Note: This is my 20th year of presenting these reports, originally in near real-time in daily 'list' posts which were widely subscribed, but increasingly web-based as list-servs gave way to instant texts, interest/Pinterest groups, and whatever flashes across the screen - in this age where attention span, focus, and reasoning are said to rival that of a goldfish. That said, if you are still reading: Enjoy, reflect, discuss, and share. ('Giving psychology away!')
American Psychological Association
126th Annual Convention
San Francisco, California, August 9-12 2018
Here now is a thoughtful and civil discussion, highly relevant in this era of 'alternative facts', mass distraction, and a reality-TV based treatment of mental health, social and privacy issues, circa 2018. This is a first-hand look at a presentation and conversation among APA Presidents and an audience of psychologists, students, and others. NOTE: This report does not represent any official policy, position or opinion of the APA. This is a report on what was said and discussed by panelists and audience; Positions, questions, and concerns, although perhaps widely shared, were their own. Just 'listen' to this sampling of the various talking points and questions being raised, for a flavor of how complex the issue is, when 'duty to warn' and moral imperative collide with rights of privacy, ethical norms, and 'the Goldwater Rule'. Here comes the discussion, 'asynchronously live' from San Francisco, August 2018.
Firstly, we were reminded of the obvious constraints on an organization to be non-partisan, insofar as not making political endorsements. Beyond that, an ethical perspective and sensitivity are especially important in this era where there is much debate about public discourse, 'alternative facts', and questions of constraint in offering 'diagnosis' in the face of what seems to some like circumstances that may invoke a 'duty to warn'.
As psychologists who strive to help people and society, it is our natural inclination to speak out when we see dangerous thinking or to speak up when policies or institutions are deleterious to the mental health of individuals, groups, or communities. Of late there has been much discussion of such concerns, from late-night talk or comedy shows to journalism, 'news' and opinion. There have been several popular books expressing professional opinions as well as many first-hand accounts highlighting cognitive/behavioral and personality issues which may signal a high risk for massive, widespread harm resulting from impulsive or ill-informed actions.
And then there is 'the Goldwater Rule'. Like the sword of Democles, it strikes fear into anyone who would deem to render a 'diagnosis' which might be over-valued, and under-valid without having personally made an evaluation and obtaining informed consent to share 'private health information'. It's the 'd' word: Diagnosis. One dare not be construed as rendering authoritative 'diagnosis' absent an in-person assessment. (Period?) That is context for this discussion, which reflects the larger conversations within the mental health professions as well as society at large. Is the behavior and mental state of a powerful public leader subject to scrutiny when there are widely perceived imminent risks? Many feel there is a 'duty to warn' which carries an obligation to act rather than remain silent, certainly in an unprecedented situation such as this.
APA Presidents: On the Goldwater Rule in the Age of Trump
Free Speech, Media, Duty, Ethics, Science, and Grey Areas
Rule #1: No Politicking.
But discussion of psychology, and the ethical principles of psychiatry and psychology in light of today's world? Is it O.K.? Necessary? A moral responsibility? The rules for the day preclude endorsing a specific candidate or party, though media issues, public policy and its impact are fine. And rule #3: No diagnosing of anyone not personally evaluated.
Dr. Farley made some opening comments, drawing on some words from founding father James Madison ('who Hamilton called the smartest man in the room'):
"Democracy is a source of risk and uncertainty"
Today there is grave concern about the Trump Administration's impact on daily life, extending beyond the individual. Trump's 'facts', actions, and words are the subject of much 'trolling', with all the 'fake news', tweeting, and memes.
"We've heard all sorts of labels... a virtual Niagara of diagnosis." We've also seen an assortment of books about the current state of the White House and its 'executive functioning', many offering 'labels', along with factual records, commentary, and consensus reports.
The books include observations by mental health professionals and others - for example "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" and "Fear".
Meanwhile the DSM 5 [which designates mental diseases by symptom and name] is, as seen by Farley - and many practicing clinicians - "a mess". [This psychologist lost respect for the latest DSM revision after it abandoned the profoundly useful and well-established classification of Asperger Disorder / Syndrome.]
Balanced against the sense of urgency many are feeling, there are calls for caution, as Farley illustrated:
"I do worry a lot about catastrophizing", often one of the central issues in therapy. "It's not so much the problems and the things happening in front of you,
it's your interpretation of them. I worry about tertiary terror, terrorizing people with
second and third ideas and factors,
dispensing panic and
fear mongering; That stuff worries me a lot, and
if there's one discipline in the country that should be cool-headed, calm, reflective, solution-oriented, problem-solving, it should be us.
I would also add, I would like to see more science and scientific features in the national debate. We're not seeing a lot of those. What are some of those?
For one thing journalism has deteriorated into 'opinion journalism', dramatically, in the last few years, not just during the Trump Era.
I just spent several hours the other day watching Fox, then switching to CNN, then back to Fox, et cetera. And it was
astounding - totally opposite viewpoints of essentially the same 'data', if you will."
Over-generalization and other Anti-scientific Trends
"Overgeneralization - that's one of the key ingredients in good science: you don't over-generalize. We see it happen all over the place:
A journalist will walk into a restaurant in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and have breakfast with five or six locals and then be seen on national television reflecting on 'what's happening in Wisconsin'. That is just egregiously bad journalism...."
"Non-replication - shoot from the lips without replicating or finding independent ways to ensure validity....
