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The battle of the sex differences We talk to Cordelia Fine, and Simon Baron-Cohen reviews her new book The Gender Delusion
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forum 866 careers 928 new voices 940 looking back 942
collective solutions to climate change 880 being proactive at work 886 eye on fiction 890 occupational psychology special debate 892
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forum ‘approved clinicians’; the power of bad; BAME psychologists; and more
news and digest 872 the Science is Vital campaign; ‘over-identification’ of special educational needs; the ‘halfalogue’; Ig Nobel Awards; the glass cliff for female leaders; and more
media the media’s particular appetite for psychology, with Kisane Prutton
Collective solutions to a global problem David Uzzell delivers a lecture on psychology and climate change
Being proactive at work – blessing or bane? Frank Belschak and Deanne Den Hartog unravel the positives and negatives
Eye on fiction: ‘No self without self-delusion’ Daniel Wright on how fiction can help us understand delusional misidentifications
Opinions: Occupational psychology in a changing world Top occupational psychologists discuss the state of the discipline
book reviews neurosexism and politics as Simon Baron-Cohen reviews Cordelia Fine’s new book; why aren’t we saving the planet; and sensory marketing
THE ISSUE ‘Daddy,’ said my six-year-old son on the day I finished interviewing Cordelia Fine, ‘Did you know that boys go to college to get more knowledge, and girls go to Jupiter to get more stupider?’ I chuckled at the irony (before soundly chastising him), but reflected that it was incidents such as this that prompted Fine to write her excellent book Delusions of Gender. On p.900, Fine takes aim at ‘misguided neurological explanations and justifications of sex inequality’, including Simon BaronCohen’s ‘essential difference’ approach. On p.904, Baron-Cohen reviews the book. It’s also something of an occupational psychology special, including an extended debate from some of the UK’s top names. It’s our first attempt at this, so do let me know how you think it works, and your views on the issue in general. Dr Jon Sutton (Managing Editor)
society 910 toothless, geriatric lions and the ethics of animal research in the President’s column; accreditation through partnership; the language of music; and more careers selling the value of occupational psychology; life as a remote employer; the latest jobs, and how to advertise
new voices 940 remembering the veterans, with Phil Boyes in the second of our series aiming to encourage budding writing talent looking back 942 on psychologist Harry Hollingworth’s role in the Coca-Cola trials of the 1910s, with Ludy T. Benjamin Jr one on one …with Anne Treisman
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Women on the glass cliff The majority of major corporations and countries are headed by men. When women are appointed to leadership positions, it tends to be when an organisation is in crisis – a phenomenon known as the glass cliff. Recent examples include: the appointment of Lynn Elsenhans as CEO of the oil company Sunoco in 2008, just after their shares had halved in value; and the election of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir as prime minister of Iceland, just after her country’s economy had been crippled by the global recession. Real-life examples are supported by lab studies in which male and female participants show a bias for selecting female candidates to take charge of fictitious organisations in crisis. Further investigation has ruled out possible explanations for the glass cliff – it’s not due to malicious sexism or to women favouring such roles. Now a brand new study suggests the phenomenon occurs firstly, because a crisis shifts people’s stereotyped view of what makes for an ideal leader, and secondly, because men generally don’t fit that stereotype. ‘…it may not be so important for the glass cliff that women are stereotypically seen as possessing more of the attributes that matter in times of crisis,’ the researchers wrote, ‘but rather that men are seen as lacking these attributes…’. Susanne Bruckmüller and Nyla Branscombe first established when the glass cliff is most likely to occur. They presented 119 male and female participants with different versions of newspaper articles about an organic food company. Participants were more likely to select a fictitious female candidate to take over the company if it was described as being in crisis, and its previous three leaders had all been male. For participants who read that the previous managers had all been female, the glass cliff disappeared – they were just as likely to select a fictitious male candidate to take over the crisis-stricken firm as they were to select a female. This finding suggests the glass cliff has to do with people believing that a change from the status quo (from male leaders to a female) is what’s needed in a crisis. However, this explanation breaks down because the reverse pattern wasn’t found. Participants didn’t show a bias for a male candidate to take over a crisis-stricken company that had had a run of three previous female leaders. In the September issue of the British A second study explored the role of gender and Journal of Social Psychology leadership stereotypes and involved 122 male and female participants reading about a supermarket chain described either as thriving or in crisis. Next the participants rated their impression of two briefly described, fictitious managerial candidates, one male, one female, using attributes previously identified as being stereotypically male (e.g. competitive) or stereotypically female (e.g. strong communication skills). Finally, the participants rated the suitability of each candidate and stated which of them they’d hire. In a successful context, the male candidate was judged to be more suitable for the role and was more likely to be selected – a replication of the bias seen in real life. More intriguing was that a crisis context led participants to attribute fewer stereotypically female attributes to the male candidate and to judge him as less suitable for the managerial role. Meanwhile, the crisis context didn’t alter the qualities attributed to the female candidate, nor the perception of her suitability. Crucially, however, she was more likely to be selected in the crisis situation – you might say almost by default, given that the male candidate was now seen as being less suitable and having fewer appropriate attributes. ‘Our findings indicate that women find themselves in precarious leadership positions not because they are singled out for them, but because men no longer seem to fit,’ Bruckmüller and Branscombe explained. ‘There is, of course, a double irony here. When women get to enjoy the spoils of leadership (a) it is not because they are seen to deserve them, but because men no longer do, and (b) this only occurs when, and because, there are fewer spoils to enjoy.’
Freud was right – we are attracted to our relatives In the September issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin Freud said there’d be no need for incest to be such a powerful cultural taboo if people weren’t sexually attracted to their relatives in the first place. Given that in-breeding is associated with increased mortality, he argued that the incest taboo had emerged as way to keep our dangerous incestuous desires in check. Evolutionary psychologists take a strikingly different view. Inspired by Edward Westermarck, the Finnish sociologist and anthropologist, they argue that we’ve evolved automatic psychological processes that lead us to find our relatives sexually aversive, not attractive, thus decreasing the likelihood of in-breeding occurring. Who’s right – Freud or Westermarck? Chris Fraley and Michael Marks asked 74 students to rate the sexual attractiveness of 100 strangers’ faces. Crucially, for half the students, each face was preceded by a subliminal presentation of a family member. For the remaining control students, the subliminal presentation was of someone else’s family member, i.e. a non-relative. Westermarckian theory predicts that the non-conscious presentation of a relative will trigger the automatic system that makes relatives seem sexually unattractive, with the knock-on effect that the strangers’ faces would be rated as less attractive. Contrary to
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this prediction, the students who were subliminally presented with a family member actually rated the strangers’ faces as more attractive than did the control students. In a second study, 40 students rated the sexual attractiveness of faces that either had or hadn’t been morphed to varying degrees to resemble their own face (a way of simulating genetic relatedness). The students presented with the morphed faces rated them as more sexually attractive than did control students who viewed unaltered faces, and the greater the morphing, the greater the perceived attractiveness. This appears to be consistent with Freud’s claim that we really are attracted to our relatives, and it also chimes with past research showing that we tend to marry people who look similar to ourselves – a phenomenon known as homogamy. For the final study, a group of students once again rated the sexual attractiveness of strangers’ faces. This time half the students were told falsely that some of the faces had been morphed to resemble them, as a way to simulate genetic relatedness. The students fed this lie subsequently rated the faces as less attractive than the control students who thought they were simply rating strangers’ faces. The finding appears to support Freud's contention that it is the incest taboo that causes us to find people who we think we're related to, less attractive. Fraley and Marks say their findings are largely in keeping with Freud's writings, whilst
being at odds with Westermarckian evolutionary psychology. However, whereas Freud referred to unconscious desires, Fraley and Marks think our attraction to our relatives could be triggered by a kind of human sexual imprinting, according to which our sexual preferences are shaped by our early experiences, or by mere familiarity, or both. These influences are balanced out, the authors suggest, by the cultural deterrent and the tendency for excessive familiarity to breed indifference or contempt. Indeed, this deterring influence of taboo and habituation could explain the finding that people are less likely to mate with a person with whom they are reared, even if unrelated. Fraley and Marks call their approach to this topic the evolutionary psychodynamic perspective. ‘From this point of view,’ the researchers said, ‘one reason Oedipus longed for (and eventually married) his mother in the myth of Oedipus Rex is because she was related to him. His desire was possible, however, only because he was unaware of his true relationship to her.’
My drunkenness means you did it deliberately In the October issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin With our brains gently soaked in alcohol we’re generally more sociable and relaxed – it’s a sedative after all. So why do drunk people seem so prone to aggravation and argument? Laurent Bègue's team recruited 92 men (aged 20 to 46) to take part in what they were told was a taste-testing study. For half the participants, their three drinks contained alcohol – approximately the same amount found in five to six shots of vodka. To control for expectancy effects, half the participants with the alcoholic drinks and half the non-alcohol participants were told the drinks were alcoholic. Next, the participants spent 20 to 30 minutes on filler tasks, in keeping with the cover story that this was a taste-test study, and to allow the alcohol to kick-in. Finally and most importantly, the participants read 50 sentences about various actions (e.g. ‘He deleted the e-mail’) and gave their verdict on whether the actions were intentional or not. The intoxicated and sober men alike said that obviously
intentional actions (e.g. ‘she looked for her keys’) were intentional, and that blatantly unintentional actions (e.g. ‘she caught a cold’) were unintentional. But when it came to more ambiguous actions, like the e-mail deletion example, the intoxicated men were significantly more likely than the sober men to say the action was intentional. Whether participants were told they’d had alcohol or not made no difference. Why should alcohol have this effect? Bègue’s team think that it takes cognitive effort and control to overcome the intentionality bias and consider alternative explanations. Alcohol's well-known disinhibitory and myopic (the ‘narrowing of attention’) would undermine these faculties. ‘In summary,’ the researchers concluded, ‘alcohol magnifies the intentionality bias. Napoleon said, “There is no such thing as accident.” Our findings suggest that drunk people are more likely to believe Napoleon’s statement…’
The material in this section is taken from the Society’s Research Digest blog at www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog, and is written by its editor Dr Christian Jarrett. Visit the blog for full coverage including references and links, additional current reports, an archive, comment and more.
