Letters

Including stat reg, Precilla Choi, the Chelsea garden no-show, job references, psyche, sex differences in IQ and more.

For a clean and ethical Society

I DON’T think John Raven (Letters, June 2005) could be more wrong. I really wonder what he bases his wild and idiosyncratic claims on. Let me try to respond coolly, though feeling pretty angry with this travesty of what registration might be about and what good arguments there are for and against it.
First, his suggestion that most abuses come from within mainstream psychology misappropriates the term ‘abuse’, so that simply giving a psychometric test or working for an advertising agency is seen as abusive by Raven. This huge and dubious inflation of the term does no service to the hard work of rooting out serious and significant examples of actual abuse by professional psychologists. The BPS Investigatory Committee, of which I am a member, is confronted with an increasing number of complaints ranging from incompetence and poor practice right through to serious sexual abuse. It is important to our clients that we acknowledge that such abuses exist and have a good, fair and transparent system for allowing people who have been hurt and damaged the chance to seek redress.

It is an entirely different level of debate to suggest that the ways psychologists are embedded in society may or may not be abusive. It is by no means an unimportant issue, but it is not what an individual client is concerned with one iota. For example, if someone writes a bad, biased or misleading psychological report that results in your child being taken away from you, you don’t want to debate the question of psychometric testing as a social tool. You want that person taken to task.
Second, Raven cites the American experience and blithely states there are ‘endless ways’ that abusive practitioners can continue to practise. But in truth the Americans are much more successful in rooting out abusive practitioners precisely because they have stringent statutory registration procedures, and in some states even criminal laws against abuse. The sanctions bite; and though dubious practitioners can seek to rename themselves, they will lose out. Allied to good educational procedures about what is and is not acceptable for psychologists to do, clients are empowered and learn to discriminate between accredited and rogue practitioners. Just as we can all do when we want to employ a plumber or a builder. What is the alternative? That we allow the current system to continue where anyone can claim competencies they have not got and call themselves whatever they like? What on earth is good about that?
Thirdly, Raven takes a massive sideswipe at our training, which he ignorantly and arrogantly derides as ‘irrelevant and rarely useful’. What rubbish. In my own field, clinical psychology, I have seen a transformation in training not only in terms of acquiring many and varied useful psychological skills but also in terms of debating critical theoretical issues and, not least, in addressing the very ethical issues that underpin the debate about registration. The very procedures Raven decries – mandatory supervision, codes of practice, CPD, clearer disciplinary procedures – have improved the lot of both trainees and the clients they serve. In truth, it is hard to see how it could be done otherwise. As in every change, something is lost and there is always a risk of the tail wagging the dog. But again what is the alternative? That everyone should go their own way and the trainees get by somehow on their inherent wisdom or good faith?
As to his suggestion that the BPS is endorsing statutory registration as a ‘marketing ploy designed to present ourselves as clean and ethical’, this is cynicism in the extreme. Actually, I would like the Society I am a member of to be as ‘clean and ethical’ as possible, and I resent the notion that this is a ploy in any way. There is a real and important debate about the move towards statutory registration with the HPC, but it is not about marketing ourselves, but whether the system proposed will serve both us and our clients well. Yes, both ‘us and our clients’, for like in other professions. such as medicine and law, there is more than one interested party. And as a psychologist I want to be as well served by my professional body as possible. But as an ordinary person I also want psychologists to be accountable for their actions, their deeds and their misdeeds. I believe statutory registration is a necessary and important step in that direction. The debate to me is not about the principle but the process. And that is a much more tricky matter to predict.
John Marzillier
24 Norham Road
Oxford

How does your garden grow?