Considering alternative theories - another thing not being done due to preoccupation with confirmation bias...
Unreliable, invalid assessment - I've already mentioned the DSM5... kappa scores... very flawed science...
Precision of language - We like to have this in science, precise language, not too flowery not too provocative (or evocative) ...
And just the avoidance of all of the biases that people can have... I mentioned confirmation bias, hindsight bias, bias all over the place.
This isn't just about the Trump Era. We've seen it in other areas as well, of public discourse...
Farley wrapped up and introduced past-APA-President, Dr. Nadine Kaslow.
Drs. Philip Zimbardo, Nadine Kaslow, and Frank Farley
Historical Overview: The Goldwater Rule
Dr. Kaslow thanked her fellow presenters, noting that she felt honored and humbled to be sharing the stage with these two luminaries. And she proceeded:
"I have very strong opinions abut the President... I imagine everyone in this room has very strong opinions about the President. What I don't have a strong opinion about is what, as psychologists, we should do about that.... My question is: 'Is there a middle of the road in this conversation?'. Right now I feel torn... "
History, Pros & Cons
Briefly, the origins of the 'Goldwater Rule' date to 1964, when Fact Magazine surveyed members of the ApA if Barry Goldwater was fit to be President. 49% said no...
Historically, it is mostly in the past 2 years that there have been several complaints referring back to the 'Goldwater Rule'. As a preface, it was noted that APA (American Psychological Association) is not ('the other') ApA, the psychiatric association which penned the now-famous 'Goldwater Rule': "APA is not ApA - there is no direct analog for psychology." But that said, both professions adhere to strong ethical and professional standards. And both psychologists and psychiatrists are humans as well, with opinions (informed perhaps) as well as a 'duty to warn' in various circumstances where there is imminent risk of harm to self or others. ('Mandated reporters').
So what about public personas whose 'symptoms' or pathology are self-evident and paraded all over the media, complete with tentative (non-professional) assessments, bearing on cognitive functioning, personality, language use, and reality-testing? Do these matter? Do words matter? Laws? Moral codes? Facts? Should blatant 'evidence' be ignored?
Obligations and Restraints on Public Comments
Pro: Freedom of Speech - A right - and duty
Con: Violates people's right to free speech
Ethics and Protection
"Some say 'Goldwater' confuses etiquette with ethics."
"We only need to maintain the confidentiality of our patients and thus sharing a diagnostic impression and psychological perspective about a political figure who is not our patient is not a violation of our ethical obligation."
"Speaking publicly may embarrass our profession, but that is not necessarily a breach of ethics - the rule does not differentiate between thoughtful and well-researched commentaries and flippant soundbites."
- Kroll & Pouncey, 2016
What about the necessity of personal interview: Are there exceptions?
Here Dr. Kaslow noted that:
- Diagnostic evaluations often involve single in-person interviews in which there may not be the opportunity to gather a full history or access records or gather collateral data, and with the advent of tele mental health, such interviews are not always conducted in person;
- Much diagnosis-related decision-making (e.g., insurance company decisions, expert witnesses in malpractice cases, historical psychobiographers) is made without a personal interview;
Scholars have questioned the assertion that a direct personal examination is a prerequisite for a valid professional opinion and several bodies of literature (related to bias) contradict this argument.
[Ghaemi, 2016; Kroll & Pouncey, 2016; Lilienfeld, 2018]
And what about historical value?
Questions to Ponder
Does 'Goldwater' apply to psychologists? [How?]
Is there an ethical model of resistance?
QU: I'm not a psychologist - but I have a question about diagnosing narcissism - it seems obvious here given how "he constantly makes public tweets"....
FARLEY: "Well, any leader has some narcissism... you can't get there and stay there without it."
QU: But what about malignant narcissism? Malignant media?
QU: Is there a distinction between 'private' opinion and public?... What about APA candidates ... running for office... Should members refrain from commenting?
Kaslow: "I don't think we can have different standards...
Am I always a psychologist? Some argue no, others say yes."
QU: Thank you Nadine, for your clarifications, and reminders of our responsibility not to stigmatize people... I'm from the Wright Institute - founded by Nevitt Sanford, the man who wrote 'The Authoritarian Personality' and developed a scale that was meant to help us understand the mind of fascist behavior...
The concern goes beyond 'Is he a narcissist?' to 'Is he a fascist?'. Authoritarianism vs. narcissism. "The effect that he is having on the country in terms of the division that's taking place is really very concerning to me. And for that reason... I think we have a moral obligation to raise these questions, to try to elucidate as best as possible, what he is doing... So let's think about authoritarianism versus narcissism." [Applause]
Farley: So I'm hearing... 'what are the implications for America?', and that this goes beyond 'slapping diagnoses' on them.
QU: "I'd like to address the idea that we've had ebbs and flows in history, and perhaps we shouldn't get too upset about this.... I was just informed - I'm a dual citizen of Canada [and U.S.] .... that because I'm considered a 'foreign national'... [a friend who joined the army] was not allowed to tell me things, like when he will be deployed. I have to say, it's a very strange sensation to hear that I am now considered by the U.S. government, a foreign national. And the other thing that I'd like to point out is that...
...we have students in Canada, we have professors in Canada, we have psychologists in Canada, that now are under a travel ban to come to the United States. They can't attend this conference, they can't consider internships. There are a number of things that they cannot do because of this current administration
that impact our members directly. This is not a time to stay quiet, this is not a time to minimize.