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Collective solutions to a global problem David Uzzell delivered the joint British Academy/British Psychological Society Annual Lecture, on psychology and climate change
he public are concerned about climate change. Typically, surveys from governments, pollsters and universities show that around 80 per cent of adults are very or fairly concerned about climate change. But levels of concern are on the wane – the UEA e-mails affair, the hype surrounding Copenhagen and the failure of the politicians to produce a significant agreement, and scepticism in the media have no doubt all played a part. But the public’s concern is more nuanced than these headline statistics suggest. When people are asked about their concerns over climate change in the context of the trials and tribulations of everyday life, climate change assumes significantly less importance than issues such as employment, taxes, healthcare, education, crime, etc. We have conducted a series of international studies over the years investigating the concern of different groups (e.g. urban/rural; environmental NGOs; children) about the environment. These demonstrate that people think that the condition of the environment is more serious at the global than at the national level, and at the national than at the local level. In the most recent of these studies interviewing UK and Swedish students (Räthzel & Uzzell, 2009) we found, in addition to the distancing effect, that students thought that environmental problems will be significantly worse in 20 years’ time at the local and national levels, but not at the global level. In other words, the
Dolan, P., Hallsworth, M., Halpern, D. et al. (2009). Mindspace: Influencing behaviour through public policy. London: Institute for Government. Druckman, A. & Jackson, T. (2009). Mapping our carbon responsibilities: More key results from the Surrey Environmental Lifestyle MApping (SELMA) framework. RESOLVE Working Paper 02-09. Guildford: University of
worst things affecting the world will be visited upon the local environment in years to come. There is dislocation from the local, to the national and to the global, and from the present to the future. It is not only the public that dislocates climate change. The conventional approach to calculating carbon emissions is to focus on production: this includes emissions embedded in exports but excludes those in imports. From this standpoint, the UK performance over the last decade looks good. If we measure emissions from a consumption perspective (i.e. goods produced in China for the UK market) the picture is very different (Druckman & Jackson, 2009). From 1995 there has been a year-on-year increase in carbon emissions. This indicates that the UK has increasingly ‘off-shored’ carbon intensive industries overseas. Unfortunately, one consequence of this is that many people believe that the causes of climate change lie elsewhere. How often do we hear ‘What’s the point of us doing anything if the Chinese continue to build a power station every two weeks?’. The demonising of the ‘Other’, to use Edward Said’s term (1978), of those in the East for their ‘rampant’ and ‘irresponsible’ growth, provides a good reason for inaction on our part in the West. In the UK/Swedish study, we asked a series of questions as to what students saw as the most important causes of environmental degradation. As with the
Surrey. Räthzel, N. & Uzzell, D. (2009). Changing relations in global environmental change. Global Environmental Change, 19, 326–335. Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. New York: Vintage. Sennett, R. (2008). The craftsman. London, New York: Penguin Books.
approach to calculating carbon emissions, you get a completely different answer if you use a different accounting method. First, we used a five-point rating scale. The items that produced the highest mean score for both Swedish and UK students were ‘weak political action on part of the government’ followed by the ‘environmental policies of industries’. This mirrors a Defra survey in 2007 that found that 60 per cent of the people interviewed said that ‘If government did more to tackle climate change, I’d do more too’. If, however, instead of taking the highest mean score as an indicator of strength of feeling, we look at the proportion of students who rated these issues as extremely or very serious, we find that students identify the ‘industrialisation of developing countries’, ‘poverty in developing countries’ and ‘overpopulation’ as being the principal causes of environmental degradation. It doesn’t seem to be appreciated that industrial development and its impact on carbon emissions in the Global South cannot be separated from consumerism and lifestyles in the Global North. Even if the public are concerned, there is clearly a reluctance to make significant changes to lifestyles and practices – what we as psychologists call the value–action gap. How do we explain this, and what has been the government response? The policy options are typically expressed in terms of tackling consumption (which largely focuses on the individual consumer), and production (which focuses on technological fixes). Government policy has typically sought to bring the public onside by means of education, persuasion and sticks and carrots. Such a strategy rests on an assumption of individual choice and agency; as Elizabeth Shove puts it, ‘the assumption being that consumers can reduce the weight of their personal environmental “rucksack” if that is what they choose to do’. This is confirmed by numerous government reports with titles such as ‘Personal responsibility and changing behaviour’, ‘I will if you will’, ‘Driving public behaviours for sustainable lifestyles’ and, most recently, ‘Mindspace’ (Dolan et al., 2009). These immediately locate social change in a particular policy space that centres on the individual. For example, the UK government’s 1998 report Sustainable Development Opportunities for Change claims ‘consumers can have a huge impact on sustainable development through their influence as purchasers. But they need help to make choices’. Do we really
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believe the consumer has this degree of These students not only considered unimportant, nor that psychological influence? Surely this fails to recognise environmental degradation a consequence constructs such as attitudes, values the way decisions by government and of ignorant, errant and self-serving and beliefs do not have explanatory producers structure the constraints and consuming behaviours, but thought or predictive value. They do. There opportunities in which we act as that the solution should lie in coercive is excellent work in psychology that individuals and as collectivities in relation government action. They supported demonstrates that we are able to facilitate to the environment and consumption? policy instruments of incentives, laws and increase pro-environmental This may be one of the reasons why and penalties. Very few saw themselves behaviours, for example, by changing the public are distrustful of government. as actors with a capacity to take action social norms. But we need to understand On the one hand they feel they are on climate change. where such attitudes, behaviours and subject to finger-wagging criticism for Evidence for the potentially negative choices come from, rather than just satisfying their hedonistic desires by and unintended consequences of forcing assuming they are the product of ‘human consuming too much of the wrong things. behaviour change without understanding nature’. We need to appreciate that the On the other, the government encourages people’s concerns comes from a local playing field upon which the consumer them to ‘spend, spend, spend’ in order to authority in southeast England which makes choices is not a level one in terms dig the economy out of a recession. Is it introduced an Alternative Weekly Waste of information and power. And we need surprising that the public feel the Collection Scheme. On paper it was to recognise that consumption is not an government is hypocritical, and highly successful – over nine respond by distancing themselves from months, recycling rates went the causes and solutions to the from about 27 per cent to just problems? under 40 per cent. This The government is now trying to reduced waste going to landfill bring about change in more subtle ways by about 500 tonnes a month through promoting policies such as – 50 fewer lorries. But there ‘nudging’. It is not difficult to see why was a great deal of public politicians and the government would opposition – letters, protests, like to nudge us to a sustainable future. headlines in the local paper. It doesn’t sound like the heavy hand of People continued to recycle, government; it implies gentle but they took their revenge persuasion and fun. But despite the fact at the ballot box. The ruling that David Cameron says ‘Changing our party that introduced the culture is not easy or quick… You scheme lost 24 seats at the cannot do it top-down’, the opposite is following election, and the implied in its advocacy. Maybe nudging introduction of the scheme Government policy rests on an assumption of individual will lead to new habits, but it does not was seen to be a highly choice and agency – each person reducing their own address the root causes of the problems significant factor in that personal environmental ‘rucksack’ we face. Equally importantly, this is the turnaround. language of the quick-fix solution, the If we want to change language of management. Consider behaviours then we need to these extracts from the Mindspace report exercise in individual choice but is concentrate on those attitudes and values (2009): ‘…behavioural approaches offer a shared and collective activity that will that drive behaviours. Those values and a potentially powerful new set of tools… be inconsistent and contradictory across attitudes, however, are not formed in [that] can lead to low cost, low pain ways time and space. a social and cultural vacuum. They are of “nudging” citizens – or ourselves – into The promotion of individualism and embedded and nurtured in and emerge new ways of acting by going with the from a social context, such as class, consumer choice has been an overriding grain of how we think and act’; and gender, ethnicity and environmental aspect of political culture over the last ‘changing behaviour without changing 20–30 years. One consequence of settings, all of which lead to the minds… focuses on the more automatic advancing individualism is that it can development of everyday cultures processes of judgment and influence – and practices. For example, if driving lead to the weakening of collective what Robert Cialdini calls “click, whirr” a particular kind of car is a reflection of organisations and undermine a culture processes of mind’. class and gender cultures as well as the that encourages and supports cooperation Do we really want to change and solidarity. Paradoxically, one desire to create and promote particular behaviours without changing minds? identities, then there is little virtue in implication of the absence of intrinsically Is this the kind of society we want? motivated collective action is that we trying to persuade people to travel by Surely we need more socially participative public transport or buy a hybrid car. could end up with a Hobbesian scenario models which involve people as partners in which socially responsible behaviour People occupy multiple roles and have in creative and rewarding solutionmultiple identities, often coming into has to be imposed from above by a strong generating, decision-making and State. In other words, if – through the conflict with each other – parent, office implementation processes? Models worker, school run driver. For the promotion of individualism – social in which those in power treat the government to say to such people, capital, social cohesion and cooperation journeys under one mile should be on decline, then it may be necessary to community not as a group to be coerce people into acting in support of foot fails to recognise conflicting demands persuaded and coerced, or even subtly interests other than just their own. For on their time and resources at a practical manipulated, but as partners with whom example, in the UK/Sweden study we level, and how such importuning may they should work? looked at students’ attitudes towards and threaten their identities at a psychological Let me be clear. I am not saying responsibility for climate change actions. level. What was it Margaret Thatcher was that individual choice and action are
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conditions in which poor an unsustainable diets have come about. To do this we used a ‘life histories’ approach, gathering in-depth information about the individuals’ changing behaviours and practices within the wider social, political and economic context. This captures the real-life complexity that often gets left out of quantitative approaches such as attitude surveys. We interviewed 14 women from Surrey and Northumberland, in three different age groups: 20–25, 30–55, and over 70. People told us their life story, walking forward in time and telling us how their life changed over the years. How family, community, national or even global influences and forces led to changes in their relations, what they did, how they travelled, what they consumed, and so on. Their accounts of how they were introduced to new foods became contextualised in larger social and economic processes. Through this we are better able to understand not only how food is chosen, prepared, cooked, eaten, but what are the practical and symbolic meanings of food and eating. Meat served a number of different functions in the lives of the women interviewed. It had a central role in representing traditional meals – it marked a fault line between simple (traditional) and sophisticated (modern) foods. Meat denoted status, and was used to display cooking capabilities. It was viewed as a necessary addition to the diet for good health, and one of the strongest themes which emerged during the analysis was the way in which food – and meat-centric meals – was used as a catalyst for social relations. The meal – often with meat – is used as an excuse or an incentive for gathering family and friends together, whether for celebrating festivals such as Christmas or simply satisfying the belief that it is important to sit down together as a family unit to talk. A shared meal is also a way of honouring people, to invite them to sit at your table and to share your food may be the most valuable thing you can give a guest. And historically, with This is an edited transcript – for the full audio version people you honour, you give see tinyurl.com/uzzell. To hear more about British them meat. It is a sign of Psychological Society Public Engagement events, and generosity and a sign of affluence, and those values to receive limited edition ‘Sharing our science’ coasters, have remained to the present sign up to the mailing list at www.bps.org.uk/soslist. day.
