All posts by John pullyblank

M. Jackson Group Update – March 2019 – How To Be a Better Talker

This month’s post is again from Ken Pope’s listserv, where he kindly provides daily summaries of current articles in the field.  His post is as follows:
 
The Wall Street Journal includes an article: “No One Listening? Maybe You’re the Problem; Listeners typically shoulder the blame for disconnected conversations, distracted by screens and multitasking. But communication experts say talkers should examine their own actions, too” by Elizabeth Bernstein.
 
Here are some excerpts:
 
[begin excerpts]
 
A good friend called me recently to say hello. We chatted about his kids, a problem he was having at work, and his recent vacation.  When he asked how I was doing, I mentioned a big work project.  “The deadline is bearing down on me and I am stressed,” I said.
 
There was more silence.  Then my friend—who had woken me up at 6 a.m. to talk—blurted out: “Oh darn, I missed one!  I’m taking this online training course for work and just messed up the last answer.”
 
Ever feel like someone you’re talking to isn’t listening?  You’re not alone.  Listeners estimate that they tune out during conversations about 30% of the time, according to research from Harvard Business School, presented in its preliminary stage earlier this month at the annual conference for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
 
<snip> 
 
The blame is usually placed on the shoulders of the listener, distracted in the smartphone era by multiple screens and multitasking.  Solutions have concentrated on how to listen better: Put down your phone.  Make eye contact.  Ask open-ended questions.  Encourage the other person to elaborate.
 
But now communication experts say we need to focus on what the talker is doing wrong, too.  Often, they say, talkers engage in a monologue rather than a dialogue.  They drone on and ignore the listener’s cues that he or she is disengaged.  They sometimes accuse the listener of spacing out, causing hurt feelings or starting an argument.  They don’t let the listener get a word in.
 
“Usually, talkers are too active,” says Traci Ruble, a couples therapist and communication consultant in San Francisco, who is the founder of Sidewalk Talk, a nonprofit that sends groups of trained volunteers into the streets to talk with strangers.  
 
“The talker starts on a roll and never checks to see if they are being listened to, and the listener starts to feel objectified and thinks: ‘Do you even notice that I am here or are you just anxiously pouring out all your thoughts?’”
 
Ms. Ruble, who estimates that she’s trained about 8,000 people to communicate, says that talkers need to engage in “connected talking.” 
 
Connected talkers focus on four actions, she says.  They are aware of the listener and value what that person brings to the conversation.  They pay attention to what it feels like to be listened to and don’t get lost in their own head.  They feel gratitude for the listener.  And they are aware of the well-being of the listener, asking: “Am I overwhelming or losing the person?”
 
How do you put this into practice? Don’t just launch in. Ask the other person if they have time to chat. Then give them a hint of the emotional tenor of the conversation. You can say: “Hey, I’ve got some good news to share,” or “I’m falling apart, I could use some advice.” “Maybe people have time for a happy story but don’t have time to console you…,” Ms. Ruble says.
 
Next, be clear about what you need. Do you want advice, empathy, someone to hold your hand and just listen? Being open about what you want will help both you and the listener stay focused.
 
It’s important to pay attention to how much you appreciate the listener. Doing this will help the talker feel more heard.
 
You’ll also need to slow down your talking, make eye contact, pay attention to the other person’s responses and let the other person talk. Be aware of “anxious talking,” when you’re rambling on about anything that comes into your head. If that happens, ask yourself why you’re anxious. Sharing your worry can help the person feel more connected, too.
 
If the other person seems distracted or disengaged, don’t take it personally. Politely ask if there is something wrong or if they prefer to talk another time. And accept the answer. “If your listener doesn’t feel strong-armed into listening, then when they are listening they are really with you,” says Ms. Ruble.
 
<snip>
 
How to Be a Better Talker
 
Here are some tips from Traci Ruble, a couples therapist in San Francisco and founder of Sidewalk Talk, a nonprofit that sends groups of trained volunteers into the streets to talk with strangers.
 
Don’t just launch in. Ask the other person if it’s a good time to chat.
 
Be clear about what you need from your listener—advice, empathy, an ear or a hug. Explain this.
 
Don’t take it personally if the listener can’t talk at that moment. Ask to chat at a better time.
 
Slow down. Breathe. Make eye contact. Let the other person talk, too.
 
Don’t ramble. If you do, get yourself back on track by saying: “My intention for sharing this with you right now is…” “It’s the ultimate gut check so you can be clear why you are sharing,” Ms. Ruble says.
 
If you sense the other person isn’t listening, politely ask what is going on or if there is a better time to talk. You may need to switch environments—move to another room, say—to remove distractions. If not listening is a pattern, discuss that and explain how this makes you feel.
 
Practice appreciating the listener more. This will help you feel more heard.
 
[end excerpts]
 
The article is online at:
 
Ken Pope
 
POPE & VASQUEZ:  ETHICS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY & COUNSELING: 
A PRACTICAL GUIDE (5th EDITION)—John Wiley & Sons
Print—Kindle—Nook—eBook—Apple iBook—Google Book
 
Pope: 5 STEPS TO STRENGTHEN ETHICS IN ORGANIZATIONS & INDIVIDUALS: 
EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES INFORMED BY RESEARCH & HISTORY
Hardbound—Kindle—Nook—eBook—Google Book
 
POPE: PSYCHOLOGY, ETHICS, & HUMAN RIGHTS—
EUROPEAN PSYCHOLOGIST (in press)
 
“We’re all just walking each other home”  
—Harvard Psychologist Richard Alpert, later aka Ram Dass 

M. Jackson Group Update – February 2019 – Limits on Self-Care

This month’s post is again from Ken Pope’s listserv, where he kindly provides daily summaries of current articles in the field.  His post is as follows:
 
Current Affairs includes an article: “Self-Care Won’t Save Us” by Aisling McCrea.
 
Here are some excerpts:
 
[begin excerpts]
 
They’re usually painted in comforting primary colors or pastels, featuring simple illustrations, accompanied by text in a non-threatening font. They invite you to practice “self-care”, a term that has been prominent in healthcare theory for many decades but has recently increased in visibility online. The term generally refers to a variety of techniques and habits that are supposed to help with one’s physical and mental well-being, reduce stress, and lead to a more balanced lifestyle. “It’s like if you were walking outside in a thunderstorm, umbrella-less, and you walked into a café filled with plush armchairs, wicker baskets full of flowers, and needlepoints on the walls that say things like ‘Be kind to yourself’ and ‘You are enough,’” says the Atlantic. 
 
Though the term has a medical tinge to it, the language used in the world of self-care is more aligned with the world of self-help, and much of the advice commonly given in the guise of self-care will be familiar to anyone who has browsed the pop-psychology shelves of a bookstore or listened to the counsel of a kindly coworker—take breaks from work and step outside for fresh air, take walks in the countryside, call a friend for a chat, have a lavender bath, get a good night’s sleep. Light a candle. Stop being so hard on yourself. Take time off if you’re not feeling so well and snuggle under the comforter with a DVD set and a herbal tea. 
 
Few people would argue with these tips in isolation….  We should all be making sure we are well-fed, rested, and filling our lives with things that we enjoy.
 
In a time where people—especially millennials, at whom this particular brand of self-care is aimed—are increasingly talking about their struggles with depression, anxiety and insecurities, it’s no wonder that “practicing self-care” is an appealing prospect, even if it does sometimes seem like a fancy way to say “do things you like.” 
 
What is concerning is the way that this advice appears to be perfectly designed to fit in with a society that appears to be the cause of so much of the depression, anxiety, and insecurities. By finding the solution to young people’s mental ill-health (be it a diagnosed mental health problem or simply the day-to-day stresses of life) in do-it-yourself fixes, and putting the burden on the target audience to find a way to cope, the framework of self-care avoids having to think about issues on a societal level. 
 
In the world of self-care, mental health is not political, it’s individual. Self-care is mental health care for the neoliberal era.
 