I find this time disturbing, and something we need to get to!" [Big applause; panel agrees on the need for public awareness and engagement, noting that this a reason for ongoing open dialogue, such as this.]
QU: What are your thoughts on the issue of journalistic integrity (and lack thereof)? Are we condoning it if we don't give voice to objections?
Kaslow: Historically we have shown a willingness to use science and... stand up and speak.
Next up: legendary social psychologist, Philip Zimbardo.
Phil Zimbardo: On the new Orwellian landscape and 'The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump'
"Thank you. I'm Phil Zimbardo. In this session, Frank Farley is playing the role of good cop and I'm playing the role of bad cop.
I've been trying to warn my colleagues, as well as the general public, about the potential dangerousness of Donald Trump for 2 1/2 years." ... But jumping ahead to an amazing event: "In his recent address at a Convention in Kansas City, President Trump defended his decision to slap tariffs on America's trading partners. Trump told the crowd 'it's all working out', and then he warned people in advance against believing what they see in the news. He said, quote:
'What you are seeing and what you are reading is not what's happening.'
Trump's quote recalls a key phrase from Orwell's novel, 1984: 'The party told me to reject the evidence of your eyes and your ears. It was their final, most essential command.'
So here's our President, unknowingly - I assume he never read that - saying the same thing that Orwell warned us against."
Zimbardo mentioned that November 2018 will mark the 40th anniversary of "a massacre - nearly 1000 people, in the jungles of Guyana, at the insistence of the leader, Jim Jones..." ['The Jonestown Massacre'] Zimbardo interviewed survivors, people who had escaped the mass suicide.
"It turns out that Jim Jones modeled his leadership and all of his strategies on Orwell... modeled his horrible dictatorship on Orwell...
And here's our President saying something similar..."
Zimbardo started writing about Trump's dangerousness in
January 2016. In an article for Psychology Today (March 2016) he wrote about Trump's narcissistic personality.
Fast forward to Feb 2017, one month into the Presidency - Zimbardo published an article titled "The Elephant in the Room: It's time to talk openly about Donald Trump's mental health." The article went viral
with a million reads and 300 comments. He followed up with other articles. And then,
" My colleagues and I were asked to write the first chapter for what would become a New York Times best seller...
It's 26 psychiatrists and a few psychologists like me, talking about
'The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump'.
The title of our chapter is:
'Unbridled Extreme Present Hedonism: How the leader of the free world has proven time and time again he is unfit for duty'
So what is 'present hedonism', what is the psychology of time perspective? .... All of us divide our consciousness into time zones. The big ones are past present future..."
Zimbardo developed, in 1999, a valid, reliable scale to assess time perspective along not just the usual 3 dimensions (past/present/future) but on 6 "more subtle" dimensions: past positive and past negative, future positive and negative, and present positive and negative.
[At thetimeparadox.com you can get a score on these 6 dimensions and compare ideal with pathological scores.]
"So we all know what hedonism is in general. It's the pursuit of pleasure before all else.
Present hedonism is not a diagnosis, it's a symptom, a fixation on gratifying the present with no interest in the past or interest in the future.
It has many consequences including impulsivity, pursuing novelty, always seeking new sensations, and an
inability to plan ahead.
That combo typically results in addictions of all kinds.
So young people who are extreme present hedonists are addicted to video games, are addicted to shopping, are addicted to chocolate, are addicted to alcohol, are addicted to smoking...
What is Trump addicted to? Twitter. [laughter]
Donald Trump's tweeting is revelatory:
Since he opened his Twitter account in 2014 he has made more than 38,000 tweets!
Since his inauguration he's made over 5000 tweets, with an average of 13 tweets per day in the past 30 days.
This past weekend, Trump set an all time record on Twitter - 42 tweets in one day and one night.
That means he's sitting hour after hour after hour in the middle of the night, into day,
And this despite his advisors' recommendations to tweet less, because of the embarrassment - some of his tweets don't even make sense, the spelling is wrong, the grammar is wrong,
and now the possible criminal indictment by the Mueller Commission...
Trump can not seem to stop accelerating his tweets. Not only is he not
following their advice, he's going exactly against it.
Focusing on finding pleasure in the present moment isn't bad, it's only bad when it becomes extreme; With extreme present hedonism
you become enslaved to the moment. All decisions are made without regard to whether they have an effect or not.
As mental heath professionals, we have a different take.
The extreme present hedonism precludes planning any grand, realistic strategies.
So it has nothing to do with realism, it has nothing to do with 'will it work out? will it be good?'. It's if you have an idea, and it sounds interesting to you, you just put it out there...
The only problem is if you're the President of the United States, or if you're a leader anywhere in the world, what you say often has direct consequences.
So it's not his strategy, it's his uncontrollable hedonism that dominates all reason.
Extreme present hedonists seldom have patience to build true ability because they have, as you know,
fragile egos. But the likelihood is that he will do and say anything, whatever it takes,
including lying excessively to prevent criticism.
His boldness and larger-than-life defenses can sometimes appeal to those who are powerless, who would like to do the same as him.
And this is his appeal to many Trump followers. The amazing thing is not Trump, it's that
up to 40% of Americans are his 'followers', who believe in Trump.... Who are those people? They resonate with his attempts to feel superior through dehumanizing others and bullying,
behavior that Trump has abundantly displayed when he fired many of his former staff in humiliating ways, criminalizing migrants, caging children, and continually
demonizing the media.
