8 MONITOR ON PSYCHOLOGY • DECEMBER 2013
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weighed and measured?
For me, one of the most interesting
findings was that about apathy. Every
one of the 36 men had probably been
leaders of their social groups. But at
the apex of the experiment, all were
hit by such feelings of apathy that their
leadership abilities went way down. And
yet we wonder why more leaders don’t
arise out of poverty areas and organize
people for a better life. We ask, where are
their leaders? Their leaders are starving.
My husband felt honored to have
been part of the Minnesota experiment.
The dedication of those men cannot be
overstated. Thank you for remembering.
White Bear Lake, Minn.
The death penalty
Though I agree that the death penalty
is controversial, I must take our
president to task in his assertion in his
October Monitor column that free will
is a “legal fiction” that is “impervious
to the principles of science.” First,
psychological science is science. As
psychologists, we capture ineffable ideas,
tame them and make them measurable
so that we can know what is and is not
verifiable. Self-esteem, perfectionism,
depression, extroversion, catastrophic
thinking …. We find these profoundly
interesting ideas to be worthy of study,
so we work hard to validate them as
measurable constructs. Our theoretical
models get honed and revised, tested
and revised again. Then we make
scientific predictions about behavior and
revise again. In that way, we are closer
to theoretical physics than to biology.
Perhaps “free will” is one of many Higgs
boson particles in our domain of study,
but to say that it is a fiction is to discount
the very nature of our work.
Second, biological determinism is
certainly a core element that shapes
behavior. Yet our cultural history
points again and again to the idea that
somehow humans are more culpable for
their behavior than other animals. The
culpability does not lie solely with society
and its failures to properly “train” our
humans. That line of thinking is reserved
for circus performers whose animals get
loose and wreak havoc on the audience.
The core difference between humans and
other animals lies heavily in the domain
of “free will.” Conscience, intention,
meta-cognition, self-control … whatever
you call it, humans do have a degree of
separation between their conditioned
behavioral tendencies and their actual
choice. We are the only creature that can
march forward in a war with our knees
shaking in fear. We are the only creature
that can turn our back and walk away
from a fight, seething with anger at the
injustice that was done.
A call to abolish the death penalty?
That is a question that can be argued
intelligently and civilly among
individuals with diverse opinions. But
let’s use psychological science to forward
an agenda of knowing what it is that we
are talking about.
MAUREEN D. RICKMAN, PhD
I am writing to thank you for Dr. Donald
Bersoff’s position paper on the death
penalty in the October Monitor. I have
long believed that the death penalty
should be opposed by everyone, but
especially by people who claim to work
to further human welfare.
FREDA B. STONE, PhD
In the article “Action by APA’s council
supports quality education” Dr. Cynthia
Belar reported on the APA council’s
resolution calling for all future health-
service psychologists to be, among other
things, trained in accredited internships
as a requirement for licensure. Dr. Belar
expressed the opinion that “the resolution
will not affect students currently in the
pipeline or those currently licensed.”
I respectfully disagree with her.
Psychologists who didn’t have accredited
internships will eventually see their
licensure mobility dry up if states require
them for licensure. What if years down
the road a psychologist needs to move
to a new state but can’t get licensed there
because they no longer allow people with
unaccredited internships to get licensed?
Any grandfathering provision would need
to preserve our licensure mobility for
decades in order for it to “not affect” us.
This resolution stigmatizes us and
could affect us by making it harder for
us to get a job, pay our loans and feed
our families. This resolution affects
our ability to advocate with employers
who currently hire only psychologists
with accredited internships. More
employers may follow the mistake of
the Department of Veterans Affairs and
require accredited internships even to
apply for a job. This resolution affects
us by making it harder for us to defend
ourselves against non-evidenced based
employment selection practices. It also
affects us by making it appear that our
professional association doesn’t respect
us, won’t defend us and won’t advocate
for us with the largest employer of
psychologists in America.
TODD FINNERTY, PsyD
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