As I write, the U.K. Prime Minister, Theresa May, is tweeting about World Mental Health Day and suicide prevention. She is not the only one; scrolling through the trending hashtags (there are several) one can find lots of comforting words about taking care of yourself, about opening up, confiding in a friend, keeping active, taking a breath. One such tweet is a picture of an arts-and-craftsy cut-out of a bright yellow circle behind dull green paper, designed to look like a cheerful sun. Printed on the sun are the words “everything will be so good so soon just hang in there & don’t worry about it too much.” All of us have probably seen some variation of these words at many points in our lives, and probably found at least a little bit of momentary relief in them. 
 
But looking through other tweets about World Mental Health Day reveals a different side of the issue. People talk about the times they did try to seek help, and were left to languish on waiting lists for therapy. 
 
They talk about the cuts to their local services (if they’re from somewhere with universal healthcare) or the insurance policies that wouldn’t cover them (if they’re in the United States). 
 
They talk about the illnesses left cold and untouched by campaigns that claim to reduce stigma—personality disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia. 
 
They talk about homelessness and insecure housing and jobs that leave them exhausted. 
 
They talk about loneliness. 
 
<snip>
 
These are deep material and societal issues that all of us are touched by, to at least some degree. We know it when we see people begging in the streets, when we read yet another report that tells us our planet is dying, when we try to figure out why we feel sad and afraid and put it down to an “off day”, trying not to think about just how many “off days” we seem to have. We turn to our TVs, to our meditation apps, and hope we can paper over the cracks. 
 
We are in darkness, and when we cry out for light, we are handed a scented candle.
 
A common sentiment expressed in the world of self-care is that anyone can suffer from mental ill-health. This is true, but it’s not the entire story. 
 
In fact, mental health problems are strongly correlated with poverty, vulnerability, and physical health conditions (with the causation going both ways). 
 
Furthermore, there is a big difference between those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to take time off work for doctor’s appointments and mental health days, and those who can’t; those of us who have children or other dependents to take care of, and those who don’t; those of us who have the financial independence to take a break from our obligations when we need to, and those who don’t. 
 
Not all people have the same access to help, or even access to their own free time—employers increasingly expect workers to be available whenever they are needed, both in white-collar jobs and precarious shift work. 
 
Add in the (heavily gendered) responsibilities of being a parent, studying, a night-time Uber gig to cover the bills, or a long commute from the only affordable area in the city, and the stress of life will pile on even as it soaks up the time you’re supposed to set aside to relieve that stress.  
 
Funding cuts are in fashion across a plethora of Western countries, both to healthcare and to other services that indirectly affect our health, especially the health of people who need additional support to lead the lives they wish to live, or even just to survive. 
 
The rhetoric around self-care is flattering but flattening, treating its audience as though the solution to their problems is believing in themselves and investing in themselves. 
 
This picture glosses over the question of what happens when society does not believe or invest in us.
 
Even for those of us who are relatively lucky in life, self-care does not solve our problems. “It’s okay if all you did today was breathe,” promises a widely-shared image macro of a gentle talking pair of lungs. Well, I hate to break it to you, talking lungs, but it’s 2018. We’re supposed to be walking powerhouses of productivity, using every minute of our time to its best effect. In an economic environment where careers are precarious and competitive, young people are increasingly pressured to give up their free time to take on extracurriculars and unpaid projects “for their resume,” produce creative content “for exposure,” learn skills such as coding, scout for jobs on LinkedIn, write self-promoting posts about their personal qualities, and perhaps worst of all, attend godawful networking events, some of which don’t even have free canapés. Taking part in all this sounds unfair and exploitative, but you’re in a world where solidarity is just the name of a song from the Billy Elliot musical; if you won’t go along with it, there’s a line of brilliant, hungry graduates from top-name schools right behind you who will. 
 
It doesn’t stop with work either. This way of thinking about ourselves—constantly in need of self-improvement, constantly aware of our need to market ourselves as premium humans—seeps into our personal lives as much as our professional lives. On your way home from the office, perhaps you’ll flick through the apps on your smartphone, doing all the tasks you’ve assigned to yourself so you can be stronger, smarter, more attractive. Have you walked the 10,000 steps today mandated by your Fitbit? Have you done your Duolingo practice? You’re falling behind with learning French. Learning French will make you more appealing to employers, and might also make you look sexy and mysterious on dates. Have you responded to that Tinder message? It wasn’t very interesting, but you can’t remember the last time you met a romantic prospect organically so you should really get around to responding. You need to think of a good joke first, though; if you come off as too generic they’ll be on to the next candidate. Have you finished that book for your book club? You’ll look like an idiot if you don’t know how it ends. Did you play the guitar today? Creativity is important. Have you checked the news? What if someone asks you about the situation in Myanmar? How’s your posture? Is it upright? Check your reflection in the window. Why are you slouching? Why are you so pale? Why are you so tired? Who is this person?
 
It’s harder, too, if you’re a woman. (Copy and paste this sentence and stick it into any article you like, it’ll work.) 
 
The standard pressures from the advertising industry have only ramped up as we’ve turned away from traditional media, insinuating their way into social media under the same guise of aspirational content, but this time smiling with the face of a friend. Youtube and Instagram stars draw you in with viral content and enviable abs, promising you that if you drink the juice, do the workout routine, learn how to use a hairdryer with perfect salon technique (and if you’re finding it difficult this new product makes it SO much easier, use my code for a 15 percent discount!) you can be the best version of yourself you can be. 
 
This is a lie, of course—the goal is not to be you, it’s to be them.  You know this, and know it isn’t what you should think, but you cannot help how you feel. The insecurities burrowing deep under your skin and planting the desire to be someone else don’t even have to be internally consistent. 
 
Being a woman means you can stand in front of a mirror and simultaneously be upset that you’re not as skinny as a sportswear model and as curvaceous as a 1950s pinup girl. Your phone is filled with updates from the lives of beautiful women you do not know. Flick to the next image in your feed, past the girl with the Photoshopped manicure (perhaps in reality, her nails, like yours, are bitten down). The next post is about self-care. There’s a link to buy bath oils in the description.
 
On social media sites such as Instagram and Pinterest, pictures exhorting us to set aside an evening to relax sit alongside images of gorgeous people we will never look like (but will spend hundreds of dollars and hours trying to emulate), images of locations we will never travel to (but will keep for years on our bucket lists), images of top 10 tips from successful entrepreneurs (whose life advantages and luck cannot be guaranteed, but who we will continue to hold up as experts in how they attained their position in life). 
 
Ironically, in telling us to take the pressure off ourselves, self-care discourse can feel as though it’s doing the exact opposite—adding “taking care of our mental health” as yet another task to put onto our plates, alongside finding a fulfilling, well-paid career, doing overtime to prove our worth, networking to maximize our chance of success, getting to the gym five times a week, finding the perfect skincare routine, practicing an interesting and resume-friendly hobby, seeing friends in a variety of glamorous locales, finding a partner, and creating an original yet classic décor theme for our homes. 
 
If it’s too hard, and you need something easier for a little bit, you are invited to seek solace in consumption. Watch Netflix, watch Amazon Prime—put a little more change in the pocket of the world’s richest man, in exchange for a couple of hours’ distraction. Get delivery food from an app that uses poorly-paid “independent contractors”, the bulk of them time-poor, cash-poor millennials like you. Squash down the wave of guilt—guilt at spending too much money, at using services you don’t support, at ordering the chicken when you swore you’d go vegan months ago. You’re feeling constantly guilty about something or other anyway, so one more thing to feel guilty about barely registers. After eating, you curl up on the couch, hugging your knees with your arms, small. You are taking up the most minimal space; even in our darker moments, we feel a need to exist in the most efficient way possible.
 