Coupled with a measure of paranoia which is the norm for hedonists...
present hedonism is the most unpredictable and perilous time perspective,
due to its action component.
Here's how it works, very quickly.
Impulsive thoughts leads to impulsive actions that can [cause an extreme present hedonist] to dig in his heels when confronted with the consequences of [his] actions.
You say 'let's do this', you do something, and
now it's not working, it's really disastrous. In normal day-to-day life this impulsiveness
leads to misunderstanding, lying, and typically toxic relationships.
The propensity to dehumanize others in order to feel superior is, again, a marker of present hedonism.
The lack of foresight and lack of compassion is also
a trait of narcissism and bullying.
So the last thing I want to mention is... Here's examples of Trump's extreme present hedonistic behavior.
And again, as one of the people in the audience mentioned, we have ample evidence,
for the last dozen years with all of Trumps' behavior reported in the media, on videos, in many many ways, more than almost any other
person in current times.
He wrote in his book The Art of the Deal,
sometimes part of making a deal is denigrating your competition. Lying.
In addition to winning the election college in a landslide, he said, 'I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally'.
Of 98 factual statements Trump made at a recent rally in Montana
76% were outright lies. In the past 2 years he has made over
4000 documented lies. There's now a web site
to let people track it [And the number grew to over 5000 by October 2018]
So this a man who says anything. It doesn't matter if it's true or not.
Because the main thing he wants to do is get attention. And
no one in modern history, that I know of, has gotten more media attention than Trump...
He won the election, not because of Russia, he won the election because every single day he was on the front page as the lead story on every media.
Trump said, during the election, with a powerful presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, 'Look at that face, would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next President?
I mean, she's a woman and I'm not supposed to say bad things about women, but really folks, come on, are we serious?'
'If you have smart people working for you they'll try to screw you if they think they can do better without you.'
He said that in 2010...
At a recent rally in California he told the audience,
'Look at my African - MY African American over there.' He's saying there's a black guy who supports me... but it's 'MY African-American'.
I'll end with this:
'I'm speaking with myself, #1, because I have a very big brain and
as I've said many times, I am a mentally stable genius.'
The case rests.
FARLEY: As the good cop,,, How do you follow an act like that?
Looking for Policy, Process, and Scientific Method - An expert's thoughts on 'the Thrill seeker'
Again, we all have concerns about President Trump, don't get me wrong. I know I do. I can see things. I've been an observer of behavior for a long time. But I guess my big concern today is... so much has already been said about him, at this conference and before it, all of the descriptors and commentary of this type.... I was
hoping we could get to more of the policy issues. What are we going to do about it? What are the policy issues out there which should be of concern to psychologists?
Do we have positive suggestions for change?
We could go on 'kvetching' about the unusual personality and what some people might view as 'the good, the bad and the ugly in the White House', but....policy issues.,,, That's what I was hoping to get to...
So much of we're talking about is postdiction...
If we have models of personality - the personality of the President - and those models are worth anything, they should allow us to make relatively precise predictions of his behavior in certain situations. I've not seen any of that.
It's all postdiction... You try to cut and paste his behavior onto the theory you have about it, or a label that you have, out of the DSM or ICD, or any other source.
It's not very scientific. Again, it's loaded up with confirmation bias - once you have an idea about the guy then you see how it conforms to that idea, etc.
We need in any of these models of his personality to see some actual hard predictions of what he will do, in 2 weeks, or in 3 weeks, in certain conditions.** That would be good science applied to the national debate." [Isn't that how good social psych experiments go? To Zimbardo's and Kaslow's point: Don't we have AMPLE data already about behavior which may be predictive? What if it's all accurately raising the bigliest red flag in history? Would you put him in a Skinner box?]
My own feeling about the guy is:
He's a public figure, he's been a public figure all his life.
He's a media guy,
he's flashy, and he has many of the qualities that people have mentioned, kind of
impulsive qualities etc. etc.
One of the interesting things is his appeal.
If you look at where he's spent his sort of economic life, it's always in areas that people enjoy:
hotels, golf courses, casinos, beauty pageants.
Think about all of those things....
He's not in the steel business, you know, or the waste management bus - well... But what businesses has he spent his life in? And so he's known to the public in those kinds of ways: Trump Airlines, Trump U, etc, etc., many of which were failures and some were not, but...
A lot of people are wondering why the
latest survey says something like 84% or 82% of Republicans support him. And so those who are not Republican shake their heads and say 'those people must be crazy!'.
Well, they're not crazy in my opinion... We don't know anything about them. And they see something in this guy.
I wasn't actually going to do this, but.... lets do it.
I was asked by USA Today, the newspaper,
to talk about Donald Trump in 1993 [Farley was known for his own 'personality model', specifically his concept of Type-T behavior - thrill-seeking.]
I looked at his
life and times and it seemed
that risk-taking was one quality that showed a lot.
And the entrepreneurial side, the media, the entertainment side, all of that...
You know appearing on television is a risk-taking experience.
One of the top 10 fears of Americans is speaking in public for example.
Getting in front of cameras, particularly if it's live... Well he spent a lifetime doing that kind of stuff, and he's still out there, you know,
'shooting from the lip' etc.
It's a quality you often see in media life.
