The matter reported below reminds me of the disgraceful behaviour by Frank Sulloway, in using legal means to prevent publication of a critique of his absurd theories about birth order. But, unlike Sulloway, Hare is no kook so I can only presume that he is in his dotage. He must be very elderly by now.

What eventually ensued is what should have happened in the first place. The paper was published and Hare was given a right of reply.

I have some personal interest in this as I too have had published a paper questioning a popular measure of psychopathy. My paper was however published promptly — perhaps because the authors of the measure that I questioned are now dead!

I also have a personal interest in that I have had a heap of critiques published — papers which simply tear apart some existing research without adding new data. It is actually quite difficult to get such papers published anyway as editors prefer papers with new data. The episode described below is going to make the acceptance of critiques all the more difficult, which is a great pity — as criticism is an essential feature of scientific advance

And psychopathy is still a quite poorly understood phenomenon so debate about it is important. The fact that Leftism and psychopathy seem to have a lot in common makes it particularly important, in fact

Academic disputes usually flare out in the safety of obscure journals, raising no more than a few tempers, if not voices. But a paper published this week by the American Psychological Association has managed to raise questions of censorship, academic fraud, fair play and criminal sentencing — and all them well before the report ever became public.

The paper is a critique of a rating scale that is widely used in criminal courts to determine whether a person is a psychopath and likely to commit acts of violence. It was accepted for publication in a psychological journal in 2007, but the inventor of the rating scale saw a draft and threatened a lawsuit if it was published, setting in motion a stultifying series of reviews, revisions and legal correspondence.

“This has been a really, really troubling process from the beginning,” said Scott O. Lilienfeld, a psychologist at Emory University and a collaborator with one of the paper’s authors. “It has people wondering, ‘Do I have to worry every time I publish a paper that criticizes someone that I’ll get slapped with a lawsuit?’ ” The delay in publication, he said, “sets a very dangerous precedent” and censors scientific discourse.

The inventor of the clinical test, Robert D. Hare, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, sees a different principle at stake. “The main issue here is that these authors misrepresented my views by distorting things I said,” he said in a telephone interview. “I have been doing this work for 40 years and never seen anything like it.”

For its part, the psychological association maintained in a statement that it had never refused to publish a paper because of a threatened lawsuit but that it had “a responsibility to all parties to evaluate a legal claim.” The paper’s authors — Jennifer L. Skeem of the University of California, Irvine, and David J. Cooke of Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland — also had lawyers, and the Scottish university did an extensive review of its own, people familiar with the process said.

“All I can tell you is that delays in the editorial process come from multiple sources,” said Gary VandenBos, the psychological association’s publisher.

The paper — “Is Criminal Behavior a Central Component of Psychopathy?” — was circulated widely among forensic psychologists well before publication. Experts say the scientific issue it raises is an important one.

Dr. Hare’s clinical scale, called the Psychopathy Checklist, Revised, is one of the few, if not the only, psychological measures in forensic science with any scientific backing. Dr. Hare receives royalties when the checklist is used; he called the income it generated “modest” compared with providing paid expert testimony — which he said he does not do.

Dr. Skeem and Dr. Cooke warned in their paper that the checklist was increasingly being mistaken for a complete definition of psychopathy — a broader personality construct that includes deceitfulness, impulsivity and recklessness, though not always aggression or illegal acts. The authors contended that Dr. Hare’s checklist warps that concept by making criminal behavior a more central component than it really is.

Dr. Hare maintains that he has stressed “problematic, not antisocial or criminal, behavior” and that his comments were distorted.

Dr. Skeem said she was “just worn out” by the prolonged dispute. “When we first wrote the paper,” she said, “we saw it simply as a call to the field to recognize we were going down a path where we were equating an abstract concept with a checklist, and it was preventing us from looking at the concept more closely.”

The report appears in the June issue of the journal Psychological Assessment — that is, along with a rebuttal by Dr. Hare, and a return response from Dr. Skeem and Dr. Cooke.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don’t forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here

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