In a recent study, researchers asked children ages 8 – 12 years old to watch 20-minute clips of PG-rated movies that either included or did not include gun violence. The objective of the study was to test whether children exposed to gun violence in movie clips would 1) handle a real gun longer and 2) pull the trigger more times than children not exposed to the same clip edited to not contain gun violence.
The children were then placed into a university laboratory containing toys, games and a real, 0.38 caliber gun which was disabled and modified to have a sensor counting trigger pulls with the door closed. A research assistant sat in an exterior greeting room if the children had questions. The study found that children who watched the clip containing guns were more likely to use the guns themselves than the children who watched the clip that did not contain guns (median trigger pulls were 2.8 compared to 0.01 and median number of seconds holding the gun were 53.1 compared to 11.1, respectively). Roughly 27% of children informed the assistant about the gun or handed it over and a small number aimed the gun at other children.
There had never once been a public opinion poll done in El Salvador until Ignacio Martín-Baró, a Jesuit, set out as the only doctoral-level psychologist in the country to measure the opinion of the people in the 1980s. He knew this would be difficult. He had studied at the University of Chicago, and he was certain that he would need to practice very differently than how he had been trained. But he had still been unprepared for just how difficult it would be.
Much of Martín-Baró’s early conclusions were made on the fact that very few people would speak to him. Only 40% percent of the rich felt safe enough to speak their opinion. And the poor? Less than 20% of the poor would do the speak to him. Less than 20% would speak to him about their lives, what they thought of the government, or anything that could get back to someone who could hurt them.
In his case, silence stood for more than an inconvenience to answer a pollster. It stood for more than a passive distrust of someone collecting data. In his case, silence told a story of gripping fear, of generations of pain, of mothers mourning children slain by an oppressive and violent government.
Silence says a lot, and it’s important that researchers take that silence into account.
I do not present my essay from El Salvador, though, much less an El Salvador in the throes of civil war like my introduction remembers. Instead, I present my essay from the United States. Martín-Baró was attuned to the differences between the countries. He remarked to an American colleague once that, “In your country, it’s publish or perish. In mine, it’s publish and perish.” Indeed, Martín-Baró would later be killed, one of eight martyrs, in November of 1989.
I do not propose that he was mistaken. He was an American-trained researcher after all; he would know the dynamics between the countries. There is far more protection in the United States, particularly for the researchers today, than there was in Martín-Baró’s time and region. However, I do want to turn my gaze to those who cannot freely speak their mind in the United States, and posit that researchers can (and, I argue, should) take on their behalf, if they are to act in the heroic way that Martín-Baró did.
I will never forget the day my mother got diagnosed. I could swear that just yesterday I was thirteen years old waiting anxiously to be called in from the waiting room of some fancy New York State doctor’s office. I was young, but I had some idea of what was going on. I knew my parents and I were there because they were going through a divorce and fighting for custody of me. What I did not know was that we were about to endure a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation and that the results were going to change my life forever.
“Madeleine, your mom is very sick,” the psychiatrist attempted to explain to me. I did not understand. I did not know a sick person could look perfectly healthy. “It’s not a physical sickness, it’s in her head. She has a mental disorder called Paranoid Schizophrenia.” She went on using big words to explain how my mother’s brain “wasn’t like other people’s brains.” I sat there listening closely, hanging on every word the woman was saying to me. “She can’t help the choices that she makes, it’s not her fault that she is the way that she is. She needs help.” Every day since that day in the doctor’s office, that remark replays in my head over and over. “She can’t help the choices she makes.”
That is what gave me the most trouble. I sat around for years and years watching the choices that my mother was making, unable to intervene. If she cannot help the choices she makes, why could my dad or my mother’s other family not make the choices for her? Why could nobody make her take medication? I eventually learned that it was because my mother was sick, but “not sick enough.” The court ruled in favor of autonomy and said that my mother still had the right to make her own medical decisions. According to them she was functional and was not posing an immediate danger to herself or others. I understand autonomy. Autonomy is defined as “a principle in which a person should respect the rights of other individuals to freely determine their own choices and decisions” (Jonas). I understand how important free will and the ability to make choices about your own body are. It is hard for me, however, to understand how you can continue to honor a person’s right to make their own decisions, when every decision they make is only hurting them. It is hard to sit there, as a loved one, and not want to just make them take the medication they need to get better, or force them participate in that research study that just might help.
