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Preview: American Psychologist - Vol 65, Iss 1

American Psychologist - Vol 72, Iss 4

The American Psychologist is the official journal of the American Psychological Association. As such, the journal contains archival documents and articles covering current issues in psychology, the science and practice of psychology, and psychology's cont

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Copyright: Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association

Is the alliance really therapeutic? Revisiting this question in light of recent methodological advances.


The therapeutic value of alliance is a contested supposition. Although many theorists and researchers believe that alliance is therapeutic in itself, others see it as a byproduct of effective treatment or as a common nonspecific factor enabling the truly effective ingredients of treatment to work. For many years, the debate was confined mainly to the domain of theory, and no studies were available to confirm which of these approaches is correct. The only empirical evidence that existed was studies showing a correlation between alliance and outcome, and advocates of the above conflicting opinions used the same correlation to prove the validity of their position. Over the last few years, however, a revolution has taken place in alliance research, which brings this theoretical debate into the realm of the empirical. Several recent alliance studies have applied advanced methodologies to achieve this aim. Based on an integration of these studies, the present article proposes a new model for understanding the potential therapeutic role of alliance as sufficient to induce change by itself. The model stresses the importance of differentiating between patients’ general tendencies to form satisfying relationships with others, which affect also the relationship with the therapist (“trait-like” component of alliance), and the process of the development of changes in such tendencies through interaction with the therapist (“state-like” component of alliance). The former enables treatment to be effective; the latter makes alliance therapeutic. Based on the literature, this article attempts to determine which of these components is the predictor of treatment outcome. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Neurocognitive deficits in children with chronic health conditions.


Over 4 million children in the United States suffer from chronic health conditions, including cancer, sickle cell disease, and diabetes. Because of major advances in the early identification and treatment of these conditions, survival rates for these children continue to rise, and the majority now lives into adulthood. However, increases in survival have come with costs related to long-term effects of disease processes and treatments. Foremost among these consequences is impairment in brain development and neurocognitive function that may affect a substantial portion of children with chronic health conditions and follow many into adulthood. Impaired cognitive function may contribute to impairment in educational and occupational attainment, mental health, and quality of life for children with chronic conditions. Despite the significance and scope of this problem, advances in the identification and understanding of neurocognitive problems and the delivery of effective clinical care have been hindered in part because research has been “siloed”—conducted on each chronic condition in isolation. This review examines, for the first time, neurocognitive problems in a selected set of 6 chronic pediatric health conditions—leukemia, brain tumors, sickle cell disease, congenital heart disease, Type 1 diabetes, and traumatic brain injury—to define the magnitude of the problem and identify directions for future research and clinical care. Psychologists from many areas of specialization, including pediatric psychology, educational and school psychology, neuropsychology, behavioral medicine, and adult primary care, are uniquely positioned to contribute to every phase of this work, including research, identification, and intervention. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The psychology of defendant plea decision making.


Every day, thousands of defendants, prosecutors, and defense attorneys must make guilty plea decisions, such as whether to accept a plea offer or proceed to trial. Most defendants opt to plead guilty; approximately 95% of state and federal convictions result from guilty pleas. In light of a newly emerging body of research and recent Supreme Court decisions on guilty pleas, this article asks and answers 2 questions: First, who pleads guilty and why? We describe the characteristics of those who are more or less likely to plead guilty, and examine the reasons why individuals plead guilty instead of proceeding to trial, exploring the cognitive, social influence, and developmental factors that underlie decision making. Second, are defendants’ plea decisions valid, in that the decisions are made knowingly, intelligently, voluntarily, and with a factual basis of guilt? That is, do defendants who plead guilty understand and appreciate the conditions and consequences of their pleas, as required by law? Are innocent people induced to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit? We conclude with suggestions to move the field of plea research forward. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Evolutionary psychology: A how-to guide.


Researchers in the social and behavioral sciences are increasingly using evolutionary insights to test novel hypotheses about human psychology. Because evolutionary perspectives are relatively new to psychology and most researchers do not receive formal training in this endeavor, there remains ambiguity about “best practices” for implementing evolutionary principles. This article provides researchers with a practical guide for using evolutionary perspectives in their research programs and for avoiding common pitfalls in doing so. We outline essential elements of an evolutionarily informed research program at 3 central phases: (a) generating testable hypotheses, (b) testing empirical predictions, and (c) interpreting results. We elaborate key conceptual tools, including task analysis, psychological mechanisms, design features, universality, and cost-benefit analysis. Researchers can use these tools to generate hypotheses about universal psychological mechanisms, social and cultural inputs that amplify or attenuate the activation of these mechanisms, and cross-culturally variable behavior that these mechanisms can produce. We hope that this guide inspires theoretically and methodologically rigorous research that more cogently integrates knowledge from the psychological and life sciences. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Stepping forward together: Could walking facilitate interpersonal conflict resolution?