Let's just go through a quick summary of risk-taking behavior
[It's not only Trump] ... it probably applies to many leaders. In fact it does."
"We've had an amazing history of risk-taking in America.
Some people including myself have said it's the signal
quality of the American Experience.
Taking risks. It's a new world. Etc. ...
It has shown itself in presidents over and over again:
FDR was a risk taker, ... JFK was a risk-taker ... Bill Clinton in his own way. He was born beneath the underdog; the only way he got ahead was taking risks.
When you don't have anything you've got to take risks.
Innovation. Creativity is associated with risk-taking so it's a deep quality in American experience. And I think that in the case of Trump
it's showing a unique expression of this deep quality,
of 'pushing the envelope', of being enamored with change.
Let's just run through some qualities. Not all these apply, but they are typical of risk-takers.
See if you see any pattern here.
Risk takers are enamored with change. If you want to make your name as a politician it's 'Change change change!'
They thrive in the face of uncertainty.
[Uncertainty is one of the biggest causes of fear.]
They just don't have it.
independence of judgment - they like to make up their own mind.
Growth minded - things can change, you're not boxed in.
Fearless. High energy, Shoot from the lip.
Sexual risk taking, that's a big one, How about Bill Clinton, JFK, President Trump...
Untraditional - The whole idea is you're moving into new territory, rejecting the past...
The metaphor I like to use for risk-takers is 'handrails of life':
Some people hold on to handrails.
'If you let go of the handrails, you're on your own kid.'
That's what risk takers do and that's what they thrive on.
Most of the above can be seen in American history, in
several leaders and our heroes.
You may see some of these qualities in the White House in 2018.
Now I'll take questions and then turn to the list of suggested topics."
QU: Isn't this about deep human moral obligations?
"I think focusing on characteristics of a person is risky for psychologists to do - it's about what we can do, and I do go along: this is about moral obligations...
Keep in mind I am the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, so part of my thinking is about the
horror, that what we have to be vigilant about is how people can produce horror by getting
huge followings of people
that are willing to produce horror. And then we have
social psychological studies that suggest that that can happen, even among 'nice people'.
I think in my mind it's about the timing also, of what we do as a professional association. What is the bad act that tells us this person is 'dangerous enough' for us to take that moral position?
So the question that came through my mind:
If we could just for the moment pretend that we were around when Hitler was here,
Would there have been a 'correct position' for something like the American Psychological Association to take, and at what point?
According to my parents, 'at some point' was too late, they could not get out of Germany.
How do you decide at what point a person is harmful?
You know, look at the films, he had huge followings of people.
We've been talking about Trump's following, but...
What's the timing of when you, as a professional association, feel that there's a certain kind of behavior, or a certain kind of action that's taken, that tells you it's going to be too late to act later?
And I'm not saying -
Please don't think I'm saying that Trump is Hitler!
But I'm just saying there's a lot of the same mechanisms or strategies that are used in getting a following or getting a volatile response.
So I guess - Does anybody have any reaction to that?
FARLEY: "It goes to the point of going forward."
QU/Comment: That is a critically important question. Going further. But it raises another question. At what point - as human beings - do we need to speak out? I think that's the question and you addressed it really well. And, can we talk about things without going over the line and losing ethical credibility? I think that's the question we need to grapple with.
"We don't know scientifically when we've reached a tipping point...
APA has taken a lead on addressing policy implications... this is something we can do. With the issues of children separated from parents, etc., there's a lot of psychology coming into play. The more APA and all of us can do about humane issues... very important.
The media... Because this is sponsored by the media psychology division: I have serious problems with the way the media has been handling all of this. They're just awash in contradictions and confusing the American people on all sorts of things. As psychologists and as media psychologists:
We have work to do."
"I want to just add something.
Although there are many unique features of Donald Trump, I think we have to put him into what's happening around the world, a movement to the right.
I recently had a private meeting with Viktor Orbán in Hungary. He was the first person, 3 years ago, to say Hungary is not open to migrants, we're going to put them in prison.
In Turkey, in Egypt, in Venezuela, recently in Poland, recently the Italian government is going right-wing.
And the most that really means, 'creating a difference': We are special, and we want to exclude anybody who's
different... " So woe upon the migrant.
"Essentially it's this sense of 'we want to be great again', and that's where Trump is similar to Hitler. If you remember Hitlers's rise to power was, Germany was
devastated after the first World War and his whole theme was 'We will make Germany great again'. But what he added was, to create the scapegoat:
Jews. 'Jews are holding us back'. He just made up this thing, and he got people to believe it.
I think we should be alarmed as a democratic nation that democracy is beginning to be overturned by extreme right-wing dictators. In many places they have elections
but the majority of people - in Hungary and Poland, in other places - are voting for right wingers....
QU: (Grad student) To me, we're talking reactively, we're all responding, but I'm looking from a preventative standpoint.
Where is our seat at the Trump table? Don't we have a responsibility now that we're aware, to be actively engaged at a political level ... We want to do something but we're so isolated, we're outside. Where do you see us going, in 15 years,
if we don't actually have a place at the White House table?
KASLOW: Your point is great. Increasingly, we do have places at the key tables, and APA is moving actively forward, it has to be done in a non-partisan way, no matter who is in office, in the White House or Congress working on both sides of the aisle... I think what you're raising is, do we hear enough?
How can more people hear about what's happening?
How can people help once they're made aware? Not just the leadership, all of us. How do all of us move forward together, on these policies, and isues??
