You may or may not have read about recent protests of the APA and its stance on psychologists engaged in torture. On the one hand, it sounds as though the APA has taken a strong position against psychologists being involved in torture. The APA's press release states that psychologists are prohibited from a long list of tactics, including "mock execution; water-boarding or any other form of simulated drowning or suffocation; sexual humiliation; rape; cultural or religious humiliation; exploitation of phobias or psychopathology; induced hypothermia; and the use of psychotropic drugs or mind-altering substances for the purpose of eliciting information. In addition, the following acts were banned for the purpose of eliciting information in an interrogations process: hooding; forced nakedness; stress positions; the use of dogs to threaten or intimidate; physical assault including slapping or shaking; exposure to extreme heat or cold; threats of harm or death; and isolation and/or sleep deprivation used in a manner that represents significant pain or suffering or in a manner that a reasonable person would judge to cause lasting harm; or the threatened use of any of the above techniques to the individual or to members of the individual's family."
And yet I have read, in many different sources, that the APA's position is more equivocal than it sounds. The resolution passed at the August 07 APA council meeting allows psychologists to assist with interrogations in their work, even when the interrogations might not protect the prisoner's rights. The rationale that I heard for this, from APA leadership at the August meeting, is that the APA leadership believes that the presence of a psychologist can protect the prisoner's rights. The APA asserts that being involved in the process helps to protect prisoners. Critics decry such logic as naive, and say that it disregards what we know about social psychological processes.
I am sad to say that I am more persuaded by the critics than by the APA, and I am considering resigning from the APA.
Here is some of the material I have been reading.
- Three colleges havecondemned the APA for violating psychology's ethical standards
- A June 6, 2007 letter to Sharon Brehm, APA President, decrying psychologists' involvement in the US military's SERE program, and is based on declassified US Department of Defense report documenting psychologists' work in that program.
- Beth Shinn's letter of resignation from the APA. Shinn has been president of two APA divisions and received awards for her work in psychology. Her letter includes links to several other informative work.
- There is a growing list of APA members who are witholding their dues to protest the APA.
- The website Psychologists for an Ethical APA has several informative documents and links. Included among them are Linda Woolf's commentary on the situation, and links to interviews with Mary Pipher, who returned her 2006 APA Presidential Citation as a result of the APA's actions on this issue. There are several other worthwhile links here, including syndicated columnist Amy Goodman's commentary.
There is more, but this will get you started.
I am dismayed by the actions of psychology's largest organization. In the coming few weeks I will read more, and decide whether or not I want to continue being a member of the APA. At this point, it seems to me that the Goodman's commentary is right, and the APA is in denial about its role. If you are aware of relevant evidence, pro or con, please forward it to me.