Walking has myriad benefits for the mind, most of which have traditionally been explored and explained at the individual level of analysis. Much less empirical work has examined how walking with a partner might benefit social processes. One such process is conflict resolution—a field of psychology in which movement is inherent not only in recent theory and research, but also in colloquial language (e.g., “moving on”). In this article, we unify work from various fields pointing to the idea that walking together can facilitate both the intra- and interpersonal pathways to conflict resolution. Intrapersonally, walking supports various psychological mechanisms for reconciliation, including creativity, locomotion motivation, and embodied notions of forward progress. Both alone and in combination with its effects on mood and stress, walking can encourage individual mindsets conducive to resolving conflict (e.g., divergent thinking). Interpersonally, walking can allow partners to reap the cognitive, affective, and behavioral advantages of synchronous movement, such as increased positive rapport, empathy, and prosociality. Walking partners naturally adopt cooperative (as opposed to competitive) postural stances, experience shared attention, and can benefit from discussions in novel environments. Overall, despite its prevalence in conflict resolution theory, little is known about how movement influences conflict resolution practice. Such knowledge has direct implications for a range of psychological questions and approaches within negotiation and alternative mediation techniques, clinical settings, and the study of close relationships. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Population growth underlies most other environmental problems: Comment on Clayton et al. (2016).


The need to protect our environment is urgent, and psychology can contribute to accomplishing this goal. Combating climate change, resource exhaustion, species extinction, and other problems is an admirable goal, but such efforts will fail in the long run if the population growth that creates or exacerbates the other problems is not addressed. The large and growing human population inevitably demands more and more resources. In this comment on Clayton et al. (2016), the author proposes that psychology can identify reasons why the underlying population issue is not adequately addressed and can suggest ways to improve the situation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Psychologists and the problem of population growth: Reply to Bridgeman (2017).


Bridgeman (2017) describes the important role of population growth in contributing to environmental problems. The present essay argues that population is an important component of human impact on the environment, but it must be considered in combination with consumption rates. A place-based approach, examining the local context for reproductive decisions, is necessary to assess population growth as a contributor to environmental impact and to develop appropriate behavioral interventions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Don’t forget the person when promoting healthy cognitive aging: Comment on Smith (2016).


Smith (2016) provided a valuable review on healthy cognitive aging, addressing potential risk factors for dementia, as well as multiple mechanisms for preventing dementia. However, missing in this discussion was an acknowledgment of the potential that personality may play in shaping trajectories of cognitive aging. The current response provides a brief review of the ever accruing evidence that our dispositional traits and self-efficacy beliefs can predict trajectories of cognitive aging, as well as the mechanisms that produce these trajectories, including participants’ likelihood to adhere to intervention efforts to reduce cognitive decline. We conclude by presenting recommendations for how cognitive aging researchers and practitioners can integrate personality science into their work. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Achieving a unified clinical science requires a meta-theoretical solution: Comment on Melchert (2016).


Timothy Melchert’s vision for a unified clinical science that transcends the specific theoretical orientations and is grounded in the science of human psychology is a laudable goal. However, his solution to achieve this goal via reliance on evolutionary theory, neuroscience, and empirically verifiable research findings is not sufficient. The way forward is to recognize that the field of psychology is fragmented and lacks a clear meta-theoretical perspective. Conceptual work is needed to develop such a perspective, which can then allow for clearly defining the field and effectively integrating and assimilating the key concepts from the various theoretical orientations into a coherent whole. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Unified clinical science, or paradigm diversity? Comment on Melchert (2016).


Drawing on Kuhn’s (1970) analysis, Melchert (2016) argued that current professional psychology exists in a preparadigmatic state and that a transition to a unified clinical science based on the paradigm of the behavioral and neurosciences is now possible. But Melchert’s analysis makes questionable assumptions about reducibility and neglects several crucial aspects of Kuhn’s analysis. A close examination of psychological work on problems such as violence against women indicates that different research paradigms and their associated exemplars identify strengths and weaknesses of specific treatment resources that cannot be entirely encompassed within a single paradigmatic perspective (Jackson, 2015b) and additionally suggests that psychological knowledge is governed by at least 3 overarching research paradigms, as well as a variety of subparadigms encompassing applied and mixed methods research and many current orientations to professional psychology (Jackson, 2015a). (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The problem of choosing between irreconcilable theoretical orientations: Comment on Melchert (2016).


