“Critical psychology? Oh that sounds so negative, let’s call it ‘reflective psychology’ instead!”
This was the first response I received when I told a psychologist that I was starting a PhD in critical psychology. It was a weird combination of toxic positivity and misunderstanding about what critical psychology actually is. It was a failure to acknowledge that it’s a particular space and perspective ‘within’ and ‘without’ psychology’s disciplinary boundaries (Parker, 1999). So you can’t really go around renaming it just because you don’t like the sound of it.
By Joann Cattlin, Wade Kelly, Ken Knight, David Phipps.
The impact that research generates in society is a hot topic internationally. It can be a complex topic and poses different challenges depending on whether you are a researcher, research professional, funder, or research user.
Bratislava in Slovakia is a beautiful city, and this was my initial motive for getting to the EHPS 2022 conference. I know it well, having first visited in 1990, not that long after the massive ‘Velvet Revolution’ student protest filled the streets there, following the dismantling of the Berlin Wall a few days earlier. In a matter of weeks the former Soviet states of Eastern Europe overthrew communism – a move made possible by the Russian President, Mikhail Gorbachev, and his policies of perestroika and glasnost (Do look them up if you don’t know them, they paint a very different Russia from Putin’s Soviet Era today).
By Jon Roosenbeek, Sander van der Linden, & Stephan Lewandowsky
From the COVID-19 pandemic to the war in Ukraine, misinformation is rife worldwide. Many tools have been designed to help people spot misinformation. The problem with most of them is how hard they are to deliver at scale.
‘We are who we are as much because of our relationships with non-human animals as because of the human ones, and we do ourselves a great disservice – and probably great harm – by denying or ignoring this.’
Podberscek et al., 2000, p. 2
In embarking on a new research adventure we often construct accounts (rationale / scientific justification) for the why, what, and how of the project. These accounts are recipient designed, tailored to the audience – whether that be a funding body, key stakeholder, or curious colleague. I’ve said before that it is important to have a ‘passion project’. The simply labelled Dog Talking and Walking project is currently mine, and I hope to convey the value of, and enthusiasm for, taking connections with canines seriously in this blog (see Haraway, 2003).
Across all academic disciplines and beyond, the way research participants are conceptualized and treated by researchers is no longer fit for purpose. As well as using more appropriate terminology, such as ‘participant’ or (where appropriate) ‘co-researcher,’ in this post, Helen Kara suggests three other main ways in which we should offer more respect to the people who help us with our research.
Critical health psychologists generally want to practice acts of allyship through and beyond their work. In this post, Brett Scholz presents a call to go beyond thinking of consumers as participants in your research practice, and to instead ensure you collaborate and engage with consumers in epistemic practices.
How we say things can be as important as what we say. In this post, Ella Whiteley explores the “framing effect”, its implications for education and research communication and in particular, its salience to discussions of sex and gender.
Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) is widely accepted in most public health and family planning approaches. However, power imbalances between healthcare providers and patients make many women feel as though they are coerced into taking LARC. There is little research that considers the nature and quality of patient-provider interactions, including issues of power and women’s agency, as most scholarship in the field focuses on access. Concerns about the potential for coercion, lack of patient-centeredness, or uncritical LARC promotion are therefore under-explored, especially among ‘high-risk’ women who experience poor health and social outcomes. This study takes a much-needed look at how providers’ perspectives influence their recommendations to patients and the changes that must be implemented to help patients regain autonomy over their reproductive choices.
Rachel Fox explores how doctor-writer narratives often depict fat people in dehumanising and hurtful ways, and argues they need to be reframed with empathy.
During my six years as a student in the medical humanities, I’ve become quite familiar with the “doctor reflecting on a memorable patient encounter” genre of publication. These stories often follow a similar structure: anecdotal introduction, explanation of patient/case/doctor’s own training, dramatic or otherwise significant event, then conclusion with a broader lesson and/or resolution for the author. Stories that take this form are compelling and familiar; readers get to vicariously experience the stakes of medicine with the security of closure awaiting them at the end, while the doctor-writer gets a cohort of witnesses for their perspective on some significant part of their practice. At their best, these stories “humanize” the experience of medicine, giving a personal voice to the intimacies within a seemingly indifferent system. But I have yet to see a story of this genre that humanizes fat people.
When I first started my PhD- an exploration of recipient experiences of online, unregulated sperm donation- I became fixated on trying to understand why people would choose this route to parenthood. Most of the things I’d read about online sperm donation were fairly sensationalist news articles which portrayed a ‘black market’ and an online ‘underworld’ where people were going to search for and donate sperm. I felt that in order to design a study where I could encourage people to tell their stories free from stigma and shame, I needed to first have some idea of the context of donor insemination in the UK, including who was choosing online sperm donation and their reasons for doing so. Why weren’t people choosing, for example, donor insemination at a fertility clinic? What were the benefits and drawbacks of online sperm donation? How did the social, cultural, and economic context of donor insemination in the UK inform what was happening online?
It was 2017, my postdoc fellowship was coming to an end and I was looking for opportunities to stay in academia in Aotearoa/New Zealand. A permanent job was advertised at the university I was working at: Lecturer in Health Psychology. The focus of the position was clear, applicants needed to be critical health scholars. I had spent two years doing critical health research, publishing in the top journals of my field, so I was confident I fit the job description. I mentioned to a colleague that I was planning to apply for the role. She told me not to apply. Her advice, kindly meant, was: “Don’t bother, you are wasting your time. They will never hire a quantitative researcher. You won’t even get shortlisted.” I was taken aback by her comments.
“Resisting the Darwinian Phallocracy” – Don’t you just love the language?! It’s from a new book out by Lucy Cooke, Bitch: A Revolutionary Guide to Sex, Evolution & the Female Animal and is full of sass like that. With a Masters in Zoology and tutored by Richard Dawkins, she explains:
I was taught that this apparently trivial disparity in our sex cells laid cast-iron biological foundations for sexual inequality. “It is possible to interpret all other differences between the sexes as stemming from this one basic difference,” Dawkins told us. “Female exploitation begins here.”
Male animals led swashbuckling lives of thrusting agency. They fought one another over leadership or possession of females. They shagged around indiscriminately, propelled by a biological imperative to spread their seed far and wide. And they were socially dominant; where males led, females meekly followed. A female’s role was as selfless mother, naturally; as such, maternal efforts were deemed all alike: we had zero competitive edge. Sex was a duty rather than a drive.
And as far as evolution was concerned it was males who drove the bus of change. We females could hop on for a ride thanks to shared DNA, as long as we promised to keep nice and quiet.
When I embarked on my doctoral research in 2018 I was interested in how young people made sense of gendered images in online pornography. I was also interested in what caregivers and teachers thought about young people’s pornography use. A new, in vogue, term called “porn literacy” caught my eye. In those early stages of the project, I thought “Sounds good… Why not talk to young people about pornography!? It’s clearly something many young people engage with, and to ignore or censor it would be like other prohibitive interventions, which haven‘t worked!” However, as I explored the notion of “porn literacy”, it became plain to me that the ways pornography, young people and their pornography viewing are thought about invariably shapes porn literacy as an educational response.