THIS year’s Chelsea Flower show has come and gone; and although I did not attend in person, I did not notice any reference to the British Psychological Society during my TV viewing. Maybe I missed something; but if I did, the Society’s aim of attracting attention must have been singularly unsuccessful.Members who follow the letters pages will recall that last year, Mike Wang, Alison McKeown and I wrote separately with expressions of concern over the wisdom and relevance of the Society’s plans to sponsor a garden. However, although explanations and justifications were offered through these pages at the time, it all seemed to go very quiet after that.
Would it be possible therefore, through these pages, to receive an explanation as to why there seems to have been no garden this year?
Many members would, I am sure, be interested to see a breakdown of any costs incurred in apparently failing to ‘advance and diffuse knowledge’ of psychology (the stated purpose of the garden) and to know whether there is any further anticipated expenditure on this project.
Jim Meikle
Queen’s Medical Centre
Nottingham

Dr Pam Maras, Chair of the Publications and Communications Board, and Trustee, replies: You’re right, there was no garden. The Trustees’ decision was very clear – the garden could not go ahead unless external sponsorship was found to provide the necessary funding. Although about half of the total costs have been raised, from external companies, the other half is still being sought. If it is found, then an application will be made to the Royal Horticultural Society for space for next year. The costs incurred this year amount to no more than a couple of train tickets to London and the postage of letters to potential sponsors.
The garden project continues to be viewed by the Trustees as a potentially valuable exercise in advancing and diffusing a knowledge of the discipline – our Royal Charter objective – and it has already had success in this area by the linkages made with external companies who have seen the value of joining with us in bringing psychological science and applied practice to a wider audience.

Precilla Choi 1962–2005

WE were saddened and shocked to learn of the death of Precilla Choi, who had been a colleague of ours in the Social Psychology Group at Loughborough University. Precilla was a talented academic, who was creatively combining her expertise in sports psychology with a keen understanding of feminist theory. In doing this, she was constructing an approach that was genuinely original. Her innovative book Femininity and the Physically Active Woman, which was published while she was still at Loughborough, showed how sports psychology could be transformed by feminist insight.
Although Precilla’s time at Loughborough was comparatively short, her energetic and enthusiastic manner made a great impact on colleagues and students alike. We had hoped that such a valued colleague would stay with us for a long time. But she was offered a great opportunity by Victoria University in Australia. When she left, we were all confident that there were great things to come. Not only is there now a sense of losing
a colleague and friend, but also a feeling that an original voice within psychology has now gone silent. Femininity and the Physically Active Woman promised to be the first step on an exciting journey of discovery. Now it has to stand as a monument for what Precilla achieved and as a guide for all those who will surely continue her work.
Social Psychology Group
Loughborough University

Time to abandon job references

BASED on our own experiences – and what we have seen over many years – we broadly agree with last month’s article ‘Are job references useless?’ (News, June 2005). More than ever, employers are exercising greater caution in providing references for leavers; adhering strictly to the bare minimum facts that they are legally obliged to provide. Because of this overly cautious approach, the information provided is worthless – if it is provided at all! Contrary to the article, the answer is not to directly converse with the referee in an attempt to gain useful information but rather to leave behind the archaic tool of references altogether.
References have historically provided information on more personal details such as perceived honesty, integrity, punctuality, absence, ability to get on with colleagues, ability to cope under pressure, past performance, etc. Whilst these personal aspects can give a more holistic picture of a candidate – as opposed to just focusing on competencies – references are typically a poor measure of these personal characteristics. References are subjective – relying too much on the referee’s perception, their experience with the candidate, and the constraints of their organisation’s policy. Research has shown that using just a reference to make a recruitment decision is effective in only 15 per cent of cases. This predictive validity is equivalent to rolling a die to determine whether a candidate should be selected for a position!
We therefore recommend removing referencing from the recruitment process, and instead focusing on ascertaining relevant candidate information using other assessment procedures. To do this we need to challenge ourselves (and operational managers) about what it is we really need to know about an individual in order to make a decision. Any information that is relevant to a recruitment decision can be gained more effectively through application forms, interviews, psychometric tests or assessment centres than it can be through references. For example, attitudes towards punctuality and motivation could be better measured in a personality psychometric
test, and commitment to organisational goals and the value-fit between a candidate and the organisation could be better measured in an interview or assessment centre.
The eventual withdrawal of referencing will give recruiters an ideal opportunity to devise more effective ways of measuring these constructs, rather than relying on a traditional and invalid technique that more often than not distorts rather than clarifies a person’s true worth and potential.
Inga Pioro
Nina Baum
Water for Fish
Henley
Oxfordshire

Christine Doyle 1950–2005

IT is with great sadness that I have to announce the death of Dr Christine Doyle. Christine had been ill with cancer for some time and died in the early hours of 11 April in Ireland with her family.
Christine was a member of the Division of Occupational Psychology (DOP) and contributed greatly to the work of several committees. She was an active and valued member of the DOP Professional Affairs Subcommittee, and was instrumental in the conception and organisation of our annual Professional Practice Event. Christine had a keen interest in helping those entering the profession and produced comprehensive guidelines for MSc students embarking on their career in occupational psychology. These guidelines have proved invaluable for many students, with a mixture of practical and realistic advice, and actual case studies.
Christine, an Associate Fellow of the BPS, was Director of the Professional Doctorate in Occupational Psychology at the University of East London. She was tireless in her work in developing it into an innovative and vibrant programme. In 2003 Christine published a book entitled Work and Organisational Psychology: An Introduction with Attitude, which was an unconventional, provocative and highly readable introduction to the field.
Christine will be sadly missed by all those who had the pleasure to work with her.
Mark Embleton
Chair, Division of Occupational Psychology

Shedding light on Psyche

AS editor of the Bulletin during the Society’s 50-year jubilee, I was responsible for the original lively Psyche logo. My rationale was recently described in The Psychologist (‘A brief history of the Society logo’ May 2001; see tinyurl.com/cfct8). I was surprised and sorry to find this logo ousted by a sedate and unattributed drawing, sponsored by the President in the Annual Report as ‘more clearly defined’ and more modestly dressed.
The letter from Sue Gerrard (‘Neatly robed – But stripped of meaning?’, May 2005) was therefore delightfully helpful. She rightly questioned the useless position of the new Psyche’s lamp at a height ‘which means that she’d be completely dazzled’ and could not possibly see anything at all, let alone whether her nightly lover, Cupid, was a god or a monster. ‘Symbolic or what?’ ends the letter.
Above all, the substitute Psyche squats in a placid and somehow elderly stance, with wings folded, as if posing for a portrait, instead of the determined, urgent maiden who, forward-looking, with wings unfurled, is intent on the truth.
Surely the aim of a logo is to depict the essence of an organisation. Is the Society now static, elderly and – dare one say it? – smug, rather than the energetic seeker after truth that it should be? All of which suggests that the original logo is much more appropriate to the Society and, pace Professor Brown, could well be reinstated.
Hannah Steinberg
University College London

Women at the top of the police

JENNIFER Brown’s lively portrayal of her work with women police officers (June 2005) displayed the challenges of the subject but also made some good methodological points for researchers entering such a demanding context.
My own work on police career development issues (Miles, 1992), prompts me to urge readers not to overlook the significance of her stating: ‘When I joined the police service…[t]here were no women chief constables, although since then seven
have been appointed.’
If placed in context, that seven can be seen as a big number, and testament to the achievements of some able and determined women. I make that assertion from remembering having met some of them as assessment centre candidates early in their careers and subsequently seeing their progress. Today I am advised by the Association of Chief Police Officers that the police services of England and Wales have 236 senior officers in the top three levels which are designated ‘the ACPO ranks’, and 22 of them are women. Furthermore two women chief constables retired recently after completing distinguished careers; their personal profiles are available at www.bawp.org.
Thus further to Brown’s seven we should recognise that women now hold about 10 per cent of the top jobs. Also Brown noted that when she joined the police service ‘women made up about 10 per cent of the complement of officers nationally’. Today there are over 28,000 women officers – more than 20 per cent of the total strength of about 140,000. Readers will note that some criterion questions arise here for any evaluation of police career development systems.
A priority for the work I began in 1984 was to increase the numbers of able graduates entering the police on accelerated promotion schemes. From that base it is pleasing to reflect on the progress that has been made by women candidates. Similar work on comparable schemes in the prison service did result in more women governors. However, as Jennifer Brown’s article shows, there is much more to be done on the gender dimension of such careers. Although, as she complains, it may not ‘command a high RAE tariff’, other rewards are associated with work on the public services. In my case they included appearing before a House of Commons select committee because the members were interested in how police leadership might be improved.
Roger Miles
3 Cross Lane
Helmdon
Northamptonshire

Reference
Miles, R. (1992). Assessing senior command. Policing, 8(1), 4–14.

 

Sex differences in IQ

THE article ‘Intellectual competence’ (June 2005) invites views on the question ‘Do you think there are sex differences in intelligence?’
Up to end of the 19th century it was widely believed that men are, at least on average, more intelligent than women. In the 20th century this view was rejected and it became almost universally asserted by major authorities, including Terman, Spearman, Cattell, Eysenck, Brody, Jensen and Mackintosh, that there is no difference.
The wheel came full circle when I proposed that the historical view was right (Lynn, 1994). Men have larger brains than women by about 10 per cent and larger brains confer greater brain power, so men must necessarily be on average more intelligent than women.
I showed that this is so on any reasonable definition of intelligence. If it is defined as the IQ on the Wechsler tests, men have obtained higher average means than women
on a number of standardisation samples. Men also have higher average IQs if intelligence is defined as reasoning ability or as the sum of verbal, reasoning and spatial abilities (Lynn, 1994).
This conclusion was disputed by Mackintosh (1996), who argued that non-verbal reasoning measured by the Progressive Matrices is the best measure of intelligence and that there is no sex difference on this test. To examine this objection I carried out (with the assistance of Paul Irwing) a meta-analysis of studies of sex differences on the Progressive Matrices. We found that among adults the average IQ of men exceeds that of women by approximately five IQ points (Lynn & Irwing, 2005). There is no difference among children up to the age of 15.
A consensus paradigm is not easily overthrown no matter how strong the evidence against it, as Galileo famously found, so I have not been surprised to find people are still asserting that there is no sex difference in intelligence – for example, ‘the psychometric evidence that there is no sex difference in general ability is overwhelming’ (from the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Mind, 2004). However, some of those who have examined the evidence have begun to accept my conclusion. One of these is Colom in Madrid who puts the male advantage among 18-year-olds at 4.3 IQ points (Colom & Lynn, 2004). Another is Nyborg (2003) in Denmark, who has however contended that I erred in estimating the intelligence advantage of men at 5 IQ points and that the correct figure is 5.55 IQ points. Yet another who it could be argued has reached the same conclusion is Baron-Cohen (2003) in Cambridge, although he prefers the terminology that men have greater ‘synthesising ability’ (aka intelligence: a distinction without a difference). Supportive evidence of a different kind has come from Furnham (2001) who has found that lay people consistently rate their fathers as more intelligent than their mothers, although he has forborne to mention that this happens to be correct.
Richard Lynn
University of Ulster

References
Baron-Cohen, S. (2003). The essential difference. London: Penguin/Perseus.
Colom, R. & Lynn, R. (2004). Testing the developmental theory of sex differences in intelligence on 12–18 year olds. Personality and Individual Differences, 36, 75–82.
Furnham, A. (2001). Self-estimates of intelligence. Personality and Individual Differences, 31, 1381–1405.
Lynn, R. (1994). Sex differences in intelligence and brain size. Personality and Individual Differences, 16, 363–364.
Lynn, R. & Irwing, P. (2004). Sex differences on the Progressive Matrices: A meta-analysis. Intelligence, 32, 481–498.
Mackintosh, N.J. (1996). Sex differences and IQ. Journal of Biosocial Science, 28, 559–571.
Nyborg, H. (2003). Sex differences in g. In H. Nyborg (Ed.) The scientific study of general intelligence. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Referencing – Debate from the forum

The submission to The Psychologist of a highly engaging article without formal referencing (but with a weblink for more information) prompted a debate on The Psychologist’s online discussion forum (accessed via www.thepsychologist.org.uk). Here we print part of the original posting, with selected replies.

DO you find formal referencing intrusive or useful? Are there ways we can still make it clear that our articles are properly evidence-based while also making them more readable? Are there any alternative models we should be following?

