Think again Dr Paxton. Do your job. Or resign.

In previous posts here, here and here, I have discussed the apparent xenophobia of The Psychologist‘s twitter account.

In a bizarre turn of events, however, it is revealed that any alleged misconduct of psychologists working for the British Psychological Society is not dealt with by the Society’s Ethics Committee. This elite group includes Jon Sutton, the managing editor of The Psychologist, who can apparently tweet to his heart’s content in the name of the British Psychological Society. The majority of the Society’s employed officers are managers, not psychologists. If anybody wishes to complain about the conduct of this elite group, they must do so using an arcane ‘Complains Procedures’ described on the Society’s website.

According to the Complaints Procedures, members are required not to “act in a way that damages, or is likely to damage, the reputation of the British Psychological Society or is contrary to the object of the Society as set out in the Royal Charter.” However, the Chair of the Society’s Ethics Committee, Dr Roger Paxton, informed me that the conduct of staff employees falls under the Complaints Procedures, not the Ethics Committee.

Psychologists employed by the Society apparently have a permanent ‘get out of jail free’ card because cases of alleged misconduct are not dealt with by the Ethics Committee.

What a bizarre system: one set of rules for rank and file members and another set of rules for the elite at head office.

An Email sent on behalf of Dr Roger Paxton dated 10 August 2021 states:

Dear Professor Marks,

Thank you for copying me into your email of 3 August to Diane Ashby.  

Dealing with complaints is not within the terms of reference of the Ethics Committee. If you wish to make a complaint about any BPS staff member the complaints process is readily available on the Society website. 

Kind regards,

Dr Roger Paxton

“Dealing with complaints is not within the terms of reference of the Ethics Committee”


This is absurd. Jon Sutton is a practising psychologist and member of the BPS. If his conduct is alleged to be unethical, surely this conduct falls under the purview of the BPS Ethics Committee.

Writing in The Guardian on 13 September 2020, Paxton stated:

Morality has been stripped from public life. Here’s a four-step plan to revive it

Moral Wellbeing

Paxton talks about physical, mental and moral well-being. According to Paxton:

For moral wellbeing there is a similar framework that could be useful: the psychological model developed by James Rest, outlining the four components of moral reasoning.

This is a framework for improving thoughtfulness and clarity about moral matters. The first stage is moral sensitivity – recognising when an issue is one of morality, rather than a personal preference or practicality. The second component is moral reasoning. Having identified that a question is one of right and wrong, you then decide what the right thing to do would be. Third comes moral motivation – acknowledging other interests and motives that influence your thinking about the issue, and then weighing up the conflicting motives. The fourth and final stage is moral implementation, which means bringing moral reasoning and moral motivation together to make and act on a decision

Put theory into practice and think again Dr Paxton. Do your job, or resign.

Published by dfmarks


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