para. 1). Although acknowledging we must await direct genetic evidence, he raises the possibility that American Blacks might be “a race whose genes give them collectively a greater inclination toward impetuosity” (para. 8).

On the other hand, Robert Sternberg writes that the book’s premise of “a biological concept of race... is not tenable” (para. 7), describes the book as “deeply flawed” scientifically (last para.), and suggests that race is a social construction rather than a biological fact. As one example, Sternberg points out that “there is more difference in genetic makeup among different black-skinned groups in Africa than there is between typically white- and black-skinned people in the United States” (para. 15).  

Where do you stand on the question of whether race is a biological reality or social construction?


Read the Reviews
ReviewWrong Problem, Wrong Solution
By Robert J. Sternberg
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(13)


ReviewGenetic Differences Between Races for Desirable Traits
By James R. Flynn
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(13)

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Modern Slavery, Human Trafficking: The Never-Ending Evil


Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state, wrote:

Elementary students across America are taught that slavery ended in the 19th century. But, sadly, nearly 150 years later, the fight to end this global scourge is far from over. Today it takes a different form and we call it by a different name - “human trafficking” - but it is still an affront to basic human dignity in the United States and around the world. (Clinton, 2010, para. 1)

In her review of Laura Murphy’s book Survivors of Slavery: Modern-Day Slave Narratives Martha Banks presents the realities and complexities of modern slavery in its global context. Slavery today is a system of forced labor that involves no or little pay, involving mostly women. Although most victims are adults, children are also enslaved around the world.  I went to the Web to get a sense of the scope of the population of interest: The two most prevalent types of slavery in the world involve sex work and forced labor. According to United Nations (UN) reports, we may underestimate the rates of human trafficking related to labor because it is less visible, reported, and/or prosecuted. While it is difficult to estimate, UN reports suggest that as many as 2.5 million individuals are trafficked at any one time and billions of dollars of profit are generated annually (United Nations, 2015). Banks notes that while the percentage of those enslaved throughout the world is lower than it has ever been, the sheer number of people enslaved is greater.

Banks goes on to describe how in Survivors of Slavery Murphy organizes the narratives of individuals who because of extreme poverty, and the extreme greed of some, are forced into exploitative systems, through kidnapping, deception, and manipulation. What is startling is the realization that we need to hear these voices to evoke what should be readily provided—human concern for the conditions of those enslaved and a resolve to address their plight. 

The issues highlighted in the book review led me to reflect on the preparation of clinicians who might be called on to treat victims of modern slavery. Do we have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the issues that victims face and the resources that they need? More importantly, are psychologists prepared to understand and respect victims’ right to choice, including the right to refuse treatments and interventions? What impact might our research have on efforts to collaborate in anti-slavery advocacy and social justice initiatives, particularly efforts to persuade the countries that have not signed onto the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2004) to do so?



Clinton, H. R. (2010, November 9).  Op-Ed: An end to human trafficking. Washington, DC: Office of the Spokesman, U. S. State Department. Retrieved March 20, 2015, from

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2004). Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. In United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto, Annex II (pp. 41-52). New York, NY: United Nations. Available at

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2015). Human trafficking FAQs. Retrieved March 21, 2015, from
Read the Review
ReviewListening to the Reality of Slavery
By Martha E. Banks
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 60(11)

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Academic One Percenters


Is an education at an elite university worth the apparent anxiety produced by the effort to get in, and is it really a better education? Geoffrey Cox reviewed Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, a book that is highly critical of the admission process and the graduates (the “excellent sheep”) produced by these elite schools. According to Cox, the author, William Deresiewicz, maintains that the students who get into these universities “have demonstrated manic intensity for success”, and the culture there “continues to encourage the pursuit of external validations of accomplishment” leading to “a great first job” (para. 6).

What’s so bad about that? My education and career happened at pretty good schools, but not elite, and my sons went to a good regional state university, also not elite. Had we been able financially and academically to get into one of these great schools I think we would have done so. My experiences at a couple of universities at this level convinced me that, at least at the graduate level, these places really are of exceptionally high quality.

However, I have little sympathy for the notion that elite schools educate undergraduates significantly better than many others, and less sympathy for parents who must get their children into one of the “best” schools. Cox points out that “we have an extraordinary system of public higher education that, in fact, educates the majority of American students” (last para.), although some of these also would be considered elite.

