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American Psychologist March 2002, Volume 57, Number 3




Weathering a Political Storm

A Contextual Perspective on a Psychological Research Controversy

Ellen Greenberg Garrison and Patricia Clem Kobor, American Psychological Association

American Psychologist, 2002, Vol. 57, No. 3, 165-175, 2002

In the spring of 1999, a storm of controversy arose at the local, state, and national levels surrounding an article on the effects of child sexual abuse published in 1998 in Psychological Bulletin. The article was vehemently denounced by various media outlets, conservative grassroots organizations, members of the general public, state legislatures, and ultimately by the United States Congress. The authors chronicle these unprecedented events and related challenges faced by the American Psychological Association. The authors also describe the Association's efforts to resolve the crisis, while staunchly upholding academic freedom and scientific integrity, and review the lessons learned for the field of psychology.


When Worlds Collide

Social Science, Politics, and the Rind et al. (1998)

Scott O. Lilienfeld Emory University

American Psychologist, 2002, Vol. 57, No. 3, 176-188, 2002

A 1998 meta-analysis by B. Rind, P. Tromovitch, and R. Bauserman in Psychological Bulletin indicated that the relations between child sexual abuse and later psychopathology were weak in magnitude. Shortly thereafter, this article was condemned by media personality Dr. Laura Schlessinger and numerous conservative organizations and was denounced by the United States Congress. In addition, the American Psychological Association (APA) distanced itself from the authors' conclusions. This incident raises questions regarding 

(a) authors' responsibilities concerning the reporting of politically controversial findings, 

(b) academic and scientific freedom, 

(c) the role of the APA in disabusing the public and media of logical errors and fallacies, and 

(d) the substantial gap between popular and academic psychology and the responsibility of the APA to narrow that gap.



Politics, Operant Conditioning, Galileo, and the American Psychological Association's Response to Rind et al. (1998)

Brian N. Baird U.S. Congress

American Psychologist, 2002, Vol. 57, No. 3, 189-192, 2002

The controversy surrounding B. Rind, P. Tromovitch, and R. Bauserman (1998) provides valuable lessons into scientific independence, politics, and organizational decision making. In an unprecedented action, the U.S. Congress officially condemned findings of Rind et al. Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association took similarly unprecedented measures in an effort to assuage its Congressional critics. This article, written from the perspective of a psychologist serving in Congress, discusses the various political and organizational dynamics that developed during the controversy. Understanding and learning from this incident can help psychologists and their professional associations better prepare for and respond to potential controversies arising from research or other publications.


Everything You Need to Know to Understand the Current Controversies You Learned From Psychological Research

A Comment on the Rind and Lilienfeld Controversies

Robert J. Sternberg Yale University

American Psychologist, 2002, Vol. 57, No. 3, 193-197, 2002

Psychological theory and research can help explain some of the aspects of the controversies that arose over articles written by B. Rind, P. Tromovitch, and R. Bauserman (1998) and by S. O. Lilienfeld (2002). In particular, one needs to distinguish between rational and intuitive thinking, to recognize the power of context, to be reflective in one's own thinking, and to realize the costs of defying the crowd. There are steps one can take to be wiser and more balanced in one's own thinking than one may have been in the past. One such step is to resolve conflicts among psychologists by attempting to defuse rather than to exacerbate or avoid them.


Science, Politics, and Peer Review

An Editor's Dilemma

Richard McCarty Science Directorate, American Psychological Association

American Psychologist, 2002, Vol. 57, No. 3, 198-201, 2002

The American Psychologist is the official journal of the American Psychological Association. As such, it is a valued outlet for articles dealing with reviews of current topics in psychology, policy issues, and critiques of current research. S. O. Lilienfeld submitted a manuscript to the journal that was accepted by the ad hoc action editor; however, the action editor's decision was later overruled by the editor, and additional changes to the manuscript were requested. Because of this editorial decision, a controversy arose that played out on various Internet discussion groups. The author presents his perspective as the editor in this controversy. Points of emphasis include the need to protect the integrity and the confidentiality of the peer review process for scientific journals.


Five Commandments for APA

Nora S. Newcombe Temple University

American Psychologist, 2002, Vol. 57, No. 3, 202-205, 2002

The author delineates 5 rules of scientific review and publishing and argues that these norms need to be upheld even when to do so proves politically difficult. The 5 rules are: 

(a) Scientific articles should be judged only by their logic and the strength of their evidence; 

(b) the results of a competent peer review should be accepted; 

(c) disagreements with scientific articles should be aired in peer reviewed commentaries; 

(d) efforts to judge scientific articles on the basis of political concerns should be resisted; and 

(e) the explicit rules and normative expectations of peer review should not be arbitrarily altered.



Publication of Rind et al. (1998)

The Editors' Perspective

Kenneth J. Sher University of Missouri-Columbia

Nancy Eisenberg Arizona State University

American Psychologist, 2002, Vol. 57, No. 3, 206-210, 2002

The authors address several issues surrounding the B. Rind, P. Tromovitch, and R. Bauserman (1998) meta-analysis on the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse from their perspective as the editors who accepted the manuscript for publication. In particular, they discuss the appropriateness of their editorial decision, the appropriateness of a policy of considering authors' prior publications in editorial decisions (as suggested by some critics), and the editors' role in the specific recommendations made by B. Rind et al. They go on to consider actions they could have taken to minimize the mischaracterizations of the study's findings and conclusions and their views of the American Psychological Association's actions with respect to the authors personally and to society more generally.


The Publishing Dilemma of the American Psychological Association

George D. Lundberg MedScape, Inc.

American Psychologist, 2002, Vol. 57, No. 3, 211-212, 2002

Primary source peer reviewed journals have come to be known as the gold standard for biomedical science since their origin about 300 years ago. Relationships between the journal owners, who have total business authority, and the editors, who have total intellectual authority, have a tendency to become strained. Careful, reasonable adherence by all concerned to the "Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals" of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors and the World Association of Medical Editors can greatly alleviate these tensions and serve to benefit the readers and the public.


Challenges and Opportunities in the Psychological Sciences

Bennett I. Bertenthal, University of Chicago

American Psychologist, 2002, Vol. 57, No. 3, 215-218, 2002

In this commentary, the author draws on his experiences at the National Science Foundation to reveal that threats to the value and autonomy of social science research are more common than most psychologists suspect. To reduce the likelihood of these threats in the future, it is necessary to improve the public's understanding and confidence in the psychological sciences. The key is to focus on the results and accomplishments of the research and to avoid caveats and qualifications. It is also important to motivate the interest of the public by helping them to understand why and how psychological research is improving the quality of their lives. The author concludes with some practical suggestions regarding how psychologists can become more proactive in their education of the public, the media, and congressional representatives.


Collisions, Logrolls, and Psychological Science

Deborah Phillips Georgetown University

American Psychologist, 2002, Vol. 57, No. 3, 219-221, 2002

Relationships among science, public policy, and the media have long been a topic of controversy. A discussion of this controversy serves to place views on the Rind et al. affair in a broader context and set the stage for constructing more effective working relationships between scientists and both policy and media experts. To advance these relationships, the author offers several recommendations that emphasize ongoing institutional activities and encourage collaboration with other professional organizations.


[Overview Rind et el. files]

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