Chapter XI. Scientific Affairs
In view of the sweeping generalizations and claims regarding psychology and psychotherapy made by L. Ron Hubbard in his recent book, Dianetics, the American Psychological Association adopts the following resolution:
While suspending judgement concerning the eventual validity of the claims made by the author of Dianetics, the American Psychological Association calls attention to the fact that these claims are not supported by empirical evidence of the sort required for the establishment of scientific generalizations. In the public interest, the Association, in the absence of such evidence, recommends to its members that the use of the techniques peculiar to Dianetics be limited to scientific investigations designed to test the validity of its claims.
Research findings belong in the public domain
It is a tradition of science that its research findings belong in the public domain. Scientists do undertake research of a confidential nature for reasons which may be economic, military, social, or purely personal. However, until such research has been reported in meetings or published in scientific journals it is not, properly speaking, scientific knowledge.
It is a responsibility of the American Psychological Association to ensure that all reported or published psychological findings be fully and freely available to the public.
Impact of selective reduction of support for "social research"
While the American Psychological Association recognizes the appropriate and legitimate role of the political process in determining priorities for research on problems that require the expenditure of public funds, we object to policies that a priori favor one theoretical approach over another, or that selectively suppress certain scientific approaches that happen to be at odds with the prior opinions or ideology of political officials.
The selective reduction of support for "social research" by the current Administration appears to be a case in which ideological considerations are inappropriately influencing the scientific process. Current policies of the Administration (e.g., in the mental health area) presume that certain research approaches are more valuable than others. There is no evidence to support such a premise. In fact, scientific evidence suggests that many mental health and other social problems are best understood and dealt with by looking at the joint impact of biological, behavioral, and social processes. Clearly, policies such as these are inimical both to productive scientific inquiry and to the ultimate solution of many critical social problems in our nation. We strongly oppose such policies that include selective reductions that bias the development of scientific research in all areas including social research.
Support of evolution and opposition to creationism
Principles of evolution are an essential part of the knowledge base of psychology. Any attempt to limit or exclude the teaching of evolution from the science curriculum would deprive psychology students of a significant part of their education.
Currently, groups identifying themselves as "creationists" are proposing legislation to require teaching of "creation science" as part of the science curriculum of public schools. The American Psychological Association, without questioning the right of any individual to hold "creationist" beliefs, views "creationism" as a set of religious doctrines that do not conform to criteria of science. Scientific views are empirically testable, continually open to the process of scrutiny and experimentation that are the essence of science.
The American Psychological Association believes that "creationism" does not meet the criteria of science and should not be taught as part of the public school science curriculum. Further, the American Psychological Association is opposed to any attempts to require by statue or other means the inclusion of "creationism" within the science curriculum of the public schools.
Support for science education in grades K-12
WHEREAS education in all branches of science--behavioral, biological, physical, and social--is basic to understanding the modern world, and
WHEREAS education in all branches of science is necessary for informed participation in a democratic society and for productive work in a modern industrial nation, and
WHEREAS there is growing evidence of decline in support of and commitment to precollege science education in the United States while other industrial nations are placing heavy emphasis on science education at all levels,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association urges that all public and private schools in the United States provide, within a balanced curriculum, a strong and uninterrupted program of science education which shall include regular instruction in all aspects of science for all pupils from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
Support for the free exchange of scientific information
WHEREAS the welfare and the strength of the United States are dependent on the vigor of its scientific activity; and
WHEREAS restriction of the free flow of scientific information within the United States and between nations inhibits the progress of science, and
WHEREAS governmental actions restricting the dissemination of unclassified scientific information threaten our scientific preeminence; and
WHEREAS the federal government has the authority to classify information shown to be essential to national security;
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the American Psycholgical Association ASSERTS its conviction that all unclassified scientific information should be disseminated freely, and DECLARES its profound opposition to all attempts to interfere with the free exchange of scientific information at meetings of scientific societies and in scientific journals.