What drives students and their parents to seek admission only to these allegedly best schools?  Cox himself guided his “bright, ambitious daughters . . . through most of the Ivy League and the non-Ivy equivalents” (para. 1). Surely there are other criteria for selection that would yield as good or better results, and perhaps with less cynicism about the selection process.

Read the Review
ReviewGolden Fleeces
By Geoffrey M. Cox
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(7)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Are Testing Accommodations Unjust?


In Testing Accommodations for Students With Disabilities: Research-Based Practice, Benjamin J. Lovett and Lawrence J. Lewandowski review current theory and research and offer guidelines for deciding when testing accommodations are appropriate for a student with disabilities. Reviewers Robert Furey and Colleen Furey point out that although there is general consensus on the idea of academic testing accommodations for students with disabilities, there is ample complexity in implementing accommodations fairly. Examples offered by the reviewers include nondisabled students intent on “gaming the system” (Hinshaw & Scheffler, 2014, p. 96) seeking accommodations; accommodations that actually “overaccommodate” (Lovett & Lewandowski, 2015, p. 113) thereby giving disabled students unfair advantage; accommodations with little scientific evidence of validity; and, lack of equal access to needed accommodations among lower socioeconomic students.  An alternative solution would be a systemic strategy—altering the testing environment to reduce the need for accommodations. This would involve establishing testing systems that accommodate the widest range of students, thus decreasing the need for individual testing modifications.

Do you agree that testing accommodations are difficult to implement fairly?  How has the current culture of “high-stakes testing” contributed to the complexity of implementing accommodations fairly?  Is a systemic strategy that attempts to reduce the need for accommodations a realistic solution? 


Hinshaw, S. P., & Scheffler, R. M. (2014). The ADHD explosion: Myths, medication, money, and today’s push for performance. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Read the Review
ReviewToo Accommodating? The Science and Myth of Testing Accommodations
By Robert Furey and Colleen Furey
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(7)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tolerance: Necessary but Insufficient


In his review of The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions Are Sabotaging Gay Equality, Scott Keiller analyzes arguments used to support the idea that “paternalistic benevolence maintains the status quo of structural and institutionalized power differentials” (section “Positioning Social Constructivism…,” para. 4). Although the book’s focus is the LGBTQ community, this is an issue relevant to other marginalized groups. The central concern is the value and sufficiency of tolerance, an expression of goodwill and kindness as those in power accept a limited range of behavior that runs counter to socially sanctioned ideals, in the quest for social justice. It’s not that The Tolerance Trap’s author ignores the increasing acceptance of gay marriage and military service or the fact that there are more television shows and movies featuring gay and lesbian characters. The author questions the extent to which these shifts represent true progress and acceptance of the entire continuum of non-heterosexual individuals, behaviors, and expression. Consider the fact that there is greater public acceptance of gay and lesbian individuals than of bisexual, transgender, and/or queer individuals. In addition, the public seems more comfortable when individuals are less openly gay than when individuals elect to engage in the same levels of self-expression afforded to heterosexuals. Finally, Keiller directs readers to the author’s observation that the “positioning of marriage as the optimal and most legitimate configuration for relationships and families is a tolerance trap that perpetuates hegemony and devalues other family arrangements” (section “Two Steps Forward…,” last para.).

The issues highlighted by Keiller led me to reflect on societal responses to other marginalized communities. For example, does the tolerance trap help to explain differences in White and African Americans’ responses to the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown? There appears to be an inherent expectation that Black male youths dress and respond within a certain range in order to be free of unwarranted scrutiny and response from police officers and civilians alike. Does the expectation that women in leadership dress in certain ways reinforce masculine hegemony in business and politics? The operation of these unspoken expectations of conformity to social, political, and cultural patterns that affirm the superiority of the majority and the ways that it limits the rights of marginalized communities is an issue for psychology. Can psychological research lead the way to social change that is more focused on full social acceptance and inclusion than tolerance? What has psychological research revealed that might contribute to efforts to create a more inclusive society, whether we are addressing sexual orientation, gender, race/ethnicity, or other marginalized identities? 

Read the Review
ReviewDeconstructing Tolerance: When Benevolence Stalls Progress for Gay Equality
By Scott Keiller
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(5)

Thursday, March 05, 2015

How to Make Workplace Mental Health a Priority


Susan L. Trumbetta reviewed Mental illness in the Workplace:  Psychological Disability Management by  Henry G. Harder,  Shannon L. Wagner, and  Joshua A. Rash. This topic raises a number of questions in my mind. For example, how can employers get senior management to "buy in" to the importance of preventing  and treating mental health problems in the workplace? Relatedly, how can employers convince cynical employees that taking steps to prevent and treat mental health problems in the workplace should be a priority?

