Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Killing Jobs and Winning the Future: The Psychology of Political Speech

    Last week, the House passed the not-so-subtly titled “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law.” As a piece of legislation with absolutely no chance of making it through the Senate or past the President’s desk, it provided a purely symbolic purpose, and with its title, the creators made sure that the symbolic message was not lost on anyone. With Americans citing the economy and employment as their top concern, conservatives have been liberal in their use of the term “job-killing.” Different people may describe this use as linguistic framing, political rhetoric, or simple lying.

    Regardless of one’s perspective, it underscores the importance of language in shaping and justifying policy and our larger social debates. In Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Obama re-framed the attempt to repeal healthcare, nesting it in a larger narrative about how we must “win the future.” By focusing his speech on the future, Obama was able to easily paint a picture of GOP attempts to repeal
his signature legislative victory as a contrasting effort to move backward while the rest of the country wishes to move forward.

Image from  Click here to see Obama's "word cloud" compared to those of past presidents.

    Though his key catchphrase shared an odd connection to right-wing media, the focus on the future was consistent with the major themes of his 2008 presidential campaign, which urged everyone to look past the distress of our current times with hope toward the future.

    Community psychologists may not typically think of their efforts in terms of language or political speech, but in our effort to build a more equitable society, language is central. In an article titled “Globalization, Neo-Liberalism and Community Psychology” in a 2009 issue of the American Journal of Community Psychology  devoted to politics, language is described as the central tool in community psychology. In this study, the authors investigated the increasing use of capitalist language emphasizing competition, free markets, and consumerism in Norway, supplanting language emphasizing social equity and support.

    Language, the authors argued, provides the meeting ground between the individual and the macrosystem and the decreasing use of words that translate as “sharing” or “common” in the Norweigian language both signifies and furthers a shift away from a culture that promotes social cohesion to one that is based on individual self-interest. As a member of a country in which even progressive politicians accused of being communists use the language of individualism and competition, it is helpful to reflect on this language. While I am in support of looking toward the future, I’m not quite sure I want to “win” it. I’d rather have a future where everyone can share in its success.


Post by Gina Cardazone, University of Hawaii 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Community Practicioner Spotlight: Katherine Tyndall

Community psychology is the realistic lens through which we can view our community, analyze it, and then actually make changes that truly make a difference…. It is a part of who I am. Community psychology fits me like a glove…”

Name: Katherine (Kate) Tyndall, M.A.
Titles: (1) Adjunct faculty member (2) Mental Health Clinician (3) Small Business and Nonprofit Consultant (4) Addictions Specialist (5) Justice of the Peace
Employer: (1) University of Massachusetts at Lowell (2) Twin Consulting (self employed)
Affiliations: International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF), Massachusetts Licensed Additions Counselor, APA Behavioral Social Scientist Volunteer Program , Lowell Women’s Week, World AIDS Day

Wearing Many Hats to Promote Healthy Communities”

Kate Tyndall is a community psychologist practitioner who is skillfully making a difference in the lives of people in her community. Kate wears many hats in her community. Interestingly, her work tends to ‘ebb and flow’ as demands present themselves.

Tyndall is the co-founder of the Greater Lowell Equality Alliance (GLEA), an organization grew out of the same-sex marriage equality movement in Massachusetts. This organization provides information, support and visibility for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in greater Lowell. Beginning with no resources and no office, this organization was sparked with a desire to help and improve the health of the LGBT community. Kate is also an adjunct faculty member in the Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts- Lowell. Kate’s approach to teaching stems from her experiences as a community psychologist practitioner, which is in part characterized by her appreciation for her students’ insight and wisdom.

Kate volunteers as a mental health clinician at the Greater Lowell Critical Incident Stress Management. She helps provide services to public safety workers (e.g., police officers, firefighters). As a member of the clinician team, she provides pre-incident education which addresses stress management and tools for dealing with post traumatic stress and assures the workers that the team will be there for them when need arises. Kate’s community psychology practice continues as she also serves as an addictions specialist, a small business and nonprofit consultant and a justice of the peace.

Kate’s practice work is certainly diverse and calls for skills she gained in graduate school. Kate earned her Master’s degree in Community Social Psychology at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Kate’s graduate training has enhanced her ability to examine social change through a systems perspective and to address issues on multiple levels in research. Her training has prepared her for community organizing, evaluating programs, grant writing, applying multiculturalism and designing prevention/intervention programs. One of the most important aspects of Kate’s graduate training was the opportunity to interact with and learn from her professors who were applying the guiding principles and values of community psychology in their community work. Kate remembers the impact of professors like Bill Berkowitz, Anne Mulvey and Meg Bond. Throughout graduate school, she was encouraged, guided and expected to pursue her primary interest, which was HIV/AIDS among women.

Kate’s strong desire to make a positive difference in her community, coupled with her training and experiences in community psychology, has impacted the lives of many people. She has demonstrated that the ability to wear many hats is certainly an advantage when working in communities.  Read Katherine's full interview here.

This profile was written by Kyrah Brown, from Wichita State University.  It is part of a series of community psychology practitioner profiles.  If you have a suggestion for future profiles, please email

Katherine graduated from the Community Psychology Masters program at University of Massachusetts Lowell.  Find out more about their graduate program here.