Here someone most knowledgeable about APA policy priorities and initiatives was invited to respond.
COMMENT - Ellen Garrison, Senior Policy Advisor, APA:
Thank you for raising that issue, and I appreciate your concern. Just to give you one example, which is a heartrending example that's been raised earlier, that of immigration.
The Trump 'No exception policy' is the exact term here. Basically they say that
what we're going to do for deterrence, to not allow immigrants to come into this country is to tell them that if you come we're going to take your children away. There's nothing more shocking or appalling than that.
So what we have been doing at
APA is operating on a number of different levels.
The first is the media...
We've been hitting all the major media outlets, doing press releases, making clear what our concerns are, that are science based.
We realize we are dealing with an
Administration that says 'don't confuse me with the facts, I've already made up my mind'. And their
'alternative facts', quote-unquote - which is really extraordinary when you you think about it.
So we are influencing everyone we can, to get the information out there about how harmful these policies are:
the long term emotional/cognitive impact on children, and their parents.
Parents are being deported while their children are still here. The
conditions that you're hearing about, these facilities for children are appalling.
We're also partnering. We realize we have a strong voice on this issue but we could have a stronger voice if we partner with others.
So for example: the American Academic of Pediatrics. What a great partner. We can
speak about the physical impact on these children and the cognitive/emotional impact.
So we have co-signed letters with them - and the family physicians, and the internists, etc. - to ask for oversight hearings by the
House and Senate. 'What are you doing? What is going on out there?'
[We] asked to visit some of these of facilities... and the pediatricians, their president did gain access after months of trying to do this,
and we are also trying to figure out how we can help.
So we were somewhat startled - it was actually a good thing.
We received an inquiry the other day from the HHS
Inspector General's office. They are also concerned about what's going on in these facilities.
And distinguishing between ICE and HHS, HHS is running the facilities for the children, not the apprehension facilities.
We were asked to come up with some experts to help them decide, 'how do we do site visits?'.
How do we, as people working at HHS said, 'What do we look for? What do we ask?'
So we put together several experts who have actually done these visits, some of our members. We had a phone call, a conference call - I was on that call with them - and we talked about 'What does it mean?
How do you assess children's mental health?
What does it mean to be in a facility that is welcoming, that is not punitive, when
children who have done nothing wrong have come in to this facility?'
So just to give you some ideas,
the other thing which a lot of members
would so appreciate, such as you all... writing us and saying, there are those voices that are saying
'what are you doing?'. You know, we're trying to get the word out.
And the second is, how can we help?
So we just entered into an agreement... an extended partnership ...[working in collaboration] with the Administration for Children and Families at HHS, and we'll be able to work with them, for people who primarily are
bilingual /bicultural in Spanish... [and also] working with staff members who are burning out. They are so stressed out working in these facilities, they need help. How can we provide support to them? How do we teach them about trauma-informed care. What webinars do we have?
There's a major inter-divisional effort... It's the Refugee Mental Health Resource Network, which is put together by 4 of our divisions - with its lead in international, women etc. It's a wonderful effort led by Elizabeth Carll, who is developing webinars, has a whole network of people with experience and expertise in this area, to provide support....
I'll stop with that, but using that as an example of how we
can raise our voice, how we can apply our psychological science to
figure out and remedy serious societal problems that we're dealing with right now.
So... thank you.
I'm a clinical psychologist with a mantra of 'context and perspective'. There's not a day that goes by, really, when I'm not invoking
Phil Zimbardo's model of good and bad apples in bad barrels, and the different kinds of barrels, and barrel makers....
It seems to me the policy makers are the barrel makers, and in a country like ours we have 'branches', 3 different branches, each with their own barrels, and each has 'barrel makers' - from the Constitution to the House and Senate rules, and all that.
So I'm just throwing this out, for any reflections on how knowledge of the the context - where policy comes from - if there are any 'secrets' that we can apply as psychologists? And to that
I'd add as a barrel, journalism, which is our source of information... We have 'barrel-makers', media giants producing 'barrels' of 'Fox facts' versus 'everything else facts' and some in between.
Is there any relevance here to the barrel notion of context and social influence on policy, generally? And also one association to
Frank's 'T'/'thrill seeking' model. He mentioned how some people, narcissistic and powerful, tend to thrive on uncertainty. Is there any element of that which is happening now on a daily basis, with repeated phrases like 'Who knows?' and 'I hear...', and 'you never know', and.... Do we have a situation now in current politics, media and policy making, where uncertainty is being driven, by design?
FARLEY: When you raise the level of uncertainty you raise the level of fear. That's the
M.O. of the terrorists.
That's why they want to terrorize people, make them afraid, so people do crazy things.
The media contributes to what I call 'tertiary terror. They will focus on terroristic incidents and they won't let go, and they'll just talk about it, talk about it, and it will expand to other media, secondary media, tertiary media , and it goes on and on. And it scares the hell out of people , all this stuff.
So uncertainty is a key issue in civilized society, in a fully functioning democracy.
I gave the quote from James Madison that democracy is a source of risk and uncertainty.
And so, if it's something we live with, we should be teaching - risk-taking should be the fourth 'R' in the curriculum. We need to teach kids how to handle and deal with uncertainty. What worries me is, if
the nation becomes paralyzed with fear about the uncertainty of the future, we're in big trouble.
You had a question for Phil?
QU: Does the barrel metaphor apply at all here to the policy makers and policy making?
Yeah. I coined those terms... I was an expert witness for one of the American prison guards in Abu Ghraib.
And the media had characterized them as all bad apples.
I had access to all the information about what really happened in Abu Ghraib, and I was able to say: They fit the
social psychological notion of what happens when you put a good apple [like the guy I defended] into a bad barrel. And
Abu Ghraib was the baddest of bad barrels imaginable.
It was the Stanford Prison on steroids. And then the question is
who creates the bad barrels?
And this is where
evil at a systemic level comes in, that we never really deal with.
In many cases, the system is hidden. It's simply, 'now here's a policy'.
And we've stopped questioning. Where did the policy come from?
Why do we need this? Why is this important?
And especially when the policy is basically illegal.
So the Mafia, it is a system. It's not any individuals, but suddenly here's a policy and they're
influencing activities, initially in
Italy, but now around the world.
For me what's
really interesting is, as social psychologists we say 'it's
the situational influences on individuals'. And what's curious is -
I just thought about it -
of all the people I know in the universe, I think there is no one who has less influence, less impact on his behavior than Donald Trump, from the situation around him.
In fact he prides himself on rejecting advice from his advisors. His poor general... I don't know why he's still hanging around, it's an embarrassment...
He's not only a risk-taker - again that's where the narcissism comes in; It's always 'MY'. It's never 'we'. He almost never uses the word 'we'.
Because he wants to be different, he wants to be unique, he wants to be individual... And so he is
the counterpoint to everything we say in social psychology, that our individual behavior is often influenced by the social/situational context in which we live in.
His behavior is never influenced by the social situation, by other people.
And so that's why, in part, his behavior is unpredictable.
Frank is right - instead of just diagnosing after the fact, what can we predict now?
What will Trump do in the next week, the next month, based on any of our psychological diagnosis?
That's really hard because he doesn't follow any conditional model, certainly that we've developed in social psychology.
FARLEY: I've always liked that apple and barrels thing; it strikes me as a 'core truth'.
QU: We're talking about these issues that need to be addressed, and policy... but 'we're not addressing the emotional core that people bring to political issues'. Openness vs conscientiousness, maternal vs. paternal organization.... Research suggests there are emotional underpinnings which drive people towards the
sound bytes. So having a policy discussion is almost irrelevant. How do we get to people's emotional core? When people are simply going to go in one direction as conservatives or another direction as liberals...
ZIMBARDO: There's no obvious answer. I think you're right focusing on 'it's not just reason, it's also emotion'.
Again, I think Trump plays on the emotions of his followers. Looking at some of those rallies recently, it's really shocking.
look like some of the Hitler rallies, people holding up signs and yelling and screaming and jumping up and down.
He is appealing to the emotions of his followers, not to their reason. Not to say 'here's why we should do A, B, and C'.
He just says 'We should do!' and everything's going to make America great. So it's something to worry about. I'm more worried about his followers than about Trump.
QU: That's what I'm talking about. How do we speak to the followers so they can get past what they feel emotionally and start to hear cognitively what needs to be understood, or what
might be a different truth.
Kaslow: "So I'm really glad you raised the emotion issue.
Those of us in the room who are clinicians were probably trained, 'we don't talk about politics in psychotherapy'. And that sounded really good until the past few years.
I was quoted in the newspaper right after the election, about how to help couples when they voted differently... basic psychology...
And I got more referrals in that week than I've ever got in my life - because it's about the emotion.
That's why we're talking to people about this in therapy, even though we said we wouldn't talk about it.
That's why we're helping couples and families who have been torn asunder by these differences.
But I also think that as psychologists we have some
skills that I personally don't believe we're using right now.
When there are other areas of conflict, part of what we do as consultants, as clinicians, systems thinkers and leaders, is help both sides
listen to each other,
hear each other, try to make sense.
What's happened is that we've become so divided
on this issue, that conversations we'd have about almost any other topic, we're not having.
People either fight or they say it's just best to not discuss it.
I feel we have skills and knowledge in science that helps us help groups who are at loggerheads.
Most of us are jumping into our side, whatever our side is, and not stepping back to try to help and listen and make sense so we can move forward."
Dr. Kaslow spoke of the struggle to always be sensitive to, and respectul of, diversity, and to keep any bias in check. "It feels to me like a slippery slope. Because if there's one form of diversity I can't tolerate, then what are the other forms? So I think we really need to think as psychologists: What do we know about conflict management? About negotiation, about active listening, about truth and reconciliation?
And that we have a
responsibility not just to address the policies, but
to address this huge divide that is tearing our country apart."
FARLEY: "I sometimes wonder how to characterize the age that we live in. I've sort of come to the view that the best term is the
'Age of Extreme'... the tribalism, the extreme viewpoints, etc.
My fellow Canadian, Marshall McLuhan, a generation ago said, he thought that the world would be connected
by the new media, the telecommunications media, etc.
He coined the term the 'global village';
We would all come together a sa happy global village due to media.
In fact it seems to me exactly the opposite: that
the 21st Century digital media i
driving us apart because every person's got a global platform and can express their views, and it becomes a
polyglot of conflict and dispute and disagreement and negativity.
I don't know what the future holds, honestly, in terms of survival of the human species.
Charles Darwin once said, 'it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change'.
