Tag: psychological research

Bioethics Blogs

Cross Post: Re: Nudges in a Post-truth World 

Guest Post: Nathan Hodson

This article originally appeared on the Journal of Medical Ethics Blog 

In a recent article in the Journal of Medical EthicsNeil Levy has developed a concept of “nudges to reason,” offering a new tool for those trying to reconcile medical ethics with the application of behavioural psychological research – a practice known as nudging. Very roughly, nudging means adjusting the way choices are presented to the public in order to promote certain decisions.

As Levy notes, some people are concerned that nudges present a threat to autonomy. Attempts at reconciling nudges with ethics, then, are important because nudging in healthcare is here to stay but we need to ensure it is used in ways that respect autonomy (and other moral principles).

The term “nudge” is perhaps a misnomer. To fill out the concept a bit, it commonly denotes the use of behavioural economics and behavioural psychology to the construction of choice architecture through carefully designed trials. But every choice we face, in any context, already comes with a choice architecture: there are endless contextual factors that impact the decisions we make.

When we ask whether nudging is acceptable we are asking whether an arbitrary or random choice architecture is more acceptable than a deliberate choice architecture, or whether an uninformed choice architecture is better than one informed by research.

In fact the permissibility of a nudge derives from whether it is being used in an ethically acceptable way, something that can only be explored on an individual basis. Thaler and Sunstein locate ethical acceptability in promoting the health of the person being nudged (and call this Libertarian Paternalism — i.e.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Re: Nudges in a Post-truth World 

Guest Post: Nathan Hodson 

In a recent article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Neil Levy has developed a concept of “nudges to reason,” offering a new tool for those trying to reconcile medical ethics with the application of behavioural psychological research – a practice known as nudging. Very roughly, nudging means adjusting the way choices are presented to the public in order to promote certain decisions.

As Levy notes, some people are concerned that nudges present a threat to autonomy. Attempts at reconciling nudges with ethics, then, are important because nudging in healthcare is here to stay but we need to ensure it is used in ways that respect autonomy (and other moral principles).

The term “nudge” is perhaps a misnomer. To fill out the concept a bit, it commonly denotes the use of behavioural economics and behavioural psychology to the construction of choice architecture through carefully designed trials. But every choice we face, in any context, already comes with a choice architecture: there are endless contextual factors that impact the decisions we make.

When we ask whether nudging is acceptable we are asking whether an arbitrary or random choice architecture is more acceptable than a deliberate choice architecture, or whether an uninformed choice architecture is better than one informed by research.

In fact the permissibility of a nudge derives from whether it is being used in an ethically acceptable way, something that can only be explored on an individual basis. Thaler and Sunstein locate ethical acceptability in promoting the health of the person being nudged (and call this Libertarian Paternalism — i.e.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Fake News – A Role for Neuroethics?

By Neil Levy
Neil Levy is professor of philosophy at Macquarie University, Sydney, and a senior research fellow at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford.

Fake news proliferates on the internet, and it sometimes has consequential effects. It may have played a role in the recent election of Donald Trump to the White House, and the Brexit referendum. Democratic governance requires a well-informed populace: fake news seems to threaten the very foundations of democracy.
How should we respond to its challenge? The most common response has been a call for greater media literacy. Fake news often strikes more sophisticated consumers as implausible. But there are reasons to think that the call for greater media literacy is unlikely to succeed as a practical solution to the problem of fake news. For one thing, the response seems to require what it seeks to bring about: a better informed population. For another, while greater sophistication might allow us to identify many instances of fake news, some of it is well crafted enough to fool the most sophisticated (think of the recent report that the FBI was fooled by a possibly fabricated Russian intelligence report).
Moreover, there is evidence that false claims have an effect on our attitudes even when we initially identify the claims as false. Familiarity – processing fluency, in the jargon of psychologists – influences the degree to which we come to regard a claim as plausible. Due to this effect, repeating urban legends in order to debunk them may leave people with a higher degree of belief in the legends than before.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Celebrity Medicine: Ben Stiller’s Prostate Edition

by Kaitlynd Hiller

During an interview in early October, Ben Stiller spoke publicly for the first time about his successful battle with prostate cancer, and how, if it were up to the American Cancer Society (ACS), perhaps he wouldn’t have won. Stiller also published a same-day article on Medium[1] that detailed the care he received and the factors that guided those decisions. Although this public reveal is reminiscent of Angelina Jolie’s 2013 Op-Ed on genetic testing and prophylactic mastectomies, Stiller’s is more controversial. Not only did he pursue screening earlier than suggested and question the evidence-based national guidelines, he’s also gone on to advocate for a position that many public health experts today are trying to walk back on: that screening saves lives.