Read the Review
ReviewA Comprehensive Introduction to Workplace Mental Health
By Susan L. Trumbetta
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(6)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Will Psychology Ever Have a Grand, Unifying Theory?


In a critical review of Warren W. Tryon’s book Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychotherapy: Network Principles for a Unified Theory, James Schmidt argues that “Global theories, like the end of the rainbow, are mirages: Although they appear very real and inviting at a distance, as you draw closer they pixelate into nothing” (last paragraph).  

When I was a graduate student, I spent considerable time studying the work of Yale psychologist Clark Hull who attempted to develop an overarching theory that would explain learning, motivation, and all of human behavior.  Hull expressed his ideas in complicated mathematical formulas like this one:

sEr = V x D x K x J x sHr - sIr - Ir - sOr - sLr

Graduate students today may learn about Hull in a History and Systems class, but his work is not taken seriously as an overarching theory of human behavior.

Many of my professors at the University of Hawaii went on to develop elaborate theories that attempted to unify psychology; these luminaries include Raymond Cattell (Dreger, 1982), Art Staats (Spiegler, 1998), Roland Tharp (Salzinger, 2012), and Ian Evans (Arnkoff, 2014).  However, we still don’t have a generally accepted unifying theory of human behavior or even of psychotherapy. Will we ever?



Arnkoff, D. B. (2014). A great foundation that needs a castle. [Review of the book How and why people change: Foundations of psychological therapy, by I. M. Evans]. PsycCRITIQUES, 59(1).

Dreger, R. M. (1982). Another magnum opus. [Review of the book Personality and learning theory, Vol. 2: A systems theory of maturation and structured learning, by R. B. Cattell]. PsycCRITIQUES, 27(1), 9-11.

Salzinger, K. (2012). Nietzsche, Sequoia, the Reichstag, contingency management, and tango therapy. [Review of the book Delta theory and psychosocial systems: The practice of influence and change, by R. G. Tharp]. PsycCRITIQUES, 57(22).

Spiegler, M. D. (1998). Another behaviorism, or a new psychology? [Review of the book Behavior and personality: Psychological behaviorism, by A. W. Staats]. PsycCRITIQUES, 43(5), 358-359.

Read the Review
ReviewDeveloping a Unified Theory of Psychotherapy: Mission Accomplished or a Bridge Too Far?
      By Warren W. Tryon
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(52)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Does Forensic Science Lack a Scientific Basis?


In her review of Acquittal: An Insider Reveals the Stories and Strategies Behind Today’s Most Infamous Verdicts by Richard Gabriel, Susan Goldberg states,  "In fact, Gabriel criticizes the work of forensic psychologists, viewing forensic psychological treatment and assessment as lacking any 'basis in scientific fact' (p. 43)"  (section "Summary," para. 1).  Do you agree that the the field is not based on scientific findings?

Read the Review
ReviewGetting Away With Murder: Acquittals in High-Profile Cases
By Susan G. Goldberg
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(49)

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Psychology Among the Liberal Arts and Sciences


In textbooks and classrooms psychologists proclaim our discipline’s standing as a science. In his review of Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, Tom McGovern asks whether psychology could “become a ‘hub discipline’ in undergraduate education in the [liberal] arts and sciences” (para. 7). I understand the liberal arts to be the humanities disciplines including literature, history, and philosophy. As a “hub discipline” then, Michael Roth (book author) “affirms the scientific paradigms of critical inquiry in tandem with the wider narratives of human interdependence created by arts and humanities scholars” (para. 8). McGovern’s (2007) own work in multicultural life narratives is an exemplar of this paradigm.

Except for the History of Psychology course and sporadically offered special topics courses, it is unusual to find the humanities explicitly represented in psychology curricula. There is no shortage of material in the psychology literature from which to draw to present psychology as a humanity (Korn, 1985). Perhaps a stronger link to the humanities would be seen as weakening psychology’s status as a science, which would in turn lead to lower academic standing.

If we can put status seeking aside, how could we make this stronger humanities link? Two possibilities come to mind: one, recognition in textbooks of psychology’s “hub discipline” position; two, acceptance of thesis topics based in literature and philosophy. What are some others, or should we discourage this sort of thing?


