What is Blog Action Day? Sixteen Days Left.

And what is a blog for that matter??
A blog is short for web log. It is a forum for people to do a variety of things — anything from keeping a journal, logging their financial woes, taking photos of their cats, publishing their fitness progress — you get the general idea. But this really doesn’t do justice to what is sometimes awkwardly referred to as the “blogosphere”.

Media activism.
For one thing, bloggers have managed to put rather weighty pressure on traditional media outlets such as network news, major newspapers and magazines and so forth. In fact, if you look at many on-line newspapers you’ll find a sidebar where they list the most blogged about articles. Some of these writers are extremely well informed Washington insiders. Such bloggers have generated substantial followings and have enough sway to force mainstream media outlets to respond to their criticisms. Othes are, well, crackpots. But it is psychologically healthy to have more media sources than the ones that are increasingly merging into one great profitable mass.

As Frank Zappa is reported to have said: “Stupidity has a certain charm. Ignorance does not.”

Here are some other links about Blog Action Day:
http://www.dailyblogtips.com/blog-action-day/

What is the Blog Action Day about? Basically it is a social initiative aiming to get as much bloggers as possible talking about an issue (the first one will be the environment) on the same day, raising both money and awareness. I firmly believe that the Internet and the technologies that are democratizing the access to information will have a profound impact on the socio-economical problems of the world. This initiative goes on that direction.

http://www.netsquared.org/blog/kanter/blog-action-day-october-15th-who-netsquared-participating

The idea is simple. On October 15th, bloggers around the web will write a post on their blog about the environment. The goal is to start a global conversation about a better future. There are three ways to participate:

The selected environmental charities include Greenpeace International, Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club,and the Conservation Fund.

You can follow the event latest news and update on Blog Action Day Blog.

Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.

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Interdisciplinary Psychology

Getting up-to-date on psychology.
I chanced upon an interesting blog by someone who’s very much up on some of the happenings in clinical psychology. If you’ curious about what clinical psychology is — how it differs from psychiatry, this is a solid resource. I recommend it.

Interdisciplinary psychology – health psychology.
There are some very interesting things going on in interdisciplinary psychology. Health psychology is a good example. Medicine is cottoning on to the idea that having psychologists in pre- and post-operative situations actually reduces their costs, chiefly in terms of legal liability. In the purportedly “inevitable” issue of psychologists prescribing psychotropic medications (RxP) the public stands to benefit from a collaboration between the medical model of physicians and the more humanistic approach of psychologists. In the past, this has been an uneasy alliance, at best.

Public health.
On another front, psychologists are teaming up with government agencies concerned with how to deal with disaster relief. Sports psychologists are enjoying some success, enhancing individual performance as well as improving team cohesiveness. Psychologists are increasingly consulting on public health issues. Larger pscychological organizations are lobbying at the state and national level.

These activities are not without there pitfalls, but speak to breadth of what psychologists do. We don’t just administer MMPI’s, Rorschachs, and interest inventories. We don’t just do psychotherapy or behavioral modification.

Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.

Blog Action Day: The Environment

Blog action day.
Blog Action Day is on October 15, 2007. Forty days left.

Bloggers are joining forces to raise consciousness on environmental issues. Proceeds will go to environmental action groups. You can read more about Blog Action Day here.

Environmantal psychology.
The American Psychological Association’s division 34 is dedicated to population and environmental psychology. This ranges from topics such as population, built environments, and the natural environment.

According to one of my mentors, Arthur Kovacs, Ph.D. this division is a “sleeping giant”. I tend to agree with him. Environmental issues have become increasingly pressing and our public awareness of them has shot up in the last few years.

Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.

Psychology in the Media: Better than Average

Manipulating public opinion.
The Washington Times runs a piece today on social psychology and the ways memory can be manipulated. The story has an interesting spin: How public opinion can be manipulated. Chief findings include that people tend to remember denials, myth busting, and statements identified as false at a high rate.

Rules of thumb trip up the brain, yet again.
The brain tends to treat often repeated statements as true, because, as the theory goes, the brain’s rule of thumb is that information frequently accessed is likely useful and true. Kudos to the Post for mentioning that the finding is not an isolated study, and has been peer reviewed, both critical elements in substantial research:

The psychological insights yielded by the research, which has been confirmed in a number of peer-reviewed laboratory experiments, have broad implications for public policy.

