Asian American Psychological Association Response to the American Psychological Association’s Report of the Independent Review Relating to Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture

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July 31, 2015

The Executive Committee of the Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA), on behalf of the AAPA, wishes to express our sadness and dismay upon reviewing the American Psychological Association (APA)’s Report of the Independent Review Relating to Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture.

This is not the first time in the history of our nation or of our profession that foundational understandings and guidelines for legal, ethical, or moral behavior have been ignored or overturned. The current situation raises echoes for us of a dark chapter in American history during World War II when – under the guise of a national security threat – over 110,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens, were imprisoned in concentration camps and denied their rights, essentially setting aside the United States Constitution. We are heartened that, unlike the experience of Japanese Americans, it did not take four decades to investigate the events and begin the process of prioritizing ethical and just processes and practices.

Although AAPA is a separate organization from APA, we recognize that the actions of APA, as the largest professional organization of psychologists, reflect on the public’s perception of psychology and psychologists more generally. Consequently AAPA, as an independent organization of psychologists, would like to voice our stance on ethical issues even as we recognize that it is up to APA and its governance to address the specific findings and shortcomings.

The AAPA condemns torture or abuse of any person, for any reason, including interrogation. As psychologists our goal is to heal, not to harm. Furthermore, we believe that ethical guidelines for psychologists should make clear the unacceptability of such practices and should be shaped by an ongoing dialogue within the profession about the meaning of “torture” and “abuse.”

As an association founded to address inequities within the field of psychology, we are disturbed by findings described in the report that suggest that the APA’s governing processes, policies, ethical guidelines, reports, and public statements were used to support or justify the development or application of oppressive or harmful practices. We are also disturbed by findings that the development of these processes and policies was influenced strongly by external bodies (e.g., the Department of Defense) and political agendas. The report further indicates that much of this influence was clandestine. Furthermore, we are deeply concerned by descriptions in the report that suggested that APA generally, and the Ethics Office specifically, prioritized advancing the economic and standing interests of the discipline and member psychologists, rather than the well being of the people and communities whom psychologists serve.

As a psychological association dedicated to addressing inequities and promoting health for all people, but particularly those historically marginalized, we assert that psychologists and psychological associations have the responsibility to prioritize beneficence to others above personal or professional advancement. Furthermore, we assert that ethical guidelines for psychologists generally, and in any specific association, should be guided by the standards of the field as developed by those with expertise in the field, through public and transparent dialogues and processes.

The findings of the Independent Review indicate that the APA moved alarmingly away from its mission to “advance the creation, communication, and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives” and its vision to be “an effective champion of the application of psychology to promote human rights, health, well being and dignity.”

We call on APA to acknowledge past errors, and engage in revising guidelines, policies, processes, and organizational culture to more fully and deliberately embrace the values and priorities above. We urge APA to develop a process that is open and transparent in order to create purposeful and sustainable change to psychology’s engagement with ethics in general and in specific relation to military involvement and torture. Furthermore, we urge the APA to shape a process that includes the multiple perspectives and diverse professional expertise of all psychologists. All psychologists, regardless of APA membership, have a stake in a common goal of individual and societal health.

Finally, we call on AAPA members and all psychologists to actively participate in rebuilding public trust in us and in our profession. There should be no doubt that our research and practice of psychology advance and promote individual, social, and systemic understanding, psychological health, well being, and justice.

Download pdf of Statement here.

Message to AAPA Members about the Hoffman Report

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Dear AAPA Members and Friends:

As you most likely know, the report commissioned by APA’s Board of Directors to examine the association’s conduct in regard to the Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) Task Force and the association’s relations with the Department of Defense and the CIA in relation to torture and interrogation techniques has been made public. The report document (also referred to as the Hoffman Report) and related materials are available at

Although AAPA is an organization independent of APA, we recognize that many of our members are also APA members and that actions of the APA (as the largest organization for our profession) have considerable impact on the public’s view of psychology.

