APS Name Change Referendum

The APS Board of Directors is recommending that the name of the Society be changed to Association for Psychological Science to underscore our scientific mission and reflect the international scope of our membership. This issue has been discussed in detail in the Observer, and has been compiled below.

This issue is being decided by APS Members in a referendum vote online.

Read the material below, when you are ready to vote, and if you are accessing this through the eBallot, simply close this box to resume voting.

If you are a full APS member, then you are eligible to cast a vote for this referendum, and you should have received a ballot via email (please be advised that student members are not eligible to vote in this matter). For those whom we lack a current e-mail address or for those who have told us they prefer to vote via mail, we have sent a paper ballot.

The Case for Changing Our Name

(From the April 2005 Observer)

At its December 2004 meeting, the APS Board of Directors was unanimous in its support for changing the Society's name to the Association for Psychological Science. In keeping with our bylaws, such a change needs to be decided by a vote of our membership. On behalf of the Board, Treasurer Roberta Klatzky makes the case in the following column. Members are strongly encouraged to weigh in on this issue. Please send your comments to apsobserver@psychologicalscience.org. Unless you request otherwise, any comments received will be considered for publication in future issues of the Observer.

APS logo with a question mark

A little more than five years ago, the membership of the American Psychological Society narrowly rejected a proposal to change its name to the Association for Psychological Science. The Observer headline, fittingly enough, said, "APS Still APS." The majority (60 percent) of voting members was in favor of the change, but that fell short of the two-thirds required to alter the bylaws.

Echoing Oliver Twist, I would like to suggest we have another go-round. I believe the Society's name should be changed, because it will strengthen the scope and direction of the organization in three very important ways — it publicly defines, by name, psychology as a science; it embraces the international nature of our membership; and it demands respect for our science — all of which I will describe below.

But first, the history: The previous name-change initiative began with a proposal to the APS Board of Directors by APS Fellow and Charter Member Carol Tavris in the Fall of 1998. The proposition was formally put to the membership in February 1999, using the Observer as a forum, and a spirited public debate soon emerged.

Here are the arguments in order of decreasing consensus, as I review the documentation:

In Favor:

  1. It emphasizes that APS is a scientific organization, not a guild.
  2. It will differentiate APS from APA.
  3. It is more internationally inclusive.
  4. It promotes a closer association with the journals.


  1. We have an identity as the American Psychological Society; a change will create confusion.
  2. It suggests a conflict between science and practice.
  3. Those that need to proclaim they are scientific aren't.

Other opinions (thankfully, a small minority):

  1. Suggested name changes that eliminate the acronym (my favorite being AABGRRRSRSRRSGPS, where the R's are variants of "real" and "really" and the S's are variously Science or Scientific — the BG is "by God," of course).
  2. Rejection of the idea that psychology is in any way a science.
  3. It will confuse us with a board or committee of APA.

So what has changed since 1999? Obviously, not our name. There are, as I see it, three compelling reasons to revisit the issue.

First, time has passed, and we are nearly two decades old. APS was founded on August 12, 1988. It grew out of an interim group, numbering about 450, called the Assembly for Scientific and Applied Psychology. The motivation behind that group was to promote science within APA. When they deemed the effort a failure, APS was born.

It's no secret, then, that APS and its name grew out of disenchantment with the fate of science within another organization. The name itself was chosen to resemble, but naughtily conflict with, its origin. Let's face it, that's hardly any basis on which to name a society. The passage of time should allow us to have a cooler perspective on what we should be called.

More importantly, in those two decades, APS has emerged with a solid identity of its own. It's no longer "the other Ay-Pee thing," but itself. Whatever one's opinion of science at APA (and be careful what you say to me: I am the current chair of its Board of Scientific Affairs), it's hardly relevant. We should be named for what we practice and how we educate. Our address on the Web already is.

Second, we are represented internationally more than ever, but our name doesn't adequately represent our members outside of the United States. Thanks to energetic activities by Board members over the last several years, particularly Rochel Gelman, APS has developed an illustrious list of foreign members and fellows. But we are still undersubscribed, while outstanding psychological science thrives outside our borders. Why? My own experience, from talking to nonmembers on this continent and abroad, indicates that international membership in APS is undermined by our exclusionary name.

Third, clout. To be sure, clout doesn't result from a change of name, but the added leverage among those who don't understand psychological science could be significant. And we need it. At a time when the scientific community is struggling for a position among national funding priorities, psychologists are particularly disadvantaged. The two-year budget decline at NSF and the new priorities of NIMH, which particularly targeted basic psychological science, are hardly small signals that we need all the respect we can get on the Hill. It's not just funding we should be worried about, but having an influence on education and application. Science in our name says science is our game.

So, I respectfully submit, let's look again at the name Association for Psychological Science. At its meeting in December, the Board did just that, and to our collective surprise, the group was unanimously in favor of the change. Think it over, members, and decide.

An APS by Any Other Name

I WAS PRESENT AT THE CREATION of the American Psychological Society, and at a meeting in New Orleans in April of 1988, I presented the case for our current name [April 2005, "The Case for Changing Our Name"].

In addition to the reasons Bobby Klatzky noted for the choice of the original name, there was one other — it would identify our direct lineage to G. Stanley Hall, William James, James McKeen Cattell, and other psychological scientists who founded and led APA. It made clear our claim to the intellectual heritage they created, and suggested that we might be more substantial and enduring than a mere grousing rabble.

Now we are substantial and enduring, and it is time to look forward rather than back. Psychological science is a global pursuit and to build on our heritage we should look to the future. Yes, let us become the Association for Psychological Science!

Milton D. Hakel
Bowling Green State University

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

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

In Sync With APS

ROBERTA KLATZKY, IN THE April 2005 issue of the Observer ["The Case for Changing Our Name"], suggested that APS change its name. She separated the previous arguments of the membership that appeared in the Observer from February to November, 1999, into three categories: "In Favor; Opposed; and Other opinions (thankfully, a small minority)."

I believe I authored the first example listed in her third category, "the thankful small minority," but she got it all wrong. I really belong in the Opposed category, "Those that need to proclaim they are scientific aren't," which I would modify to: "Those who need to proclaim psychological science suffer from physics-envy." Klatzky also truncated and revised my suggestion for a name change, which had a certain ragtime syncopation to it that was lost in her abbreviated version: The American Association for By God, Real and We Mean Really Real, Scientific, Real Really Scientific, By God, Psychological Science. Said aloud enough times by enough members, and soon everyone would know just how scientifically we regard APS.

So, yes, let's change the name to the Association for Psychological Science, but let's keep Klatzky to her promises. After the name change, she says: 1) we become as recognized and respected as "the other Ay-Pee thing;" 2) international membership will increase; and 3) we will get more funding and respect on the Hill, all measurable goals. In the spirit of really scientific social science, anyone for evaluation research of that program?

Frederick Meeker
California Polytechnic State University