Meat is also highly gendered. In our study, gender differences in attitudes towards a low-meat or vegetarian diet were not confined to barbecues, the archetypal male cooking arena. Eating less meat was something that appeared to be at odds with the identities of the men in the lives of some of the women. Although eating little meat was seen as part of a modern diet and highly acceptable to the women, vegetarianism was seen as something of a taboo. Whilst eating less meat appears to be the norm for many of these women, it is generally perceived that the men in their families need meat and/or that they would find a low-meat or vegetarian diet unacceptable. Other interviewees revealed the change from traditional British food to more exotic, varied foods; how people started to travel around the world more, and how this has affected dietary preferences; and how the introduction of a new grocery store enabled the neighbourhood to experience different foods. They showed that our preferences and actions – and as a consequence our greenhouse gas emissions and the impact we have on the environment – are the product as much of the opportunities we are offered, as of our desires and tastes. So while behaviour change of individuals is important, how and why we consume is, as Elisabeth Shove reminds us, ‘the outcome of wide ranging, systemic transformations in culture, technology and social practice’. This is why we need to understand production processes and the ways in which available products guide our consumption. We are beginning to take this step with the second example of new research that I would like to discuss. Production – and thus jobs – will be affected by any kind of climate change policies, something we often forget. Even policies that centre predominantly on consumption – changing consumption through changing behaviour – will create less or changed demand and will influence production processes indirectly. Therefore, we ought to investigate how workers and management relate to DAVID BACON/REPORTDIGITAL.CO.UK
alleged to have said? ‘A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.’ We need to tackle the societal structures and processes that promote and reinforce such identity desires, values, images and inequalities if we are serious about changing car usage behaviour. In other words, while attitudes and values are seen by psychologists as residing within the head, we must remember they have got there somehow, and applying our psychological knowledge and theories to these conditions should be as much the concern of psychologists as investigating the attitudes and values themselves. As consumers, we are repeatedly told that the route to success is through the display of material possessions (i.e. having) and the acquisition of a socially desirable identity (i.e. being) and the two are inseparable. Comparatively little attention has been given – certainly at a policy level – to examining the ways in which consumption processes are created and shaped by the needs of producers to market their products, or how producers and marketers make the link between ‘having’ and ‘being’ and use this in an iconography and literacy to sell us images of ourselves as successful people. I would like now to discuss two research studies we are doing at the University of Surrey in conjunction with the University of Umeå in Sweden. These, we believe, are highly innovatory in terms of capturing the societal, spatial and historical context of environmental behaviours and practices. What goes on in the kitchen is clearly highly significant in terms of climate change. Some 22 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to food and catering, cooking and eating (Druckman & Jackson, 2009). It has been estimated that meat consumption in the UK has doubled over the last 40 years. Although the public have been encouraged to eat less meat and dairy for health and environmental reasons, relatively little attention has been given to the eating and cooking practices in which these products are consumed. If we are to encourage people to follow more sustainable diets we need to have a better understanding of the
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climate change and to the policies that are developed to combat it. The first step we have taken to research this is a project being undertaken with my Swedish colleague, Professor Nora Räthzel. In this, we are examining the climate change policies of trade unions in the Global North and South. Trade unions are typically not seen as standing at the front line of combating climate change. They are often perceived to be reluctant to change and hostile to any kind of legislation that might threaten jobs; and workers in the major carbonemission industries – steel, cement manufacturing, transport – are doubly condemned as these industries are perceived to have a major responsibility for climate change. However, this is an inaccurate perception. The TUC in this country has been running a highly effective Green Workplaces programme. The Blue Green Alliance in the USA started as collaboration between the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club to expand the number and quality of jobs in the green economy and now includes a wide range of labour organisations and environmental NGOs. We have interviewed senior trade union policy makers and officers in Europe, Brazil, South Africa, India and Malaysia. One of the major planks of trade union policies is the concept of ‘just transition’. Formulated by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the policy states there is a need ‘to create green and decent jobs, transform and improve traditional ones and include democracy and social justice in environmental decision-making processes’. But while the ITUC has recognised that ‘The main victims of climate change will be the workers, in particular in developing countries, whose sole responsibility will be to have been born poor in the most fragile parts of the planet’, it is acknowledged that jobs may have to go and jobs may have to change. Just transition is far from easy to implement. One of the goals of our project is to understand better some of these challenges, as exemplified by two of our interviewees from the metalworkers union. One Canadian union official argued that ‘green jobs’ is a term from the environmental movement, not the labour movement. Another senior trade unionist saw the traditions of his industry and the identity of its workforce being challenged by the notion of greenness: Green jobs are insulting. Steel are brown jobs. You can’t build windmills and aircraft without steel. The steel job is a green job. A rigger is a rigger
when he is working in brown or green job. What is a green boss? A green boss is still a boss. A green capitalist is still a capitalist? Vestas – they might be green, but they are still bosses.
One of the key questions our research is asking is: What are the psychological barriers at the collective and individual level to a just transition? A senior international trade union policy maker – Julio – provides an example of how political and technological changes are related to broader societal problems and one cannot tackle environmental issues without addressing the social and the psychological: Because, for example, the social problem of…road transport. …it’s not easy, because the position of the driver is a real position in society. When you are a driver, it’s the same thing as when you are a miner: you do not have a high qualification but you have a real job – and you have real recognition. … You have a real identification. Because when you are a…young boy, you play with a car, and you hope to become a driver. … It’s not a technical problem. We know the technical problem perfectly well now. … It’s to change the social image and to change the population.
Steel workers, chemical workers, or, as in Julio’s example, lorry drivers, are proud of their work and their skills. Their aim is to do ‘a job well for its own sake’ as Richard Sennett (2008) expresses it. But Julio is also referring to another aspect of people’s work: jobs are articulated in terms of a certain way of being in the world, they give people a sense of purpose and imply a specific ‘way of life’ that is associated with specific kinds of work. In the case of a long-distance driver – adventure, independence and freedom. Julio speaks about identification with a ‘position in society’. In other words, work identities are not merely individual identities. They develop within a process in which people occupy positions that have existed long before they occupied them and will continue to exist after they have left them. Threatening industries threatens jobs, which in turn threatens identities. This is a potential major barrier to change. How can we formulate just transition policies and practices that recognise this? Can we provide new jobs, green jobs, decent and non-precarious jobs that not only enable the construction of new identities but also positive identities in the context of carbon-reduced production? This brings us full circle in some
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respects, to the kind of conclusions that Martin Seligman made last year in this same BA/BPS Annual Lecture. He argued for a psychology of positive human functioning that draws upon the scientific understanding of people as well as generating effective interventions that allow individuals, communities and societies not just to endure and survive, but also to flourish. I cannot help but feel that a psychology that sees its contribution to the major problem facing the world as only one of advising on individual behaviour change is perhaps selling short its legacy and aspirations. Psychology has to have a broader vision. Just as environmentalists talk of the importance of focusing on environmentally significant actions as opposed to environmentally convenient ones, we should be focusing on significant areas of explanation rather than familiar and comfortable areas of psychological practice. This will almost certainly require us to work in multidisciplinary teams and in interdisciplinary modes. I was struck by another comment from Julio, who said: Sustainable development is a possibility to build a new project for humanity. Because nobody knows what a sustainable society should look like. So each trade union in the world, each person in the world, each population in the world, has the possibility to express their views and their opinion in order to build this project.
