Charter Member Memories

This is a photo of an old cover of the APS Observer and a newer cover of the APS Observer.

The Observer recently invited our charter members to share their memories of APS. What was happening at the founding of the Association? What prompted them to join and remain loyal members for 20 years? Here is a selection of their responses. For more responses, see

Janet Polivy:
The Organization I Was Looking For
I joined APS at its inception because APA was making me very concerned, as it seemed to be becoming a clinical/PsyD guild rather than a scientific professional organization. APS was attractive because it is specifically a group of psychological scientists (and I am a clinician myself, but see myself as a scientist first, and a clinical scientist). APS has offered me the scientific psychological organization I was looking for (I quit APA when I joined APS). Now there are good, solid APS journals, as well as the conference and other benefits.

I am currently on the board of an organization closely aligned with APS, the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science, and I really appreciate APS’s support for our group and its scientific goals. Given the decline of science at APA, I am very grateful that APS was formed when it was and that it has grown into such a strong organization.

Joan B. Read:
My Most-Read Journals
Thanks for the opportunity to think back to the initial days of APS. I was serving on the APA Council of Representatives when my colleagues in the APA governance were in a heated interchange over some months about the rise of the practitioner influence in APA. I recall the seminal Council meeting when the debate came to a head. Such influential governance members as Bonnie Strickland pulled together those interested in forming an association of scientists dedicated to their perception that the science of psychology needed a continuing place of prominence in a professional association. I remember giving Bonnie a check for $75 as my initial “dues” payment.

The general thinking at that Council meeting among those who wanted the association to remain intact was that the new association would return to APA within a few years. That clearly did not happen. It was also not the demise of APA, nor did it mean the loss of the scientists in APA. A number of us with interests in both the science and the application of psychology found two homes to address our interests. The APS publications have become my most read professional journals, as my academic interests are in fields covered more thoroughly in these publications.

Roberto Refinetti:
The Fissure Was Real
As an APS charter member, I was excited about the creation of the society in 1988 and helped recruit new members for it. I had just finished graduate school then and was in my first job as a faculty member.

At least from my perspective, the major driving force behind the creation of this new psychological association, the American Psychological Society, was the feeling that the American Psychological Association was becoming more and more a professional union and less and less a scientific society. This feeling was probably one reason why the APS membership later voted to rename APS as the Association for Psychological Science — thus formalizing psychologists’ need to reassert the scientific nature of their discipline. I opposed the recent name change, but I certainly shared the feeling in 1988 that scientific psychology needed its own association. Although political pressure has always forced the APS to declare its intent to include clinical psychology, just like the APA still declares its intent to include scientific psychology, the two camps were clearly divided. Calls for the creation of APS would have been ignored if the fissure had not been perceived as real. I thought, and still think, that the general perception of a fundamental division between clinicians and academicians was accurate, although I realize that quite a few people think otherwise and feel that psychology should have remained a one-association discipline.

One of the major concerns of potential APS members in the early days was the possibility of APS journals ever attaining the prestige of APA journals. Twenty years later, APS’s Psychological Science has undoubtedly attained the prestige of APA journals. APS’s annual conventions are significant professional and social events. APS’s persistent lobbying for more generous federal funding of behavioral science has attained greater success than anticipated by many, even if not as much as the APS leadership would like it. APS has, therefore, accomplished much in 20 short years. Still needed is membership growth. For many years, about half of all people completing doctorates in psychology have been going into clinical practice and the other half into research/teaching. One would expect, consequently, that the size of the APS membership would rival that of the APA membership. Maybe practitioners need an association much more than academicians do, but there is clearly an imbalance in membership sizes.

As a biological psychologist, I have always shared my allegiance to APS with my allegiance to two other professional associations: the Society for Neuroscience and the American Physiological Society. For this reason, I never had to deal with the anxiety of wondering whether the APS would succeed. But succeed it certainly did, and I am glad to have been a small part of the collective effort to provide a formal voice for scientific psychology.

Robyn M. Dawes:
Please, Kick Us Off
I would like to share a story from my very first day as a charter member of APS: It was in Atlanta, Georgia in the fall of 1988 at an APA meeting. I was a member of the APA Council. Some of my colleagues who I admired most on this council were also members of the APA Board of Directors, and after indicating some displeasure with the guild direction of APA, they were treated miserably. I remember in particular the treatment of three female members. (Perhaps I was particularly incensed as a result of some implicit male chauvinism that might still be around.)

There was a motion to kick those of us who had indicated an interest in what was then called ASAP (Association of Scientific and Applied Psychology) off the council. That motion was introduced one morning, and it appeared likely to succeed. I wanted it to succeed. I was in favor of a clear and open break with the society that can encourage such obviously unscientific procedures as recovering repressed memory, use of schlocky projective tests in important legal settings, and so on. But then at the noon break, someone distributed a letter from someone in the American Psychiatric Association indicating that “psychologists were at each other’s throats.” So we were not kicked off, and the break was a little less clear and public than it might otherwise have been.

Paul Thayer:
Enchanted Expectations
I remember the beginning of APS very well. I was on the APA Council when the vote to reorganize failed – again – and we decided to found ASAP, the Association for Scientific and Applied Psychology. (I was sick in my hotel room, having just had my rotator cuff fixed, so couldn’t attend the late night session. But I signed the charter the next morning and sought contributions. Apparently I signed a copy, as my signature isn’t on the original.)

A flock of us began organizing, deciding to have our first conference, wondering if we could have a DC office, appointing a newsletter editor, etc. My best recollections deal with my role as Chair of the Finance Committee, and later as Treasurer. I was asked to prepare a budget. I made three of them, an expected, a best scenario and a worst scenario, based on income and expense figures the various members of the organizing group gave me. Janet Spence thought I was enchanted when our first year came in right on the “expected.” (Some guesses are better than others.)

I enjoyed visiting our first office over the liquor store, but enjoyed our first convention more. We booked a hotel in Arlington, had so many advanced registrations we had to move to a bigger hotel, and held the first reception in the parking lot. The APS Board met sitting on the lawn over sandwiches and sodas.

Observer Vol.21, No.2 February, 2008

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