Neil Gorsuch Speech at Trump Hotel Raises Ethical Questions
“Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court appointee, is scheduled to address a conservative group at the Trump International Hotel in Washington next month, less than two weeks before the court is set to hear arguments on Mr. Trump’s travel ban.”
CRISPR and the Ethics of Human Embryo Research
“Although scientists in China and the United Kingdom have already used gene editing on human embryos, the announcement that the research is now being done in the United States makes a U.S. policy response all the more urgent.”
The Ethics Issue Blocking Organ Transplant Research
“The ethics of so-called donor-intervention research are incredibly fraught. How do you get informed consent and from whom? The dead donor? The live recipient—or possibly dozens of live recipients getting tissues or organs from a single donor, fanned out across the country at different hospitals each with their own ethics review boards? All this would unfold against intense time pressure. Every minute of delay is a minute in which the organ is deteriorating.”
What do revised U.S. rules mean for human research?
“Following a contentious 5½-year process, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) released a revised “Common Rule,” which governs federally funded research involving human subjects (1). The updated rule includes a number of welcome changes for U.S. institutions and researchers, and their scientific collaborators abroad.”
“We have made more progress in artificial intelligence (AI) in the last three years than in the preceding three decades. AI is transforming from handy little applications that make our lives easier (from Alexa and Siri to Uber and Netflix) to something more powerful…”
Social media platforms continue to improve and refine their privacy settings as the demand for advanced user protections increases. Although enabling catered privacy settings to online profiles allows users to indicate who they would like share personal information with, it does not necessarily protect them from the platforms – i.e. websites and apps – themselves. Since social media accounts provide users with a sense of control over personal data, users assume that their information is safe. However, no matter what settings or privacy protections are applied to personal profiles, users do not generally have control over the online platform itself. What this means is the website or app being used usually shares information from accounts with third parties like advertising agencies or other databases. This data sharing is widespread throughout the industry, but it is not generally known by the public. This is partly because the disclosure of this sharing is done in the social media platform’s “Terms and Conditions” Which are often skimmed over or ignored.
Aside from social media websites, there are several other websites and apps that access your personal information via this information sharing to create a single database for everyone in the country. This is generally called data aggregation. One such site that has been in the news recently is FamilyTreeNow. FamilyTreeNow is explicitly a genealogy site, and compiles information from various legal online sources to create a database full of personal information for genealogical research. This site pairs information from public records such as police records and court documents with the information collected from social media and address databases to create a sometimes way too revealing profile. Not too long ago, most of this information would only be accessible after exhaustive research, but Now FamilyTreeNow makes this information as easy to find as a click of a button, and publicly accessible.
Although the website might be fascinating for someone with genuine curiosity about their own family tree, the danger of anyone having access to information to a person’s age, birth year, address, family members and even public records is something that cannot be ignored. In today’s world, access to this type of personal information makes crimes like identity theft much easier to conduct and can provide the basis for access to financial accounts, credit records and other accounts and assets. For years we have been cautioning users against posting too much information online, but increasingly, due to data aggregators like FamilyTreeNow, this information is being posted without our knowledge or consent on publicly accessible sites.
The scantiness of marijuana research in the United States of America shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The lack of research is tremendous. However, with newdecriminalizinglaws budding up, the role of marijuana usage in the symptomatic relief of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic disorders is receiving uncustomary attention in the United States.
In a study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in 2014, two American psychologists based at SUNY Albany, Jamie Bolles and Mitchell Earleywine, investigated the relationship between marijuana, expectancies, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Using an online questionnaire and maintaining anonymity to enhance the response rate, Earleywine & Bolles surveyed more than 650 combat-exposed, male veterans who used marijuana at least once per week.