Unlike Jolie, Stiller had no family history of the disease he received screening for. At the time he began having his PSA levels routinely tested, Stiller was 48 years old with no other known risk factors. The ACS recommends starting the discussion of prostate screening with men like Stiller (counted as “average risk”) at age 50.[2] The American Urological Association’s guideline does not recommend annual screening in average risk men ages 40 to 55 years, and the US Preventative Services Task Force recommends against the use of the PSA test in all asymptomatic, average risk populations.[3] Stiller credits his cancer-free status to his “thoughtful internist,” who began discussing PSA testing multiple years ahead of what these guidelines suggest. Ben puts it into perspective: “If [my doctor] had waited, as the American Cancer Society recommends, until I was 50, I would not have known I had a growing tumor until two years after I got treated.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Debating the Replication Crisis – Why Neuroethics Needs to Pay Attention

By Ben Wills


Ben Wills studied Cognitive Science at Vassar College, where his thesis examined cognitive neuroscience research on the self. He is currently a legal assistant at a Portland, Oregon law firm, where he continues to hone his interests at the intersections of brain, law, and society.

In 2010 Dana Carney, Amy Cuddy, and Andy Yap published a study showing that assuming an expansive posture, or “power pose,” leads to increased testosterone levels, task performance, and self-confidence. The popular media and public swooned at the idea that something as simple as standing like Wonder Woman could boost performance and confidence. A 2012 TED talk that author Amy Cuddy gave on her research has become the site’s second-most watched video, with over 37 million views. Over the past year and change, however, the power pose effect has gradually fallen out of favor in experimental psychology. A 2015 meta-analysis of power pose studies by Ranehill et al. concluded that power posing affects only self-reported feelings of power, not hormone levels or performance. This past September, reflecting mounting evidence that power pose effects are overblown, co-author Dana Carney denounced the construct, stating, “I do not believe that ‘power pose’ effects are real.”
What happened?

Increasingly, as the power pose saga illustrates, famous findings and the research practices that produce them are being called into question. Researchers are discovering that many attempts to replicate results are producing much smaller effects or no effects at all when compared to the original studies. While there has been concern over this issue among scientists for some time, as the publicity surrounding the rise and fall of the power pose indicates, discussion of this “replication crisis” has unquestionably spilled over from scientists’ listservs into popular culture.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

New Frontiers in Animal Research Neuroethics at the Center for Neuroscience and Society

By Tyler M. John

Tyler John is a postbaccalaureate fellow at the National Institutes of Health Department of Bioethics interested in resource allocation, animal ethics, and moral theory. This fall, he will begin a PhD in Philosophy at Rutgers University. 


The opinions expressed are the authors’ own. They do not reflect any position or policy of any U.S. governmental entity, including the National Institutes of Health or the Department of Health and Human Services. 
On June 9-10, I joined a gathering of philosophers, psychologists, veterinarians, and biomedical researchers for the Animal Research Neuroethics Workshop at the Penn Center for Neuroscience and Society. The workshop, organized by neuroethicists Adam Shriver, James Serpell, and Martha Farah, focused on the ethical issues raised by new advances in neuroscience research with non-human animals. Here, researchers from many disciplines came together to share notes from the field and discuss new neuroethics problems. 
Over two days, we discussed problems like, What is the moral status of so-called “brains in dishes”? Is it morally permissible for scientists to cognitively enhance mice, rats, and chimps, giving them advanced cognitive capacities? Is it even conceptually possible to have a mouse model of human depression given the substantial psychological differences between humans and mice? What, more broadly, should we say about the scientific validity and moral permissibility of current neurological research on non-human animals? 

Despite our vast disciplinary diversity and some disagreement about issues in moral theory, participants were very quickly able to bridge disciplinary divides and create broad areas of consensus.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Cross Post: How psychology can help us solve climate chang

Time to cooperate. Hands by Shutterstock

 

The Paris agreement on climate change calls for a global responsibility to cooperate. As we are often reminded, we urgently and drastically need to limit our use of one shared resource – fossil fuels – and its effect on another – the climate. But how realistic is this goal, both for national leaders and for us? Well, psychology may hold some answers.

Psychologists and economists have long explored the conflict between short-term individual and long-term collective interests when dealing with shared resources. Think of the commons dilemma: the scenario in which a field for grazing cattle works well when everyone cooperates by sticking to one cow each, but which leads to the so-called “tragedy of the commons” if more selfish drives take over.

It is useful to think about overuse of fossil fuels and its effect on the climate as a similar dilemma. If we were to think of this from a purely economic perspective, we would likely act selfishly. But psychological research should make us more optimistic about cooperation.

Appeal to moral sense

Are you more likely to overuse a shared resource when it is framed as an ethical concern or a business transaction? Research shows people behave less selfishly when it’s framed ethically, or if we emphasise what people will gain rather than lose by reducing their use of fossil fuels.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals — March 2016, Part II by Anna Zogas

Here is the second half of our March roundup of journal articles. There are also two Special Issues out this month that may be of interest, including the current Medical Anthropology Quarterly, and their contents are posted here.