Korn, J. H. (1985). Psychology as a humanity. Teaching of Psychology, 12, 188-193.

McGovern, T. V. (2007). Memory’s stories: Multidisciplinary readings of multicultural life narratives. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Read the Review
ReviewWhat Can I Do With a Degree in . . .?
By Thomas V. McGovern
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(4)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Drug Companies, Developing Countries, and Psychiatric Neocolonialism


Dennis Nissim-Sabat recently reviewed China Mills’s Decolonizing Global Mental Health: The Psychiatrization of the Majority World for PsycCRITIQUES. In his review, Nissim-Sabat points out that huge profits are accessible to those drug companies that can successfully convince millions of citizens and their health care providers in developing countries such as India that they need to take psychotropic medications with the same enthusiasm and frequency found in more developed countries such as the United States.  A similar point is made in Wade Pickren’s (2010) PsycCRITIQUES review of Ethan Watters’s book Crazy Like Us.  

Do psychologists—and especially international psychologists working in majority countries—have an ethical obligation to oppose “psychiatric neocolonialism”?  If so, what form should this opposition take?


Pickren, W. (2010). Should the world be as apple as American pie? [Review of the book Crazy like us: The globalization of the American psyche, by E. Watters]. PsycCRITIQUES, 55(46).
Read the Review
ReviewPsychiatric Imperialism in India
By Denis Nissim-Sabat
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(49)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How Should Therapists and Health Psychologists Use Internet Social Support Groups?


Sarah Kass reviewed The Paradox of Internet Groups: Alone in the Presence of Virtual Others by Haim Weinberg. Given the advantages and disadvantages of using internet support groups in therapy, what two (or more) suggestions would you give to therapists and health psychologists who wanted to use such tools?

Read the Review
ReviewHidden Relating: The World of Online Support
By Sarah A. Kass
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(47)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Old Friends Needed


“Friends, Communities, and the Rest of Our Lives” is the title of Robert Intrieri’s review of With a Little Help From Our Friends: Creating Community as We Grow Older by Beth Baker. Intrieri says this book is an “analysis of why all of us should not be afraid to look forward into our future and make critical decisions now about how we wish to live our lives in old age” (para. 5). At the end of his review he says this book should be read by students, professionals, and anyone anticipating retirement.

What about those of us who already are there, and have been there for a while? Some gerontologists call us the old old. Baker’s “thesis [is] that community and relationships are essential to sustain us through the end of life” (para. 6). So, if we haven’t done so, we need to make friends and find community. There is an implication that not doing so may lead to loneliness, depression, and, well, the end.

To avoid that down side, an old old person may need some help. There will be a lot more people in that age range in the coming years, but to meet their needs Intrieri says we “will need a significant increase in the number of appropriately trained geropsychologists” and related professionals (para. 8). When I was doing accreditation visits, almost all programs had a specialty in child and adolescent clinical training. Training to work with older adults was unusual. Is that still the situation?

Read the Review
ReviewFriends, Communities, and the Rest of Our Lives
By Robert C. Intrieri
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(49)

Thursday, January 08, 2015

LGBT Voices: How Closely Are We Listening?


In her review of Queer Voices From the Classroom, Glenda M.Russell notes the importance of efforts to give voice to those whose voices have been silenced. In this instance, the focus is on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) teachers. Although social attitudes about the LGBT community have changed and are changing, Russell notes that changes in the classroom have come more slowly.

In the book, the experiences of those who provide instruction in diverse school settings—rural, urban, public, private—were captured. Narratives were solicited for which teachers were asked to discuss “(a) their identities as queer teachers, (b) how their identities influenced their decision to become teachers, (c) significant moments regarding their lives as teachers, and (d) their hopes as queer teachers” (para. 3). The chapters provide insight and inspiration, yet they also make it clear that there is work to be done. For example, although not addressed in the book, Russell questions whether LGBT people can freely decide whether they want to disclose or withhold their identities in the school environment.

As psychologists read this book, it will be important for them to consider similar questions. Does our profession parallel the school environments described? Are LGBT individuals able to find affirming environments within research and therapeutic psychological communities? Is our awareness of the costs and consequences associated with an inability to express a stigmatized identity adequate? Are we aware of the unique stressors and the needs of LGBT individuals and the concerns these may generate, or is a book that describes LGBT experiences in psychology needed?        

