Up In the Air: Colloquium on Alternative Training Programs for Pilots

Regent University’s Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology welcomed Deborah A. Boehm-Davis, Ph.D., Chair of the Psychology Department at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Dr. Boehm-Davis is past-president of Division 21 (Applied Experimental & Engineering Society) and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Her presentation was titled, “Can old dogs learn new tricks? Developing and evaluating alternative training for pilots.”

Dr. Boehm-Davis shared her framework for understanding aviation performance. This immediately caught my attention because I do not enjoy flying as much as you would think, particularly given how frequently I fly. But I am a big fan of aviation safety. I usually spend most of my time not thinking about it. But if I were to think about it, I would like to focus on improving aviation safety, and if Dr. Boehm-Davis recommends we look at training, then that sounds good to me. What Dr. Boehm-Davis does is she approaches improving training by looking first at things like task analysis and then moves to knowledge elicitation and eventually to procedural steps, methods, and selection rules.

It was interesting to learn about how the hierarchy in the cockpit can lead pilots to ignore information from others. This has led to work on “crew resource management” with emphasis on improving communication. Her team helped develop protocols and then embed them in manuals and training procedures. They were also able to compare the use of the new procedures and the use of the typical procedures. From a research standpoint, this involves improving inter-rater reliability among raters and evaluating pilots for whether they follow established procedures. The results were that the new procedures had a positive and sustained impact on performance in both simulators and in flight, as well as based on instructor evaluation and self-assessment.

And this was just procedural training. Dr. Boehm-Davis also reported on her research on conceptual training, so that pilots have a better understanding why certain procedures are in place, as well as exemplar training for specific issues that may be particularly challenging (like flying with a small child attached to the windshield).

The presentation exposed students to the many ways in which psychology is vital in various real-world applications and concerns. Let me just add that, as someone who has a vested interest in the results of this research (someone who has to fly often) let’s hope that these improvements are being used consistently today. Actually, Dr. Boehm-Davis reiterated the stats on how safe flight is relative to other forms of transportation — an important cognitive exercise for all of us who travel!

Clinical Practice with Middle Easterners & Arab-Americans

Our colloquium today featured Dr. Naji Abi-Hashem, a clinical psychologist with expertise on the Middle East. His talk was titled “Understanding and Counseling with Middle Easterners and Arab-Americans.” He regularly presents an extended version of this talk at the American Psychological Association. He is featured in the APA video on providing clinical services to Middle Easterners and Arab-Americans.

Interestingly, Dr. Abi-Hashem reported that there are significant discrepancies in estimates around religious identities of Arab Americans. It has been estimated 75% of Arab Americans are of a Christian background (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) while 25% are of Muslim background (some sources put that at 50-50). The majority are from Lebanese descent and relatively young (average age of 35). They tend to be highly educated and self-employed, with many involved in a range of professions.

Dr. Abi-Hashem reviewed several common misconceptions, such as All Arabs are Muslims, All Middle-Easterners are Muslims, All Muslims are Radicals, and All Radicals are Terrorists, in an attempt to help the audience move away from an They versus Us mentality.

To provide a context for understanding Middle Easterners and Arab Americans, he discussed concepts found in the following quote:

The Arabs are a proud and sensitive people whose culture is mainly derived from three key factors: family, language, and religion. No adequate understanding of Arab culture is possible without first examining these three major elements and the pervading impact they have had on their culture. Cultural understanding by Americans of the Arabs is especially important at present because it can provide a basis for our own interactive behavior with them as well as a basis frinterpreting their actions.                     – Edward Badolato

Dr. Abi-Hashem unpacked what this means in terms of understanding some of the nuances of family, language, and religion. He then briefly discussed virtuous characteristics including hospitality, truthfulness, respect, esteeming elders, insight, faithfulness, dignity, honor (saving face, avoiding public shame), hard work, generosity, and patience.

