Monday, May 25, 2009

Book review: The Death Penalty--A Worldwide Perspective

The latest issue of Punishment and Society has a book review of Hood's classic book on the death penalty movement, with an international perspective.

The death penalty: A worldwide perspective, Roger Hood and Carolyn Hoyle. Oxford University Press, 2008. 504 pp. $120 cloth. ISBN–10: 0199228469. Review can be viewed here.

Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1. The Abolitionist Movement: Progress and Prospects
  • 2. In the Vanguard of Abolition
  • 3. Where Capital Punishment Remains Contested
  • 4. The Scope of Capital Punishment in Law
  • 5. The Death Penalty in Reality: The Process of Execution and the Death Row Experience
  • 6. Excluding the Vulnerable from Capital Punishment
  • 7. Protecting the Accused and Ensuring Due Process
  • 8. Deciding Who Should Die: Problems of Inequity, Arbitrariness, and Racial Discrimination
  • 9. The Question of Deterrence
  • 10. A Question of Opinion or a Question of Principle?
  • 11. The Challenge of a Suitable Replacement
  • Appendix 1: Lists of Retentionist and Abolitionist Countries
  • Appendix 2: Ratification of International Treaties
  • Appendix 3: International Instruments
  • Bibliography
  • Cases Cited Index
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Professional reading inbox: Adaptive behavior

The second major component (aside from intelligence) in the diagnosis of mental retardation is a deficit adaptive behavior.  Currently I've got two recent articles pending in the Adaptive Behavior InboxClick here for description of the inbox feature.

The literature on adaptive behavior is less than the totality of research on intelligence and intelligence testing, but the amount is still extensive.  Adaptive behavior references of any kind located in the IAP reference database can be found here.

Professional reading inbox: Flynn effect

A feature I've used at my other professional blogs (IQs Corner; IQ Brain Clock) is the professional reading "inbox." On a weekly basis (for nearly 20 years) I search the Current Contents/Behavioral and Social Sciences index and flag any and all journal articles relevant to my professional interests. This now includes articles related to the purpose of the Intellectual Competence and the Death Penalty blog. I import all flagged references into a private reference manager software program (current n = approx 40,000). From each weeks flagged set of articles I then acquire PDF copies of articles I plan to skim and/or read in greater depth (for eventual blog posts).

To alert readers to the literature I'm reading (which likely will result in future blog posts), and also to alert readers to articles they may have an interest in, I cut-and-paste a copy of the journal author, title, and abstract into a PDF file. I then post these "inbox" files for viewing by readers. For this blog there will be separate inbox for specific topics (e.g., IQ testing; Professional Standards and Ethics; Flynn effect; etc.). You will find the different inboxes on the right hand side of the blog page. The list will grow over time.

Today I'm making my first inbox post. The first is the Flynn effect inbox. One cannot read much literature (journal articles and/or court rulings) that do not make reference to the Flynn effect and changes in IQ scores over time. The extant literature is massive. I've only posted two recent articles I plan to skim. To illustrate the extent of this literature I ran a search of my reference database for articles that make some reference to the Flynn effect. It can be viewed by clicking here. There are many more than those listed in my list. Also, Dr. Flynn has recently summarized the gist of his research on this work in the book What is intelligence: Beyond the Flynn effect. At some point I plan to digest as much of this literature as I can and post some general comments and conclusions. Or, I might seek out other intelligence researches to make guest posts re: this literature.

Click here to access Flynn effect inbox

I do know, via attendance at a number of recent ISIR conferences, that more recent (and emerging, yet to be published) research is resulting in new questions and controversies being raised about the specific nature and generalization of the usual Flynn effect findings and rules-of-thumb for average IQ score changes per year/decade.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Professional Standards: Joint Standards for Educatonal and Psychological Testing

A number of professional standards and codes of ethics need to be understood by professionals developing and using intelligence tests in death penalty cases. Probably the most important, from a measurement and psychometric perspective, are the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (often call the "Joint Standards"). These standards are the result of a cooperative joint effort of:

As described at the APA web page:
Revised significantly from the 1985 version, the 1999 Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing has more in-depth background material in each chapter, a greater number of standards, and a significantly expanded glossary and index. The new Standards reflects changes in federal law and measurement trends affecting validity; testing individuals with disabilities or different linguistic backgrounds; and new types of tests as well as new uses of existing tests. The Standards is written for the professional and for the educated layperson and addresses professional and technical issues of test development and use in education, psychology and employment. This book is a vitally important reference for professional test developers, sponsors, publishers, users, policymakers, employers, and students in education and psychology
Overview of organization and content:

Part I: Test Construction, Evaluation, and Documentation

1. Validity
2. Reliability and Errors of Measurement
3. Test Development and Revision
4. Scales, Norms, and Score Comparability
5. Test Administration, Scoring, and Reporting
6. Supporting Documentation for Tests

Part II: Fairness in Testing

7. Fairness in Testing and Test Use
8. The Rights and Responsibilities of Test Takers
9. Testing Individuals of Diverse Linguistic Backgrounds
10. Testing Individuals with Disabilities

Part III: Testing Applications

11. The Responsibilities of Test Users
12. Psychological Testing and Assessment
13. Educational Testing and Assessment
14. Testing in Employment and Credentialing
15. Testing in Program Evaluation and Public Policy

Over time some of these specific professional standards will be discussed in greater detail, particularly within the context of specific issues and or examples.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Applied Neuropsychology (2009, V16-2) special MR death penalty issue: Editor intro article

The latest issue of Applied Neuropsychology (the table of contents which was provided at this blog previously) includes a series of papers that grew out of the symposium Controversies in Determination of Mental Retardation in Death Penalty Appeals at the annual (2007) American Psychological Association in San Francisco.