We know that many of you have strong feelings about the past and present practices and policies of APA issues, as well as fears about the impacts on our profession of these practices and the findings of the investigation. This is a difficult moment for the APA and for the profession of psychology, and it will take considerable time for each of us, as psychologists, to understand and digest the implications for the profession, for our own professional activities, and for our own organizations. During this process and time, the Executive Committee of AAPA seeks to ensure that our members are well informed about these issues and the APA response that is still unfolding.

To that end, we offer the following current information and recommendations:

  • We encourage you to directly review the Hoffman report (the Executive Summary is 72 pages, at the beginning of the report) and the APA response. There are many perspectives on these issues, and popular media articles have their own slants on reporting.
  • We also encourage you to review the initial recommendations from the APA Board:
  • APA is working to develop active processes through which members, psychologists, and the public can comment and/or participate in discussions and recommendations. To that end:
    • APA has set up a public comment mechanism (at the bottom of the independent report page):
    • APA/CoR will hold a Town Hall Meeting related to these issues at the APA Convention on Saturday, August 8 from 3-4:30pm.
    • APA CoR is working on on-line venues for people who cannot attend convention to discuss the report.

Given the complexity of these issues, there will be extensive discussions on the APA Council of Representatives and throughout APA as an organization, with careful consideration of how best to proceed to ensure that the resulting process, policy, and procedures are ethical and reflect the best values of the process. Therefore, as further events unfold, we will do our best to keep you well informed.

On behalf of the AAPA Executive Committee,

Sumie Okazaki
AAPA President

Karen L. Suyemoto
AAPA Observer to the APA Council of Representatives

Statement on Chapel Hill shooting

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The Asian American Psychological Association mourns the deaths of Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha who were senselessly and tragically murdered in Chapel Hill, NC on February 10, 2015. The three victims were American-born Muslim students of Syrian heritage who were actively involved in their local communities as well as in efforts to ameliorate the lives of Syrian refugees overseas. Although the criminal investigations are still ongoing at this writing, we strongly urge the local and federal authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of this case as a possible hate crime. We stand together with our Muslim brothers and sisters to demand justice, and we send our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims and to the Chapel Hill community.

AAPA Statement on American Indian Mascots in Sports

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AAPA Statement on American Indian Mascots in Sports

The Asian American Psychological Association stands in solidarity with the National Congress of American Indians, the Association of Black Psychologists, the Society of Indian Psychologists, the American Psychological Association, and our allied Asian American Pacific Islander organizations in opposing the continued use of American Indian mascots and racial slurs in professional sports teams.

Psychological research has documented the negative psychological consequences such as decreased self-esteem, decreased sense of community worth, and decreased achievement motivation among American Indian children exposed to American Indian mascots (Fryberg, Markus, Oyserman, & Stone, 2008). Moreover, even casual exposures to American Indian mascots were shown in two different experiments to activate racial stereotyping of another ethnic minority group—Asian Americans—among university students at a school with an American Indian mascot as well as at a school without an American Indian mascot (Kim-Prieto, Goldstein, Okazaki, & Kirschner, 2010). The psychological harm of American Indian mascots affects everyone in insidious as well as explicit ways.

The name of the NFL team in Washington, along with its associated images and depictions, is an offensive racial slur. Sadly, it is just one of multiple uses of American Indian personalities and images by professional sports teams around the nation today. Contrary to the supporters’ claims that American Indian mascots and symbols honor American Indians, the evidence is clear that such racially stereotypical depictions are harmful. AAPA supports the retirement of all such symbols and mascots–including changing team names—as a step toward a more just and equitable treatment of all individuals in our society.

AAPA Statement on Michael Brown & Eric Garner

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AAPA Statement on Michael Brown and Eric Garner
January 5, 2015

As we begin our work in 2015, the Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA) wishes to reflect on the recent series of events that have sparked much pain and anguish across the country. The AAPA shares the deep sadness and anger across the country and world in response to recent grand jury decisions not to indict the police officers who were involved in killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. We express our deepest condolences to the families and communities of Brown and Garner, and stand in solidarity with our African American brothers and sisters. We believe #BlackLivesMatter and we will continue to stand with the Black community and advocate for justice.

