When most people want to find out about a subject, they usually do one of two things. One, they Google the subject on the Internet, or two, they loook it up on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that covers an incredibly broad range of subjects. But the information it contains is contributed by the readers themselves, or any experts who care to weigh in.
That’s true when the subject is psychology and therapy, too. Wikipedia contains 5,691 articles on psychology and only about a third of them have been reviewed by the organization’s peer assessment panel. So how much of this information going out daily to the general public is good, and how much of it is misleading or outright wrong?
Enter the Association for Psychological Science, which recently launched its APS Wikipedia Initiative. It’s asking psychologists to help fine-tune some of these articles to help the public become better informed.
“Start by looking at the most basic Wikipedia entries in your own area of expertise, and you will see the problem immediately,” says Mahzarin Banaji of the APS. “Although some articles are great (see the articles on autism or confirmation bias), many are stubs, with hardly any content (e.g., see the articles on moral reasoning or Stanley Schacter). The vast majority of entries do not present information in the form in which you teach and think about it.”
Anybody can contribute to Wikipedia and so it’s up to experts in the field to verify the information. As Banaji notes, therapists are sometimes asked to contribute articles to hard-copy encyclopedias that are sold to libraries. That may seem more prestigious, but that’s not where people are getting their information these days. They are learning about mental health on the Web.
PSYCHIATRISTS STICK WITH TUTU: Organizers of the American Psychiatric Association annual convention next month in Hawaii whipped up some controversy with their selection of Archbishop Desmond Tutu to be the convocation speaker. Tutu has made some controversial comments about Israel and some APA members were incensed about his choice.
Nevertheless, the APA will hear from Tutu at the convention in Honolulu May 14-18.
In an editorial in Psychiatric News, APA President Carol Bernstein said: “I spoke with some of these members … in November at the Assembly meeting, where I explained the process behind my choice and my belief that he had much to offer in his comments about the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa that would be of interest to our members and their guests at the Convocation.
“Unfortunately, some were not satisfied with my explanation and have mounted an intensive campaign in Psychiatric Times and with some Jewish organizations in the United States to demand that I rescind the invitation. A few others have threatened to boycott the meeting, resign from APA, and/or engage in protests.”
She concluded: “Condemning violence is not equivalent to anti-Semitism. Further, APA is not a political organization, and Archbishop Tutu will not be speaking at the APA annual meeting in a political context.”