Read the Review
ReviewLGBT Teachers: Narratives of Bias and Challenge
By Glenda M. Russell
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(47)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Is Mindfulness a Religion in Disguise?


In their review of Lisa Dale Miller’s Effortless Mindfulness: Genuine Mental Health Through Awakened Presence, Melvin Miller and Melissa Sivvy point to a possible ethical problem in the surging mindfulness movement:

Can we offer a psychotherapeutic technique with religious underpinnings without running into ethical complications? If Buddhism is a religion (one of the five major religions of the world) and mindfulness, as declared by Miller, is a Buddhist psychology, then might it be said that psychotherapists who promote the use of mindfulness with their patients are offering a cure through the adoption of a religion and/or religious practices? (section "The Conundrum," para. 1)

Do you believe this is an ethical problem?  Should we continue to delve into Buddhist philosophy as an underpinning of mindfulness, or does that run the risk of endorsing a religious approach to the solution of mental health issues? 

Read the Review
ReviewThe Contributions of Mindfulness Practice in a Secular Profession
By Melvin E. Miller and Melissa Sivvy
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(47)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Stepping Up to the Challenge


In the review of Treatment-Refractory Schizophrenia: A Clinical Conundrum Philip Harvey explores the failure to respond to pharmacological treatments observed through “cycles of treatment, medication discontinuation, and relapse” (para. 1) among patients who are schizophrenic. Despite the dominant focus on pharmacological treatment, with particular attention to clozapine, Harvey reminds readers that “all interventions for schizophrenia are not medical or pharmacological” (last para.). He notes that various psychosocial treatments that are potentially important for patients with poor antipsychotic response are rarely used. Harvey calls for mental health professionals to recognize this fact and address the role that all have in treating patients with schizophrenia who “fail to respond to adequate treatment trials with antipsychotic medications” (last para.).

There are hints that awareness of the importance of psychosocial interventions in the treatment of schizophrenia has lagged among treating professionals in the United States. Have psychologists and other mental health professionals failed to keep abreast of treatment evidence and options for this disorder?

Perhaps we have become intrigued by newer disorders that receive greater media attention; or have we been lulled into an overconfident belief in the effectiveness of pharmacological treatments and abandoned our role in the care of those with serious mental illness?

How likely is it that a population approach to addressing the needs of patients who do not respond to adequate treatment will reengage psychologists in the care of another community of those who may need us?  

Read the Review
ReviewWhen Treatment of Schizophrenia Fails, What Happens Next?
By Philip D. Harvey
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(45)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Is the U.S. Criminal Justice System to Blame for Creating the Next Generation of Offenders?


Kathleen Malley-Morrison and Ellen Gutowski, reviewers of Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children: Cross-National Comparative Studies by Joseph Murray, Catrien C.J.H. Bijleveld, David P. Farrington, and Rolf Loeber, provide several examples of violence in American culture and how this violence is embedded within a context in which undesired behavior is punished through a criminal justice system focused primarily on retribution rather than rehabilitation.

In Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children: Cross-National Comparative Studies the detrimental effect of a punishment-oriented criminal justice system on children of offenders is explored. As the reviewers describe, the book presents evidence that incarceration contributes to crime rates “in the next generation as part of a system of cyclical violence in which a punishment-oriented society maintains or heightens the problem through its retributive efforts to suppress violence and other unwanted behavior” (para. 3).

Several theoretical frameworks to guide understanding of this issue are discussed in the book, and Malley-Morrison and Gutowski offer an additional viewpoint: that an unequal distribution of power and wealth in the United States contributes to both the disproportionately high incarceration rate and the negative outcomes associated with it.

Do you agree that unequal distribution of power and wealth is a contributing factor?

How can policy be changed to mitigate the negative impacts of incarceration on children and families? 

Should the United States’ criminal justice system move beyond its focus on retribution to a more rehabilitative-focused system, like those found in the Netherlands and Sweden?


Read the Review
ReviewThe Enduring Legacy of Punishment
By Kathleen Malley-Morrison and Ellen Gutowski
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(40)

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Why Do Wealthy People Steal?


John Gonsiorek recently reviewed The Psychology of Theft and Loss: Stolen and Fleeced by Robert Tyminski. In describing the last two chapters of the book, Gonsiorek says, “One squarely anticipates a critique of this work: that theft is primarily socioeconomically driven. True to his eclectic style, Tyminski gives socioeconomic causation some due—but no more. The book concludes with a chapter exploring the internal thief in everyone, and considering possible positive features of this in the overall psychological economy” (para 8).

