International Psychology: Psychology Congress Crosses Culture and Language Barriers

A bout 5,000 psychologists from 100 countries are expected at the 26th International Congress of Psychology in Montreal in mid-August, the Canadian committee organizing the event has announced.

Five days of addresses, symposia, state of the art lectures and business meetings, and social events will follow the opening ceremony on Friday, August 16.

All events will be held in the Palais des Congres in the heart of Montreal, on the border of Old Montreal and close to the main hotels, shopping areas and restaurants. “You couldn’t situate a convention center any better,” said Pierre Ritchie, a clinical community psychologist and professor at the University of Ottawa who is secretary-treasurer of the organizing committee.

“Let’s face it, people go to conferences not just for the intellectual content. They go to see colleagues and enjoy the ambiance. An advantage of this site is that people will easily be able to go to receptions and other social events at the end of the day and then zip off to dinner at nice restaurants within walking distance.”

Attending the meeting will be psychologists from more than 50 countries who are not members of the International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsyS), as well as representatives of the 55 countries that are members of the sponsoring Union, according to Michel Sabourin, who heads the organizing committee of the congress.

Many ex-Soviet and African countries are sending representatives, he said, and some of their national organizations are applying for membership in the Union. An economic incentive also makes the Montreal meeting attractive, Sabourin noted, with the American dollar buying about $1.3 7 Canadian.

Congress President David Belanger, himself a emeritus professor, emphasized that “the average age of main speakers at Montreal is much lower than is usual at IUPsyS meetings. We have made a point to get speakers … who are at the very peak of their work, and this includes lots of women reporting on excellent research.”

IUPsyS President Kurt Pawlik, of the University of Hamburg, in a special message to his fellow members of APS emphasized the “added value” of international scientific activities over and above probing cross-national contacts and good will among people.

“There is an additional, genuine agenda for international psychology as such: in recognizing, for example, endogenous culture-bound roots of (and limits to) psychological enquiry, in exploring a cultural matrix as it affects the development of individual and collective behavior, in research on individual behavior differences,” Pawlik said, “or in studying phenomena like global environmental or demographic changes, which extend well beyond national cultural boundaries. Here we can and must learn from each other across regions of culture and language.”

A sampling of events scheduled for Montreal follows.

In a keynote address on how attitudes may influence memory, Alice H. Eagley of Northwestern University will present new primary research and an overview of studies that have compared the effects of congenial and uncongenial information on memory processing.

Another keynoter, John Cacioppo of Ohio State University, will discuss research on psychological stressors that affect immune function. Among his findings are that acute psychological stressors that activate the sympathetic adreno-medullary system affect immune function, and that persons with high sympathetic cardiac reactivity to psychological stressors also show activation of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenocortical system and altered immune function.

Susan Mineka of Northwestem University will discuss research on anxiety disorders and depression that looks into both conditioning models and cognitive biases that have important implications for understanding the maintenance of the disorders.

Milton Hakel of Bowling Green State University will share the floor with speakers from India. China. Germany and Venezuela in a symposium on poverty and social change. And, with APS Executive Director Alan Kraut, he will discuss how to bring psychological science to the attention of government as a source of solutions to social problems.

Albert Bandura of Stanford University will outline eight mechanisms of moral disengagement used by individuals, organizations and countries seeking moral justification for their inhuman behavior. Bandura and Gian Vinorio Caprara of Rome have collaborated on a study of how children in Italy and America begin to acquire skill in this domain.

In a state-of-the-art lecture. Renee Baillargeon of the University of Illinois-Champaign will discuss how new methodologies have permitted investigators to discover that even young infants are capable of sophisticated reasoning about physical events. She will examine the types of knowledge young infants possess about various physical events and explore how they obtain knowledge, examining the innate and experiential factors that may contribute to its acquisition. Bruce Ovennier of the University of Minnesota will present a state-of-the-art lecture re-examining the learned helplessness model for studying the effects of stress and will take part in two symposia.

Overmier told the Observer that he takes part in international meetings because “one of the things that happens to each of us when we focus on our research is that we tend to narrow our vision of what is going on in our laboratory—of necessity, because we spend vast amount of time with our phenomena in our lab. But we need to come in contact with people who are working on the same or similar problems throughout the world, so that we can re-expand our vision and perspectives and see new ways of approaching problems.”

“None of us has a lock on all the insights into a particular problem or all the ways we can study it or apply the results from it. The world is full of bright and exciting  people with stimulating new ideas from whom we can benefit.”

Psychologist/neuroscientist Patricia Goldman-Rakic of Yale University School of Medicine will discuss the role of the prefrontal cerebral cortex in working memory. At the level of cellular activity and neural circuitry, Rakic maintains that experimental studies in nonhuman primates have led to a comprehensive theory of the architecture and mechanisms of prefrontal contribution to working memory. She attributes these theoretical achievements to the reciprocity between cognitive psychology and neuroscience, a collaboration she deems “important in attempts to connect the mind to the brain.”

Martha Farah’s presentation on the neural basis of visual recognition in humans will examine the extent to which different types of visual patterns (e.g., faces, printed words) are governed by the same neural systems. Drawing on a subject pool of brain damaged patients and other  subjects, