Each year around this time the American Psychological Association releases the results of its latest Stress in America Survey that polls people about stress; you can learn more here. I don’t deny that there are benefits to doing it; each year it generates significant press coverage.
But, here is my rhetorical question: do scientific associations really need to commission polls? If we were to conclude that the Stress in America survey was important to science and the public interest, why then is it being run by APA’s PR department? Why isn’t it being peer-reviewed and then published each year in a scientific APA journal? I’m okay with polls and I’m not going to say that they don’t give us somewhat useful information, but I do contend that APA is missing an opportunity with Stress in America.
Our APA leaders keep lamenting about how the public isn’t seeing psychology as a STEM discipline and people like Jeb Bush refer to it as a “liberal art” as opposed to a science. Meanwhile, every year APA’s public relations machine seemingly hits up every journalist in the country with a survey which, as science goes, has a “methodology section” that reads like it could be published in Cosmo. APA usually gives one major newspaper an exclusive early peek to help generate news articles and the psychologists around the country who volunteer with APA as public education coordinators aren’t even allowed to review the results of the survey until after it has been released to the media.
I know that we have to make some tough financial decisions at APA and I’m not questioning the amount of money spent on the Stress in America survey each year at all; I’m fine with spending even more on it. However, wouldn’t it be nice if APA’s annual, flagship PR effort actually showcased psychological science at its best (instead of subtly reinforcing negative public perceptions about our science)? Currently, Stress in America feels more like a marketing gimmick to me than a meaningful, peer-reviewed, science-driven attempt to understand Stress in America over time. That is not how I want journalists to see our discipline and that is not what the public or psychology deserves.
I believe it is time to re-envision APA’s Stress in America survey in order to showcase psychology at its best and contribute to the public good (rather than to simply generate news headlines).
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Also, this Sunday 3/13/2016 will mark the first-ever issue of my weekly newsletter for psychologists and physicians related to medical records file review work and IME’s. You won’t be able to get the content anywhere else and if you miss it it is gone; so if you’re interested in the weekly Reviews and IME’s newsletter you may want to subscribe to that now.
Todd Finnerty, Psy.D.
P.S. like the results of the APA Stress in America Survey? You too can be like the participants in the study. The more survey responses you crank out the more rewards you get to earn. Run on over to http://www.harrispollonline.com/ now where “as an HPOL member, you’ll earn HIpoints rewards, which will quickly mount up to enough for cool stuff on such sites as Amazon, iTunes, Home Depot and Walmart. (Note that we’re continually adding to our list of rewards-you-just-have-to-have.) After as few as two qualified survey completes, you could have enough points to snare one of the sweet rewards. And you’ll continue to earn points, even when you don’t qualify for surveys. That’s not all: With every survey you complete you have a chance to enter our $10,000 sweepstakes! This is one place where you’ll always feel like a VIP. Let us show you.”