American Anthropologist 

Love and Resurrection: Remaking Life and Death in Contemporary Russia
Anya Bernstein

In this article, I discuss two “crimes of compassion”—one a mercy killing and the other what I refer to as a “mercy resurrection”—as key illustrations of the changing landscape of necropolitical governmentality in Russia some 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Such practices present unanticipated challenges to the state control of death, producing irregular yet ultimately normative narratives of what counts as pathological, as life and death, and as the meaning of suffering, love, and compassion. I argue that these cases ultimately present two sides of the same coin, evincing a politics of life that, intentionally or not, defies the power of the state over death and its monopoly position as the purveyor of death and immortality. They also suggest alternative practices of caregiving to the dead and dying. In doing all this, they enter a legally ambiguous zone between violence and compassion, martyrdom and savagery, madness and mercy.

“We Are All Carrying Someone Else’s Child!”: Relatedness and Relationships in Third-Party Reproduction
Zsuzsa Berend

In this article, I explore surrogates’ rich, diverse, and collective negotiations of relatedness and relationships on the largest U.S. surrogacy support website. Surrogates reconfigure existing kinship understandings and maintain that intent and love are firmer bases of parenthood than biogenetic connection.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

New Book: The Ethics Rupture

The University of Toronto Press has published The Ethics Rupture: Exploring Alternatives to Formal Research-Ethics Review, edited by Will C. van den Hoonaard and Ann Hamilton. My chapter is entitled, “Ethical Pluralism: Scholarly Societies and the Regulation of Research Ethics.”

The full contents are as follows:

INTRODUCTION

The Ethics Rupture Summit in the Context of Current Trends in Research-Ethics Review – Will C. van den Hoonaard and Ann Hamilton

I. STRAINS IN RESEARCH-ETHICS REVIEW PROCESSES

1. The Social Costs of Ethics Regulation – Robert Dingwall

2. Fieldwork Double-Bound in Human Research-Ethics Reviews: Disciplinary Competence, or Regulatory Compliance and the Muting of Disciplinary Values – Rena Lederman

3. IRBan Renewal – Patti A. Adler and Peter Adler

4. The Language of Ethics: How Ethics Review Creates Inequalities for Language Minorities in Research – Laura Stark

5. Uncomfortable Truths, Ethics, and Qualitative Research: Escaping from the Dominance of Informed Consent – Marco Marzano

6. Assessing Risk in Psychological Research – Patrick O’Neill

II. OUTSIDE THE COMFORT ZONE: NEW METHODOLOGIES

7. The Internet as a Stage: Dramaturgy, Research-Ethics Boards, and Privacy as Performance – Heather Kitchin Dahringer

8. Research Ethics Boards: Are They Ready for Autoethnography? – B. Lee Murray

9. (Re)Framing Research Ethics Through Communication: A Collective and Collaborative Approach to Research-Ethics Review – Julie Bull

III. ANALYSIS OF CHANGE: WHEN SUPERFICIALITY DISPLACES SUBSTANCE

10. The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: The TCPS 2 and the Institutional Oversight of Social Science Research in Canada – Kirsten Bell

11. Should Data Sharing be Regulated? – Natasha S.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Why it matters if people are racist: A Response to Neil Levy’s Leverhulme Lectures

Author: Fergus Peace, BPhil student, University of Oxford

Podcasts of Prof. Levy’s Leverhulme lectures are available here:

http://media.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/uehiro/HT16_LL_LEVY1.mp3

and http://media.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/uehiro/HT16_LL_LEVY2.mp3

It’s only a little more than forty years ago that George Wallace won the contest for Governor of Alabama by running ads with slogans like “Wake up Alabama! Blacks vow to take over Alabama” and “Do you want the black bloc electing your governor?” That year, 1970, 50% of people surveyed in the American South said they would never – under any circumstances – vote for a black President. By 2012, that number was down by 8%, and it’s hard to deny that open, avowed racism has been in steep decline for most of the last forty years. But even as people’s overt commitment to racism declines, experiments still show that black candidates are less likely to be given job interviews than equally qualified white candidates; African-Americans are still disproportionately likely to be imprisoned, or shot by police.

So what’s going on? That is the motivating puzzle of Professor Neil Levy’s Leverhulme Lectures, and his answer centres on an increasingly well-known but still very disturbing psychological phenomenon: implicit bias. There are a range of tests which have uncovered evidence of implicit negative attitudes held – by a majority of white Americans, but a sizeable number of black Americans too – against black people. Harvard University’s ‘Project Implicit’ has a series of Implicit Association Tests (IATs); Keith Payne, among others, has developed tests of what he calls the Affect Misattribution Procedure (AMP). IATs ask us to sort faces and words according to their race and ‘valence’, and we find that task much easier when we have to associate black faces with negative words than we do otherwise.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.