Letters

Military psychologists

Did I miss it, or did you mention that the military has fired 9,000 gay servicemen and women since "Don't ask, don't tell" was initiated? Did you mention the high level of harassment of gays in the armed forces-harassment with no available recourse (complain and be fired)? Maybe I missed the diversity-related perspectives in your piece about helping families that don't ask for help (or can't ask for help as is the case in gay partnerships) or in your article on developing better mental health services (for gays who can be fired if they come out to a military psychologist)?

Did I miss these points, or did you blot out these ugly stains while painting the picket fence red, white and blue?

Anne Dohrenwend, PhD
Flint, Mich.

Regarding your "Serving those who serve" series in the September issue, I certainly support quality care for our military personnel. This is a time when most would agree that our military is being grossly misused. So we psychologists, of anyone, should know to be careful with our language. While it may be inadvertent, using the term "service" or the phrase "those who serve" to refer to our military personnel when the whole enterprise is being compromised is to effectively engage in making a pro-war statement. More neutral language, like "military personnel," is more appropriate at a sensitive time like this.

Arden Mahlberg, PhD
Madison, Wis.

Gender bias

I was surprised to see gender-biased language throughout the July/August feature on women's leadership in psychology-including in the cover headline. I am referring to the use of "woman" and "women" as adjectives. Although this usage is very common in today's English, it is a subtle form of sexism. As Rosemary Maggio writes in "The Nonsexist Wordfinder: A Dictionary of Gender-Free Usage" (1988), "woman" should never be used as an adjective if "man" would not be used with the same noun.

A reference to "women leaders" implies not only that leaders are men unless otherwise specified, but also that there are separate, non-parallel languages for male and female leaders. Though this may seem on the surface to be wordsmithing, it is impossible to talk honestly about breaking down the barriers of any form of discrimination using biased language.

Gillian M. Woldorf, PhD
Berkeley, Calif.

Rats' memories

An article in the June Monitor entitled Can rats reminisce? offers as positive evidence an experimental finding that rats revisit arms of a radial arm maze where they had previously consumed fruit flavored pellets, provided six hours but not one hour had elapsed since their last introduction into the maze. The article speculates that the rats seemed to recall particular events from their past, thereby demonstrating episodic memory. It is not clear whether or not this conclusion is warranted because the article does not say whether the arms with the special fruit flavored pellets remained the same from trial to trial or if they varied. If they remained the same, the study as described in the article demonstrates occasion setting based on a temporal cue, a straightforward extension of reinforcement learning. More compelling evidence of reminiscence and episodic memory in rats comes from David Olton and Robert Samuelson's seminal 1976 article entitled "Remembrance of Places Passed: Spatial Memory in Rats" (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, Vol. 2, 97-116). That study showed that rats only visit maze arms that they had not visited before, based on the expectation that unvisited arms are sources of unconsumed food. Rats had to recall the arms they visited for food and not visit them again. In the temporal discrimination study, the rats just had to remember the location of the baited arms.

John W. Moore
University of Massachusetts