I could never argue with 'Charlie'. And so, change. How are we going to handle it? The 21st century will be one of the most changing centuries on record.
We're going to Mars. I mean... Elon Musk has got a Tesla floating around in space somewhere. AI, invented basically by a psychologist, Herb Simon, is changing everything...
So all of this technology, where is it leaving our relationships? Are we getting better or worse with our relationships.
Is the media, at the top of the list, working for us or against us?"
One or two more questions.
QU: As a quick preamble to my question, Trump not only plays on the emotions of his supporters, but also the emotions of his detractors. My question is: Given the polarization of our society, and a perceived lack of social-political diversity within APA, how do we avoid the accusation of being a partisan organization, rather than a scientific one, thus potentially alienating 50% of the population?
Zimbardo: Are you saying that psychologists tend to be liberal rather than conservative?
Farley: We know that. The public probably looks at a lot of scholars and university types and Ph.D.'s as liberal, and unlike themselves, and so on.
Kaslow: So I've actually heard both sides of that. I've heard that we're viewed as 'liberal', but I've also heard people say that organizations and universities are trying so hard not to appear partisan that we actually 'hold back' from taking a stance. "It's a very fine line to walk."
Farley: It's a very good question.
It brings up the 'them versus us' and how well does the academy reflect the life of America.
Zimbardo: "There was a survey at Stanford recently, showing that
the faculty was much more liberal than the student body - which is a complete reversal from the 60's and 70's when students' extreme leftism drove policies, starting with the Vietnam War. And now students are extremely conservative - economically conservative. They're all afraid they won't get a job, even with a Stanford B.A.
QU: I'm a professor and clinician and I am worried about young people in this country, and students in the classroom, specifically as we discuss multi-cultural issues. Do you have any ideas for professors like me?
What I have been doing is, based on 'informed disengagement strategies', having my students look at an event,
analyze a politician, and analyze what the media is doing as a way of giving them a framework for how people are morally disengaging -
because this is a generation that unlike some of us, doesn't have a Vietnam, and this is the first election they voted in - or didn't.
Do you have any ideas for professors, in addition to something like that, where we can pass on hope and resilience and change possibilities to students, I'd really appreciate it.
Farley: I think we should all be optimistic, I don't know if that helps. As Mort Sahl used to say, 'the future lies ahead' and we construct our lives by the decisions we make.
I've always been a very strong optimist, that we will survive and thrive...
One of my favorite quotes is from Helen Keller.... she would say over and over, 'Life is a daring adventure, or it is nothing at all'. And I think we should view it as a daring adventure, and make the effort, and that's about all I have to say about it. Any closing comments?
Zimbardo: It's hard to be optimistic when our President allies with Russia and North Korea, and rejects
Canada, Mexico and NATO, literally reversing generations of our alliances.
Again, if you go to Europe, people just don't understand.
They don't understand Trump. They don't understand how Americans elected him and how Americans are keeping him in power.
Kaslow: I think whether you're on the optimistic side or the pessimistic side, we all can make a difference and we have a responsibility to do that, to speak up and to speak out.
Farley: And work hard at the things psychologists are good at. Change the world. And come back next year, maybe we'll do another one of these.
**NOTE: Point of fact, NO 'personality theory', ever, from phrenology to Freud to the latest theories you can find, including the Farley model of 'Type T' behavior - NONE has ever claimed and/or been shown to accurately make 'relatively precise' predictions of behavior two or three weeks in advance, predicting future behaviors in response to an event which has not happened yet - perhaps in response to a situation never seen before, requiring quick, rational, non-syntonic, and irreversible 'executive action'.
MORE APA 2018: Aaron T. Beck at 97 Noam Chomsky Adam Alter: 'Irresistible' Screens
2010 Convention Highlights:
Online Support Groups & Applications |
Evidence & Ethical Practice | Opening Ceremony | Sir Michael Rutter: Resilience
Group Memory | Psychology in the Digital Age | Steven Hayes: What Psychotherapists Have that the World Needs Now
2011 Convention Highlights:
2011: eHealth Odyssey | Googling, Twittering, Poking | Zimbardo: Reflections + Enduring Lessons from 40 Years Ago: Stanford Prison Experiment
Opening | Avatar-based Therapy |
Canine Cognition: Chaser | Aaron T. Beck @90
| Cavanagh: Computerized CBT | Seligman: Flourish
PsychTech: Virtual & Augmented Reality |
Relationships 3.0 | POKE ME: Social Networks & Kids | Telehealth & Telepsychology Licensure - Barriers and Possible Solutions
2012 Convention Highlights:
Transmedia Storytelling |
Opening | 2012: Virtual Reality Goes to War
| DSM5: Q&A | Drew Westen: Dysfunctional Democracy
Howard Gardner: Multiple Intelligences
| Zimbardo: Anatomy of a TED Event
2014 Convention Highlights:
Opening Ceremony | Phil Zimbardo on Heroism vs. Evil | Aaron T. Beck at 93 | David Mohr: Technology for Better or Worse | Temple Grandin: All Kinds of Minds
2015 Convention Highlights:
Aaron T. Beck - On Humanism, Therapies, and Schizophrenia | Albert Bandura: Efficacy, Agency, & Moral Disengagement
| Danny Wedding: Psychopathology & Psychotherapy in the Movies | Phil Zimbardo on 'The Stanford Prison Experiment'
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Last updated: Tuesday, 01-Jan-2019 00:40:25 EST