Cattell Fund Extends Sabbatical, Research

James McKeen Cattell was already recognized as a founding father of psychological science when he and two former students launched the Psychological Corporation in 1921 to develop and publish psychological tests and materials. He invested $6,000 of his own money for 60 percent of its shares.

In 1942, two years before he died, he donated those 600 shares to establish the James McKeen Cattell Fund to support “scientific research and the dissemination of knowledge with the object of obtaining results beneficial to the development of the science of psychology and to the advancement of the useful application of psychology.”

Those shares (in what has since been renamed Harcourt Assessment, Inc.) have blossomed into a $2.5 million foundation that since 1974 has awarded annual fellowships that allow recipients to extend sabbaticals from one to two semesters.

The Cattell Fund is the only foundation doing that, said Secretary-Treasurer Christina Williams, Duke University. “For hard-working psychological scientists, one impediment to creativity and productivity is the constant interruptions that come with academic life – the classes and meetings and advising that we enjoy but which restrict our research and writing. The Cattell Fellowship affords the recipient a long block of uninterrupted time, a proverbial ‘room of their own,’ and, of course, a fixed income!”

The deadline for submitting 2006-2007 fellowship applications is December 1, 2005. Recipients will be announced by March 1, 2006. Eligibility requirements and application forms and additional information about the Fund are available on the Fund’s Web site:

The award cycle begins just as APS and the Fund are exploring ways of collaborating. “Both our Fund and APS want to promote psychological sciences,” said Williams. “If we can find a way to work together, that would be of benefit to all. Because APS is a large national organization with a great deal of visibility, it would be a wonderful way for the Cattell Sabbatical Fellowship to become more well-known nationally.”

APS Executive Director Alan Kraut agreed. “Given that one of our own lifetime achievement awards in research is named for Cattell, this already looks like a wonderful fit. Several options are under discussion, but what’s clear is that both sides are confident this will turn into a major substantive relationship and represent a major advancement for both organizations.”

Links already exist between APS and the Fund. APS Past President Janet Spence, has served as a Fund trustee and many APS leaders have received Fellowships.

APS Board Member Elizabeth Phelps, New York University, was among 2004-2005 recipients. She used her sabbatical to review the past decade of developments in her field. “My goal was to back up and say, ‘What have we done in the field of emotion and cognition in the past 10 years?’ The fellowship gave me the freedom to gain some perspective.” She’s planning a book based on that work.

APS Fellow and Charter Member James Townsend, Indiana University, spent part of his 1992-1993 sabbatical in California with a former student “continuing research on our general recognition theory” and the remainder traveling, including to Scotland, where he worked with Vicki Bruce, a pioneer in face perception. “It’s one of the most valuable professional experiences that I’ve had,” he said. “I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to the foundation.”

For APS Fellow William Timberlake, Indiana University, his 2000-2001 fellowship allowed him to “further develop an approach to purposive behavior that integrated my interests in neuroscience and addiction with conceptual issues about how experimental approaches to learned behavior map onto concepts in cognition, ecology, and evolution.” The grant, he said, “allowed me the time and space to pursue multiple sides of this approach … without acute monthly worries about how much I was going into the red. The result was a more integrated and open approach expressed in new research directions in cognition, neuroscience, and learning.”

Wendy Hill, Lafayette College, spent her 2003-2004 fellowship at Cornell University collaborating on “an exciting new research program” investigating neurochemical influences on infidelity among birds, previously thought to be monogamous. Her experiments and new techniques, she said, “rekindled my passion for my science and helped to ignite new interests that I plan to pursue further with my students. That should keep me busy for years.”

William Butler Yeats once wrote, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” That, Hill told the foundation, is what its fellowship did for her.

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