It all depends what you are trying to do. There was a piece in the Business Telegraph by Paul Bray on 19 April about the effects of using colour in corporate literature. There were reams of figures but no references. Here is a brief extract: ‘Take direct mail. First impressions count, and the average recipient takes just 2.5 seconds to decide whether to read a mailshot or bin it. Yet people are 80 per cent more likely to read a document if it uses colour, and 55 per cent more likely to open a coloured envelope before a plain one.’ There are four more paragraphs in this vein, each with two or three precise percentages. This is fine for a newspaper – very readable. But if we want to be more scholarly we need to see where the figures came from, and how they were arrived at. References help here.
There are some alternatives one might try. 1. You could ask the authors of your scholarly articles to limit themselves to 15 references maximum. 2. You could ask such authors to give a list of key references at the end of an article, and to hardly mention any in the text. 3. You could let authors say at the end of their articles that a more detailed reference list is available from them on request – and give their e-mail address.
But I wouldn't exclude references altogether from scholarly articles – in that way The Psychologist will end up as a newspaper. But perhaps that is what you have in mind?
James Hartley

I can understand the point of view that references can be intrusive when reading
an article, in any situation. However, I spent my three years at uni trying to learn
how to read articles (including understanding references) and now they do not bother
me at all.
Does it really harm us to read the references? In my opinion it’s a matter of learning how to read them and integrate them into the flow of the text. This takes time and practice, but it’s a useful tool.
Not only that but mentioning them in the text gives something a direct link to the formal reference list at the end of an article, which can be used to look up the full version – if desired.
Taking all this into account, I feel there is no necessity to change the referencing process!
Jody Kim Brown

I agree with the contribution of James Hartley on this subject, different publications require different standards of adherence to evidential basis for opinion. Although even in, The Psychologist I have found myself becoming annoyed at what seemed opinion being presented as evidence. Perhaps I could be reading it through wrong eyes.
The demands of an article that is to serve as ‘taking psychology to a wider audience’ may rightly wish to relax its format for specifying its evidence, but an arguable statement in a practitioner or academic journal will be the poorer for not providing the clarity of source.
For those inclined to think that the inclusion of references always worsens 'the read' of an article, I would recommend one of two exercises: extract the references from an article with which you are inclined to strongly disagree and then re-read it; or take a draft of an early years' non psychology student's essay (with different referencing conventions) and then criticise its content. In both instances I would suggest you would become a campaigner for the retention standards in referencing.
Of course I accept that that may not make the article 'a good read', there are much more skills to doing this than is suggested by lowering the expectations for direct sourcing, as the article that prompted this debate perhaps demonstrates.
Terence Butler

Information

– I AM a chartered clinical psychologist with good experience in both adult and child services.
I would be interested in contacting another chartered psychologist who would be keen to apply for posts within the NHS that encourage job share. I would be very interested in working either from January to June or June to December, six months of each year. If you think you would be interested in applying for posts that encourage work–life balance policies, and job-share initiatives, and feel that working in post for six months of each year may be for you, then please contact me.
Mark Godney
E-mail: [email protected]

– I RECENTLY graduated with an MSc in occupational psychology from the University of Nottingham.
I have since been gaining related work experience in the area of human resources, as well as completing my Level A and Level B.
I am, however, finding it difficult to break into the occupational psychology job market and would really appreciate any advice or opportunities for voluntary work experience with an occupational psychologist in the London or South East area.
Helen Clark
E-mail: [email protected];
tel: 07970 989 343

– HAVING no common language for psychotherapy procedures leads different therapists to use different terms to describe the same procedure, or the same term to describe different procedures. This often confuses professionals and clients. A task force has been set up to work towards a common language that is internationally accepted. A common language would reduce confusion and facilitate the progress of psychotherapy towards becoming a science. Therapists are being invited to contribute suggested terminology. Please contact me for more information and details of how to submit suggested terms, or visit www.psychomed.net/clp/index.html.
Isaac Marks
Institute of Psychiatry, E-mail: [email protected]

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber