University Psychology Exam Asked Students to Assess Politicians From TV

Warning! This post is very old and may contain information or opinions that are no longer valid or embarrassing.

Psychology exam paper

Today, I received a copy of the psychology exam for the masters in neurology and psychiatry at Ain Shams university. The students were given this brief essay question "You are asked to assess the thinking of a famous politician through watching him in TV show. Discuss briefly the standards you will look for during your assessments." (see photo above Q3.B)

My gosh! This comes almost a week after I wrote an article explaining why psychiatrists shouldn't comment on the mental state or diagnose politicians from a distance. Why are they asking students to imagine being requested to do something that is clearly unethical? What standards are they talking about? When there are clear standards against doing so.

The American Psychiatric Association has an ethical principle known as the Goldwater rule. In 1964, a political magazine in the US asked 12,000 psychiatrists for their opinion regarding the presidential candidate Barry Goldwater's fitness to be President of the US. None of them examined Goldwater and none had permission from him to issue public comments. Goldwater sued the magazine for libel and won.

Following that the APA added this to its ethical principles (section 7.3):

"On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement."

This was done to "to protect public figures from psychiatric speculation that harms the reputation of the profession and of the unsuspecting public figure."

Similarly, Dr. Manal Omar was subject to libel lawsuit by the presidency following her comments on Mohammed Morsi during his presidency. After public pressure the suit was dropped.

Another important principle is the philosophical principle of charity. Which means that when we try to understand someone's statement or point of view we try to understand the most powerful explanation and in a way that makes most sense. TV isn't the best medium for this. In my opinion that's one of the essences that differentiates a clinical interview from TV because you will then be able to ask more questions to understand what the person really means and not create a false understanding based on the one-way medium. For example, if someone says on TV that he believes he is being spied upon it is false to conclude that he is suffering from delusions of persecution because only in an interview that you will be able to question this further to understand how he or she reached this conclusion and the degree of conviction. It can be that he is truly being spied upon by some government because he received threats or that he found this information written on the seed of a mango fruit.

Actually it's perfectly fine for psychiatrists to have political views and to express them in public. If it wasn't clear from my article, my objection is on the use of psychiatric terminology to describe particular politicians or political groups. In fact the ethical rules of the Egyptian Psychiatric association, which Dr. Ahmed Okasha is its head, states that "If a psychiatrist has private views on general issues (politically or otherwise) he should clarify in what capacity he is speaking. And in this case he is like all other citizens without a professional title or specialisation." This is point number 8 in 10 points about psychiatrists and the media. Essentially, psychiatrists should be very careful when speaking to the media.


  • nameme22

    Posted on - 🔗

    Maybe it is a trick question and the answer is that it is unethical. You can only judge this exam if you know what the professors consider the correct answer. I once had a professor ask a question on an exam: What is the difference between A and B? The answer was there is NO difference,but someone like you would probably have jumped all over the professor and attacked him for even asking it and called him ignorant for seeming like he was suggesting there was one. Talk about, slander, this post is a perfect example of it.

    • moftasa

      Posted on - 🔗

      Please note that I didn't call anyone ignorant. As for slander this is exactly what I am objecting to. Diagnosing people from a distance is damaging to their reputation. If you may notice I didn't mention or attack any particular professor in this post. I don't know who put this question.

      And you may be right, it may be a trick question. But this would make my post the model answer ;-)


    Posted on - 🔗

    This is a malpractice, and Madrid declaration prohibits against this. The skewed professors of of TV shows want to create new generation of skewed psychiatrists

  • A7madeus

    Posted on - 🔗

    I have been there, you should check the question asking to restore moderate Egyptian values, which is both against science and history

    • moftasa

      Posted on - 🔗

      Really? Do you have a copy of that test?

    • moftasa

      Posted on - 🔗

      Yes saw it. I guess it's a reference to Erik Erikson's 5th stage of psychosocial development. I agree with you that it is wrong to generalise it on the entire Egyptian society!