One issue that came to my mind, and about which many people are perplexed, is, why would someone with more than enough money steal?  

Read the Review
ReviewNo Fleecing Here
By John C. Gonsiorek
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(46)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Can Darwin Explain Being Down in the Dumps?


Jonathan Rottenberg’s The Depths: The Evolutionary Origin of the Depression Epidemic points to a great deal of research suggesting that mild depression has evolutionary advantages. These include increases in problem-solving ability, attention, and the capacity to more realistically appraise certain situations.  However, in his review of the book, Irwin Rosenfarb writes, “it was never clear to me how an evolutionary approach could explain severe depression”  (para. 6). Can you see any good reasons why severe depression would offer an evolutionary advantage?

Read the Review
ReviewIs Depression an Adaptation?
By Irwin S. Rosenfarb
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(44)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We Will Age, But How Well?


We will all age and we hope to age well; however, we will carry health and mental health issues into that process and may also experience new issues. In his review of The Evergreen Guide: Helping People to Survive and Thrive in Later Years, Alan Swope notes the aging of our population and the lack of preparation to deal with its mental health needs. The Evergreen Guide describes a program, based on efforts initiated in Ireland a decade ago, that focuses on psycho-education designed to promote mental health and successful aging.

Swope highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the book:

The strengths of The Evergreen Guide are its clarity and the applicability of the psychoeducational modules. Its glaring weakness is its lack of any coverage of older adults' sexuality. The sex life of people over 65 seems to be the last taboo of geropsychiatry. (last para.)

The reviewer’s comments point to another area where biases may affect not only the care that we provide, but also our ability to identify concerns that are potentially important to the people we serve. We explore many issues of diversity in our training, but do we pay sufficient attention to aging stereotypes and myths? As a profession, are we doing enough to retain the wisdom of older psychologists, recruit older adults into training programs, and ensure a workforce that reflects the population that we will serve?

Finally, although the The Evergreen Guide considers cross-cultural issues, Swope offers some critique of the coverage. I am led to wonder to what extent we understand issues of aging in diverse communities, particularly the issues of diverse aging in the United States.

Read the Review
ReviewAn Agenda for Positive Aging: Lessons From Ireland
By Alan Swope
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(41)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Psychologists’ Academic History


Psychological science traces its history to academic institutions mostly in Europe and the United States. Much of that history is documented in research reports and biographies, but the academic context of that activity also is of great importance.

In his review of Essential Documents in the History of American Higher Education, Bruce Henderson describes that context broadly in U.S. colleges and universities. The documents in the book include curriculum reports, memoirs, and speeches by people who were not psychologists. Henderson points out that  psychology also has an academic history that goes beyond its research. His examples include James McKeen Cattell’s conflict with the president of Columbia University, John B. Watson’s scandal at Johns Hopkins, and “Edward Tolman’s response to the University of California’s imposition of a loyalty oath in 1950 (Carroll, 2012), a landmark in the history of academic freedom” (para. 12). I would add a European example in Wolfgang Kohler’s stand against the Nazis (Henle, 1978).

As students and faculty, psychologists have their own experiences that illuminate academic life in the last century. Several psychologists have been presidents of universities. That includes Robert Sternberg, the previous editor of PsycCRITIQUES’s predecessor journal, Contemporary Psychology—APA Review of Books. They should have some interesting stories to tell and perhaps some worthy speeches. Many departments have written their history, which may be mostly of local interest but are likely to contain incidents of more general interest.

What are your suggestions for documents that might be included in psychology’s academic history? Perhaps someone who enjoys editing books could put together our field’s volume.


Henle, M. (1978). One man against the Nazis: Wolfgang Kohler. American Psychologist, 33, 939-944.
Read the Review
ReviewGlimpses of American Higher Education’s Past
By Bruce B. Henderson
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(42)

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Truth Will Set Whom Free?


