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Perspectives Looks Back Over 25 Years of Science

As APS celebrates its 25th anniversary, the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science is featuring a series of special sections that take a look at how the field has changed over the last 25 years.

The special section in the September issue includes articles that explore psychology as a multilevel science, advances in eyewitness science, the emergence of relationship science, and developments in the area of cognitive psychology.

25 Years Toward a Multilevel Science
Marilynn B. Brewer

When the Association for Psychological Science (then the American Psychological Society) was founded 25 years ago, there was some debate as to whether the organization should seek to advance a narrowly focused view of the psychological sciences or take a broader and more integrated view. In the end, the organization chose to represent the discipline as a whole. The integrated view taken by APS in 1988 is reflected in the current state of the field. A large amount of current psychological research is integrative, combining many different subdisciplines. This multilevel orientation can be maintained if researchers continue to be open to working with both those within and those outside of their specialty areas.

25 Years of Eyewitness Science……Finally Pays Off
Elizabeth F. Loftus

In the early 1970s, research examining eyewitness testimony was in its infancy; however, by the late 1980s this area of research was the topic of scores of studies. Despite the important nature of this work, researchers were often not welcome in the courtroom and were therefore unable to influence the way eyewitness procedures were carried out or interpreted. It was not until the mid 1990s, when scores of convictions began being overturned by DNA evidence, that people started to truly appreciate how problematic eyewitness identification can be. Today, research on eyewitness testimony is used by law enforcement agencies and welcomed into the courtroom, presenting a true success story for those who study this topic.

Ellen Berscheid, Elaine Hatfield, and the Emergence of Relationship Science
Harry T. Reis, Arthur Aron, Margaret S. Clark, and Eli J. Finkel

1988 marks not only the birth of APS, but also the period of time when relationship science was coming into its own. This now thriving field of research owes its beginnings to the pioneering work of Ellen Berscheid and Elaine Hatfield. Their work examining interpersonal attraction, romantic love, equity between couples, and emotion in the context of relationships produced a strong foundation for those who would follow in their footsteps. Although researchers may have moved away from Berscheid and Hatfield’s original theories or methods, their research has left a permanent mark on psychology, showing that relationships provide the backbone of our responses to life’s challenges and play a central role in the processes that shape many of our behaviors and experiences.

From the Revolution to Embodiment: 25 Years of Cognitive Psychology
Arthur M. Glenberg, Jessica K. Witt, and Janet Metcalfe

The way we view cognition has undergone many changes in the past 25 years. In 1988, behaviorism was out and the cognitive revolution was almost complete. One of the standard theories for understanding cognitive constructs was the physical symbol system hypothesis — the view that human thinking is a kind of symbol manipulation. Although this theory provided a strong platform for the study of cognition, it did not have a place for the role of the self in cognitive processing. The rise of embodied cognition attempted to remedy this problem and has served to link research examining perception, action, memory, and language. The next 25 years will undoubtedly see advances in the field of cognitive psychology, and only time will tell how well embodied cognition will fare in the future of this field.

Read more about the first special section published in the May 2013 issue of Perspectives in Psychological Science.

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