Dr. Stephen Greenspan is the editor for the special issue. His introductory article, Assessment and Diagnosis of Mental Retardation in Death Penalty Cases: Introduction and Overview of the Special 'Atkins’ Issue, organizes the articles around three "prongs" used in the definition of mental retardation.

  • Intellectual functioning
  • Adaptive functioning
  • Developmental onset
Most articles fall under one of these three prongs, but a few don't. According to Greenspan, "The final paper, by Olley, addresses the need for psychologists testifying in Atkins cases to have relevant training and experienceinvolving people with mild mental retardation functioning in community settings." Oiley's article articulates the need for experts, who testify or provide declarations for the court in Atkins cases, should have "an adequate understanding of mild mental retardation and, in particular, to avoid making intuitive-clinical judgments based on inappropriate stereotypes more appropriate to people with moderate or severe."

A few other tidbits gleaned from Dr. Greenspan's introductory article follow below:
  • A major problem with Atkins cases is that the diagnostic criteria often vary across different state laws and court systems. Many states use an IQ cut-off score of 70 while others allow more flexibility based on psychometric principles such as measurement error (standard error of measurement - more on this in a later post). Thus, a 75 in one state may not meet the diagnostic criteria for MR...while in another it may be considered as a valid score for an individual with MR.
  • Two issues in intellectual assessment that are very common are the Flynn Effect and the determination of intellectual or adaptive malingering during assessments.
  • Prong three (developmental criterion) is usually given the least amount of attention in Atkins proceedings.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Behavioral Sciences & Law (2009, V27): Neuroscience, psychology, moral decsion making and the law

A recent issue Behavioral Sciences and the Law (2009, V27) may indirectly relate to mental retardation death penalty cases. The issue deals with The Neuroscience and Psychology of Moral Decision Making and the Law. A copy of the editors (Erickson et al., 2009) introductory article can be found here.

Applied Neuropsychology (2009, V16-2) special issue on mental retardation and death penalty

The journal Applied Neuropsychology just published a special issue that focuses on the issue of intellectual disabilities (mental retardation) and the death penalty. An advanced copy of the table of contents (that I received a while back) can be viewed here.

The formal listing of articles, authors, pages, and viewable abstracts are available at the Applied Neuropsychology web page for this issue.

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Atkins v Virginia: US Supreme Court original decision

The case that started the current wave of court case hearings, issues, appeals, etc. was Atkins v Virginia (2002). The U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Eight Amendment to the U. S. Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment, and was the primary basis for deciding that individuals with mental retardation (deficits in both intelligence and adaptive behavior) could not receive capital punishment (death penalty).

A copy of the official decision can be found here. It is also listed under the "court rulings" section of this blog.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Purpose of intelligence competence, mental retardation and death penalty blog

This is currently a blog in the formative stages of development. I recently consulted on a federal death penalty case involving a person where the question of whether he/she had an intellectual disability (up until recently typically referred to as mental retardation) was a central issue. I was asked to review the results from an intellectual assessment. I was not asked to render a judgment on whether the person had an intellectual disability---I only served in the capacity of an expert in psychological measurement and psychometrics, with regard to one intelligence test in particular. At this time I will not divulge whether I served as an expert for the prosecution or the defense.

I learned a lot....most importantly, the apparent lack of understandable information (for judges, lawyers, etc.) [in a single source] regarding basic psychometrics and psychological measurement and how this knowledge void may result in possible improper interpretations and decisions. It is my hope to develop this blog as a resource for individuals involved in such cases. The goal will be to provide balanced and up-to-date information on issues related to this important topic. This will include, but may not be limited, to:

  • Intelligence testing practice
  • Intelligence testing interpretation
  • Differences between intelligence tests
  • Relevant theoretical information about intelligence theories
  • Controvesies and issues
  • Findings of particular cases, court decisions, etc.
  • Glossry of understandable terms
  • Scholarly journal articles that address this and related issues
  • FYI notification of relevant professional publications
  • Important psychometric, measurement, and statistical issues
  • Relevant research on intelligence tests and research (e.g., Flynn Effect)
  • Other issues as they emerge.
This will be a sister blog to my primary blog--IQs Corner. I decided to NOT integrate this project in that larger more general purpose blog that covers intelligence testing, theories and research. If I do get this project off the ground, FYI posts will be made at IQs Corner. I'm also interested in eventually opening up this blog to either guest expert blog posts or other experts in related areas (e.g., adaptive behavior) who might become regular contributors.

This blog is meant to be specialized and will not deal with all issues related to IQ testing and/or the death penalty. There are a ton of websites that provide this information. The intent is to focus primarily on psychometric measurement issues and research related to intelligence testing that may have bearing on capital punishment cases for individuals with an intellectual disability.  Also, this website is not pro- or-con re: the death penalty.  My goal is to stay issue neutral and not advocate.  If some of the posts tend to sound like I am preaching or advocacting, it most likely is due to my fervent passion in the defense of good psychometric and theoretical-based psychological testing and the need to educate others, often via highlighting what I think is bad practice.  If I am guilty of any bias, it is not intentional and is due to my strong belief in the science of psychological measurement, a science that can be abused and misunderstood. 

I will not comment on details of the case that piqued my interest. Lessons learned from that case will appear as more general posts sometime in the future.

It is my goal to provide objective professional information free from my personal beliefs re: capital punishment.

That's the plan.