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Eye on Psi Chi: Summer 2020

Psychology in the Headlines

Section Editor:
Shawn R. Charlton, PhD, University of Central Arkansas

Recurring Contributors:
Bradley Cannon, Psi Chi Central Office
Dr. Seungyeon Lee, University of Arkansas, Monticello

In This Edition

Psychology and Black History Month in the United States

I open this column with a recognition of the U.S. celebration of Black History Month each February. This celebration provides an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the impact of African Americans in their communities, countries, and throughout the world. So, let’s have a little February in April as we open this column. As I reflected on the underrepresented impact of African Americans on the history of American psychology, I immediately thought of Psi Chi’s current work to honor a pioneer in this area, Dr. Inez Beverly Prosser, by providing greater support for the future of women of color in psychology:

  • In 2019 Psi Chi began fundraising for the Inez Beverly Prosser Scholarship for Women of Color. (Click here to contribute to this campaign.) The scholarship honors Dr. Prosser, the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in psychology in the United States. Benjamin, Henry, & Mcmahon (2005) provide the perfect explanation of Dr. Prosser’s impact and how her name and legacy represent the goal of this new Psi Chi scholarship, “[Prosser] had a reputation for service to others, especially in encouraging African Americans to pursue education . . . Bernice [Dr. Prosser’s husband] described it as follows: ‘therefore that particular person . . . was able to get a job and help the rest of her family, so it’s like a snowball getting larger and larger as it went’ ” (pg. 59). With the support of our Psi Chi community, we can continue to expand Dr. Prosser’s impact and legacy through the creation of the Inez Beverly Prosser Scholarship for Women of Color.

Although an automobile accident ended Dr. Prosser’s life at the age of 38, she made a lasting impact on psychology. Her research on the impact of segregation on Black students was featured in the 1954 Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. the Board of Education, a decision that was a critical milestone in the long and difficult road to the desegregation of American schools.

In my home state of Arkansas, the Arkansas Psychological Association celebrated Black History month with a 100-year anniversary of the first African American from Arkansas to receive a doctorate in psychology:

  • The 100th anniversary celebration on Friday, February 28, at Philander Smith College, in Little Rock, Arkansas, celebrated Francis Cecil Sumner of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, who received his doctorate in psychology from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1920. The event also highlighted the impact of other African American psychologists from Arkansas including Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark, the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University and a principal investigator in the “Doll Studies” research critical to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling on desegregation; and a keynote address by Dr. Terrence J. Roberts, a clinical psychologist, CEO of Terrence Roberts Consulting, and one of the Little Rock Nine, the first group of African American students to enroll in Little Rock’s Central High in 1957, a direct result of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. The event also honored Minnijean Brown-Trickey, also a member of the Little Rock Nine, for her lifetime contributions to social justice.

These two brief Headlines are a very small sample of the individual lives celebrated during Black History month. Taking a few moments, whether it be in February or in the summer, to celebrate the pioneers from all of the different backgrounds that make up our psychological community, is enlightening, empowering, and energizing.

Australian Bushfires Cause Long-Term Mental Health Effects

Brush fires are a part of life in Australia, but the fire season beginning in fall 2019 and running through February 2020 was record setting. The environmental and fiscal impact of these fires will be astounding. The physical destruction of these fires will have an accompanying mental and emotional impact on the impacted individuals. Bradley Cannon from the Psi Chi Central Office shared the following Headline regarding the psychological toll of the Australian fires:

  • The Australian Labor Party recently requested additional trauma counselling for students in bushfire zones when they go back to school. The request was based in part on a 2019 study of 25,000 kids, which found that students exposed to the 2009 Black Saturday Australian bushfires were more likely to fall behind in the classroom (Gibbs et al., 2019; Trounson, 2019). That 2009 fire claimed 173 lives. These new findings add to the results of the earlier Beyond Bushfires report, also led by Dr. Lisa Gibbs from Melbourne University’s School of Population and Global Health (2016). Based on a six-year study, the report revealed higher rates in mental health disorders in communities affected by that fire, even three to five years later. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would consider expanding Medicare psychology rebates for bushfire victims (McAuley, 2020).

