Posted: September 12th, 2023
You see what you expect to see, Severus.
—J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Figure 10.1 (wikia.net)
Professor Dumbledore cautions Severus Snape against his own biases regarding Harry Potter in a scene from the book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Upon first meeting Harry, Snape believes the boy wizard is as conceited as his father (who was Snape’s former rival). Dumbledore prompts Snape to check his own biases at the door and further examine Harry’s character before making such a harsh judgment. Says Dumbledore, “You see what you expect to see, Severus.” Upon deeper reflection, Snape realizes there is more to Harry’s character than he had initially assumed.
If only we could call upon Professor Dumbledore for direction and guidance when we are faced with everyday ethical conflicts and dilemmas! We cannot be wizards and we cannot cast spells (or even consult a moral compass app in our smartphones) to help us make our choices, but we can seek the goodness and sound judgment represented in Dumbledore’s strong character to guide our decision making. This graphic illustrates some attributes of Dumbledore’s character. See how many of these attributes are similar to the character traits we aspire to have as psychologists serving others.
Figure 10.2 (wikispaces.com)
The light blue ovals in the diagram above highlight four attributes of Dumbledore’s character: willingness to help, wise words, wisdom, and belief in love. Although not all psychologists would use exactly these same words to describe their own character attributes, these attributes are a close fit to what we should strive for in the profession of psychology. We need to have a desire and willingness to help; we hope to find and use wisdom; we deliver wisdom by way of wise words that do not harm or judge; and we believe more in goodness or love than we do in evil and wrongdoing. Think back to the guiding principles in the APA Code of Ethics. They were: beneficence and nonmaleficence, fidelity and responsibility, integrity, justice, and respect for people’s rights and dignity. Although the phrasing is a little different, Professor Dumbledore would likely approve of these principles.
Looking at the green ovals in the diagram, we see other indicators of what we do as psychologists as they relate to Dumbledore’s character. We give people the benefit of the doubt and we know that naming has a power, which is demonstrated when we diagnose and make recommendations. Truth is a beautiful and terrible thing. We seek the truth, yet when we find it we must proceed with care and caution. For example, think of finding out a child is being abused and needing to make a child abuse report. We sought the truth, and it was a terrible truth to find. The beautiful thing is that we can now do something with that information as long as we proceed with care and caution.
We seek to be the best we can as we interact with others. We can learn skills, practice concepts, and seek out the guidance and direction of others. Throughout your life and professional career in psychology, there will be many opportunities for cultivating your personal growth and awareness. There will also be perilous forks in the road where impatience, groupthink, a lack of information, fear, personal burdens, anger, illness, or other factors coalesce into the creation of an unclear mind and even less clear strategy for solving what lies before us.
Let’s review our journey through this course. In Module One, your first lesson was to explore your understanding of professional ethics through the perspective of your own personal experience. You were asked to look at the difference between vigilant and defensive ethical postures. You came to understand the most common reasons for unethical decision making. You accomplished this first step of understanding yourself in relation to others.
Module Two asked you to think about and understand what we mean by dual and multiple role relationships. Problems are created when we do not understand and honor our role in relation to those we serve.
Module Three introduced the APA Code of Ethics, which guides psychologists with standards of professional behavior, expectations, rules, and challenges. The APA Code of Ethics contains five guiding principles, much like the guiding principles highlighted in light blue in the Dumbledore Chart. The APA Code of Ethics also has 10 standards. These are expectations in regard to conduct and they are enforceable by the law and licensing boards.
Module Four explored professional etiquette, risky individuals, and high-risk situations in psychology. Your professional work setting was discussed. We looked to comedian George Carlin for comic guidance on how language can distort meaning and effect ethics and ethical decision making. You also described your thoughts on one of the films you were asked to review as it relates to psychological ethics.
Module Five discussed cultural sensitivity, lifestyle, and diversity. We looked at the role of empathy as it relates to serving others. We viewed the video “A Class Divided” and examined what this video suggests. We learned about the power of group consensus and groupthink. It is hoped that your understanding of Module Five will be that psychologists seek to understand their own bias and judgment so that they can avoid harming others by holding bias or judgment.
Module Six addressed informed consent and confidentiality as one of the basic elements of informed consent. We inform others about everything they need to know before we ask them to consent to any services in psychology. There are legal exceptions to confidentiality. Module Six explored the exceptions as well as the difference between privacy, confidentiality, and privileged information.
Module Seven opened up the world of solving dilemmas by offering you an eight-step model for ethical decision making. By using this model in your professional and even personal lives, you increase the likelihood of making a more ethical and mindful decision where others are concerned. Module Seven offered you an opportunity to look at restorative justice as an alternative solution for resolving difficult issues where victims and offenders are concerned.
Module Eight introduced you to difficult and challenging work settings. A challenging work setting requires even more wisdom and this is where adopting a Professor Dumbledore stance where integrity is concerned can by very useful. We looked at torture, psychologists’ involvement in the development of torture techniques, and other work settings where enhanced skill sets are necessary.
Module Nine applied previous discussion of ethics to the world of human rights and other contemporary issues. We looked at the ethical implications of moral bioenhancement. We also assessed the overall risks involved in serving others as psychologists.
Module Ten concludes by asking you to bring in some ethical challenges evident in your personal life. Let your classmates and instructor know what you think of this course and what you learned along the way. Bring all of your understanding together as you read the passage from Susan Sontag and ponder remembering as an ethical act in itself.
Remember, ethics is a field of study, an orientation to life, a way of living, a rationale, a position, and a quality of responsible stewardship as a human being. While we have discussed ethics as it applies to the field of psychology, remember that ethics applies everywhere, every day.
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