Position: Postdoctoral Researcher
Project(s): Becoming Good: Early Intervention and Moral Development in Psychiatry (BeGOOD), COVID-19 Peer Support Project
Gabriela is a Postdoctoral Researcher on the BeGOOD project, working to develop and lead Citizens: EIE. She completed a PhD in Psychology at the Centre for Music and Science, University of Cambridge, investigating the effects of movement synchrony on human emotions and social relationships. Alongside her PhD, Gabriela co-led the Cambridge Moral Psychology Group; a platform facilitating interdisciplinary exchange in the field of morality.
Gabriela has an MPhil in Social and Developmental Psychology from the University of Cambridge, and a BA in Psychology from the Federal University of São Carlos, Brazil.
Gabriela’s research interests lie at the intersection of moral psychology, emotions and social relationships. She is excited by the opportunity to study the ethics of early intervention programmes, and getting young people involved in research and policy.
Pragmatic Neuroethics: Lived Experiences as a Source of Moral Knowledge.
In this article, we present a pragmatic approach to neuroethics, referring back to John Dewey and his articulation of the "common good" and its discovery through systematic methods. Pragmatic neuroethics bridges philosophy and social sciences and, at a very basic level, considers that ethics is not dissociable from lived experiences and everyday moral choices. We reflect on the integration between empirical methods and normative questions, using as our platform recent bioethical and neuropsychological research into moral cognition, action, and experience. Finally, we present the protocol of a study concerning teenagers' morality in everyday life, discussing our epistemological choices as an example of a pragmatic approach in empirical ethics. We hope that this article conveys that even though the scope of neuroethics is broad, it is important not to move too far from the real life encounters that give rise to moral questions in the first place.
Smarter Than Thou, Holier Than Thou: The Dynamic Interplay Between Cognitive and Moral Enhancement.
The debate about the desirability of using drugs to enhance human skills encompasses cognitive abilities such as memory and attention, and moral capacities such as emotional empathy and a sense of fairness. These two strands of literature in bioethics have grown relatively independent from each other, and an implicit framing assumption has emerged suggesting that apparently morally neutral cognitive capacities and paradigmatically moral capacities are distinct and vary independently of each other. Here, we identify key distinctions between competing accounts of cognitive enhancement and moral enhancement and argue that, despite the polarized nature of the bioethical debate, cognitive and moral capacities are intertwined. For example, moral behavior can be improved by enhancing “morally neutral” abilities such as attention span; and cognitive skills can be honed by means of socio-moral interaction. Further, cognitive skill is frequently assigned the abstract status of virtue and treated in the same way as more paradigmatically “moral” traits. We argue that the distinction between moral and cognitive enhancement is more apparent than real, since despite being nominally treated as distinct, cognitive and moral skills are frequently interdependent. As such we present evidence to support the claim that the enhancement of these two kinds of capacities cannot be clearly disaggregated from each other in the way that the theoretical poles of the debate in the literature suggest. We synthesize relevant scientific and bioethical literature and combine it with a line of analysis derived from Peter Hacker to show more clearly the terms of what can be said intelligibly about cognitive and moral skills and their enhancement. As a result of this analysis, we conclude that ethical questions in human bioenhancement are only fully intelligible at the level of persons imbued with feelings, thoughts, intentions, desires, values, and abilities, embedded within a particular social context, rather than at the level of pharmacological modulation of particular cognitive or affective capacities which, though conceptually distinguishable, in the embodied context of moral agency are profoundly intertwined.
Young people will transform global mental health: A call to prioritise global action on mental health for young people
Can Your Phone Be Your Therapist? Young People’s Ethical Perspectives on the Use of Fully Automated Conversational Agents (Chatbots) in Mental Health Support.
Over the last decade, there has been an explosion of digital interventions that aim to either supplement or replace face-to-face mental health services. More recently, a number of automated conversational agents have also been made available, which respond to users in ways that mirror a real-life interaction. What are the social and ethical concerns that arise from these advances? In this article, we discuss, from a young person's perspective, the strengths and limitations of using chatbots in mental health support. We also outline what we consider to be minimum ethical standards for these platforms, including issues surrounding privacy and confidentiality, efficacy, and safety, and review three existing platforms (Woebot, Joy, and Wysa) according to our proposed framework. It is our hope that this article will stimulate ethical debate among app developers, practitioners, young people, and other stakeholders, and inspire ethically responsible practice in digital mental health.
Co-producing research with youth: The NeurOx young people’s advisory group model.
ObjectiveIn this paper, we provide a step-by-step model, grounded in our own experience of setting up and coordinating the Oxford Neuroscience, Ethics and Society Young People's Advisory Group (NeurOx YPAG). This group supports studies at the intersection of ethics, mental health and novel technologies. Our model covers the following stages: deciding on the fit for co-production, recruiting participants, developing collective principles of work, running a meeting and evaluating impact.
ResultsWe emphasize that throughout this process, researchers should take a critical stance by reflecting on whether a co-production model fits their research scope and aims; ensuring (or aspiring to) representativeness within the group; valuing different kinds of expertise; and undertaking on-going evaluations on the impact of the group on both the young people and the research.
ConclusionAdopting a critical and reflective attitude can increase researchers' capacity to engage youth in democratic and inclusive ways, and to produce research outputs that are aligned with the target audience's needs and priorities.