Distortion, Bias, and Ethical Informed Consent: Presentations of Etiological and Treatment Factors in Abnormal Psychology Textbooks

Hunter, Noel
November 2013
Ethical Human Psychology & Psychiatry;2013, Vol. 15 Issue 3, p160
Academic Journal
Concerns have been made highlighting the need for true informed consent and choice when patients and/or parents are confronted with seeking treatment for severe emotional states and crises. Yet, psychosocial treatments are often derided or recommended only in conjunction with psychotropic medications because of the assumed biological basis of mental distress. At the same time, the benefits of medications are often inflated, whereas the harmful effects are drastically minimized or not reported at all. This misinformation is distributed to the public, and to patients, in part through the education of students and trainees. Early educational experiences can shape the thinking of trainees as they begin to formulate their respective approaches to clinical populations, and textbooks are a fundamental part of this education. The purpose of this study was to analyze popular abnormal psychology textbooks to evaluate their representation of the current scientific literature regarding psychopathology. Content areas that were explored were those related to depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and schizophrenia. Misrepresenta-tions of the literature were pervasive in areas associated with biological findings. In addi-tion, there were multiple omissions or biased statements related to psychosocial findings, distortions regarding the efficacy of and adverse effects of various treatments, and a lack of reports of the existence of effective alternative approaches to standard mental health care. Concerns regarding the dissemination of distorted and false information in higher education as it pertains to ethics and informed consent are discussed.


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