Why are these feelings familiar to so many of us, yet we feel so alone? We are atomized, individualized, struggling under the same system but struggling inwardly and separately. Self-care slots in neatly with capitalism, treating mental ill-health as an individual problem divorced from material and political context, to be solved by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and maybe spending a little money on the way. We are invited to draw inwards, shut our curtains; pull ourselves into movies and food and warm water and blankets as a means of escaping our problems without solving them. We are encouraged to “reach out” to others, if we feel able to, but our relationships to others in the language of self-care appears to be as mutual conduits for pressure relief; “reaching out” always seems to mean drawing someone into the blanket with you rather than throwing the blanket off.
 
<snip>
 
But what if there was an alternative? What if you didn’t have to worry about your insurance covering a therapist, because everyone had universal coverage? What if you weren’t exhausted from balancing your job and your family, because you had affordable daycare, decent parental leave, and six weeks’ paid vacation? What if you didn’t have to spend every waking moment optimizing yourself for the job market, because we had built an economy that did not put disproportionate power in the hands of employers? 
 
What if we stopped thinking of ourselves as being constantly in competition with each other, because we realized it was more a source of misery than success? What if we didn’t feel a nagging sense of doom every time we looked at the news, because we were actually on the road to making things better? What if we built something different? What if we did it together?
 
All of us need to take pleasure in things we enjoy. It’s important to take care of our needs and smell flowers and eat cheesecake. But if our deeper anxieties are at least in part caused by our conditions, then maybe our solution lies in fixing our conditions. 
 
Instead of commiserating with coworkers on a poor working environment, imagine organizing with them. Imagine connecting with other people in your community over things that matter to all of you; whether that’s saving a treasured park or bringing attention to a local crisis. Going door-to-door, meeting people you’ve been living next to this whole time, hearing their voices, hearing your collective voice get a little louder every time someone joins you. Imagine what putting faith in solidarity could do at a local level, or a national level. How would it feel to take back power, to have agency? Developing bonds with people over something that matters can be electrifying, and of course if you win, that’s a real change to the world you live in, for you and the people around you! 
 
Even if you don’t win, all is not lost, because you created a possibility—the possibility that future victories might come, that other people might be inspired by what you did, that you could return to try again, that there’s a better thing to be created. Most importantly of all, there’s hope, perhaps the most powerful force in life. No bubble bath can give us that. Maybe that’s a gift we give ourselves.
 
[end excerpts]
 
The article is online at:
 
Ken Pope
 
PSYCHOLOGY, ETHICS, & HUMAN RIGHTS—EUROPEAN PSYCHOLOGIST, PUBLISHED ONLINE NOVEMBER 19, 2018
THE AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OUTSOURCES ADJUDICATION OF ETHICS COMPLAINTS: 
5 FAR-REACHING CONSEQUENCES (PREPRINT)
POPE & VASQUEZ:  ETHICS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY AND COUNSELING: A PRACTICAL GUIDE (5th EDITION)—John Wiley & Sons
Print—Kindle—Nook—eBook—Apple iBook—Google Book
 
“I’ve coined the word stressism to describe the current belief that the tensions of contemporary life are primarily individual lifestyle problems to be solved through managing stress, as opposed to the belief that these tensions are linked to social forces and need to be resolved primarily through social and political means. Analysis of stressism brings into sharp focus significant polarities in Western thought, principally the sharp divisions between mind and body, health and illness, public and private, social responsibility and individual self-actualization. Examining stress brings to light many of our cherished cultural preoccupations and predispositions, exposing existing tensions and inequities related to class and gender; and our increasing dependence on stress to explain our lives has consequences for the way we see ourselves and the world, the way we act, and the world we create as a consequence of that vision and those actions.”
—Dana Becker in One Nation Under Stress: The Trouble with Stress as an Idea

M. Jackson Group Update – January 2019 – Getting Fit

Happy New Year!!
 
This month’s post is again from Ken Pope’s listserv, where he kindly provides daily summaries of current articles in the field.  His post is as follows:
 
For those (including your clients) looking for New Year’s resolutions or ways to begin today doing mre good things for health, the suggestions in this article (“The perfect ways to get fit – in 20 seconds, an hour or six months—Making time for exercise can be difficult because of work, family commitments or cost. Here’s how to squeeze it in, whatever your schedule” by Poppy Noor) in the UK Guardian may be helpful. Ken
 
Here are some excerpts:
 
[begin excerpts]

Thirty seconds

Planking engages a number of muscles in the shoulders, back and stomach. Achieving a non-stop 30-second plank is harder than it looks, but planking helps to build a stronger core and improve posture and even flexibility. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so planking can help you to burn more calories even when you are not working out.
A woman planking in a gym
 Planking will help you build a stronger core. Photograph: Undrey/Getty Images/iStockphoto
<snip>

One minute

Sprinting for as little as a minute each day can reduce body fat, build muscle and increase the rate at which your body burns calories while resting. Marathon runners regularly incorporate short bursts of sprinting into training, as in the Swedish technique fartlek, because it drastically improves speed and cardiovascular fitness so that people can exercise longer. Sprints should be broken into 20-second bursts, so that you are working flat out. One study of obese men showed that they improved leg power and oxygen uptake in only two weeks.

Another found that one minute of sprint interval training, three times a week, had the same health benefits as 50 minutes of continuous moderate exercise, despite a five-fold lower time commitment (when taking into account the warm-up and cool-down). It is also one of the best abdominal workouts you can do – raising your leg at the 45-degree angle required for a proper sprint is equivalent to doing a crunch, and sprinters repeat this movement about 60 times in a 100-metre sprint.

Three minutes

If your goal is to one day do a pull up, starting with your grip strength could be an idea, because it is what determines whether you fall off the bar. “There’s nothing to stop you from picking up dumbells and going for a walk,” says Kamb. He suggests carrying them like suitcases at your side, an exercise known as “the farmer carry”. 

<snip>

Four minutes

A four-minute workout could help you to silence the voice in your head that says: “I don’t want to work out.” Tabata workouts are made up of 20-second intervals of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times, totalling four minutes. “Often when people miss one workout, they feel they’ve lost all their gains. Tabata keeps up momentum and will sustain your muscle growth even when you can’t make it to the gym,” says Kamb.
 

Raising your leg at the 45-degree angle required for a proper sprint is equivalent to doing a crunch

Five minutes

Get ready for tomorrow’s workout tonight. “Put your alarm clock against the other side of the room, a glass of water by your bed, sleep in your gym kit and put your shoes by your bed,” says Kamb. His reasoning? Everyone wants to be as lazy as possible when it comes to exercising – if you are already in your workout clothes when you wake up, you have eliminated a major hurdle.

Ten minutes

Advertisement
Take the stairs – it is great for you. Research shows that stair-climbing improves cardiovascular health and fitness, reduces “bad” cholesterol and can result in moderate weight loss. “You are raising your weight against gravity. Even going slowly, it’s as intense as jogging,” says Dr Frank Eves, a senior research fellow in sport, exercise and rehabilitation sciences at the University of Birmingham. “Climbing four flights of stairs will get your heart rate working at up to 80% of its maximum capacity. When you’re feeling breathless, surprisingly, it’s because your muscles just got a little bit fitter. Do that regularly and you’ll start to see bigger increases.”
But make sure you walk up – not down, he says: “We did a study where we put signs up saying ‘Take the stairs’ – but people just walked down. That defeats the point – climbing stairs is two to three times more strenuous.” Research has shown the health benefits for sedentary people of climbing 13 floors a day. Eves suggests spreading them throughout the day, at home or in coffee breaks at work.

Thirty minutes

Get off the bus or train a stop early and walk home. Researchers from Sheffield Hallam university looked into the benefits of walking for 30 minutes a day in three 10-minute bursts, compared with people fitting in the often recommended 10,000 steps a day. The 3,000-step walkers fared better. The researchers put this down to the intensity of the walks – so make sure your walk home is a brisk one.

Forty-five minutes

“Low-intensity steady state” cardio exercise (Liss) is essentially the opposite of high-intensity interval training (Hiit). It has cardiovascular benefits, as well as increasing and strengthening the legs. The advantange over Hiit is that you can do it for longer.

One hour

Health is as much about what you put in your mouth as it is how you move. Batch-cook your lunches for the coming week if you want to get ahead – when you are not hungry or rushed you will make healthier choices.