The brain hears the same assertion repeatedly, then treats it as if it comes from multiple sources. In this way, politicians are able to drum up popular opinion.

Another recent study found that when accusations or assertions are met with silence, they are more likely to feel true, said Peter Kim, an organizational psychologist at the University of Southern California. He published his study in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

This underscores the importance of being “devil’s advocate” or having a “minority opinion”. In social psychology, it is believed that minority opinions, tenaciously held, are robust in decision making outcome.

Be careful about what you deny.
Finally, the Post cites another finding about what social psychologists call the “negation-tag”. In many people this drops off — so a statement like “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” is ultimately remembered as the opposite. When making assertions it’s better to simply couch them in the positive. This last finding confirms what psychoanalysts have been saying for decades, perhaps even a century, that the unconscious does not recognize negatives. And of course, as Shakespeare said, “Thou dost protest too much.”

Current findings: Ho hum.
More bonus points to the Post for mentioning that a number of these “current” findings on memory have been around for decades. These are repeats of previous research, a key element in responsible science: replicating findings. Often science stories in the popular press are breathy in their coverage of the “latest findings” as if this represents cutting edge science. Actually, latest findings are findings that need to be confirmed repeatedly.

To couch it in the negative — it’s refreshing to see some not-too-bad science reporting.

Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.

Department of Defense Controversy Unfolds

APA beholden to Department of Defense?
It appears that evidence is mounting that APA has considerable interest in maintaining good graces with the Department of Defense — particularly related to the issue of prescription rights. I didn’t say it. I was reluctant to make this link. But this is not a conspiracy theory that insults the intelligence. Much of it is compelling.

Dr. Elaine Rodino posted a link, on the Los Angeles County Psychological Association (LACPA) listserv, to a piece at Harper’s magazine. The article characterizes the APA resolution as being full of loopholes, allowing for other methods of torture. In turn, they quote an editorial at the Houston Chronicle:

The worst argument for psychologists’ presence at interrogations comes from U.S. Army Col. Larry James, director of the psychology department of a military medical center,” the Chronicle went on to explain. ‘If we lose psychologists from these facilities, people are going to die,’ he said at the APA meeting.

Mary Pipher returns Presidential Citation.
The Harper’s piece continues reporting that Mary Pipher, author of the bestselling Reviving Ophelia, has recently returned her APA Presidential Citation award, citing the interrogation issue. Here’s their quote:

I cannot accept the August 19, 2007 Reaffirmation of APA’s Position Against Torture… Under this motion, psychologists will be allowed to continue working on interrogation teams that are not subject to the Geneva Conventions. This motion places our organization on the side of the CIA and Department of Defense and at odds with the United Nations, The Red Cross, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association. With this reaffirmation we have made a terrible mistake.

Pipher’s full statement, worth taking a look at, kind be found here.

Finally, in this flurry of press, Dr. Pipher, a credible source, asserts that psychologists were involved at the Fort Bragg project that reverse engineered torture for the Department of Defense. She goes on to address issues in the APA leadership and governance in this article at Democracy Now:

MARY PIPHER: …Well, I think in a matter of conscience it’s better not to encourage people to do a specific action, beyond, I think, every psychologist in the country who is in accord with my thinking should do something to let APA know how deeply upset they are. Now, I actually know some things people are doing, like resigning, for example. I wouldn’t recommend that. [itals mine] That’s a very complicated question.

But I think that the APA has long been a clan; the top leadership, the people on the council have been there for decades. It’s a very ingrown group of people. And I think we probably need some new leadership in APA. I’m not even a member of APA at this point. I closed my office in 2000, and I allowed all of my memberships to lapse. But I think for the members, it would be an excellent thing to really look not only at this specific decision, but the whole way that APA at this point is functioning.

Cancelling memberships.
Dr. Pipher makes an important point about membership. Some psychologists are canceling their memberships in protest. This effectively removes some of the most valuable voices we have in this debate from being able to participate. It may be time for some new blood at APA. This needs to be taken care of from within the organization. As Harper’s put it:

Right now, the APA is out on a limb doing a tango with the CIA and the DOD. The branch has cracked and it is going to fall to the ground. And the reputation of the APA is going to suffer still more when the collaboration of some of its members with the torture regime is fully exposed, as it surely will be.

All Americans need to be asking how our society can cope with a profession that is beset with such severe moral rot.

Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.