As psychologists we understand the human experience is a product of our biology, environment, and social interactions. As such, we are well-positioned to provide insights, support, and guidance to our communities as we experience the impacts of climate change. APA recognized this critical role for psychology in March 2017 with the publication of the special report Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance ( and a special issue of the American Psychologist in 2011 (

Coronavirus and Investor Psychology

On March 1, the World Health Organization listed 87,127 confirmed COVID-19 cases globally. One month later, a WHO situation report confirmed 823,626 cases. The uncertainty I felt on March 1 solidified into the certainty of a global pandemic. This headline highlights the impact of fear and uncertainty on the stock market, referencing work published in the Journal of Behavioral Finance demonstrating a connection between investor emotions and the stock market:

  • John Griffith, Mohammad Najand, and Jiancheng Shen (2019) analyzed the impact of media on four types of investor sentiment: fear, gloom, joy, and stress. The researchers used available measures on the overall positivity (positive minus negative news stories) of the daily news cycle to model the impact of both the media and investor emotions on market returns. Results from this study indicated that gloom and joy had no detected impacts on market returns. Stress showed a minimal impact. Fear, however, “has a major and lasting effect on market returns and conditional volatility” (pg. 42).

The sudden fall of global markets that occurred in early March mirrored the global fear caused by the uncertainty over COVID-19 (Pinsker, 2020). Although that initial global market downturn can be described as a psychological response to uncertainty, our current global economic challenges are a direct response to the social response necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19.

I thank the healthcare workers, public service employees, and many others who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. Although most people have been asked to, literally, “sit this out,” I am so grateful for those whose professional training and occupations require them to continue to work and serve.

Better Differentiation Between Types of Mood Disorders

The differentiation between and diagnosis of various mental disorders can be extremely difficult. Unlike physical disorders, which are often binary decisions (you have the flu or you don’t, a bone is broken or it is not), mental health challenges are often a matter of degrees. Fortunately, improvements in genetic technology allow for a more molecular understanding of mental health challenges. For example, Dr. Seungyeon Lee from the University of Arkansas, Monticello shared the following information on recent research on bipolar disorder and major depressive disorders:

  • Drs. Jonathan Coleman and Gerome Breen at the Institute of Psychiatry, Neuroscience, and Psychology at King’s College, London, United Kingdom worked with a team of researchers (Bipolor Disorder Working Group, In press) examining the genetic correlation between three different types of mood disorders closely associated with depression. Their meta-analysis showed that there was a genetic distinction between Type 1 and 2 bipolar disorder, and between Type 2 bipolar disorder and major depressive disorders, as they show similar characteristics. The research team seeks to develop clinical assessment skills to help clinicians predict whether the first episode of depression is more likely to persist as a disorder or progress into a bipolar disorder. Their findings were published in Biological Psychiatry in 2019.

Our refined understanding of the biological (genetic) factors involved in the development and progression of mental health challenges promises better identification and treatment of these life challenges.

As I conclude this summer installment of Psychology in the Headlines, I extend the continued invitation to submit updates on psychology from your area of teaching, research, or practice. Our Psi Chi community represents individuals working across almost all industries and the globe. Despite our diversity, we are united by an interest in psychology in all its forms and applications. We would love to hear what is going on in your part of the world of psychology.

Submit to This Series

Do you know about a major contemporary event related to one of the many areas of psychology?

Share it with us for potential publication in this series! Recurring Contributors are also wanted. Visit


Benjamin Jr, L. T., Henry, K. D., & Mcmahon, L. R. (2005). Inez Beverly Prosser and the education of African Americans. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 41, 43–62.

Bipolar Disorder Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, & Major Depressive Disorder Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (In press). The genetics of the mood disorder spectrum: Genome-wide association analyses of more than 185,000 cases and 439,000 controls. Biological Psychiatry.

Gibbs, L., Bryant, R., Harms, L., Forbes, D., Block, K., Gallagher, H. C., . . . Waters, E. (2016). Beyond bushfires: Community resilience and recovery final report. November 2016, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Retrieved from

Gibbs, L., Nursey, J., Cook, J., Ireton, G., Alkemade, N., Roberts, M., . . . Forbes, D. (2019), Delayed disaster impacts on academic performance of primary school children. Child Development, 90, 1402–1412.

Griffith, J., Najand, M., & Shen, J. (2020). Emotions in the stock market. Journal of Behavioral Finance, 21, 42–56.

McCauley, D. (2020, January 9). Get schoolkids trauma counselling: Labor calls for mental help. Retrieved from

Pinsker, J. (2020, February 28). How to think about the plummeting stock market. Retrieved from

Trounson, A. (2020, March 2). Bushfire trauma puts schooling at risk. Retrieved from

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