Nine weeks

This is enough time to complete the NHS’s Couch to 5K programme for absolute beginner runners. The programme builds up from walking to running 3.1 miles through three structured commitments a week and comes with a great podcast to keep you going.

Sixty-six days

It is often said it takes 21 days to form a habit. In fact, researchers at University College London who studied habit formation found that the average time for behaviour to become automatic was 66 days. 

<snip>

Sixteen weeks

If you can run 5km fairly easily, that is a good base to start training for a half-marathon. Training programmes tend to focus on building up to 13 miles over 12 to 16 weeks. Cancer Research UK has published various training timetables, starting with 20-minute runs. The developers of the Couch to 5K app have also created an app for first-time marathon runners called 26.2 Marathon Trainer.

Six months to one year

If applicable, quit smoking. Your lung capacity is a key part of exercising, as is your heart function and the transportation of oxygen through your blood – all of which are affected by smoking. It may take time – some research says quitters try an average of 30 times before stopping successfully – but it will be worth it. The risk of heart disease halves after a year without smoking and your lung function will improve, too.
 
[end excerpts]
The article is online at:
 
Ken Pope
 
PSYCHOLOGY, ETHICS, & HUMAN RIGHTS—EUROPEAN PSYCHOLOGIST, PUBLISHED ONLINE NOVEMBER 19, 2018
THE AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OUTSOURCES ADJUDICATION OF ETHICS COMPLAINTS: 
5 FAR-REACHING CONSEQUENCES (PREPRINT)
POPE & VASQUEZ:  ETHICS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY AND COUNSELING: A PRACTICAL GUIDE (5th EDITION)—John Wiley & Sons
Print—Kindle—Nook—eBook—Apple iBook—Google Book
 
“To change your life;
-Start immediately
-Do it flamboyantly
-No exceptions”
—William James  (1842-1910)

M. Jackson Group Update – December 2018 – Sex Differences and Autistic Traits

This month’s post is again from Ken Pope’s listserv, where he kindly provides daily summaries of current articles in the field.  His post is as follows:
 
The University of Cambridge issued the following news release:
 
Largest ever study of psychological sex differences and autistic traits 
 
Scientists at the University of Cambridge have completed the world’s largest ever study of typical sex differences and autistic traits.  
 
They tested and confirmed two long-standing psychological theories: the Empathizing-Systemizing theory of sex differences and the Extreme Male Brain theory of autism.
 
Working with the television production company Channel 4, they tested over half a million people, including over 36,000 autistic people.  The results are published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
 
The Empathizing-Systemizing theory predicts that women, on average, will score higher than men on tests of empathy, the ability to recognize what another person is thinking or feeling, and to respond to their state of mind with an appropriate emotion.  Similarly, it predicts that men, on average, will score higher on tests of systemizing, the drive to analyse or build rule-based systems.
 
The Extreme Male Brain theory predicts that autistic people, on average, will show a masculinised shift on these two dimensions: namely, that they will score lower than the typical population on tests of empathy and will score the same as if not higher than the typical population on tests of systemizing.
 
Whereas both theories have been confirmed in previous studies of relatively modest samples, the new findings come from a massive sample of 671,606 people, which included 36,648 autistic people. They were replicated in a second sample of 14,354 people. In this new study, the scientists used very brief 10-item measures of empathy, systemizing, and autistic traits.
 
Using these short measures, the team identified that in the typical population, women, on average, scored higher than men on empathy, and men, on average, scored higher than women on systemizing and autistic traits. These sex differences were reduced in autistic people. On all these measures, autistic people’s scores, on average, were ‘masculinized’: that is, they had higher scores on systemizing and autistic traits and lower scores on empathy, compared to the typical population.
 
The team also calculated the difference (or ‘d-score’) between each individual’s score on the systemizing and empathy tests. A high d-score means a person’s systemizing is higher than their empathy, and a low d-score means their empathy is higher than their systemizing.
 
They found that in the typical population, men, on average, had a shift towards a high d-score, whereas women, on average, had a shift towards a low d-score. Autistic individuals, on average, had a shift towards an even higher d-score than typical males. Strikingly, d-scores accounted for 19 times more of the variance in autistic traits than other variables, including sex.
 
Finally, men, on average, had higher autistic trait scores than women. Those working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), on average, had higher systemizing and autistic traits scores than those in non-STEM occupations. And conversely, those working in non-STEM occupations, on average, had had higher empathy scores than those working in STEM.
 
In the paper, the authors discuss how it is important to bear in mind that differences observed in this study apply only to group averages, not to individuals. They underline that these data say nothing about an individual based on their gender, autism diagnosis, or occupation. To do that would constitute stereotyping and discrimination, which the authors strongly oppose.
 
Further, the authors reiterate that the two theories are applicable to only two dimensions of typical sex differences: empathy and systemizing. They do not apply to all sex differences, such as aggression, and to extrapolate the theories beyond these two dimensions would be a misinterpretation.
 
Finally, the authors highlight that although autistic people on average struggle with ‘cognitive’ empathy – recognizing other people’s thoughts and feelings – they nevertheless have intact ‘affective’ empathy – they care about others. It is a common misunderstanding that autistic people struggle with all forms of empathy, which is untrue.
 
Dr Varun Warrier, from the Cambridge team, said: “These sex differences in the typical population are very clear. We know from related studies that individual differences in empathy and systemizing are partly genetic, partly influenced by our prenatal hormonal exposure, and partly due to environmental experience. We need to investigate the extent to which these observed sex differences are due to each of these factors, and how these interact.”
 
Dr David Greenberg, from the Cambridge team, said: “Big data is important to draw conclusions that are replicable and robust. This is an example of how scientists can work with the media to achieve big data science.”
 
Dr Carrie Allison, from the Cambridge team, said: “We are grateful to both the general public and to the autism community for participating in this research. The next step must be to consider the relevance of these findings for education, and support where needed.”
 
Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge who proposed these two theories nearly two decades ago, said: “This research provides strong support for both theories. This study also pinpoints some of the qualities autistic people bring to neurodiversity. They are, on average, strong systemizers, meaning they have excellent pattern-recognition skills, excellent attention to detail, and an aptitude in understanding how things work. We must support their talents so they achieve their potential – and society benefits too.”
 
Ken Pope
 
PSYCHOLOGY’S CONTINUING ETHICS CRISIS—REVISED, UPDATED, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION
THE AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OUTSOURCES ADJUDICATION OF ETHICS COMPLAINTS: 
5 FAR-REACHING CONSEQUENCES (PREPRINT)
POPE & VASQUEZ:  ETHICS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY AND COUNSELING: A PRACTICAL GUIDE (5th EDITION)—John Wiley & Sons
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“When the bird and the book disagree, always believe the bird.”
—James Audubon (1785-1851)

M. Jackson Group Update – November 2018 – Can’t Stop Worrying

This month’s post is again from British Psychological Society Research Digest. 

The reasons why, once we start worrying, some of us just can’t stop

By Christian Jarrett

A certain amount of worrying is a normal part of life, especially these days with barely a moment passing without a disconcerting headline landing in your news feed. But for some people, their worrying reaches pathological levels. They just can’t stop wondering “What if …?”. It becomes distressing and feels out of control. In the formal jargon, they would likely be diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, but excessive worrying is also a part of other conditions like panic disorder. There are many factors that contribute to anxiety problems in general, but a new review in Biological Psychology homes in on the cognitive and emotional factors that specifically contribute to prolonged bouts of worry. Its take-home points make an interesting read for anyone who considers themselves a worrier; and for therapists, the review highlights some approaches to help anxious clients get a hold of their excessive worrying.

The review authors, Graham Davey and Frances Meeten at the University of Sussex and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, explain that what gets many pathological worriers worrying in the first place is that they seem to be highly vigilant to any sources of threat and danger, and if there’s any ambiguity about whether a situation is threatening or not, they will tend to interpret it as being dangerous. If they haven’t yet heard from their daughter today, for instance, the problem worrier will not only notice this fact, they will also contemplate that it’s because she’s in trouble, rather than simply busy.

Studies have shown the causal role that these attentional biases seem to have by testing what happens when people are trained instead to pay more attention to positive aspects of situations, or to interpret ambiguous situations more positively. Asked to spend time after the training sitting quietly, focused on their breathing, worriers who’ve had the training report fewer intrusive worries compared with control participants.

Once a worry bout kicks in, one of the things that keeps it going in problem worriers is their deep held belief that worry is actually a good thing. This doesn’t make much sense at first. How can excessive worriers think worry is good when they find it so distressing? But while they find the worrying distressing and upsetting, and it feels out of control, research shows they also believe that it can help prevent bad things from happening, that it will help them be prepared for bad outcomes, and that it aids problem solving.

Related to this, problem worriers tend to have a kind of perfectionist approach to worrying. They think they can’t stop worrying until they’ve finished, in the sense of working through every eventuality and solving every problem. Less anxious people, in contrast, will tend to follow a principle of stopping worrying once they don’t feel like it anymore. Teaching pathological worriers to change their approach, to learn to stop worrying once they had enough of it, has been shown to prevent them from getting stuck in such long worry bouts.

Another key factor is low mood. Problem worriers tend to experience more negative moods, which are known to encourage a more analytical thinking style. In turn, this lays the ground for an overly zealous, perfectionist worry style that is in a sense impossible satisfy and leads to more distress and anxiety. Pathological worriers also tend to use their ongoing negative mood as a barometer for whether their worrying has been successful. The fact that they still feel down and anxious tells them that they’ve yet to anticipate or prepare for every disconcerting eventuality. Using “mood as information” in this way creates a kind of cognitive and emotional trap that propagates yet more worry.

You should seek professional help if you feel your worrying is becoming a problem, but the review offers some simple take-aways for breaking out of occasional uncontrolled worry bouts or preventing them happening in the first place. Because of the way that negative moods contribute to the perseveration of worry bouts, for instance, simply trying to combat a generally low mood is likely to help. This may be easier said that done, but if you can lift your mood (for example through going for regular walks), the evidence suggests a knock-on benefit will be less prolonged worrying.

It sounds ridiculously simple, but also thinking about the idea of stopping worrying when you’ve had enough of it, rather than when the worrying is somehow “finished” or “complete”, could be beneficial. In fact, earlier research has shown that merely learning about the cognitive and emotional factors that feed excessive worry can help some people.

From a therapeutic perspective, the review suggests that attentional training programmes (including “cognitive bias modification“) are likely to help prevent worry bouts from starting in the first place. Therapists could also consider engaging with anxious clients’ explicit beliefs about worrying, such as that it can prevent bad things happening or that they need to continue worrying until they’ve covered all the issues. Meanwhile, acceptance- or mindfulness-based approaches could help alleviate clients’ distress about worry, which in turn would help reduce the part that negative mood plays in prolonging a worry bout. As for where our deep-seated and sometime unhelpful beliefs about worry come from in the first place, Davey and Meeten said this is something awaiting further research.

The perseverative worry bout: A review of cognitive, affective and motivational factors that contribute to worry perseveration

Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest

M. Jackson Group Update – October 2018 – Managing Chronic Pain

This month’s post is again from Ken Pope’s listserv, where he kindly provides daily summaries of current articles in the field.  His post is as follows:
 
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality released an article: “Noninvasive Nonpharmacological Treatment for Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review.”
 
The authors are  Skelly AC, Chou R, Dettori JR, Turner JA, Friedly JL, Rundell SD, Fu R, Brodt ED, Wasson N, Winter C, Ferguson AJR.
 
Here are some excerpts:
 
[begin excerpts]
 
Using predefined criteria, we selected randomized controlled trials of noninvasive nonpharmacological treatments for five common chronic pain conditions (chronic low back pain; chronic neck pain; osteoarthritis of the knee, hip, or hand; fibromyalgia; and tension headache) that addressed efficacy or harms compared with usual care, no treatment, waitlist, placebo, or sham intervention; compared with pharmacological therapy; or compared with exercise. 
 
Study quality was assessed, data extracted, and results summarized for function and pain.  Only trials reporting results for at least 1 month post-intervention were included. 
 
We focused on the persistence of effects at short term (1 to <6 months following treatment completion), intermediate term (≥6 to <12 months), and long term (≥12 months).
 
<snip>
 
Chronic low back pain: At short term, massage, yoga, and psychological therapies (primarily CBT) (strength of evidence [SOE]: moderate) and exercise, acupuncture, spinal manipulation, and multidisciplinary rehabilitation (SOE: low) were associated with slight improvements in function compared with usual care or inactive controls. Except for spinal manipulation, these interventions also improved pain.
 
Effects on intermediate-term function were sustained for yoga, spinal manipulation, multidisciplinary rehabilitation (SOE: low), and psychological therapies (SOE: moderate). Improvements in pain continued into intermediate term for exercise, massage, and yoga (moderate effect, SOE: low); mindfulness-based stress reduction (small effect, SOE: low); spinal manipulation, psychological therapies, and multidisciplinary rehabilitation (small effects, SOE: moderate). For acupuncture, there was no difference in pain at intermediate term, but a slight improvement at long term (SOE: low). 
 
Psychological therapies were associated with slightly greater improvement than usual care or an attention control on both function and pain at short-term, intermediate-term, and long-term followup (SOE: moderate). At short and intermediate term, multidisciplinary rehabilitation slightly improved pain compared with exercise (SOE: moderate). 
 
<snip>
 
Chronic neck pain: At short and intermediate terms, acupuncture and Alexander Technique were associated with slightly improved function compared with usual care (both interventions), sham acupuncture, or sham laser (SOE: low), but no improvement in pain was seen at any time (SOE: llow). Short-term low-level laser therapy was associated with moderate improvement in function and pain (SOE: moderate). Combination exercise (any 3 of the following: muscle performance, mobility, muscle re-education, aerobic) demonstrated a slight improvement in pain and function short and long term….
 
<snip>
 
For knee osteoarthritis, exercise and ultrasound demonstrated small short-term improvements in function compared with usual care, an attention control, or sham procedure (SOE: moderate for exercise, low for ultrasound), which persisted into the intermediate term only for exercise (SOE: low). Exercise was also associated with moderate improvement in pain (SOE: low). Long term, the small improvement in function seen with exercise persisted, but there was no clear effect on pain (SOE: low). Evidence was sparse on interventions for hip and hand osteoarthritis. Exercise for hip osteoarthritis was associated with slightly greater function and pain improvement than usual care short term (SOE: low). 
 
<snip>
 
Fibromyalgia: In the short term, acupuncture (SOE: moderate), CBT, tai chi, qigong, and exercise (SOE: low) were associated with slight improvements in function compared with an attention control, sham, no treatment, or usual care. Exercise (SOE: moderate) and CBT improved pain slightly, and tai chi and qigong (SOE: low) improved pain moderately in the short term. At intermediate term for exercise (SOE: moderate), acupuncture, and CBT (SOE: low), slight functional improvements persisted; they were also seen for myofascial release massage and multidisciplinary rehabilitation (SOE: low); pain was improved slightly with multidisciplinary rehabilitation in the intermediate term (SOE: low). In the long term, small improvements in function continued for multidisciplinary rehabilitation but not for exercise or massage (SOE: low for all); massage (SOE: low) improved long-term pain slightly, but no clear impact on pain for exercise (SOE: moderate) or multidisciplinary rehabilitation (SOE: low) was seen. 
 
<snip>
 
Chronic tension headache: Evidence was sparse and the majority of trials were of poor quality. Spinal manipulation slightly improved function and moderately improved pain short term versus usual care, and laser acupuncture was associated with slight pain improvement short term compared with sham (SOE: low).
 
<snip>
 
Conclusions. Exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, CBT, and mind-body practices were most consistently associated with durable slight to moderate improvements in function and pain for specific chronic pain conditions. 
 
