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Psychology in the public interest: What have we done? What can we do?

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Abstract

The contributions of the American Psychological Association (APA) to the public interest are assessed. APA has taken an effective leadership role on issues involving justice to the disadvantaged categories of its own membership. On other issues, which have been more controversial, APA has been less effective, partly because APA participates in our culture of self-interest and individualism, and partly because identifying the public interest is inherently political. Psychologists are urged to look beyond self and group interests toward the urgent issues of our time concerning survival and justice. All the same, how APA pursues the guild interests of psychology as a science and as a profession impinges strongly on the public interest in any plausible sense and requires close scrutiny. Because the public interest can only be determined by a political process, open advocacy on public interest issues within APA governance structure is appropriate. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

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... More internal lobbying ensued, and in February, 2010, the PAP board formally instituted its Public Interest Committee, patterned after the American Psychological Association's Public Interest Directorate, as a mechanism to address the public on matters of social justice (J.E.G. Saplala, personal communication, 24 March, 2010 Smith, 1990), which would be instrumental in laying the foundation for LGBT psychology in the Philippines soon thereafter. ...
... Outside of research and teaching, psychologists can play a role in broader efforts to promote social change and wellbeing, an approach sometimes called psychology in the public interest (Brewster Smith, 1990). These can include psychology experts sharing knowledge to inform policymakers, engaging media on issues of human behaviour, and taking principled and formal stands on pressing social issues where psychological expertise, broadly defined, can contribute in debate and decision-making (Cohen, Lee & McIlwraith, 2012). ...
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This paper presents an account of the initial developments towards an LGBT psychology in the Philippines. We situate this on critical events leading to: (1) an official policy by the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) against anti-LGBT discrimination in 2011, the first in south-east Asia; and (2) the institutionalisation in 2014 of the PAP’s LGBT Psychology Special Interest Group. Organising efforts have focused in four areas: research, education, advocacy, and practice. National conferences have served as naturally occurring moments for mainstreaming and visibility within the profession. Research progress is evidenced by the publication in 2013 of a special LGBT issue of the Philippine Journal of Psychology. Education efforts have involved teaching an undergraduate elective on LGBT psychology, training of psychology teachers to integrate sexual and gender diversity, and conduct of ‘LGBT Psych 101’ seminars. Advocacy has focused on ‘giving away’ LGBT psychology through engagement with the activist community, media, and support for anti-discrimination legislation. Finally, initial work in professional practice has been around raising awareness of LGBT issues in counselling. We reflect on these initial successes and present lessons learned as well as next steps for the development of an LGBT-inclusive psychology in south-east Asia.
... Around the same time as the formation of BAPPI and the Public Interest Directorate, past APA president M. Brewster Smith (1990) echoed the sentiment of these efforts by urging psychologists as individuals and organizations "to keep in touch with public issues that affect the lives of people and become politically active on the side of justice and human welfare" (p. 536). ...
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... The authors of this article have all devoted their professional careers to the study of language use and function in various linguistic contexts and among speakers of several different languages in the United States and in Canada. In reviewing the literature and in drawing conclusions based on this review, we have sought to be balanced in our judgement and tokeep in mind both the public interest as discussed by Smith (1990) and the responsibilities of psychologists set forth in the Ethical Principles of Psychologists (APA, 198 I). ...
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