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SIOP Responds to Release of APA Hoffman Report

7/20/2015-

by SIOP

Many SIOP members have by now heard about or seen coverage of the recent revelations regarding the relationship between some officials of the American Psychological Association (APA) and Bush Administration policies on interrogation techniques.

According to the APA, the association engaged the law firm Sidley Austin in November 2014 to conduct an independent review of whether there was any factual support for the assertion that APA engaged in activity that would constitute collusion with the Bush administration to promote, support, or facilitate the use of "enhanced" interrogation techniques by the United States in the war on terror. The APA released the results of that investigation, a 542-page report found here, July 10.

The report and an accompanying press release state that senior APA officials, including its ethics director, sought to keep the association’s ethics policies in line with the Defense Department’s interrogation policies and that “the process by which the Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) was created, the composition of the membership, the content of the PENS report and the subsequent activities related to the report were influenced by collusion between a small group of APA representatives and government officials.” APA has since announced an initial series of policy and procedural steps in response to the findings. You can read the complete press release regarding the report here.

The leadership of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), which represents Division 14 of APA, is dismayed by the revelations within the APA report. The individual actions of APA’s leadership as well as the failures of the association as a whole to guard against such behavior are very serious and reflect poorly not only on APA but on psychology as a profession. Leaders of SIOP are greatly concerned with how the actions of APA’s leaders affect the integrity of psychology as well as the perception of psychologists who work within the government and military.

“SIOP deplores the disturbing revelations described in the Hoffman report regarding the conflicts of interest, collusion, and organizational deception that occurred at the highest levels of APA,” said Steve Kozlowski, SIOP’s president. “SIOP supports the ongoing efforts by current APA leadership to identify and hold accountable those directly involved, rectify problems that permitted these actions, and rebuild confidence in APA and its unwavering commitment to ethics in support of human rights. The ethical practice of psychology is a core principle for SIOP and its members and represents the highest ideal of our science and practice. SIOP will continue to closely monitor APA responses, evolving developments, and any implications they may have for SIOP and its members. SIOP will take action as necessary.”

SIOP currently follows APA’s Code of Ethics, which can be found here. While it appears the report’s revelations involve several officials at APA—four have since retired or resigned—APA has stated that the review found no evidence that the Code of Ethics is the product of collusion. Please note that this code clearly states within the Principle A of the General Principle section the following:

Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence

Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm. In their professional actions, psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally and other affected persons and the welfare of animal subjects of research. When conflicts occur among psychologists' obligations or concerns, they attempt to resolve these conflicts in a responsible fashion that avoids or minimizes harm.

We encourage our members to read the code of ethics, as it provides basic guidance to all psychologists on the ethical standards to which we hold ourselves as professionals in this field. SIOP’s leaders will continue to monitor the situation and report to the membership should any further need arise.