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Greetings from APA

As President of the American Psychological Association (APA), I have often been asked how APA is faring relative to the American Psychological Society (APS). The assumption in such questions is that the organizations compete with each other, and that a gain for the one organization is in some way a loss for the other. As an officer of one organization but also a long-time loyal member of both, I beg to differ. I think the two organizations complement each other, and that they can and do work together effectively to serve the needs of psychologists.

The view of the two organizations as competing arose, in part, because APS was founded at a particularly difficult time in the history of the APA. Many academics and practitioners had adopted a confrontational stance toward each other and had convinced themselves that one group’s gain was the other’s loss. Some academics split away from APA to found APS. Other founding members stayed in both organizations, but at that time, the organizations probably did seem competitive, and may indeed have been so. Those times are long gone. There was never much sense in the confrontation between academics and practitioners, or in the not-very-veiled competition between APA and APS.

Personally, I would like to see the two organizations united, and the day may come when they are. But that day is not likely to be at any time in the immediate future, so it makes sense to think how the two organizations can complement and strengthen each other in serving the needs of psychologists.

Serving scientific psychology. APA’s membership is, on the whole, probably somewhat more diverse than that of APS. APA attracts psychologists of all stripes; historically, APS has been more oriented toward psychologists of a scientific bent. There is value in having both kinds of organizations. Both serve the needs of scientists. APA, with its larger and more diverse membership, however, must serve the needs of many other kinds of psychologists as well as scientifically-oriented ones. It provides a forum for many different kinds of psychologists to work together toward the achievement of a common good. APS, in contrast, because of the nature of its membership, can concentrate in a more focused way on the needs of scientists. Both organizations serve science, however, and having two vibrant and forceful organizations to serve science cannot help but benefit all of us who care about the science of psychology.

Journal programs. APA has developed a premier journal program. So has APS. It is hard to imagine a psychologist interested in science not subscribing to journals from both organizations. APA’s journal program is substantially larger and includes many journals that are wholly scientific in focus as well as a few that are not. APS’s journal program is almost exclusively science-oriented. Moreover, the journals of the two organizations serve somewhat different and not very overlapping functions. For example, APS has no equivalent, really, to any of the major APA journals, such as Psychological Review or Psychological Bulletin. But APA does not have the equivalent of, say, Current Directions in Psychological Science, which provides brief article-length synopses of hot scientific work. It also does not have a single journal containing the breadth of empirical work found in Psychological Science. Certainly the field of psychology is the richer for having the two journal programs.

Conventions. APA and APS both have well-attended conventions. The advantage of APA’s convention is that it is extremely large and has something to offer almost everyone, but because it is so large, some participants may feel a bit lost in it. APS’s convention is not as large and does not have as wide a variety of offerings, but participants are perhaps less likely to feel lost. Scientists can easily fill their schedules with scientific talks at both conventions, providing them two different opportunities, at two different times, in two different places, to sample the range of scientific psychology.

Professional Identification. A major function of a professional organization is to provide a source of identification for its members. APA and APS both do so, in different ways. APA provides identification with the broad field of psychology as a whole, including the scientific aspects of psychology. APS provides identification with the scientific aspect.

I am a member of both organizations because both kinds of identifications are important to me. Especially in a time when psychology, in general, and scientific psychology, in particular, are becoming fragmented, I think organizations such as APA and APS are particularly important to have.

Training. Both APS and APA emphasize training for careers in scientific psychology. The APA Monitor on Psychology probably provides the most nearly complete listing of job opportunities in scientific psychology. The APS Observer also lists many scientific job opportunities.

Both APA and APS provide training institutes of various kinds. Because opportunities for training are so important to young psychologists and to psychologists who wish to retool, having more training opportunities can only be looked at as a positive thing for the field.

Leadership Roles. APA provides opportunities for large numbers of psychologists to engage in various kinds of leadership roles, through its divisions, Council of Representatives, and Boards. APS has a smaller leadership structure, but also provides opportunities for leadership in its Board and, of course, its presidency. Whatever may once have been the case, there is no hostility between the leadership of the two organizations today. The current “three presidents” (past-president, current president, and president-elect) of APA-Phil Zimbardo, myself, and Diane Halpern-are all scientists and APS members and have been active in some degree in APS. APS Past President John Darley, APS President Susan Fiske, and APS President-Elect Roddy Roediger are all APA members and have been active in APA.

Working Together. APA and APS have from time to time collaborated in various enterprises. For example, under the leadership of Phil Zimbardo at APA, and John Darley and Susan Fiske at APS, the two organizations have been collaborating in the development of science fairs. Roddy Roediger will be a featured presidential-track speaker at the 2003 APA convention in Toronto. He and I have worked collaboratively on a number of projects throughout our careers. The two organizations will profit far more from working together than from working at cross-purposes.

Thus, as the 2003 president of APA, I would like to extend my own hand and that of the organization to APS in a spirit of collaboration and friendship. I look forward to working productively and fruitfully with the APS in multiple and diverse ways.

Observer Vol.16, No.1 January, 2003

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