Psychology and the Leveson Inquiry

This week Lord Justice Leveson published the report following his inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. The Society submitted evidence to the inquiry in 2011 calling for the press to consider the psychological implications of stories they publish.

The British Psychological Society is mentioned in volume one of the report as part of a section on gathering and presentation of evidence. The report states: “submissions from different groups … covering other areas of extremely important social awareness; these included, among others, submissions concerning the treatment afforded by the press to the young, the mentally ill, the disabled and other groups in society, some of which were vulnerable and others the particular subject if press concern”.

Although the Society was not called to give evidence orally to the Leveson Inquiry, our submission was circulated to core participants in the inquiry.

In his report Lord Justice Leveson comments: “What I am very anxious to emphasise, however, is that I do not consider that any of this evidence was ‘second class’ or to be accorded a lesser status to the evidence that was adduced orally; it has all been important and it has all been considered.”

In its submission the Society recognised that much of the coverage of psychological issues and research is accurate and balanced due to the skill and dedication of  the specialist science and health journalists employed in the national press.

However, the submission also considers the implications of headlines, over-simplifying research findings and insensitive reporting on psychological topics such as depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. We also focused on how crucial it is for people to be aware of the consequences of exposure in the media.

The British Psychological Society also supported the recommendations submitted to the inquiry by the Science Media Centre (SMC). Evidence from Fiona Fox, Director of the SMC is widely featured in the published report. Fiona has written an interesting Guardian article, After the Leveson inquiry, what future for science coverage?  

Members of the Society who contributed to the Society’s submission were: Dr Carole Allan CPsychol (President of the British Psychological Society 2011/12), Dr Cynthia McVey CPsychol, Professor John Oates, Dr Ceri Parsons, Dr Sinead Rhodes and Dr Mark Sergeant CPsychol.

Read the Society's submission.

See volume one Part A page 23 (page 38 of that pdf) of the Leveson Report for the mention of the Society's evidence.