Our findings provided some support for clinical strategies that focused on use of nonpharmacological therapies for specific chronic pain conditions. 
[end excerpts]
 
The article is online at:
 
Ken Pope
 
POPE: THE AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OUTSOURCES ADJUDICATION OF ETHICS COMPLAINTS—5 FAR-REACHING CONSEQUENCES
POPE: APA’S CONTINUING HUMAN RIGHTS & ETHICS CRISIS—ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY, UNDERSTANDING CAUSES, IMPLEMENTING SOLUTIONS—European Psychologist—In Press—Updated & Revised July 2018
 
POPE & VASQUEZ:  ETHICS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY AND COUNSELING: A PRACTICAL GUIDE (5th EDITION)—John Wiley & Sons
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“The greatest weakness of most humans is their hesitancy to tell others how much they love them while they’re still alive.”  
—O.A. Battista (1917-1995)

M. Jackson Group Update – September 2018 – 5 Things to do When You Feel Overwhelmed

This month’s post is again from Ken Pope’s listserv, where he kindly provides daily summaries of current articles in the field.  His post is as follows:
 
Harvard Business Review includes an article: “5 Things to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed” by Alice Boyes.
 
Here are some excerpts:
 
[begin excerpts]
 
Do your to-do lists stretch on and on — and on? Do you dread checking email on Friday afternoons, worried about seeing messages piling up when you’re just trying to get out the door? 
 
<snip>
 
You might feel anxious that you’re not working during times that are incompatible with working, like when you’re buckling your child into their car seat or you’re stuck in traffic. You may even feel anxious about the project you’re not working on when you’re busy plugging away on something else.
 
If you have moments of feeling overwhelmed by your workload, here are some suggestions to try.  Not all of these will be right for everyone, so pick what you think will help you. 
 
But always, always start with taking slow breaths (it’s better to focus on slow rather than deep breathing). Slow breathing helps you stop panicking and take a more long-term focus as it activates the brain’s prepare-and-plan mindset. If you focus on breathing out like you’re blowing up a balloon slowly, your breath in with naturally regulate itself.
 
Practice your acceptance skills with healthy self-talk
 
The best self-talk helps you feel calmer and in control. It combines self-compassion and appropriate responsibility-taking (not too much, not too little). Feeling excessively responsible is associated with a vulnerability to worry. Experiment with different types of self-talk and see what works best for you. 
 
As a kickoff, you might try:
“Even though I have many things to do, I can only focus on the one thing I’m doing right now. I’ll feel better if I do that.” 
 
“I would prefer to be able to get more done in a day, but I’m going to accept what I’m realistically able to do.” (This phrase utilizes a common cognitive-behavioral therapy technique where it’s recommended people swap out their “shoulds” for “prefer” or “could” in order to relieve anxiety and feel more empowered). 
 
I like the mantra “What’s the best action to take right now?” to remind me that ruminating about the past or worrying about the future interferes with optimal focusing and prioritizing. 
 
<snip>
 
Track your time to give yourself an accurate baseline
 
There’s some evidence from research comparing time tracking data to self-reports that people who say they work very long hours are generally overestimating. Large-scale research indicates that the proportion of people working over 60 hours per week is quite small, at around 6%. If you’re saying to yourself “I work 70 hours a week” your brain will react as if that were true, even if it’s an exaggeration.
 
How does this thinking error arise? Sometimes our brains jump to conclusions based on our emotions. When you feel anxious about work, your brain will overestimate how much you’re working, which in turn makes you feel more anxious and sets up a self-perpetuating cycle. When your perception of your workload is dramatically overblown, the situation feels hopeless, which will likely leave you feeling depressed as well as anxious and you’ll become avoidant.  You won’t take the practical steps you could to address your situation. If you’re making this estimation error, don’t take it too personally. This is a pervasive general pattern and not a personal flaw.
 
Try tracking your time for a single week. There are online tools for this, but you can also use a spreadsheet or just a notebook. Track your time without actively attempting to change your behavior. Your behavior will naturally shift in positive directions due to monitoring, so there’s no need to force it, at least initially.
 
<snip>
 
Limit brief work-related activities during non-work time, like checking your phone or firing off a quick email. 
 
Objectively these activities may only take a few minutes, but this pattern can feel like it consumes more time than it actually does, so curb these behaviors.
 
The flip side is that small bursts of meaningful non-work activities can help your life feel more balanced. For example, if I crouch down and look my two-year old in the eye when we’re having a moment together, those seconds give me a sense I’m doing more quality parenting, even though it’s a few minutes here and there. Five minutes of uninterrupted conversation feels more meaningful than 10 minutes of scattered attention.
 
Check your assumptions about other people’s expectations
 
We often self-generate rules we expect ourselves to follow. For example, “I need to reply to Sandra more quickly than she generally replies to me.” Or, “I need to reply to any email within the day.” Consider that when people take a while to respond, it sends the signal that they’re busy and prioritizing, and may lead to other people respecting their time to a greater extent.
 
One of my pet peeves is receiving “to do” emails on Friday afternoons — my fear is that if I don’t complete whatever is needed over the weekend, the early part of the following week will fill up and the person who emailed me will be left waiting for me to finish whatever it is I need to do. However, it’s worth considering that whoever contacted you as they were running out the door from work might not want a response during the weekend. Replying immediately to after-hours emails contributes to the always-on cycle for everyone.
 
Practice not responding to messages outside of business hours. Most people will get the message, and may appreciate you helping them with their own boundaries. When you limit your replies to business hours you’re more likely to consider where replying fits into your overall priorities than if your pattern is to jump to attention at any hour of the day upon receiving emails. Clarify expectations with others. Instead of assuming that your boss needs something done immediately, why not ask her when she needs it by? Let people know when you’ll get back to them. If something will realistically take you two weeks to get to, just say so. 
 
Examine your assumptions about what success requires
 
On a similar theme, you might also be self-generating faulty thoughts about what it takes to be successful in your field.  Perfectionistic assumptions like, “To succeed I need to work harder than everyone else” become especially problematic when you’re rising through the ranks in a competitive industry and you’re in a group of other overachievers. 
 
Here’s the tricky part about identifying your problem thoughts: our assumptions and self-generated rules are often implicit. When you’re feeling miserable or blocked, that’s a great time to hunt down any hidden assumptions that are contributing to that.
 
[end excerpts]
 
The article is online at:
 
Ken Pope
 
POPE: THE AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OUTSOURCES ADJUDICATION OF ETHICS COMPLAINTS—5 FAR-REACHING CONSEQUENCES
POPE: APA’S CONTINUING HUMAN RIGHTS & ETHICS CRISIS—ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY, UNDERSTANDING CAUSES, IMPLEMENTING SOLUTIONS—European Psychologist—In Press—Updated & Revised 
 
POPE & VASQUEZ:  ETHICS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY AND COUNSELING: A PRACTICAL GUIDE (5th EDITION)—John Wiley & Sons
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“I believe you are your work.  Don’t trade the stuff of your life—time—for nothing more than dollars.  That’s a rotten bargain.”
—Rita Mae Brown

M. Jackson Group Update – August 2018 – Intelligence Overconfidence

This month’s post is again from Ken Pope’s listserv, where he kindly provides daily summaries of current articles in the field.  His post is as follows:

PLoS ONE includes an article: “65% of Americans believe they are above average in intelligence: Results of two nationally representative surveys.”

 
The authors are Patrick R. Heck, Daniel J. Simons, & Christopher F. Chabris.
 
Here’s how it opens:
 
[begin excerpt]
 
The statement that a majority of people claim to be more intelligent than average is literally a textbook example of overconfidence and self-enhancement [1–6]. Here we ask whether such “intelligence overconfidence” is reliably found in large samples weighted to be nationally representative, differs by method of data collection (telephone or online), and varies according to demographic factors including sex, age, and race/ethnicity. The answers to these questions will help solidify the evidence base for popular claims in psychology and contribute to research on self-perceptions, overconfidence, and intelligence.
 
