The APA’s Landmark Resolution, What Not To Say In College, plus more weekly links


A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • Members of the American Psychological Association voted unanimously (save one) this past week on a policy barring psychologists from participating in national-security interrogations. It follows what’s been called the darkest hour in the APA’s 123-year history, when an independent review confirmed accusations that APA leaders assisted the CIA and U.S. military in their program of torture. Peter Kinderman, president-elect of the British Psychological Society, told Democracy Now! he was glad to see American psychologists rejoin the 17th century. (The Chronicle of Higher Education, Democracy Now!)
  • Trigger Warnings. Microaggressions. What we say has never been taken so seriously. Civil liberties lawyer Greg Lukianoff and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt take the cover of The Atlantic this month warning students that their increasingly correct political correctness is ruining college and their thinking. Cognitive-behavioral therapy could help. (The Atlantic)
  • But what words should you really never say in college? “Statistically reliable,” “hypnotic trance,” and “the scientific method,” to name a few. In an effort to promote clearer scientific communication, a handful of psychologists recently put together a list of 50 often misleading psychological and psychiatric terms to avoid. (Frontiers in Psychology)
  • The courtroom may be the last place in America where you can still be diagnosed as “insane,” a psychological throwback illustrating “a legal system shaped by history, not by science,” as Sarah Zhang writes in Wired. She looks at three assumptions fundamental to America’s legal system that simply aren’t supported by science: that eyewitnesses are reliable, jurors are impartial, and people don’t confess to crimes they didn’t commit. (Wired)
  • There are prisoners who have spent years in solitary confinement. Tens of thousands of them, living in small, often windowless concrete cells for 23 hours a day. No visits. Rarely, a brief phone call. Social psychologist Craig Haney, whose research dates back to the Stanford Prison Experiment, has interviewed dozens of prisoners isolated for more than a decade in solitary confinement. Now he’s an expert witness in a federal class action lawsuit against one of America’s hardest prisons. (New York Times)
  • Elsewhere on the Internet, Meehan Crist takes a dive into an isolation tank and investigates the therapeutic as well as torturous effects of being alone—and what it can teach us about consciousness. (Nautilus)
  • How do you put a price tag on nature? In the event of a catastrophe—like the BP oil spill—appraisers usually just ask a bunch of people what they think it’s worth and tally it up. But the accuracy of “contingent valuation,” as the method is called, is now being questioned by more than just economists and oil tycoons. Neuroscientists found the brain looks different appraising nature than when it’s evaluating, say, cars or vacations. They just can’t tell us more, yet. (New York Times)


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