● Please send letters to APA Monitor on
Psychology Editor Sara Martin at smartin@apa.
org. Letters should be limited to 175 words and
may be edited for space and clarity. M O
ARE THE REAL ISSUE
Regarding your article “How much of
the psychology literature is wrong?” in
the June Monitor, replication may not be
the real issue here. It seems to me that
many psychological studies, especially
social psychological studies, are by definition “context-sensitive” by virtue of the
well-established fact that society changes,
as evidenced by a black president and
now a woman presidential candidate and
the Trump candidacy.
Our human subjects in our research
do not live in a vacuum, they live in a
society which is constantly changing. As
society changes, the “hidden moderators,”
as Van Bavel suggests, are at work. People
change in their needs, belief systems,
expectations, perspectives, lifestyles, habits, preferences and behavioral tendencies,
so it is not a surprise if a psychological
study is not replicated many years later.
It may have been accurate at the time
of the study but generalizability may not
occur over time.
The real question here is which factors
that produce the replication error are
produced by these societal changes over
time and which aren’t?
Bruce Hutchison, C.Psych.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
DISCRIMINATION AS A CAUSE
Readers of the June article “Becoming
an adult in the face of racism” should
keep in mind some basic lessons from
Statistics 101, which cast doubt on the
certainty of the article’s conclusions
about the effects of discrimination on
the psychological well-being of African-American youth. First, in virtually all
the studies they review, it is perceived
or reported discrimination that is
measured rather than discrimination
itself. Second, in virtually all the
studies reviewed, the association
between perceived discrimination and
negative developmental outcomes
such as suicidality, violence, depressive
symptoms, substance abuse, low self-
esteem and low academic achievement
is only correlational.
Although the authors assume that
the direction of causation is from
perceived discrimination to negative
outcomes, this direction is not established. It may be that the causation is
more complicated or even in the reverse
direction. For example, it is possible that
as youths show more of the negative
outcomes, such as violence and substance abuse, they are indeed treated
more negatively by others.
Alternately, as the negative outcomes
increase they become more inclined to
perceive discrimination in order to help
them make sense of their plight.
Gerald Zuriff, PhD
“The thing is, you have to really want the change.”