Psychological Science at the Grass Roots

I was a graduate student in the psychology department at the University of Wisconsin in the 1950s. My first experiences with the larger field of psychology beyond my own graduate program were at the Midwestern Psychological Association (MPA) meetings. It was a most exciting time—the heyday of Hull-Spence theory, operationism, and the explosion of empirical research in psychology. The MPA programs were the science of psychology at the time. Even more exciting for a student were the sometimes heated, but always entertaining, all-night debates among scientists such as Kenneth Spence, Judson Brown, and Harry Harlow.

Last year I had the honor of serving as President of the Western Psychological Association (WPA). The scientific programs at the WP A today are every bit as good as they were at the regional meetings in the “good old days.” The subject matter may have changed, but the quality of science remains very high. Indeed, in my activities as President of the WPA and of APS, it is very clear that the regional psychological associations have much more in common with APS than with the American Psychological Association (APA). (I can only speak from experience with MPA and WPA but assume the other regional organizations are similar).

The major purpose of the regional organizations is to hold an annual scientific meeting and to support educational and scientific activities to the extent their very limited budgets permit.

Insofar as WPA and APS are concerned, there is already significant inter-organizational cooperation. For example, the two organizations have freely exchanged their membership lists and mailing labels, among other resources, with each other. (It is likely that some members of the regional organizations are not members of APS). But the Board of WPA has come up with some additional suggestions for further cooperation. For a modest cost, APS could sponsor a speaker at each major regional meeting (as APA now does). Another suggestion concerns articles (e.g., How to Do Well in the Academic Job Interview, How to Win Acceptances by Psychology Journals, How to Use the ’94 APA Style Guide) in the Observer, many of which are directly relevant to graduate students. Collections of such articles could be made available at cost for students and advertised and distributed via the regional newsletters/organizations. Over the years, APS has advertised the free availability of single copies of reprint versions of these kinds of articles to students and others and especially welcomes inquiries about permission to reprint in regional newsletters.

At this point I am not proposing formal organizational ties between APS and the regional associations, although it is something to consider for the future (a counter, if you will, to the State Association-APA-practitioner axis). But much can be done informally in terms of information exchange, interactions, and mutual encouragement of the science of psychology.

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