Observer Forum

Letter to the Editor

What’s in a Name?

The following letters are in response to Roberta Klatzky’s article, “The Case for Changing Our Name,” in the April 2005 Observer.

I WAS DELIGHTED TO READ that APS is reconsidering changing its name to the Association for Psychological Science. Of course, I am biased, having been the original instigator of the name-change proposal. But as a social psychologist, I hope that the familiarity effect will have kicked in this time around, and that APS Members will now find the suggestion appealing — perhaps inevitable — rather than revolutionary.

I appreciate the feelings of those who argue that “if you have to add science to your name, you aren’t doing science,” but the American Association for the Advancement of Science has managed to stumble along with its name, and we share their goal — the advancement of science. The “American Psychological Society” doesn’t tell the public what we do, it does not distinguish us from the APA, it’s cumbersome to say, and it excludes our international members and supporters. Changing our name might even help promote our goal of educating the public as to why “psychological science” is not an oxymoron.

Carol Tavris
Los Angeles, California

AS A FORMER MEMBER OF THE APS Board of Directors, I’d like to weigh in on the issue of changing the Society’s name to the Association for Psychological Science.

I have been working outside of psychology for 15 years now in university administration, and in this time I have observed that the name similarity between APS and APA is confusing to those outside the field. They don’t know what APS is or what we stand for.

The main purpose of APS is to provide a forum for the science of psychology, with aims of encouraging interaction between what have become increasingly separate specializations and of lobbying for this science. Only at the APS Annual Convention can I, an animal learning psychologist, easily interact with my friends in other psychology disciplines. APS does not deal with the practice of psychology except as it is applied science. It is time now to capture that key feature in our name.

Also, the increased internationalization of our science argues that we do not want to limit ourselves to American psychologists, nor have we. Removing that limitation from our name also increases accuracy and public understanding of who we are.

The name Association for Psychological Science is a more accurate depiction of who we are. While American Psychological Society might have made sense early in our history, times have changed and so should our name.

Elizabeth D. Capaldi
Vice Chancellor and Chief of Staff
The State University of New York

SIX YEARS AGO, MY STATUS AS a foreign-born psychologist made me favor APS’s proposed name change, though without a great deal of energy. This time around, having finally moved from the United States, I feel more strongly that APS would benefit from a name that asserted its international standing and status. Increasingly, psychological scientists are found all over the world, not only in the United States, and an organization representing their shared interests and needs is more necessary than ever. I hope that the majority of my colleagues, in the United States and abroad, will join me in supporting the name change and thereby helping to create the Association for Psychological Science.

Michael E. Lamb
Cambridge University

I WOULD NOT OPPOSE CHANGING the name to the Association for Psychological Science, but I think the arguments against it are more powerful than those for it, particularly those about having the term “science” in the name.

The strongest argument for changing the name would be to make APS more internationally inclusive. However, based on that argument alone, we should consider adding the term “international” to the name. But that change has its own problems; most namely, there already is an International Union of Psychological Science.

I also think that making APS more international in name or character would work against its political influence in Washington. I would like to see APS become more international in membership and mission, but not at the expense of what clout we have in Washington as an American association, and not at the cost of appearing all too “American” (imperialistic) by taking over the name or mission of some long-standing and truly international associations.

Michael Strait
University of San Diego

I JOINED APS AND EVENTUALLY dropped my membership in APA because I was fed up with feeling like all APA cared about was clinical practice. (The straw that broke the camel’s back was an article in the Monitor discussing the high cost of getting a PhD in psychology and the difficulty of repaying student loans, with an exclusive focus on low-paying clinical internships or setting up a clinical practice and nary a mention of underpaid postdocs, as I was at the time, or junior faculty.) I was tired of paying ever-increasing (and exorbitant) fees to feel unrepresented and irrelevant.

I like APS because it emphasizes science and research. While normally I don’t like name changes, I like the idea of including “Science” in our name.

Maureen Olmsted
Arizona State University

I AM NOT CERTAIN WHAT THE APS Board of Directors favors when suggesting a name change. To me, the current arguments seem like change for the sake of change, or wishful thinking. The need for change has not been established and the desirable results have not been explicated.

No evidence is presented that APS either is thought of as being, or confused with, a guild. It certainly hasn’t been in my experience. More often I have found confusion with the American Physical Society (the organization for scientific physics, which leads into the next point).

The name “Association for Psychological Science” is redundant; psychology is a science. Clinical, counseling, and other applied psychologists require an adjectival modifier to indicate their status as “users” rather than creators of psychological knowledge. The American Physical Society is not considering a name change to the Association for Physical Science.

The American Psychological Society is already clearly differentiated from the American Psychological Association. In many conversations and writings, APS is referred to as “the Society.” The suggested change would increase confusion by having two “Associations” for psychology.

APS was and is intended to be principally an American organization that is also open to international members. International organizations for psychology already exist, and I have never heard any mention that the intention was, or is, to have APS represent the field of psychology internationally. With a substantial international membership, who will the organization represent to the US governmental agencies? Will APS start representing the field of psychology to the European Union as well?

Before recommending or making such a change, there should be specific goals for the change. We should conduct a needs assessment and evaluate whether or not achieving specified goals by a name change is desirable to the membership. The goals should be clearly operationalized — related to measurable outcomes. For example: If our name is changed, inquiries about guild issues previously misdirected to the APS office will decrease by 50 percent. If our name is changed, international membership will increase by 20 percent for three consecutive years. If our name is changed, citation of APS journals will increase 5 percent in APA journals by 2008.