In reviewing James T. Hansen’s new book Philosophical Issues in Counseling and Psychotherapy: Encounters With Four Questions About Knowing, Effectiveness, and Truth, Milan Pomichalek offers a critique of Hansen’s postmodern stance toward counselling:

Adopting such a stance leads to the conclusion that counseling is most effective when the counseling  situation is characterized by the contextual factors common to all healing paradigms and when interventions are "judged by the degree to which they bring beneficial consequences to clients, not according to whether, in the practitioner's judgment, they accurately correspond to the intrinsic nature of some client reality” (p. 128). (para. 6)

But Pomichalek argues,

[T]he beneficial consequences of counseling interventions are not completely independent of “the intrinsic nature” of a “client's reality” (p. 128). True, it is not the reality represented by theoretical constructs of, say, id-ego-superego, but a reality nonetheless. Otherwise, how could the interventions be judged as meaningful or emotionally resonant (p. 127)? (para. 9)

Do you think it matters whether a therapist uncovers some actual truth about a client, or is it sufficient that the client benefits regardless of whether what is uncovered is literally true?

Read the Review
ReviewEncountering Encounters: Psychotherapy and the Challenge of Humanism
By Milan Pomichalek
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(41)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Is ADHD a Valid Disorder?


Robert Furey and Colleen Furey, reviewers of The ADHD Explosion: Myths, Medication, Money, and Today’s Push for Performance by Stephen P. Hinshaw and Richard M. Scheffler, describe the “ADHD explosion” in stark and alarming terms: in 2011, there were 2 million more children aged 4 to 17 in the United States with an ADHD diagnosis compared with 2003; an estimated one in nine youths (6.4 million) currently has an ADHD diagnosis; 19 percent of adolescent males in the United States have received the diagnosis at some point in their lives; an estimated 9 million U.S. adults have an ADHD diagnosis. The financial costs of ADHD can be measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars, including both cost of treatment services (direct costs) as well as “hidden” costs such as unemployment, underemployment, loss of productivity in the workplace, and costs incurred in the criminal justice system through higher rates of criminal behavior.

The diagnosis of ADHD, and its medication treatments, has not been without controversy—some say that ADHD doesn’t exist at all, that the symptoms can be better explained by other syndromes. Others maintain that ADHD exists, but it is overdiagnosed due to cursory assessments and failure to adequately distinguish it from other syndromes. There is also controversy about the medications used to treat ADHD—children are commonly treated with central nervous system stimulants, like Ritalin, that work on the neurotransmitter dopamine and carry potential for abuse.

What is your view of the ADHD explosion—is it “an epidemic of ADHD misdiagnosis” as recently characterized by neurologist Richard Saul (2014) (cited in the review, para. 7)? Is it a valid disorder? Is there need for concern about the safety and long-term impact of the stimulant medications used for treatment?

Read the Review
ReviewThe Economics of Inattention
By Robert Furey and Colleen Furey
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(40)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Are The Obese Negatively Portrayed in TV and Film?


In her review of The Weight of Images: Affect, Body Image and Fat in the Media by Katariina Kyrölä, Marianne LaFrance discusses the images of obese persons in different types of media and the emotions that they elicit from the audience including fear, disgust, shame, pride, and laughter. The review made me consider some of  the images in current television programs—programs such as Mike and Molly (a comedy about a  married couple, both of whom are large) and (as mentioned in the review) The Biggest Loser (a weight loss competition). In films, I was recently reminded of the (negative) character Dudley in the Harry Potter films (Harry's mortal, nonwizard cousin—portrayed as a not-very-bright bully). 

How prevalent are media images of obese individuals that elicit negative emotions? To what extent is it a problem? The issue seems even more complicated since not all aspects of obese characters are negative. The title characters of Mike and Molly are humorous, but so are the non-obese characters  in the show (e.g., Mike's mother and police officer partner, Molly's mother and sister) and the non-obese characters in other situation comedies. And Mike and Molly are portrayed as a nice, loving couple. Although the book and the review note the negative emotions elicited by The Biggest Loser, others have argued the program's good points including that persons are working hard attempting to improve their health. On the other hand, as with weight, the negative stereotypes of various minority ethnic groups also have contained positive as well as negative aspects to their images—the noble savage, the brave African American character who always seems to die by the end of the show or film, and the ethnic minority character who rarely has the leading role in an ensemble cast. 

Similar to ethnic minority characters, the obese person is rarely the lead in an ensemble cast even though he or she may be an important part of the group—the new show Scorpion, about a group of crime solving geniuses, is a good example). So, again, how prevalent and to what extent are these negative images of obese persons a problem?

Read the Review
ReviewWeighty Matters; Heavy Going
By Marianne LaFrance
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(41)

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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