What Julio is suggesting is a vision of a sustainable society that could be seen not as a threat or a sacrifice but as an opportunity – an opportunity for which all of us have a responsibility to create a world in which our relations with others and nature are more equitable and just. This brings to mind the African concept of ubuntu, ‘a person is a person through other persons’. We are our social relations. Community, well-being, rootedness to the environment, quality of life, beliefs and identity are always lived out among others. An individual’s wellbeing is caught up in the well-being of others and it is from others and with others that we learn, teach and act. It will be through working with and through others that we may have a chance to solve the serious social, economic and environmental problem we call climate change. I David Uzzell is Professor of Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey email@example.com
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The battle of the sex differences Jon Sutton interviews Cordelia Fine about neurosexism and more
or anyone who thought that the F battle of the sexes was over, that any gender inequalities remaining are
To be clear from the start though, you’re not denying that there are sex differences in the brain; or that there are also large sex differences in who does what; or that they could be connected. That’s right. And it’s possible that our increasingly sophisticated and powerful neuroimaging techniques might reveal other, more subtle, differences. But drawing a link between brain differences and psychological or social differences between the sexes is no easy task. This
innate and pretty inevitable, your new book Delusions of Gender is pretty uncomfortable reading. Everything’s not fine. As long as there has been brain science there have been – in retrospect – misguided neurological explanations and justifications of sex inequality. Again and again, these hypotheses eventually find themselves hurled on the scientific scrap heap. But not before they become part of cultural lore, and reinforce social attitudes about men and women in ways that hinder progress towards greater sex equality. It’s still happening. I think that in 50 years’ time we will look back on these early 21stcentury debates and claims with the same shocked bemusement with which we now view suggestions that women’s spinal cord and brain stem characteristics leave them ill-equipped for voting.
is partly because those gender gaps can close or even disappear depending on social context, place and historical period. But also, we are still at the beginning of the journey of understanding how the brain enables the mind. Even if we assume that a sex difference in the brain is reliable – generally not a safe assumption to make – what does it mean? The sheer complexity of the brain, together with our assumptions about gender, lend themselves beautifully to overinterpretation and precipitous conclusions.
One couple we encounter in your book get what they consider ‘marriage saving’ information from a brain scan, marvelling: ‘It’s hard to argue with an MRI’. Harmless placebo? I don’t think it’s a harmless placebo when you have an apparently authoritative author claiming that working mothers suffer from ‘overloaded brain circuits’ and that only when ‘the children leave home, the mommy brain circuits are finally free to be applied to new ambitions, new thoughts, new ideas.’ Last year Naomi Wolf wrote an opinion piece that reported, without any apparent scepticism, Michael Gurian’s suggestion that men are neurally less capable of seeing dust or laundry piling up. When a leading spokeswoman for the thirdwave feminist movement falls for neurosexism, we have to start to worry. Perhaps even more worrying is the way commentators draw on findings of sex differences in the brain to ‘inform’ educational practices. There are lots of good scientific reasons to worry about whether any one finding of a sex difference in the brain will withstand the tests of time, of bigger samples, and of better methodologies. Yet commentators will recommend educational strategies on the basis of what is very likely a spurious difference. Then, of course, we’re a long way from being able to translate brain differences – a slightly bigger bit of the brain here, or a bit more neural activity there – into educational strategies. This is where gender stereotypes come in handy – and now you’ve got just about everything you need for a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your position seems to be one of extreme social determinism. In this scientific era of ‘it’s a bit of both’ conclusions, isn’t that just as bizarre and unsustainable as an exclusively biological focus would be? I reject all charges! To say that the difference between two schools in average maths scores might be due to differences in the school environments isn’t to claim that mathematical ability is socially determined. My conception of development is one in which the developmental path is constructed, step by step, out of the continuous and dynamic interaction between brain, genes and environment. And the ‘it’s a bit of both’ line raises an interesting point. While researching the book I struggled to reconcile a conception of brain development as the emergence of experience-dependent neural structures with the idea that prenatal hormones permanently organise a ‘male type’ or
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‘female type’ brain. What, exactly, is organised? The concept of prenatal brain organisation acknowledges ‘a bit of both’, sure. But I’m not sure it embraces the inextricability of the two.
researchers rather than inexperienced students.
Having spent my academic years struggling to find a From Michelle Ryan, Associate Professor at the decent measure of empathy, University of Exeter You mention the ‘male type’ and I have to admit I chuckled at ‘female type’ brain there. Simon your description of tests like What is it that turns rigorous, scientifically valid Baron-Cohen, a UK psychologist who Baron-Cohen’s ‘Reading the neuroscience findings into neurosexism? has researched in that area, gets a Mind in the Eyes’ task as I don’t, of course, have any objection to rigorous, particularly hard time in your book. coming closest to assessing scientifically valid neuroscience! And neuroscientists What is it about his work you’re so ‘talking to a time-pressed don’t have control over how their findings are used (or uncomfortable with? Muslim woman in full abused) by popular writers. But I would argue that, Simon Baron-Cohen has done seminal burka’. Do you feel the field within the neuroscientific community, there are issues work in autism. But when it comes to is primarily hampered by around how ‘facts’ about sex differences in the brain are his research into sex differences, the methodology, or do you just sometimes (not always, of course) produced, reported, care, thoughtfulness and background feel there’s little of interest cited and interpreted. Default testing for sex differences knowledge that the topic deserves is there however hard we look? leads to spurious results. Marginal findings of sex I certainly don’t think there’s not in evidence – both in terms of the difference can become the main focus of a published nothing of interest to be found methods that he employs, and with regard report. Small studies that find sex differences may be with regard to empathy and to the conclusions he (and others) then cited in favour of larger studies, or even meta-analyses, gender. For example, it’s draw from his data. that do not. Structure–function relations are assumed, interesting and important that For example, there are question rather than tested, leaving researchers with too much even very subtle social cues marks over whether he is measuring fetal room for theoretical contortions when data don’t fit can create or obliterate a testosterone, whether he is measuring hypotheses. These all contribute to the problem. gender gap, or that a large ‘empathising’ and ‘systemising’, and body of research shows that whether males and females even differ As a parent yourself, what are your reflections on people’s self-ratings in these skills. gender-neutral parenting? of their empathic Even if you set There is this popular idea that we tried gender-neutral ability bear little all this aside, “these hypotheses eventually parenting, and it failed. Yet it’s impossible to parent in relation to their there are often find themselves hurled on a gender-neutral way. Babies are born into a world actual ability. And question marks the scientific scrap heap ” in which sex is the most important and the most obvious of course this kind over whether he social division, continually emphasised, and it’s a world of research shows us finds the which is absolutely saturated with information about just how careful we relationships what goes with being male and what goes with being have to be about our between fetal testosterone and female. Babies are also born to parents who have a head methodology when empathising and systemising abilities full of assumptions and expectations about gender, investigating gender that you’d expect to see if his hypothesis whether consciously endorsed and acknowledged, or differences. is right. Sometimes these relationships are not. We need to take very seriously how this contributes pretty messy, or even missing. All in all, to the really very subtle sex differences seen in infancy. Is part of the problem that that’s a lot of question marks over a lot of But also, you can’t rear children in this kind of strongly psychologists are expected important issues. gendered environment, and not expect it to influence and to always declare gender of motivate them quite powerfully once, at the age of about You deconstruct one study in participants, and then if a two, they know what side of this very important gender particular, which was led by one of difference is found it is divide they belong. Baron-Cohen’s master’s students. I reported? The file drawer/publication published a fair bit of research during bias with regard to sex my PhD, and on being asked to justify differences is a long-noted it more than a decade later, I often find Perhaps the main point I learnt from problem and – thanks to default testing myself wanting to scream ‘I was doing the book was how the environment my PhD! I didn’t really know what I was for sex differences, nuisance variables, makes gender salient, and the ripple a tendency for small sample sizes, and doing!’ But you do evoke the effect this can have on the mind. Can teething problems with statistical analysis Spiderman principle: ‘with great power you give us an example of this at work? techniques – one that seems to be comes great responsibility’. I do think neuroscientists in socially When we’re trying to do something that’s exacerbated in the neuroscientific sensitive areas like gender should work traditionally regarded as being the literature. This is an issue that, in my under a burden of caution. Many studies specialty of the other sex – for example, view, the neuroscientific community are flawed, many are over-interpreted. But maths or understanding another person’s needs to start thinking about. When I not many inspire in their authors and thoughts and feelings – we do so under tracked down the studies cited by popular others the conclusion that innate the cloud of ‘stereotype threat’. Gender writers as evidence of hardwired sex differences in part lie behind our genderstereotypes are primed in our mind, and differences, this often took me to studies stratified society. this interferes with our ability and interest with very small numbers of men and Having said that, I also fully subscribe in the task. There’s a growing body of women in which brain activity in the to the ‘I was doing my PhD!’ principle – fascinating research into this sexes was very similar. Yet the focus of I think the bulk of this responsibility falls phenomenon, trying to unravel how and the published report was a marginal and on supervisors and more senior why it happens. But what I find most probably spurious sex difference.