At the same time, we also mourn the deaths of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, dedicated public servants who were senselessly murdered by a deeply disturbed individual. We send our heartfelt condolences to the Ramos and Liu families and the communities the officers served. We acknowledge that law enforcement officers risk their lives every day to protect and serve the public, including protecting the freedom of speech and the right to assemble in peaceful protest. We strongly condemn any violence or threats against law enforcement. Violence is never the answer. We also believe that we can respect and show appreciation of law enforcement officers while still raising concerns about systemic and institutional inequities with respect to criminal enforcement that normalizes excessive use of force by police officers, racial profiling, and hyper-criminalization of Blackness. We are keenly aware that the recent deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice are not isolated incidents; rather, they are tied to a longstanding history of systemic racism that has plagued our country since its inception.

We remind ourselves of the ever-changing, dehumanizing, and stereotypical caricatures that have been used throughout history to justify violence against our communities of color, including the slavery of African Americans, genocide of Native Americans, colonization of Latinos/as and Pacific Islanders, and citizen exclusions and imprisonment of Asian Americans. We recognize that even “positive” stereotypes such as the myth of the “model minority” serve to silence our voices raised in solidarity, while simultaneously pathologizing Black experiences.

Though these forms of oppressions are interconnected, we understand that Black people are currently the primary target of state and police violence. We are troubled by recent research findings that our society has less empathy for those that are darker skinned (Trawalte, Hoffman, & Waytz, 2012) and that African American boys are viewed older than their chronological age (Goff et al., 2014). We acknowledge the power of the implicit racial biases that informs all of our decision-making and behaviors (Greenwald et al., 2009), including the higher likelihood of perceiving Black males as dangerous and as holding weapons despite being unarmed (Correll et al., 2002)—not even trained police officers are immune to this racial bias (Correll et al., 2007). Taken together, these studies provide an inexcusable context as to why Black men are more likely to be suspected, arrested, sentenced, and executed compared to their White peers (Eberhardt et al., 2006; Wade, 2014; Western, 2006).

The AAPA affirms that there is no justice when these systemic racial inequities are in place. We support social justice research, service, and practice that provide space for change and healing. We encourage our community to think and talk about how anti-Black racism has shaped our lives and then take actions to change these effects. We urge our members and friends to actively stand in solidarity with the Black community who ask only for social justice: that their human rights are recognized and respected. Black lives matter and the rest of our lives depend on this, as in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”


Correll, J., Park, B., Judd, C. M., & Wittenbrink, B. (2002). The police officer’s dilemma: Using ethnicity to disambiguate potentially threatening individuals. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 83, 1314– 1329.

Correll, J., Park, B., Judd, C. M., Wittenbrink, B., Sadler, M. S., & Keesee, T. (2007). Across the thin blue line: police officers and racial bias in the decision to shoot. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 92(6), 1006.

Eberhardt, J. L., Davies, P. G., Purdie-Vaughns, V. J., & Johnson, S. L. (2006). Looking deathworthy: Perceived stereotypicality of Black defendants predicts capital-sentencing outcomes. Psychological Science, 17, 383–386.

Greenwald, A. G., Poehlman, T. A., Uhlmann, E. L., & Banaji, M. R. (2009). Understanding and using the Implicit Association Test: III. Meta-analysis of predictive validity. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 97, 17-41.

Goff, P., Jackson, M., Di Leone, B., Culotta, C., & DiTomasso, N. (2014). The essence of innocence: Consequences of dehumanizing Black children. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 106, 526-545.

Trawalter, S., Hoffman, K. M., & Waytz, A. (2012). Racial bias in perceptions of others’ pain. PloS one, 7(11), e48546.

Wade, L. (2014, November). When force is hardest to justify, victims of police violence are most likely to be Black. Retrieved from

Western, B. (2006). Punishment and inequality in America. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

(Link to pdf of statement).