On providing clinical services, Dr. Abi-Hashem discussed assessing acculturation and community, flexibility in where you meet and the possible use of a translator. He discussed various gestures to avoid, as well as signs of respect to keep in mind, particularly if a person or family is more traditional. He encouraged us to note intergenerational dynamics (e.g., familial-communal heritage, moral-ethical values) and to be prepared to address grief and trauma when relevant. In this context, he compared and contrasted unhealthy coping styles (e.g., aggression, moving/leaving, blaming, complaining, etc.) and healthy coping styles (e.g., family/friendship bonds, expressing/talking, creating group atmosphere, public prayers/religious services, etc.).

We often discuss multicultural competence with different groups, but it was helpful to take one group and go deeper with it. Dr. Abi-Hashem is in a unique position to reflect upon the Middle East and to train psychologists in working competently with Middle Easterners and Arab Americans.

PsyD Colloquium on Counseling Middle Easterners and Arab Americans

The Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology is hosting Naji Abi-Hashem, Ph.D., this Friday, February 5th from 2-4pm in the Moot Courtroom. Dr. Abi-Hashem is speaking on “Counseling Middle Easterners and Arab Americans.” He is a highly-respected scholar on multicultural psychology, having written several chapters on the topic and been featured in an American Psychological Association (APA) video titled Working with Arab Americans.

I have known Naji for several years now. He often speaks at the Christian Association for Psychological Studies national conference, and I either run into him there or at APA. He is a tremendously active professional; he is a kind and generous person, and he has a unique platform as someone with expertise on the Middle East. It will be a delight to have Naji at Regent to speak to our students and to provide training for all of us interested in enhancing our cultural competence.

Note: We’ve been notified today of a location change for the colloquium. It is now scheduled for the Library Auditorium.

Playing with Anger

The Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at Regent hosts a monthly colloquia series. This month we welcomed Howard Stevenson, Ph.D., who spoke on racial negotiation in schools. He is associate professor and chair of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the University of Pennsylvania. The title of his talk was “Playing with Anger: Reaching Out and Teaching Angry and Aggressive Youth.”

Dr. Stevenson opened by recognizing the importance of talking about differences in race and culture. Among the many things he does, he teaches young African American males how to respond to being questioned by police – as black youth are more likely to be stopped (in their car or walking) in neighborhoods, regardless of whether they are the majority or minority in that neighborhood. He wants that exchange to end well. But the context here is a “Catch 33” by which he means damned if you do, damned if you don’t – just damned. It’s more than just a no-win situation, it is a no-win situation across the lifespan; it doesn’t get better. Racial bias can occur at age 5, 15, and 55. That is the context for teaching kids not to curse out police.

As Dr. Stevenson observed, we have a tremendous capacity to avoid racial discussion. We have skills to avoid it; we need skills to enhance it. We need racial literacy and negotiation skills. He’s about counter-socialization to manage Catch 33: for protection (manage stress), affirmation (develop talent), reappraisal (reframing “stress” as “challenge”), competence (to counteract microaggressions), and faith (the transcendent/divine).

In what ways is Dr. Stevenson’s work integrative? I’m sure that there are countless ways, and you’d likely have to sit down with him for awhile to get more of a full picture. I will say this: Dr. Stevenson is a person of faith, and from what he says he is drawn in part by his faith to this area of study. He has a heart for young people and a heart for racial literacy. It reminded me again that community psychology is particularly important for impacting a large number of people for the good; in ways that are different than individual counseling, community psychology can identify and find positive ways to respond to what might best be understood as systemic evil.

PsyD Colloquium on Psychologists and Military Interrogation

col larry jamesColonel Larry James (ret.), PhD. ABPP, author of Fixing Hell, is giving a talk on Friday, November 13, from 2-4pm in the Moot Courtroom at Regent University. The talk is part of the 2009-2010 Colloquia Series sponsored by the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. The title of his talk is “What Really Happened at Abu Ghraib: A Psychologist’s Perspective.”

fixing-hell-coverThe topic of the role of psychologists in military interrogations has received a significant amount of attention in the American Psychological Association. Dr. James has been in the thick of things abroad (at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo) and at home in the debates about this, as well as the person who has been responsible for helping psychologists navigate both the demands of their work for the military and the standards and principles of the ethics code. I just finished reading his book, and the colloquium promises to be a fascinating presentation.