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than in developing or transitional ones. That’s right. And one explanation of this is that men and women in rich, advanced industrial societies have more economic freedom to express their essentially different natures, rather than both sexes pursuing the most financially secure occupations. But occupational interests aren’t So that would clearly impact upon carried around inside the women in their working lives? head, impervious to outside Absolutely. This research suggests that interest. Cultural realities a woman doing traditionally male work and beliefs about the sexes – faces the same problem as the dancer represented in existing Ginger Rogers, who, as it was once inequalities, in famously noted, ‘did everything Fred advertisements, in We mustn’t overlook the domestic in our search for the Astaire did, except backwards and in high conversations, in the reasons for sex inequality heels’. And I think it’s important not to expectations of others, or underestimate the impact of stereotype primed by the environment – threat on people’s interests too. Of course especially irksome. Overloaded brain alter our self-perception, our interests it’s possible that older adults’ interests circuits? Mommy brain circuits only free and our behaviour. For example, it seems don’t have the same surprising for new ideas and ambitions once the kids to be remarkably easy to adjust the shine malleability researchers have found leave home? Oh, please! What will she of a career path for one sex. In lab in the university students with whom tell us next? That the neural circuits for studies, a few words to the effect that a Y most of this research is done, but young organising child care, planning the chromosome will serve in your favour, or adulthood is an important time of life evening meal and ensuring that everyone a quick makeover of the interior design of for making career decisions that can has clean underwear crowd out the the workplace, is all that it takes to bring permanently close doors. circuits for career, ambition and original about surprisingly substantial changes in thought? career interests. So are we in the West Just how ‘Western’ a phenomenon is expressing our essential male and female Clearly your focus is on why this? I believe there is more gender natures – or our ‘gendered selves’? neurosexism is bad for women, but segregation of occupational interests I’d be failing in my duty as a man if what about the impact on men? Roy in rich, advanced industrial societies I didn’t respond with Baumeister argues that we have built righteous indignation to your our successful civilisation in part by quote that ‘behind every treating men as expendable building great academic man there is blocks. 92 per cent of Americans who a woman, but behind every die in the line of work are men, and great academic woman is an Baumeister argues there would be unpeeled potato and a child outrage if that statistic were reversed. From Melissa Hines, Professor of Psychology at the I certainly think that neurosexism is bad who needs some attention’. University of Cambridge If you’re responding on behalf for men too, and often downright of your entire sex then you insulting. But at the same time it’s worth Can evidence of some inborn (say genetic or hormonal) may have to stick to plain old pointing out that although it’s a brave boy contributions to gendered behaviour be discussed indignation, I’m afraid! But if or young man who flirts with the without reinforcing sex-related stereotypes? this is a personal defence then feminine in front of his peers, on the That’s an interesting question, and I think it raises the I’d point out that later in the whole men tend to be welcomed into important point that to those who are interested in book I do say, ‘of course, traditionally female occupations. By gender equality there’s nothing at all frightening about there are exceptions’, although contrast, women who try to enter good science. It’s only carelessly done science, or poorly I must apologise for not masculine occupations, including those interpreted science, or the neurosexism it feeds that mentioning you by name! more dangerous ones, often suffer very creates cause for concern. But I think what would be Laundry and nappyhostile treatment. helpful is for us to remember that, whatever changing are much less neuroscientists or neuroendocrinologists find, there’s Well, I did enquire about a job in glamorous than neuroscience, no such thing as ‘biology in the pure’ that socialisation Mothercare once, and was pretty much but we mustn’t overlook the either boosts up or disguises. I think if we can move forcibly ejected. Anyway, we’re about domestic in our search for the away from an implicitly one-way model of development – half way through this interview now. reasons for sex inequality. genes to hormones to brains to behaviour – then that If I were to tell you that others have Gloria Steinem absolutely put might help to create some distance between ‘biological’ described me as ‘charmingly sexist’, her finger on it. This is what research and rigid gender stereotypes. Maybe! how might that frame the rest of it? makes Louann Brizendine’s Psychologist Stacey Sinclair and her claims in The Female Brain striking are the studies that show what happen when you blow the cloud of stereotype threat away. You can do this, for example, simply by telling women that on the maths test they’re about to take, women do just as well as men. And when you do, women perform significantly better than you’d expect from their course or test scores. As Catherine Good and her colleagues have put it, dispersing stereotype threat unleashes mathematical potential in women that is usually suppressed.
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colleagues have found that we socially ‘tune’ our self-perceptions to blend with the opinion of ourselves held by the person with whom we’re interacting. When women were manipulated into thinking that they were going to spend some time with someone ‘charmingly sexist’, obligingly, they temporarily perceived themselves as more stereotypically feminine than a control group. And remarkably, when they actually interacted with the supposed benevolent sexist, they even behaved in a more stereotypically feminine way. In short, if only you’d told me earlier that you’re charmingly sexist, I might have answered the question about Simon Baron-Cohen in a more caring, socially sensitive way. This work is fascinating in its own right, but it is also a wonderful example of just how psychologically permeable is the skull that separates the mind from the sociocultural context in which it operates.
dismissed as political correctness and an ideologically motivated ignoring of the scientific evidence. But my book doesn’t blur the boundaries between politics and science – rather, it makes their interaction stand out more clearly.
Guest question From Christian Jarrett, Editor of the Society’s Research Digest (www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog) Your book is incredibly well researched so I was surprised that you didn’t discuss the case of David Reimer. He lost his penis in a botched circumcision operation aged eight months and was subsequently raised as a girl (which included having his testicles removed, and female hormone treatment) on the advice of a psychologist who believed gender identity is entirely socially constructed. This proved to be a disaster and Reimer later reclaimed his male identity aged 14. Similar outcomes have been observed for boys with cloacal exstrophy (in which the penis is missing from birth) who have been treated with female hormones and raised as girls. What do you feel these cases say about the innateness of gender identity, if anything? My book is concerned with the idea that males and females are, on average, ‘hardwired’ to ‘systemise’ versus ‘empathise’, which is why I focused on evidence most relevant to the question of the effects of prenatal hormones on sex-typed interests, rather than core gender identity (that is, sense of being male or female). But to answer the second part of your question, despite the huge popular impact the case of David Reimer has had, this was one individual, reared as a male until 17 months of age. And in her new book Brain Storm (which takes on the whole ‘package’ offered by brain organisation theory) Rebecca Jordan-Young points out that femininity was forced rather heavy-handedly on Reimer, and with a kind of anxious ‘let’s hope and pray we can turn this boy into a girl’ mentality, and that we should consider what effect this might have had, especially in light of recent reviews of similar kinds of cases that conclude that rejection of a female identity is far from inevitable.
In striving for scientific correctness, I would describe the book as relentlessly methodological. I think that’s quite an inspiration to any of our readers thinking about writing a popular science book – they don’t have to compromise on the science to have a hit. Was it easy to publish it in that way? Thank you… I think! Although a tip for readers – never use the phrase And do you think you’ll get through, get ‘relentlessly methodological’ into people’s heads? Do you think your in a book proposal… book will make a difference, or are It can be hard to write neuroscientific explanations just too accessibly and to get the seductive and the stereotypes too balance right. Popular writing resistant to change? is a lot of fun, and it’s actually At times I did feel rather despondent surprising how having to put while writing the book, as I came to things in plain English can realise that no sooner does one sometimes force you to clarify, neuroscientific justification for rather than compromise, sex inequality scientific ideas. I also fall than really enjoy being another one able to bring ideas comes to take and research out of “we are still plagued by the its place. And academic journals problem of sex and we just don’t and into the public premature speculation” seem to be domain. But I have to learning from admit that sometimes it’s our mistakes – a real relief to go back to we are still plagued by the problem of academic work and be able to really get sex and premature speculation. If I have down to the nitty-gritty of things without a hope for my book making a difference, having to worry about making the material funny, accessible and interesting it’s probably in the role it might play in to a general reader. drawing attention to the need to raise the bar when it comes to the topic of sex Tell me more about that academic differences in the brain. To be clear, this work. isn’t a call for political correctness, but My current academic work is related to scientific correctness. I think both the book. At the moment, for example, neuroscientists and the popular media I’m writing an article exploring need to step up here. Neurosexism affects neuroscientists’ ethical responsibilities social attitudes in a harmful way, and we when it comes to the topic of sex need to start being less casual about it. differences and the brain, and how those responsibilities might best be supported Science clearly influences politics and and discharged. vice versa. But did you ever feel you were blurring the boundaries too You’ve got quite a pedigree – Oxford, much? Cambridge, UCL. Do you have fond For some reason, objection to the careless memories of UK psychology, and do treatment of the science of sex differences you think you’ll return to our shores? is often confused with disapproval of the I do have fond memories of the UK. And very idea of intrinsic sex differences. It is
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I’m open-minded about where the future will take me. What book comes next? And can I put in a plea for one that’s easier on your husband? I do have another book in mind, but it will not be about gender. Will it be easier on my husband? I hope so. I suspect that there’s nothing fun about living with someone reading up on gender inequity in household labour, primed to see the exertion of male privilege where perhaps there is nothing more than a few unwashed cups. There was also a period when our normally quiet hour of reading before bedtime became more like dinner in the pig-sty, as I contemptuously snorted my way through several popular books about gender. But having said that, living with someone writing a book is probably tiresome whatever the topic.