Most demonstrations of the “smarter than average” effect are conducted using convenience samples, a method that raises concerns about generalizability [7,8]. Some studies have improved upon convenience sampling by collecting nationally representative survey data from college [9] and high school [10] students to measure change in self-positivity and narcissism over time. However, student populations suffer the limitations of failing to represent older and less-educated people, differing from the general population in income, race/ethnicity, and sex, and potentially having difficulty imagining the “average person” outside of a university environment.
 
Sampling from a more representative source of participants can overcome these limitations. Applying probability weighting to the sample can then account for over- and under-sampling of demographic groups. Some representative surveys of people’s beliefs about their own intelligence have been reported in the media [11,12]. However, these reports do not include important methodological details like sample sizes, weighting schemes, and inferential statistics. The only published study of a nationally representative sample of Americans reporting overconfident beliefs about relative intelligence was conducted over 50 years ago [13]. For these reasons, we decided to examine the pattern of intelligence overconfidence in the present U.S. population. From two large samples weighted to be nationally representative, drawn using distinct polling methods (telephone and online), with the second constituting a replication of the first, we report the proportions of Americans who agreed with the statement, “I am more intelligent than the average person”.
 
Although self-enhancement and overconfidence have been demonstrated across a broad range of traits [14,15], we chose to focus on the specific trait of intelligence because of its practical and theoretical importance.
 
[end excerpt]
 
Here’s how the Discussion section opens: “Two surveys, weighted to be nationally representative (total N = 2,821), found that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that they are more intelligent than average. The survey methods (telephone, online) yielded similar overall agreement rates after weighting responses to match the U.S. population in sex, age, and race/ethnicity. In both surveys, men were more likely to express confidence in their intelligence than were women, and younger people were somewhat more likely to agree with the claim than older people.”
 
Here’s how it ends: “ We conclude that Americans’ self-flattering beliefs about intelligence are alive and well several decades after their discovery was first reported. Our results update the textbook phenomenon of intelligence overconfidence by (1) replicating the effect using large, representative, contemporary samples and two distinct survey methods, (2) demonstrating a degree of calibration across levels of education, and (3) showing moderation based on sex and age. The endurance of the smarter-than-average effect is consistent with the possibility that a tendency to overrate one’s own abilities is a stable feature of human psychology.”
The article is online at:
 
Ken Pope
 
POPE: THE AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OUTSOURCES ADJUDICATION OF ETHICS COMPLAINTS—5 FAR-REACHING CONSEQUENCES
POPE: APA’S CONTINUING HUMAN RIGHTS & ETHICS CRISIS—ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY, UNDERSTANDING CAUSES, IMPLEMENTING SOLUTIONS—European Psychologist—In Press—Updated & Revised July 2018
 
POPE & VASQUEZ:  ETHICS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY AND COUNSELING: A PRACTICAL GUIDE (5th EDITION)—John Wiley & Sons
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“It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English — up to fifty words used in correct context — no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.” 
—Carl Sagan 

M. Jackson Group Update – July 2018 – Review of Antidepressant Medications

This month’s post is again from Ken Pope’s listserv, where he kindly provides daily summaries of current articles in the field.  His post is as follows:
 
Lancet includes an article: “Comparative efficacy and acceptability of 21 antidepressant drugs for the acute treatment of adults with major depressive disorder: a systematic review and network meta-analysis.”
 
The authors are Andrea Cipriani, Prof Toshi A Furukawa, MD†, Georgia Salanti, PhD†, Anna Chaimani, PhD, Lauren Z Atkinson, MSc, Yusuke Ogawa, MD, Prof Stefan Leucht, MD, Henricus G Ruhe, PhD, Erick H Turner, MD, Prof Julian P T Higgins, PhD, Prof Matthias Egger, PhD, Nozomi Takeshima, MD, Yu Hayasaka, MD, Hissei Imai, MD, Kiyomi Shinohara, MD, Aran Tajika, MD, Prof John P A Ioannidis, MD, Prof John R Geddes, MD.
 
AS USUAL, FOR THOSE WHO WOULD LIKE ACCESS TO THIS ARTICLE, I’LL INCLUDE *BOTH*THE AUTHOR’S EMAIL ADDRESS (FOR REQUESTING ELECTRONIC REPRINTS) *AND* A LINK TO THE COMPLETE ARTICLE AT THE END BELOW.
 
Here’s how it opens:
 
[begin excerpt]
 
Psychiatric disorders account for 22·8% of the global burden of diseases.1 The leading cause of this disability is depression, which has substantially increased since 1990, largely driven by population growth and ageing.2 With an estimated 350 million people affected globally, the economic burden of depressive disorders in the USA alone has been estimated to be more than US$210 billion, with approximately 45% attributable to direct costs, 5% to suicide-related costs, and 50% to workplace costs.3 This trend poses a substantial challenge for health systems in both developed and developing countries, with the need to treat patients, optimise resources, and improve overall health care in mental health.
 
Grouped into various classes of drugs with slightly different mechanisms of action, antidepressants are widely used treatments for major depressive disorder, which are available worldwide. However, there is a long-lasting debate and concern about their efficacy and effectiveness, because short-term benefits are, on average, modest; and because long-term balance of benefits and harms is often understudied.4 Therefore, innovation in psychopharmacology is of crucial importance, but the identification of new molecular targets is difficult, primarily because of the paucity of knowledge about how antidepressants work.5 In routine practice, clinicians have a wide choice of individual drugs and they need good evidence to make the best choice for each individual patient. Network meta-analyses of existing datasets make it possible to estimate comparative efficacy, summarise and interpret the wider picture of the evidence base, and to understand the relative merits of the multiple interventions.6 Therefore, in this study, we aimed to do a systematic review and network meta-analysis to inform clinical practice by comparing different antidepressants for the acute treatment of adults with unipolar major depressive disorder.
 
[end excerpt]
 
Here’s an excerpt from the Discussion section:
 
[begin excerpt]
 
We found that all antidepressants included in the meta-analysis were more efficacious than placebo in adults with major depressive disorder and the summary effect sizes were mostly modest. 
 
Some antidepressants, such as escitalopram, mirtazapine, paroxetine, agomelatine, and sertraline had a relatively higher response and lower dropout rate than the other antidepressants. 
 
By contrast, reboxetine, trazodone, and fluvoxamine were associated with generally inferior efficacy and acceptability profiles compared with the other antidepressants, making them less favourable options. To make our results as relevant and robust as possible to inform clinical practice, we decided to focus on head-to-head studies and at the same time emphasise the certainty of the retrieved evidence. Our assessment overall found few differences between antidepressants when all data were considered, while there was more diversity in the range of efficacy and dropout patterns seen across the head-to-head comparisons than the meta-analysis of antidepressants versus placebo.
 
The present findings in adults contrast with the efficacy of antidepressants in children and adolescents, for which fluoxetine is probably the only antidepressant that might reduce depressive symptoms.21 
 
This differential efficacy across age groups might reflect heterogeneous mechanisms and causes of depression,22 smaller number of studies in young people, or different methodological issues affecting adult and paediatric trials.23 
 
The effect sizes were also smaller in more recent and larger placebo-controlled trials than in older and smaller ones, which might be an indicator of bias.
 