Resolution on research on sexual behavior
WHEREAS our nation lacks none of the basic understanding of human sexual behavior necessary to develop effective programs to prevent unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV Infection; and
WHEREAS limiting behavioral science and prevention research will result In the spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV Infection and the loss of lives; and
WHEREAS the Secretary of the Department of Health and Hunan Services (HHS) has recently announced that he would cancel the funding for this research In response to concerns expressed by conservative political groups; and
WHEREAS the HFIS Secretary has prevented NIH from conducting a national survey of sexual behavior known as the Survey of Health and AIDS Risk Prevalence (SHARP) for over the past four years due to conservative political pressure; and
WHEREAS a recent panel convened by HHS recommended the need to Insulate NIH from politics; and
WHEREAS federally funded research has profited by the peer review process at the National Institute of Health (NIH); and
WHEREAS the actions of the Secretary pose a major threat to peer reviewed research in the United States;
THEREFORE be it resolved that the American Psychological Association:
Call upon the Secretary of HHS to reverse his position and continue funding of the adolescent sexual behavior study, and
Call upon the Secretary of HHS to promptly approve funding for the SHARP and direct NIH to proceed with their study forthwith,
Oppose any Congressional or Administration efforts to restrict federally funded research on sexual behavior; and
Protest In the strongest possible terms the threats posed by this action to peer reviewed research at NIH."
Facilitated communication has been widely adopted throughout North America in special/vocational education services for individuals with developmental disabilities who are nonverbal. A basic premise of facilitated communication is that people with autism and moderate and profound mental retardation have "undisclosed literacy" consistent with normal intellectual functioning. Peer reviewed, scientifically based studies have found that the typed language output (represented through computers, letter boards, etc.) attributed to the clients was directed or systematically determined by the paraprofessional/professional therapists who provided facilitated assistance. (Bligh & Kupperman, 1993; Cabay, in press; Crews et al., in press; Eberlin, McConnachic, Ibel, & Volpe, 1993; Hudson, Melita, & Arnold, 1993; Klewe, 1993; Moore, Donovan, Hudson, 1993; Moore, Donovan, Hudson, Dykstra & Lawrence, 1993; Regal, Rooney, & Wandas, in press; Shane & Kearns, in press; Siegel, in press; Simon, Toll & Whitehair, in press; Szempruch & Jacobson, 1993; Vasquez, in press; Wheeler, Jacobson, Paglieri & Schwartz, 1993). Furthermore, it has not been scientifically demonstrated that the therapists are aware of their controlling influence.
Consequently, specific activities contribute immediate threats to the individual civil and human rights of the person with autism or severe mental retardation. These include use of facilitated communication as a basis for a) actions related to nonverbal accusations of abuse and mistreatment (by family members or other caregivers); b) actions related to nonverbal communications of personal preferences, self-reports about health, test and classroom performance, and family relations; c) client response in psychological assessment using standardized assessment procedures; and d) client-therapist communication in counseling or psychotherapy, taking therapeutic actions, or making differential treatment decisions. Instances are widely noted where use of facilitated communication in otherwise unsubstantiated allegations of abuse has led to psychological distress, alienation, or financial hardship of family members and caregivers. The experimental and unproved status of the technique does not preclude continued research on the utility of facilitated communication and related scientific issues. Judicious clinical practice involving use of facilitated communication should be preceded by the use of fully informed consent procedures, including communication of both potential risks and likelihood of benefit.
Facilitated communication is a process by which a facilitator supports the hand or arm of a communicatively impaired individual while using a keyboard or typing device. It has been claimed that this process enables persons with autism or mental retardation to communicate. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that facilitated communication is not a scientifically valid technique for individuals with autism or mental retardation. In particular, information obtained via facilitated communication should not be used to confirm or deny allegations of abuse or to make diagnostic or treatment decisions.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that APA adopts the position that facilitated communication is a controversial and unproved communicative procedure with no scientifically demonstrated support for its efficacy.
Bligh, S. & Kupperman, P. (1993). Evaluation procedure for determining the source of the communication in facilitated communication accepted in a court case. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23, 553-557.
Cabey, M. (in press). A controlled evaluation of facilitated communication with four autistic children. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Crews, W. D., Sanders, E. C., Hensley, L. G., Johnson, Y. M., Bonsventura, S., & Rhodes, R. D. (in press). An evaluation of facilitated communication in a group of nonverbal individuals with mental retardation. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Eberlin, M., McConnachic, G., Ibel, S., & Volpe, L. (1993). Facilitated communication: A failure to replicate the phenomenon. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23, 507-530.
Hudson, A., Melita, B., & Arnold, N. (1993). Brief report: A case study assessing the validity of facilitated communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23, 165-173.
Klewe, L. (1993). An empirical evaluation of spelling boards as a means of communication for the multihandicapped. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23, 559-566.
Moore, S., Donovan, B., & Hudson, A. (1993). Facilitator-suggested conversational evaluation of facilitated communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23, 541-551.
Moore, S., Donovan, B., Hudson, A., Dykstra, J., & Lawrence, J. (1993). Evaluation of facilitated communication. Eight case studies. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23, 531-539.