Without such “scientific” criteria, we will be unable to determine the success of a name change, if it is made. When a formal recommendation for the name change is made to the APS membership for vote, it should include estimated costs and a plan to collect pretest/baseline (or historical) measurements, to collect real cost data, and to collect post-test and longitudinal follow-up measurements that would indicate effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the change.

John H. Newman
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

I MAY HAVE VOTED AGAINST a name change last time. At least I know I was ambivalent about it. But Roberta Klatzky’s arguments are so persuasive. Now I know I’m in favor of the change.

I was part of the Assembly for Scientific and Applied Psychology, the group that voted to establish APS in 1988, and at that time very active in the American Psychological Association, including having served on its council, board, and board of scientific affairs. I still belong to APA, and it’s nice to see that they are giving increasing respect to science.

Roberta’s first two arguments in favor were most persuasive for me, especially having the name of the organization stress psychological science. Then, too, APS is now mature enough to move on from the earlier name that we chose deliberately “to resemble but naughtily conflict with” the other organization’s name. I hope the change passes this time.

Mildred E. “Kitty” Katzell
Retired

I THINK ADDING THE WORD “science” and dropping the word “American” from our name is a very bad idea for the following reasons:

Redundancy. The morpheme logy means a system of knowledge. Although the morpheme logy does not necessarily mean science, people know that logy in biology means science, but logy in astrology and phrenology may not. When psychology becomes or is a science, logy automatically means science. We don’t need to duplicate that meaning by adding the word “science” to our title.

Reaction formation. We cannot make our discipline more or less “scientific” by calling it “science” or not calling it “science.” It is for the science community as a whole to decide. Explicitly calling it science can do nothing but reveal our fear of its not being a science.

Ethnocentrism phobia. Ethnocentrism is a bad attitude. However, being hypocritically modest is not good either. The United States is one of the leading countries, if not the leading country, in psychology in the world. The word “American” is informative for distinguishing one psychological association in the world from another.

Jerwen Jou
University of Texas – Pan American

DZ, or Not DZ

THE OBSERVATION ARTICLE regarding J. P. Rushton’s research on prosocial attitudes in twins appears overstated [April 2005, "Nice Pair of Genes"].

Rushton studied identical and fraternal twins (Rushton, J.P. “Genetic and environmental contributions to pro-social attitudes: a twin study of social responsibility.” Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 271, 2583-2685). In his study, Rushton selected 174 identical, or MZ, twins and compared their behavior to that of 148 fraternal, or DZ, twins. The research raises two concerns, one statistical and the other biological/social.

Comparing inter-twin correlation coefficients of low magnitude (.45 and .32 respectively) for such small numbers of subjects does not yield significant differences (p < .05.). When the errors are propagated by squaring the coefficients and then subtracting their squares to obtain heritability estimates, the resulting number has vanishing significance.

MZ and DZ twins are different populations in important ways. Biologically, some MZ twins have a single placenta while DZ twins have separate placentas. A single placenta for both twins lowers birth weight. The uterine wall surfaces have a large range of fertility levels and the ability to provide nutrition to fetuses. Twins with one and two placental locations have prenatal biological and nutritional fetal environments that differentially affect the biological growth of each twin. In addition, there are a large number of different-sex twins among DZ twins. Boys and girls grow physically at different rates.

Socially, gender differences among the different-sex DZ twins produce very different behavior patterns than those seen in same-sex twins, either MZ or DZ. MZ twins look alike, which affects the way they are treated by families, schools, and communities. In addition, the emotional closeness of MZ twins compared to DZ twins narrows inter-twin differences in attitudes and behaviors.

These subpopulation differences must be taken into account in comparing MZ and DZ twins. If the information were available, a comparison of monoamniotic, monochorionic MZ twins with same-sex DZ twins (with equal numbers of each sex for both groups) would remove some of the subpopulation differences.

If a behavior genetics twin study finds a difference in behavior, the difference is not automatically a genetic difference. Whenever genetic groups show a range of behavior, developmental history and epidemiological factors associated with the behavior must be examined.

Bernard Brown
retired

More Appreciation

I very much enjoyed reading the several “In Appreciation” remarks from admirers of Philip S. Holzman [April 2005]. However, I regretted the absence of any comments regarding his early personal and professional experiences.

Phil Holzman and I were given a year’s deferment from military service in June 1942 so we could complete our senior year as psychology majors at City College of New York. Roy Schaefer, Leo Postman, and others had already left for positions at the Menninger Clinic in Kansas. Thus, Menninger was the natural stop for Phil.

The undergraduate training Phil Holzman and I received at CCNY just before and during World War II, when Gardner Murphy chaired the psychology department, inspired us and hundreds of other psychology majors to go on to graduate work. Phil, along with several other “CCNY Boys,” moved on to the Menninger Clinic.

Sadly, the collegial, inter-professional climate at Menninger in the immediate post-World War II period no longer exists there or in most other medical clinics and hospitals. However, that climate existed long enough for psychologists like Phil Holzman not only to absorb its intellectual and emotional benefits but to pass those benefits on to their colleagues and students. Thus, we mourn not only the loss of Phil Holzman today but the professional milieu which nurtured him as well.

Joe Sanders
Health Enhancement Programs

Observer Vol.18, No.6 June, 2005

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