A History of APS’s Publications


We’re so used to the Observer and APS’s journals as mainstays in the field that it’s easy to forget that they haven’t always been around. In this month’s column, we look back at the founding of each and see that, even after two decades (give or take), they remain true to their founding vision.

1988: This Shall Be Called the APS Observer
Shortly after the Assembly for Scientific and Applied Psychology voted to form APS in 1988, the inaugural APS newsletter — called, creatively enough, the APS Newsletter — issued a challenge asking members to name APS’s first publication. About three dozen people answered the call, with entries ranging from the APS Merrimac (think about it) to plays on the society’s initials (Advancing Psychological Science). The winner and “Official Namer” was APS Fellow and Charter Member Carol Tavris, who was honored with an APS button and a misspelled name in the first issue. At least we got it right this time, Carol!

The inaugural editor, APS Fellow and Charter Member Steven C. Hayes, said at the time that his goal was to make the Observer an “honest and straightforward” publication. “The Observer is well-named,” he said. “It shouldn’t tell people what to think or to do like an elementary school classroom monitor. It should being the data to them.”

After 20 years and growth from a newsletter to a full-color magazine, the Observer remains true to those ideals.  You can search the Observer archive at www.psychologicalscience.org/observer.

1990: Psychological Science
APS launched its flagship journal, Psychological Science, in 1990 with a mission to “publish brief research reports, longer articles, and perspectives on psychological science, along the lines of Science.  Every area of psychology as a discipline, basic and applied, will be covered.”

When William K. Estes was selected to be the founding Editor of Psychological Science, he was the William James Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and was living in the William James house in Cambridge. Later, he often said he edited the first issues of Psychological Science in the same corner of the house where William James edited Principles of Psychology.

Starting as a bimonthly, Psychological Science went to monthly publication in 2004, and has increased in size significantly over the years, reflecting the large number of submissions received by the journal.  The journal is widely recognized as one of the most influential publications in psychology, with an impact factor of 4.571.

With the January 2008 issue, APS Fellow Rob Kail, Purdue University, has assumed the helm at Psychological Science and will preside over a 20 percent increase in the number of pages and a similar increase in submissions.  Starting in 2009, it will change again to an online format that will accommodate the huge number of submissions while still maintaining its unique browsability.

1992: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Founding co-editors Sandra Scarr and Charles R. Gallistel launched Current Directions in Psychological Science, APS’s second journal, in February 1992. The new journal did something that had never been tried in a discipline as limitlessly broad as psychology: It presented invited reviews of research in an unspecialized, highly readable format for those who want to know about the new and significant research outside their own specialty area without having to spend a lifetime learning about it.
“There is no other journal in psychology doing what we intend for Current Directions,” said Gallistel at the time. “When something interesting is happening in any part of the huge expanse of terrain of psychology and its adjacent fields, psychologists soon are going to find it in Current Directions.”

The format has been a success (as reflected by its 2.326 impact factor), and today it not only informs psychologists about developments in other specialties, but also students, educators, the media, and science policymakers, thus fulfilling another of the founders’ goals. APS Fellow Harry Reis, University of Rochester, is the current editor of the journal.

2000: Giving Away Psychology: Psychological Science in the Public Interest
Subscribers to Psychological Science found a bonus with the May 2000 issue: The inaugural issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest (PSPI). The central tenet of the PSPI initiative was that the best of psychological research is a critical societal resource and that the findings that derive from our science are directly relevant to matters of national concern that are of strong, often intense, public interest.

PSPI was designed to identify topics of broad interest — outside of psychology as well as within — by commissioning each year two teams of distinguished scientists to write a report summarizing what the best of psychological research has to say on chosen topics.

An especially important aspect of the PSPI initiative was and continues to be a partnership with Scientific American and Scientific American Mind, which present PSPI reports rewritten for the magazine’s broader audience.
PSPI, now published three times a year, welcomes Elaine Walker, Emory University, as Editor in 2008.

2006: Perspectives on Psychological Science
The first issue of APS’s fourth journal, Perspectives on Psychological Science, was published in March 2006. Founding (and current) Editor Ed Diener said the journal would “appeal to the entire scientific psychology community” and would publish both invited and submitted manuscripts (all peer-reviewed). The journal includes an eclectic mix of larger and more integrative articles, including broad integrative reviews, overviews of research programs, standard literature reviews, meta-analytic reviews, theoretical statements, book reviews, and eclectic articles on topics such as the philosophy of scientific issues, opinion pieces about major issues in the field, autobiographical reflections of senior members of the field on some topic of interest, and even humorous essays and sketches. This broad array of articles provides a comprehensive view of the field in every respect.

In 2008, Perspectives will grow from quarterly to bimonthly, with the first issue appearing in January.

APS’s journals are available to Members online at www.psychologicalscience.org/journals.

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