Psychology’s Largest Experiment-Ever

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

In the January 2011 issue of American Psychologist, the American Psychology Association (APA) dedicated 13 articles, detailing and celebrating a 117 million dollar collaboration with the US Army, called Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF).  It’s being marketed as a resilience training to reduce if not prevent adverse psychological consequences to soldiers who endure combat. Because of the CSF emphasis on “positive psychology”, advocates call it a holistic approach to warrior training.

Criticism arose shortly after the initiative was announced – including ethical questions about whether soldiers should be trained to be desensitized to traumatic events. And methodological concerns about large-scale programs similar to this – which have not worked or had adverse effects in the past. Also problematic, this program is adapted primarily from the Penn Resiliency Program (PRP), which had very little success with a nonmilitary population, and now on its first trial run is going to incorporate 1.1 million soldiers. How about trying it out on small groups of soldiers first?

Lastly, the CSF program measures soldiers’ “resilience” in five core areas: emotional, physical, family, social, and spiritual.  The spiritual component of the assessment contains questions written predominately for soldiers who believe in god or another deity. This means tens of thousands of nonbelievers will score poorly and be forced to use religious imagery exercises that are counter to their personal beliefs – not likely to foster resilience.


“Comprehensive Soldier Fitness: A Holistic Approach to Warrior Training”, Jeremy McCarthy. August 17, 2010.
“The Dark Side of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness”, Roy Eidelson, Marc Pilisuk and Stephen Soldz. April 1, 2011.
“Army’s Spiritual Fitness Test Comes Under Fire”, Jason Leopold. January 5, 2011.
Student Researcher: Rene Arellano, San Francisco State University
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows, San Francisco State University