Developing virtual reality

HAVING PIONEERED the use of virtual reality therapy using the technology shown in a photo of Hunter Hoffman in 1993 ("A virtual cure," July/ August Monitor), it's odd to read about people whose work came after that conducted at Kaiser Permanente department of psychiatry. A patent for this methodology was issued in my name. Much reporting has come into question lately because of blatant falsification, inaccuracy and misleading factual information. I would have expected APA, which promotes ethical guidelines, to follow them in research and reporting of developing therapeutic interventions.

                                                                                                                     RALPH J. LAMSON,PHD              Kaiser Permanente San Rafael, Calif.

Life after death

A CONTENTIOUS ASPECT OF "religiousness" is the notion of "life after death." The article "Rational life choices guide people's religiousness over time" (July/August Monitor) studies religious adherence as though it were a unitary concept. Yet the liturgy, social interactions and "good deeds," to name a few of the components of religion, may be separated for the purposes of study from the "life after death" assumption.

For example, a major aspect of parapsychological study is "the survival hypothesis." According to Irwin's "An Introduction to Parapsychology" (McFarland & Company, 1999): "The survival hypothesis concerns the notion of postmortem survival, that is, that a disembodied consciousness or some such discarnate element of human personality might survive bodily death at least for a time," with no particular concern, scientifically, for religion.

Given significant national interest into the motivation, ideology and rationale of suicide bombers, and their ostensible receipt of "promissory notes" of postmortem paradise, it seems to me that research into religiousness should focus more on the concept of "life after death." That is, how much of the variance in religiousness is accounted for by expected postmortem survival on the one hand versus liturgy, sociability and "good deeds" on the other.

Analytically, how much of adherence, or lack of it, is due to each of these separate factors?

                                                                                                                     WILLIAM F. VITULLI, PHD University of South Alabama

Monitor advertising

I HAVE TO AGREE WITH W.J. Arnold's letter in the July/August Monitor, where he takes APA to task for printing the ad placed by the U.S. Navy, which clearly discriminates against homosexual acts or acknowledgement of lesbian, gay or bisexual orientation. Merely requiring the printing of this "disclaimer" (actually a disclosure statement) in no way absolves the APA from its responsibility to promote fair and nondiscriminatory policies as stated in its advertising guidelines ("The American Psychological Association endorses equal opportunity practices and accepts only ads that are not discriminatory on the basis of race, color...sexual orientation....") The sooner all institutions in society, such as high schools, media, state and local governments, professional organizations, etc., let it be known that they will not tolerate or support discrimination in any form by the military or any other arm of the federal government just because it is "legal," the sooner these onerous laws and policies will be overturned. Dr. Arnold is again quite correct in making an analogy to apartheid South Africa where it would be doubtful APA would publish one of their "whites only" ads just because it was "legal" in South Africa.

I call upon the APA Council of Representatives to reconsider this misguided advertising policy and thus stop colluding with a homophobic federal government. As it has done on similar issues in the past, APA must demonstrate leadership and take the moral high ground here once more.

                                                                                                              CARL ALLEN TOTTON, PSYD Burbank, Calif.

I FOUND THE ADVERTISEMENT from Regent University on page 69 of the July/August Monitor disturbing and offensive. The ad says, "...we believe the DSM-IV and Holy Bible belong together on the bookshelves of any future psychologist who desires to treat the whole person: body, mind and spirit," suggesting holistic psychologists must be Christian. However, treating the whole person is the realm of the ethical and moral psychologist, regardless of religious belief or lack thereof.

As psychologists, we strive to implement science-based practice, and science and religion are rarely in agreement. The ad's placement of the bible on top of the DSM-IV-TR is a not-so-subtle message: God first, clinical practice second. If God--specifically, the Christian god--informs practice, then wouldn't it be incumbent on the Christian psychologist to make clinical decisions based on God's word? How would a devout Christian psychologist work with a woman contemplating an abortion? A terminal cancer patient thinking of ending their suffering? A gay couple who want to marry, or adopt a child?

As psychologists, we walk side-by-side with our clients as they find their path. We are not supposed to grab their hand and take the lead, pulling them off onto our own paths! When professionals inject their religious views into their practice, as some pharmacists chose to do when they refused to distribute RU486, they are no longer serving their clients. They are serving themselves, in the name of God.

                                                                                                        PAULA O'SULLIVAN CHAFFEE, PHD Mountain View, Calif.

Politics at convention?

APA IS AGAIN LETTING ITS left-leaning political bias show with the selection of Arlo Guthrie, a performer who made his initial reputation as an anti-Vietnam War activist with his song, "Alice's Restaurant," to perform at the APA convention's opening session.

The decision to have Mr. Guthrie perform during a time when our nation is again involved in a controversial military struggle can only be viewed as a thinly veiled expression of the APA administration's views of the current conflict. I hope that our APA dues were not used to fund this performance.

                                                                                                                    GEORGE ONDIS, PHD Pittsburgh, Pa.

Web-based testing

THE ARTICLE "I/O PSYCHOLOgists get wired" (July/August Monitor) accurately reflected the rapid emergence of Web and other "wired" (and wireless) technologies as enablers of new practices by psychologists. It also highlighted the disconnect between academic psychologists and the very real world of Web-based testing and assessment.

Yes, there are "pop" tests out on the Internet, some of which no doubt are expedient constructions of unqualified persons using inadequate methodologies relative to reliability, validity and restricted use. Caveat emptor. But there are marginal pseudo-tests in the paper-pencil world as well, so the issue is little different. A bad test is a bad test, whatever the medium.

Web-based testing of standardized tests has been active for several years in robust form. Method variance/commensurability studies almost always yield trivial differences. Many of our customers develop Web-based tests from scratch within our system and subject them to the usual validity regimes. It is simply "better, safer, cheaper, faster" than the old paper or PC-bound methods, where data gathering was slow. We now have I/O colleagues managing entire assessment-based hiring systems worldwide, 24/7, in multiple languages, with immediate, functional test data that can be used to drive hiring decisions.

The "wild west" days of Web assessment are long gone; it is the ascendant paradigm, and perhaps university-based researchers would do well to get out a bit more and see what their applied colleagues have done by way of revolutionizing testing. In fact, nearly every RFP we see these days asks for Web testing.

                                                                                                  DAVID T. PFENNINGER,   PHD Performance Assessment Network Carmel, Ind.