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Delusions of gender – ‘neurosexism’, biology and politics Cordelia Fine’s new book is a bold new attack on the very idea that there are any essential sex differences in the human mind and the brain. Her barely veiled agenda, in this long, scholarly book, is to show that any sex difference found in humans can be made to vanish! How? Simply by a quick manipulation of a socialpsychological variable. If, for example, men on average score higher on a maths test or a mental rotation (spatial) test, The Gender Delusion: then simply by The Real Science Behind telling women Sex Differences ahead of time Cordelia Fine that women on average score higher on such tests can not only lead women to perform better than they usually do, but can make the sex difference vanish. These are just some of the dozens of social psychological studies that Fine reviews, and her argument has an appealing simplicity: if women and men can score equally in areas where robust sex differences have been reported, then surely they don’t constitute essential sex differences. They must instead be a remnant of the centuries of sexism that attempted to portray women as less intelligent than men. Fine goes further to argue that any modern cognitive neuroscientist who suggests there may be any essential sex differences in the human mind is just perpetuating these historic sexist attitudes. And she coins a new word for the exploration of sex differences in the mind by contemporary scientists: ‘neurosexism’. She litters her book liberally with quotes from 18th- and 19th-century sexists, as if contemporary scientists in the field of sex differences are no different from those who wished to deprive women of the vote, keep them confined to domesticity, and as if to say
‘look: nothing has changed’. So what’s good and what’s wrong with her basic argument? What’s good is that this book examines the role of social psychological factors in how men and women perform on psychological tests, and this is a welcome contribution. As one of those psychologists Fine has in her sights, it might surprise her that I strongly agree that social variables are important and doubtless play key roles in shaping our behaviour. Indeed, the kinds of effects Fine highlights can be thought of as commonsense demonstrations that if you make someone feel more confident, they do better on a test; or that if you change a person’s expectations of how they will perform, their performance is influenced by their expectations. We should thank Fine for reminding readers not to forget the importance of social factors influencing sex differences. But showing that a manipulation of social variables changes behaviour does not prove that it was those very social variables that cause the spontaneous sex differences in the first place. Social manipulations are forms of intervention, and we shouldn’t fall victim to the old fallacy of assuming that the absence of a treatment is the cause of a condition. Aspirins can make headaches vanish, but headaches aren’t necessarily caused by the absence of aspirin. Where I – and I suspect many other contemporary scientists – would part ways with Fine is in her strident, extreme denial of the role that biology might play in giving rise to any sex differences in the mind and brain. My own book The Essential Difference was I think quite moderate in suggesting that sex differences are the result of both social and biological influences, and the same is true of Melissa Hines’ excellent book Brain Gender. But for Fine, even a hint of biological influence is too much biology. So how does she deal with experimental findings that show either prenatal or neonatal influences on sex differences? Here, her main strategy (arguing that sex differences can be made to vanish by using the trick of manipulating social psychological variables) just doesn’t apply. So she is forced to adopt a different strategy, namely, dissecting the experiments that purport to show prenatal or neonatal influences, to reveal that such
experiments are flawed and therefore incorrect in their conclusions. This is Fine’s last-ditch attempt to make sex differences go away. Being a co-author of some of these experiments I can examine her criticisms with the benefit of close knowledge of the studies she discusses, and found errors in her critiques. For example, in our newborn study (Connellan et al., 2001), which showed that girls look longer at a human face and boys look longer at a mechanical mobile, Fine attempts to dismantle this evidence by saying we should have presented both stimuli at the same time, rather than one at a time, since one at a time might have led to fatigue-effects. However, she overlooks that it was for this very reason that we included counterbalancing into the experimental design, to avoid any risk of such order-effects. Secondly, she argues that the experimenter may not have been totally blind to the baby’s sex because there might have been ‘congratulations’ cards around the bed (‘Congratulations! It’s a boy!’). However, she overlooks that it was precisely for this reason that we included a panel of independent judges coding the videotapes of just the eye-region of the baby’s face, from which it is virtually impossible to judge the sex of the baby. Fine is right that our newborn baby study needs to be independently replicated, given its importance for establishing a human sex difference in the mind at a point in development before culture has had a chance to have any influence. But it is an example of where Fine’s scholarship shows some shortcomings, where details are overlooked in order to fit her biologyfree theory of human sex differences. Although we would all like to believe in Fine’s extreme social determinism, efforts to explain (purely in terms of social variables) why neurodevelopmental conditions like autism, learning difficulties, and language delay affect boys more often than girls lead to the ludicrous position of blaming these conditions on sexist factors in society (or in parents). And extreme social determinism has major difficulties explaining why left-handedness is more common in boys (12 per cent) than girls (8 per cent). In contrast, a moderate position that recognises that – over and above the important role of the social environment –
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References Baron-Cohen, S., Knickmeyer, R. & Belmonte, M. (2005). Sex differences in the brain: Implications for explaining autism. Science, 310, 819–823. Connellan, J., Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S. et al. (2000). Sex differences in human neonatal social perception. Infant Behavior and Development, 23, 113–118.
A global problem
Makes good sense
Why Aren't We Saving the Planet? A Psychologist's Perspective Geoffrey Beattie
Sensory Marketing: Research on the Sensuality of Products Aradhna Krishna (Ed.)
Geoff Beattie, best known for his media presence, invites the reader to join him on his personal journey from being an ‘environmental unbeliever’ to formulating action plans and getting excited about further avenues of psychological research focused on saving the planet. Beattie was driven to action by a former student and his ‘fear of not feeling fear’ over proven facts about climate change. Beattie considers the difficulty of measuring attitudes to climate change (for example, the impact of social desirability biases) and the oft-encountered gap between attitudes and behaviours. For example, their implicit association test research finds that people do exaggerate their green credentials. Their research into unconscious eye movements as people peruse green labelling on packages is particularly interesting and reveals how this information needs to be made much more salient if it is to be used effectively in consumer decision making. To get at unconscious opinions on green issues, Beattie brings in his more typical work on non-verbal communication and considers how real environmental attitudes can be deduced from speech and movement. He also discusses how films can have a strong but temporary impact on attitudes and not necessarily lead to changes in habitual behaviours. At times, the book appears to have been put together quickly, with long, streaming sentences and frustrating typos. Some readers will not care for Beattie’s introspective first-person narrative and should consider other texts in the area. For others, it will be a thought-provoking, engaging personal account coupled with actual psychological research on this most pertinent global issue. I Routledge Academic; 2010; Pb £9.95 Reviewed by Fidelma Butler who is an occupational psychologist in training
First impressions of this book were that it practices what it preaches – the cover is soft, almost furry to touch, presenting a distinct tactile experience in itself. I have read other books on the importance of the senses within marketing literature, but this book differs in that it is underpinned by psychological theories and methodological approaches, thus appearing more academically ‘sound’ – excuse the pun. The outcome of a conference event, current research is discussed alongside contemporary and familiar sensory marketing examples, and should appeal to academics and marketing professionals alike. The main disappointment was the implicit assumption running throughout the book that there are just five senses to consider, which for me led to the richness of our sensory experiences being downplayed. It was nice to see equal weighting given to the five areas that were covered – touch, taste, smell, vision and sound – but perhaps there is a good case for a further book that extends into other sensory areas. The suggestions for future research certainly point in this direction. I Routledge; 2010; Pb £14.95 Reviewed by Jenna Condie who is a postgraduate researcher at the University of Salford
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biology may also play a small role opens up all sorts of lines of inquiry (e.g. into the effects of prenatal hormones and genes). Autism runs in families and many genes have been implicated, and it may turn out that some of these are relevant to why it is sex-linked. I have also been impressed to see consistent correlations between amniotic fetal testosterone (FT) levels and measures of social development across 10 years of follow-up studies of a cohort of typically developing children we have been tracking, whose mothers all had amniocentesis during pregnancy (BaronCohen et al., 2005). An extreme biological determinism would be equally ludicrous, since there is no doubt that social variables can amplify and interact with such biological effects. Fine is of course obliged to try to find fault with these hormone studies, challenging, for example, whether FT in the amniotic fluid reflects FT in the brain. Again she overlooks that if we could measure FT in the brain in an ethical way, we would. FT in amniotic fluid is the next best ethical option, and it seems to be showing us that FT is associated with sex differences in the mind. Ultimately, for me, the biggest weakness of Fine’s neurosexism allegation is the mistaken blurring of science with politics. Her book reads as a polemic about the implicit political bias underlying the science of sex differences. However, this ignores that you can be a scientist interested in the nature of sex differences while being a clear supporter of equal opportunities and a firm opponent of all forms of discrimination in society. One endeavour need have nothing to do with the other. Fusing science with politics is, in my view, unfounded. I Icon Books; 2010; Hb £14.99 Reviewed by Simon Baron-Cohen who is at the Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge
Sample titles just in: Breakdown Stuart Sutherland The Mindful Manifesto Jonty Heaversedge Valuing Older People Elspeth Stirling For a full list of books available for review and information on reviewing for The Psychologist, see www.bps.org.uk/books Send books for potential review to The Psychologist, 48 Princess Road East, Leicester LE1 7DR
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Remembering the veterans Phil Boyes with the second in our series for budding writers
s I write, the ‘Concert for Heroes’ is on BBC1. This event marks the nation’s appreciation of those who have served (veterans), and those who continue to serve in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces (HMAF). Events such as this concert, regular media discourse, images of the Afghanistan campaign and the high-profile work of the forces charity ‘Help for Heroes’, encourages public support and government investment in services for serving and former personnel. However, with the Afghanistan campaign drawing to a close, maintaining such support and investment may become difficult when veterans’ issues have dropped off the public agenda, and media interest has moved on. This will have process and structural implications for the public and private sector organisations that provide services to veterans. It also provides a rationale for developing services today, to meet the demands of tomorrow’s veteran population. Veterans are a unique service-user group, who, due to the intensity of experience in service life, have poor help-seeking behaviours, or present with a range of comorbid mental health problems (Omerod, 2009). Here I would like to provide an insight to veterans’ mental health problems, and describe my own recently developed group intervention. I speak as a veteran and Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner. Before continuing, there is a risk that – through a discourse centred on needs – veterans may be perceived as
Frueh, B.C., Hammer, M.B., Cahill, S.P. et al. (2000). Apparent symptom overreporting in combat veterans evaluated for PTSD. Clinical Psychology Review, 20, 853–885. Defence Analytical Services and Advice (2008). UK Defence Statistics 2008. Retrieved 20 September 2009 from www.dasa.mod.uk Defence Analytical Services and Advice (2010). UK Defence Statistics 2010.