Melchert (2016) argued that knowledge of psychological processes is now grounded in experimental tests of falsifiable theories that support a unified, paradigmatic understanding of human psychology. Although his argument for leaving behind our preparadigmatic past of competing theoretical orientations is welcome, Melchert (2016) presented a perspective in which the degree to which this is currently possible is overstated. In this comment, it is argued that scientific research does not replace paradigmatic assumptions but takes place within them. As such, it is not possible to take the theoretical orientations out of the practice of psychology, which is inevitably an expression of one’s philosophical assumptions of first principles. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Basing clinical practice on unified psychological science: Comment on Melchert (2016).


The article by Melchert (2016) called for professional psychology to leave its preparadigmatic past behind and move forward based upon a single unified theoretical orientation. Although leaving the preparadigmatic past behind is important, the claim that psychology has recently transitioned to a unified paradigmatic science based on a unified theoretical orientation seems premature at this time. However, the prospect of progress toward a unified psychological science is fostered by a large and growing literature not cited in the Melchert article. This literature provides a general solution to the mind–body problem in a way that better integrates psychology and neuroscience. This literature also provides mechanism information that explains how and why empirically supported treatments work thereby creating the firm science base for professional practice that the Melchert article seeks. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Carl N. Zimet (1925–2015).


This article memorializes Carl N. Zimet (1925–2015). In 1963, Zimet was recruited to the University of Colorado School of Medicine as chief of the Division of Psychology. Throughout his career, he was engaged in the practice of psychotherapy. He served on numerous boards and committees of the American Psychological Association (APA), including APA’s Board of Directors. Zimet was a founder of the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology and was its first president, a position he held for 11 years. The APA award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Psychology was presented to Zimet in 1987. When Zimet retired at the age of 82 in 2007 as professor emeritus, he had led the Division of Psychology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine for 44 years. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Luciano L’Abate (1928–2016).


This article memorializes Luciano L’Abate (1928 –2016). In 1964, L’Abate became an assistant professor of medical psychology at the Washington University School of Medicine and, in 1965, an associate professor of pediatrics in the Emory University School of Medicine. He then transitioned to the Georgia State University (GSU), where he was promoted to professor of psychology. From 1965 to 1990, he served as director of the Family Psychology Program and Family Study Center at GSU. In retirement, L’Abate increased his writing and lecturing. He made countless international presentations on child and family issues. He commonly collaborated with students and other mental health professionals in his research and writing projects, which resulted in approximately 58 books and dozens of journal articles. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

John A. Swets (1928–2016).


This article memorializes John A. Swets (1928 –2016). Swets’s scientific work included empirical experimentation, theory development, and practical applications. It attracted much attention, not only in psychology, but in other fields as well, especially medicine, education, and engineering. His work on the application of the theory of signal detection—which he began while still a graduate student— is very well known and has been influential in essentially every context in which people have to deal with noisy data. Among his many other notable achievements, Swets (along with colleagues) has been credited with building the first computer-based laboratory for experiments in perception and learning. It was built around a Programmed Data Processor–1 computer, which was first produced in 1959. If it was not the first, it was certainly among the first few, and it served as a prototype for many computer-based labs that were later developed around the Programmed Data Processor–8, which was introduced in 1965 and quickly became nearly ubiquitous in psychological laboratories. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Colin D. Elliott (1937–2016).


This article memorializes Colin D. Elliott (1937–2016). For 7 years, in his work as a school psychologist, Elliott studied the ability profiles of children with learning disabilities and the measurement of children’s developmental stages. Subsequently, he trained school psychologists for over 20 years at the University of Manchester. In 1983, he made a major, enduring contribution to the field of psychometric assessment in both his home country and the wider field with the publication of the innovative British Ability Scales (BAS). An American version, the Differential Ability Scales (DAS), followed in 1990, and both versions of the test have been widely used and revised several times (BAS 2, BAS 3, and DAS-II). Many of his innovations in those tests have been adopted in other instruments. His other research and many publications focused on individual differences in children’s temperament and personality and specific learning difficulties. Elliott moved to the United States in 1992 and was adjunct professor at the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Steven Reiss (1947–2016).


This article memorializes Steven Reiss (1947–2016), an eminent clinical psychologist. He was professor emeritus of psychology and psychiatry at the Ohio State University. Reiss has made major contributions to three areas of psychology. He formulated the concept of anxiety sensitivity, an individual difference variable signifying a person’s proneness to respond fearfully to bodily sensations that accompany anxiety. He was the key developer of the Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI), a self-report measure of the fear of anxiety sensations translated into more than 20 languages. Reiss was a pioneer in the field of dual diagnosis—the study and treatment of mental disorders in people with intellectual disabilities. Reiss’s third major field of inquiry was human motivation. For the past 20 years, he has been studying individual differences in motivational profiles. To measure individual differences in 16 basic desires, he developed the Reiss Motivation Profile. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)