Regal, R. A., Rooney, J. R., & Wandas, T. (in press). Facilitated communication: An experimental evaluation. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Shane, H. C., & Kearns, K. (in press). An examination of the role of the facilitator in "facilitated communication". American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.
Siegel, B. (in press). Assessing allegations of sexual molestation made through facilitated communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Simon, E. W., Toll, D. M., & Whitehair, P. M. (in press). A naturalistic approach to the validation of facilitated communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Szempruch, J., & Jacobson, J. W. (1993). Evaluating the facilitated communications of people with developmental disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 14, 253-264.
Vasquez, C. (in press). A multi-task controlled evaluation of facilitated communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Resolution on cigarette smoking
WHEREAS tobacco is a legally available consumer product that is demonstrably harmful to health when used as intended;
WHEREAS tobacco is an established risk factor for morbidity and mortality;
WHEREAS more than one million teenagers begin smoking each year, a rate of approximately 3000 per day which has not declined appreciably over the last decade (1), and 90 percent of young smokers report that they become regular smokers before age 18 (2);
WHEREAS psychological scientists study human and animal behavior, and our research domain encompasses the full spectrum of issues related to tobacco use, including: how people decide whether or not to use tobacco products and what are the different factors that enter into that decision (such as cultural factors, minors' access to tobacco products, tobacco industry advertising, cost); psychopharmacological aspects of nicotine, i.e., understanding modes of addiction and what changes it causes in the central nervous system; identifying ways to prevent people from engaging in risk-taking behaviors such as tobacco use; identifying effective community interventions for bringing about widespread changes in behavior; and treating tobacco addiction individually and within the community; and
WHEREAS psychological scientists have contributed substantially to the body of research knowledge in these areas;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association supports the tobacco and smoking objectives set forth in, "Healthy People 2000-National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives for the Nation," and intends to encourage federal, state and local policies to minimize recruitment to, and facilitate abstinence from, the use of tobacco, including but are not limited to: 1) restricting illegal access of youth to tobacco products by supporting a range of direct and indirect mechanisms to discourage use and restrict access; and 2) fostering research on behavioral, psychological, pharmacological, and toxicological components of addiction, smoking prevention and intervention, and smoking cessation methods.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Strategies to Control Tobacco Use in the United States: A Blueprint for Public Health Action in the 1990's. DHHS Publication No. (NIH) 92-3316, 1991.
Pierce, Naquin, Gilpin, Giovino, Mills and Marcus, "Smoking Initiation in the United States: A Role for Worksite and College Smoking Bans," Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 83, pp. 1009-1013 (1991).
Decade of Behavior
WHEREAS it is necessary to improve public awareness of and support for the many exciting advances in the behavioral and social sciences and their application in addressing many of our nations’s most pressing problems;
WHEREAS it will be necessary to bring together government agencies, scientific societies, private foundations and health agencies for the joint sponsorship of public and professional education programs to promote the behavioral and social sciences and their application;
WHEREAS it will be necessary to encourage and support the development of the next generation of behavioral and social scientists and practitioners; and
WHEREAS it will be necessary to increase research funding for the behavioral and social sciences,
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association initiate efforts to have the years 2000-2010 declared the Decade of Behavior by the U.S. Congress, and furthermore that the APA Science Directorate launch the planning activities for the Decade of Behavior in 1998.
The universality of science
The Universality of Science (PDF, 34KB)
WHEREAS the federal government has the authority to classify information shown to be essential to national security;
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association
ASSERTS its conviction that all unclassified scientific information should be disseminated freely, and
DECLARES its profound opposition to all attempts to interfere with the free exchange of unclassified scientific information at meetings of scientific societies and in scientific journals.
Guidelines for test user qualifications (PDF, 410KB)
Code of fair testing practices in education
Resolution rejecting intelligent design as scientific and reaffirming support for evolutionary theory
Academic boycotts as violations of academic freedom and disruption of scientific exchange
The American Psychological Association, the largest association of psychologists in the world, composed of academics, scientists and practitioners, condemns academic boycotts as a violation of academic freedom and a disruption of the exchange of scientific and scholarly ideas. Scholarship is intended to be based on the search for truth, and to discriminate between academics or academic institutions based on the grounds of nationality, ethnicity, race, sex or religion is antithetical to that search.
Advocacy for psychology as a STEM Discipline
Guidelines for the use of nonhuman animals in behavioral projects in schools (K-12)
Standards for educational and psychological testing