a vulnerable and needy group. This is not true. Think of veterans such as the Olympian Dame Kelly Homes, or the explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, or even my own example of moving from ‘educational write-off’ at school, to first class honours graduate in psychology. Being in HMAF can be beneficial for many people, and veterans can be very successful in their civilian careers. Some, though, will experience problems that require the assistance of the NHS, which is responsible for the treatment of the 20,000 people leaving HMAF every year to become veterans (DASA, 2008). In addition, current speculation over defence cuts, and plans to discharge those deemed medically unfit (who may have been injured in combat), mean there is likely to be a sudden surge in the veteran population in the next few years. How many of these veterans will require psychological services? It’s a difficult question to answer, due to the lack of a national data recording procedure, and veterans’ reluctance to seek help (Snell & Tusaie, 2008). However, the 2007 launch of six
Retrieved 12 September 2010 from www.dasa.mod.uk Grey, N. (2007). PTSD: Treatment. In S. Lindsay & G. Powell [Eds.] The handbook of adult clinical psychology (3rd edn). London: Routledge. Jenkins, R. (2008). Social identity (3rd edn). Abingdon: Routledge. Ministry of Defence (2008). The nation’s commitment: Cross–government support to our armed forces, their
community mental health pilot schemes for veterans will help illuminate prevalence rates, if the evaluation process recommends the service be rolled out nationally (Ministry of Defence, 2008). Why soldiers are poor help seekers for mental health problems is a question worthy of a separate article, but themes of stigma prevail (Omerod, 2009). Reasons for help seeking are cited as difficulty coping with anger, and pressure to attend from the veteran’s partner (Snell & Tusaie, 2008). This last point would indicate single veterans are perhaps at extra risk. Amongst those who do not seek help, the suicide rate is worrying. There are suspicions that suicide rates amongst veterans of the Falklands Conflict outnumber those killed in action. As for the first Gulf War, where 16 British lives were lost, 175 veterans have recorded suicide or open verdict deaths. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) claim this figure is not statistically significant, compared to an in service comparison group of those not deployed to the Gulf of 158 deaths (DASA, 2010). However, there is a danger here of making post-hoc links, and each tragedy should be individually examined before attributing ‘being a veteran’ as a cause of death. There is little doubt, however, that veterans can become service users. After a sustained period of peace-keeping, combat and humanitarian operations over the past three decades there is reason to believe that this service-user group will only grow in numbers. But do these veterans need dedicated services, and what should those services provide? The first step could be screening. Thomas Richardson (The Psychologist, Forum, August, 2010) suggests screening all returning service personnel for PTSD. Whether screening on immediate return
families and veterans. London: The Stationery Office. NHS (2010). Military mental health. Retrieved 12 September 2010, from tinyurl.com/3xnw3co Omerod, J. (2009). Working with military veterans. Psychiatry, 8, 325–327. Snell, F. & Tusaie, K.T. (2008). Veterans reported reasons for seeking mental health treatment. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 22, 313–314.
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from a combat theatre would result in false positives requires further investigation. It may be more beneficial to screen for depression, anxiety, and substance misuse symptoms, as well as PTSD, six months after returning from operations, and certainly prior to discharge from HMAF. Figures show PTSD to have a 75 to 90 per cent comorbidity rate with affective, substance abuse and other anxiety disorders (Grey, 2007). Figures for in-service personnel show 1384 cases of adjustment disorder, 738 cases of depression and 180 cases of PTSD (NHS, 2010). Therefore, questions always need to be asked about which condition is the primary diagnosis, and whether any assumptions have played a part in achieving that diagnosis. Assumptions arise when a mental health practitioner categorises the veteran as a member of the group ‘veterans’, which includes the representation ‘veteran = PTSD sufferer’. Such an assumption might then influence the questions asked, the way they are asked, and which responses from the veteran the practitioner picks up on. Would this assumption result in confirming the practitioner’s hunch that the veteran was suffering PTSD? Frueh et al. (2000), think so, finding that PTSD symptoms are over-reported in the veteran population. They suggest that veterans maybe ‘seduced’ into overreporting their symptoms in order to assume the role of veteran that they thinks the practitioner expects them to play, or has assigned to them due to categorisation. Assuming a role is explained by Henri Tajfel’s social identity theory, a theory which can aid the practitioner in conceptualising the veteran’s problems. The practitioner needs to be aware of the within-group identity of what it is to be a veteran, and not interact with the veteran based on their own perception of the veteran as a member of the category of veterans (see Jenkins, 2008, for a comprehensive discussion of the differences between these two concepts). Constructing a strong self-esteem boosting identity as a member of a powerful, professional army, a ‘Band of Brothers’, is a necessity in military training where the emphasis is on team building, working and leading. The unique interdependent environment of working, playing and resting together, as part of a self-sufficient community, reinforces this identity. Often amongst different (and sometimes hostile) communities, it is easy to see how service personnel can have difficulty adjusting to a much more varied independent civilian
community. If social identity is a construct of similarities and differences (Jenkins, 2008), then veterans leaving a community of This section of The Psychologist is where we give space strong similarity for a to new talent and original perspectives. We are looking community in which they for sole-authored pieces by those who have not had perceive themselves as different a full article published in The Psychologist before. The may suffer damage to their selfonly other criteria are that the articles should engage esteem and thus be at risk of and inform our large and diverse audience, be written developing mental health exclusively for us, and be no more than 1800 words. problems such as adjustment The successful authors will reach an audience of disorder, depression and anxiety. 48,000 psychologists in print, and many more online. Hence, through the theory of And as if that wasn’t enough, the best contributors to social identity, a target of ‘New voices’ will receive free membership of the cognitive behavioural treatment Society for a year. is identified; changing the core So get writing! Discuss ideas or submit your work beliefs and behaviours of ‘being to firstname.lastname@example.org. different’ into self-esteem Dr Jon Sutton boosting beliefs and behaviours Managing Editor, The Psychologist of being similar, belonging and participation. In addition there are certain ‘traditions and customs’ in service life that are contrary to good Those veterans who present with PTSD mental health. I recall standing on parade symptoms are referred on for assessment as a young soldier and being inspected by and trauma work with a specialist my sergeant major, who, critically looking veterans’ trauma clinician. me up and down, bawled: ‘Boyes! Were Does it seem contrary to suggest that you drunk last night?’ ‘No, Sergeant veterans need help in adjusting their Major,’ I quivered, not calling him Sir as military identity, but then propose a he had previously informed me that he group treatment? Well, the aim of this worked for a living and so was not a Sir. group is to firstly encourage help-seeking, ‘Why the fuck not?’ came the serious which I hope to achieve by having a reply. service-user specific service. Secondly, we So, how best to provide services to aim to address the common presenting veterans, and what should those services problems of veterans so that they may be provide? My own NHS Trust (Tees Esk able to protect and improve their mental and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust) health. Thirdly, having a group will provides an integrated veterans’ service facilitate mutual problem solving. under the leadership of Consultant Of course, an integrated service Clinical Psychologist Symon Day. This model and psycho-education group by model consists of staff who are veterans, themselves will not tackle poor helpor who have received veterans’ seeking behaviour. What is needed for familiarisation training; learning what it this service-user group, and other poor is like to be part of the group and not the help-seeking groups, is a paradigm shift categorisation, working in each service from the traditional medical model of team. Whichever team a veteran is referral – patient feels unwell, goes to the referred to, a veterans’ champion will be doctor, is referred to a specialist service. on hand to facilitate the veteran’s journey We need a model that embraces a through, and participation in, our services. proactive marketing approach, that lets In addition, I have recently developed the veteran know there is a service a psycho-education self-help Veterans’ available, which the veteran can access Wellbeing Group, informed by social by self-referral. Establishing and identity and cognitive behavioural publicising services like this now will, therapy. This group targets the common I believe, pay dividends in the future as presentations of veterans; anger, anxiety the veteran service-user population grows, (including social anxiety), depression, but the funding and publicity shrink. substance abuse, as well as having guest facilitators providing guidance on Phil Boyes is a Psychological employment and training. It also consists Wellbeing Practitioner with of a social identity module called Tees Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Managing the Military Identity, which Foundation Trust helps the veteran focus on similarities Philip.Boyes@tewv.nhs.uk rather than differences. We develop selfesteem boosting identities, and facilitate the veteran’s integration into civilian life.
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Calling ‘new voices’
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Coca-Cola – Brain tonic or poison? Ludy T. Benjamin Jr on a fascinating trial and a psychologist’s role in it
n the evening of 20 October 1909, was entitled The United States Government agents of the United States vs. Forty Barrels, Twenty Kegs Coca-Cola, government waited in the darkness specifying the contents of the seized in a stakeout on the Tennessee state line. cargo. It culminated in a trial beginning They were watching for a truck coming in March 1911 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, from Atlanta, Georgia. When the truck the location of the bottling plant that had crossed the border, the agents intercepted been the final destination of the seized it and seized its cargo – 40 barrels and 20 Coca-Cola syrup. In the suit, Coca-Cola kegs of Coca-Cola syrup. The seizure was was described as a beverage that produced made under the auspices of the recently serious mental and motor deficits. passed Pure Food and Drug Act by which The impetus behind the lawsuit was the US government charged the CocaHarvey Washington Wiley, head of the Cola Company with marketing and selling Bureau of Chemistry of the US a beverage that was injurious to health because it contained a deleterious ingredient. Most readers hearing this part of the story would assume that the harmful ingredient was cocaine, a popular myth about the contents of CocaCola early in its history (a trace of cocaine existed in the 1890s because of the manufacturing process but was eliminated by 1898). However, it wasn’t cocaine. It was caffeine. The government administrator who authorised the seizure could be described as a zealot, intent on ending the sale of Coca-Cola or at least ridding the beverage of its caffeine. The federal suit against Harvey Washington Wiley in his laboratory the Coca-Cola Company
Benjamin, L.T., Jr, Rogers, A.M. & Rosenbaum, A. (1991). Coca-Cola, caffeine, and mental deficiency: Harry Hollingworth and the Chattanooga trial of 1911. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 27, 42–55. Hollingworth, H.L. (1912). The influence of caffeine on mental and motor efficiency. Archives of Psychology, 22, 1–166. Pendergrast, M. (2000). For God, country,
and Coca-Cola: The definitive history of the great American soft drink and the company that makes it (2nd edn). New York: Basic Books. Wiley, H.W. (1930). An autobiography. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill. Young, J.H. (1989). Pure food: Securing the Federal Food and Drugs Act of 1906. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Department of Agriculture. Wiley had long been a vocal opponent of caffeine and was especially critical of its role in the popular beverage. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Coca-Cola Company marketed the beverage as ‘the ideal brain tonic’, emphasising the stimulant properties of the drink, noting in its advertising that it ‘invigorated the fatigued body and quickened the tired brain’. Wiley had testified before Congress that caffeine was a poison and a habitforming drug. He was not fond of coffee or tea but was less critical of those drinks because the caffeine was an indigenous ingredient. But he opposed the sale of Coca-Cola on two grounds: the caffeine was an added ingredient, and the beverage was marketed to children. As the Coca-Cola Company prepared to go to trial, its attorneys realised that the extant research on the effects of caffeine was mostly animal research; they needed research that spoke to the effects on humans. They asked famed psychologist James McKeen Cattell of Columbia University if he would do the work, but he declined. Accepting money from a corporation to do research that the company hoped would be favourable to its legal and commercial needs raised concerns about scientific integrity. No doubt senior academics, such as Cattell, would have been reluctant to take on that kind of project. After Cattell, others were asked; how many is not known. Eventually Coca-Cola found a willing participant in one of Cattell’s recent doctoral students, Harry Hollingworth, an instructor at Barnard College who needed the money that the research would provide. Looking back on his life he wrote that he accepted the offer from the Coca-Cola Company because at his young age he ‘had as yet, no sanctity to preserve’. Because the trial was about to begin, the results were needed in a matter of weeks. Hollingworth planned a series of three studies that were completed in 40 days. The studies were masterfully designed and are still cited today because of their methodological sophistication. The laboratory for the study was a sixroom Manhattan apartment rented
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specifically for the research. Subjects were selected based on good health, who represented a range of caffeine consumption from ‘abstainers’ to ‘regular users’. The caffeine was administered in a variety of doses that bracketed the amount of caffeine a moderate drinker of Coca-Cola might consume in a day. Nearly 20 tests were involved in the three experiments including tests of cognitive, sensory, and motor abilities (e.g. hand steadiness, reaction time, mental calculations, colour discrimination, speed in a cancellation task). The first week of the study involved no caffeine in order to get baseline data on the subjects and the dependent measures. When the caffeine administration began, it was given by capsule. Some subjects got a placebo, also by capsule so that no differential taste cues were present. The design was double blind meaning that neither the experimenters nor the subjects knew who was receiving caffeine. The final study, which lasted a week, used Coca-Cola syrup, some with caffeine and some without. The studies were run during the day by Leta Hollingworth (Harry’s wife, who would use the Coca-Cola money to pursue her doctorate in psychology at Columbia, finishing in 1916). Harry, after completing his teaching duties at Barnard College, joined her in the evenings for data analyses in preparation for the trial. The trial was already underway when the studies were completed. Scientists and medical experts testifying on behalf of the US government offered a lengthy list of the dangers of caffeine, including overstimulation of the heart, overworking of the kidneys, addiction, and sometimes even death. They cautioned that one of the chief problems of caffeine was that it disguised fatigue and thus could lead to dangerous levels of exhaustion, a charge that Wiley often emphasised in his anticaffeine writings. Some of the expert testimony was questioned by Coca-Cola’s attorneys. For example, one physician testifying for the government described how caffeine had produced congestion in the cerebral arteries of his rabbits. When asked, in cross-examination, how he had killed his animals, he admitted that he had hit them on the head with a stick. Hollingworth testified in the third week of the trial, the ninth scientist called on by the Coca-Cola Company attorneys. His research results were quite favourable for the company. He testified that CocaCola appeared to be a mild stimulant both for motor and cognitive performance, and he reported that he found no evidence of the deleterious effects on mental and motor performance alleged by the government. Coca-Cola’s other witnesses
testified similarly, acknowledging that even a frequent drinker of Coca-Cola could not consume anywhere near the
quantity of caffeine that could be considered harmful. The trial lasted another week beyond Hollingworth’s testimony, but it never reached the jury. Once all of the testimony had been presented, CocaCola’s attorneys introduced a motion to dismiss the suit, arguing that the case was based on caffeine being an added ingredient, but the Coca-Cola Company contended that caffeine was one of several ingredients inherent in Coca-Cola. The judge agreed with the company that caffeine was an inherent ingredient, dismissing the suit and arguing in his ruling that ‘Coca-Cola without caffeine would not be Coca-Cola as it is known to the public’. The Coca-Cola Company claimed victory and distributed several pamphlets with titles such as ‘The Truth about CocaCola’ which argued that their beverage had been found to be safe. Of course the Court had not ruled on the issues of the potential dangers of caffeine, but only on the meaning of an ‘added ingredient’ under the Pure Food and Drug Act. Wiley would not be defeated so easily. The pamphlets from the Coca-Cola Company that blatantly misrepresented the results of the Chattanooga trial infuriated him. He appealed the decision which led to a new trial before the US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio. That court supported the ruling of
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the lower court, prompting the Coca-Cola Company to publish a new series of pamphlets, including one entitled ‘Truth, Justice, and Coca-Cola’ which stated that ‘Coca-Cola emerges with a clean bill of health – in effect the highest and final court decides that Coca-Cola is just exactly what we have always claimed – a wholesome, harmless, and non-habit forming beverage’. Clearly the writer of that pamphlet had been absent from elementary school on the day the American judicial system was described. For there was a still higher court, and it was about to hear the case. Wiley, who had been 65 years old at the beginning of the first trial, retired shortly after filing the first appeal. But friends in the US Department of Justice carried the fight to the US Supreme Court. That court ruled in 1916 against the interpretations of the lower courts, arguing that caffeine was indeed an added ingredient. The eventual settlement required the Coca-Cola Company to pay all court costs and to reduce the caffeine content of its beverage. In his retirement, Wiley continued to preach about the dangers of caffeine and other food additives in a variety of public venues including a regular column that he wrote for the popular magazine, Good Housekeeping. Hollingworth published the results of his caffeine studies in a lengthy monograph in 1912. He never returned to psychopharmacological work again. But the Coca-Cola research set him on a life course as an applied psychologist of considerable reputation and wealth. His notable research in the field of advertising and other related studies in the psychology of the workplace established him as one of the pioneers of industrial/organisational psychology. Further, his testimony in the Coca-Cola trials numbers among the earliest examples of forensic psychology in America. Neither Hollingworth nor Wiley lived long enough to see the Coca-Cola Company offer the public its beverages (regular or sugar-free) in a decaffeinated option. Perhaps Wiley would have viewed that as a partial victory. A briefer version of this article appeared in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology (2009) 40, 2, pp.20–21. I Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr., Ph.D. is Professor of Psychology and Educational Psychology at Texas A&M University email@example.com
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