[end excerpt]
 
Here’s how the article ends: “The findings from this network meta-analysis represent the most comprehensive currently available evidence base to guide the initial choice about pharmacological treatment for acute major depressive disorder in adults. All statements comparing the merits of one antidepressant with another must be tempered by the potential limitations of the methodology,32the complexity of specific patient populations, and the uncertainties that might result from choice of dose or treatment setting. We hope that these results will assist in shared decision making between patients, carers, and their clinicians.”
REPRINT REQUESTS & OTHER CORRESPONDENCE: mailto:andrea.cipriani@psych.ox.ac.uk
 
The article is online at:
 
Ken Pope
 
POPE & VASQUEZ:  ETHICS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY AND COUNSELING: A PRACTICAL GUIDE (5th EDITION)—John Wiley & Sons
Print—Kindle—Nook—eBook—Apple iBook—Google Book
 
POPE: FIVE STEPS TO STRENGTHEN ETHICS IN ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS: 
EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES INFORMED BY RESEARCH AND HISTORY—Routledge (imprint of Taylor & Francis)
Hardbound—Kindle—Nook—eBook—Google Book
 
POPE: “AWARD ADDRESS: THE CODE NOT TAKEN: THE PATH FROM GUILD ETHICS TO TORTURE AND OUR CONTINUING CHOICES”—
Canadian Psychology/psychologie Canadienne article free online at:
 
“Every sentence that I utter should be regarded by you not as an assertion but as a question.” 
—Niels Bohr, Nobel Prize in Physics (1885-1962) 

M. Jackson Group Update – June 2018 – Pseudoscience

This month’s post is again from Ken Pope’s listserv, where he kindly provides daily summaries of current articles in the field.  His post is as follows:
 
Scott Lilienfeld has written an excellent forward (“Navigating a Post-Truth World: Ten Enduring Lessons from the Study of Pseudoscience”) to an excellent book: Pseudoscience: The Conspiracy Against Scienceedited by Allison B. Kaufman & James C. Kaufman, published by MIT Press (2018).
 
Here’s how the forward opens: “We find ourselves living increasingly in a ‘post-truth’ world, one in which emotions and opinions count for more than well-established findings when it comes to evaluating assertions.  In much of contemporary Western culture, such catchphrases as ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts,’ ‘Everyone is entitled to my opinion,’ and ‘Trust your gut’ capture a troubling reality, namely, that many citizens do not—and in some cases, apparently cannot—adequately distinguish what is true from what they wish to be true.  This overreliance on the ‘affect heuristic,’ the tendency to gauge the truth value of a proposition based on our emotional reactions to it (Slovic, Finucane, Peters, and MacGregor, 2007), frequently leads us to accept dubious assertions that warm the cockles of our hearts, and to reject well-supported assertions that rub us the wrong way.  We are all prone to this error, but one hallmark of an educated person is the capacity to recognize and compensate for it, at least to some degree.”
 
Here are some excerpts from the 10 enduring lessons:
 
[begin excerpt]
 
(1) We are all biased. Yes, that includes you and me.
 
<snip>
 
(2) We are largely unaware of our biases. Research on bias blind spot (Pronin, Lin, and Ross, 2002) demonstrates that most of us can readily identify cognitive biases in just about everyone except for one person—ourselves. As a consequence of this metabias, we often believe ourselves largely immune to serious errors in thinking that afflict others.
 
<snip>
 
(3) Science is a systematic set of safeguards against biases. Despite what most of us learned in high school, there is probably no single “scientific method”—that is, a unitary recipe for conducting science that cuts across all research domains (McComas, 1996). Instead, what we term “science” is almost certainly an exceedingly diverse, but systematic and finely honed, set of tools that humans have developed over the centuries to compensate for our species’ biases (Lilienfeld, 2010). Perhaps foremost among these biases is confirmation bias, the propensity to selectively seek out, selectively interpret, and recall evidence that supports our hypotheses, and to deny, dismiss, and distort evidence that does not (Nickerson, 1998). As social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliott Aronson (2007) have observed, science is a method of arrogance control; it helps to keep us honest. 
 
(4) Scientific thinking does not come naturally to the human species. As many authors have noted, scientific thinking is unnatural (McCauley, 2011). It needs to be acquired and practiced assiduously.
 
<snip>
 
(5) Scientific thinking is exasperatingly domain-specific. Findings in educational psychology suggest that scientific thinking skills generalize slowly, if at all, across different domains. This point probably helps to explain why it is so difficult to teach scientific thinking as a broad skill that can be applied to most or all fields (Willingham, 2007). This sobering truth probably also helps to explain why even many Nobel Prize winners and otherwise brilliant thinkers can easily fall prey to the seductive sway of pseudoscience.
 
<snip>
 
(6) Pseudoscience and science lie on a spectrum. As I noted earlier, there is almost surely no bright line distinguishing pseudoscience from science. Like many pairs of interrelated concepts, such as hill versus mountain and pond versus lake, pseudoscience and science bleed into each other imperceptibly.
 
<snip>
 
Still, as I have pointed out, the fact that there is no categorical distinction between pseudoscience and science does not mean that we cannot differentiate clear-cut exemplars of each concept.
 
(7) Pseudoscience is characterized by a set of fallible, but useful, warning signs.
 
<snip>
 
Such warning signs differ somewhat across authors, but often comprise an absence of self-correction, overuse of ad hoc maneuvers to immunize claims from refutation, use of scientific-sounding but vacuous language, extraordinary claims in the absence of compelling evidence, overreliance on anecdotal and testimonial assertions, avoidance of peer review, and the like (Lilienfeld, Lynn, and Lohr, 2014).  Despite their superficial differences, these warning signs all reflect a failure to compensate for confirmation bias, an overarching characteristic that sets them apart from mature sciences.
 
(8) Pseudoscientific claims differ from erroneous claims.  Intuitively, we all understand that there is a fundamental difference between fake new and false news. The latter is merely incorrect, and typically results from the media getting things wrong.  In contrast, the former is deceptive, often intentionally so. Similarly, many and arguably most assertions in science are surely erroneous, but that does not render them pseudoscientific.
 
<snip>
 
(9) Scientific and pseudoscientific thinking are cut from the same basic psychological cloth. In many respects, this is one of the most profound insights imparted by contemporary psychology.  Heuristics—mental shortcuts or rules of thumb—are immensely valuable in everyday life; without them, we would be psychologically paralyzed.  Furthermore, in most cases, heuristics lead us to approximately correct answers. 
 
<snip>
 
Still, when misapplied, heuristics can lead to mistaken conclusions.  For example, many unsubstantiated complementary and alternative medical remedies draw on the representativeness heuristic as a rationale for their effectiveness (Nisbett, 2015).  Many companies market raw brain concentrate in pill form to enhance memory and mood (Gilovich, 1991).  The reasoning, apparently, is that because psychological difficulties stem from an inadequately functioning brain, “more brain matter” will somehow help the brain to work better.
 
(10) Skepticism differs from cynicism. Skepticism has gotten a bad rap in many quarters, largely because it is commonly confused with cynicism. The term “skeptic” derives from the Greek word “skeptikos,” meaning “to consider carefully” (Shermer, 2002). Skepticism requires us to keep an open mind to new claims but to insist on compelling evidence before granting them provisional acceptance. In this respect, skepticism differs from cynicism, which implies a knee-jerk dismissal of implausible claims before we have had the opportunity to investigate them carefully (Beyerstein, 1995). In fairness, some individuals in the “skeptical movement” have at times blurred this crucial distinction by rejecting assertions out of hand. Skeptics need to be on guard against their propensities toward disconfirmation bias, a variant of confirmation bias in which we reflexively reject assertions that challenge our preconceptions (Edwards and Smith, 1996).
 
[end excerpts]
 
Here’s the publisher’s page for the book:
 
Here’s the Amazon page for the book:
Here’s the Barnes & Noble page for the book:
Ken Pope
 
POPE & VASQUEZ:  ETHICS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY AND COUNSELING: A PRACTICAL GUIDE (5th EDITION)—John Wiley & Sons
Print—Kindle—Nook—eBook—Apple iBook—Google Book
 
POPE: FIVE STEPS TO STRENGTHEN ETHICS IN ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS: 
EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES INFORMED BY RESEARCH AND HISTORY—Routledge (imprint of Taylor & Francis)
Hardbound—Kindle—Nook—eBook—Google Book
 
POPE: “AWARD ADDRESS: THE CODE NOT TAKEN: THE PATH FROM GUILD ETHICS TO TORTURE AND OUR CONTINUING CHOICES”—
Canadian Psychology/psychologie Canadienne article free online at:
 
“Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking.  I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time–when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.”
—Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Random House, 1996, p. 25)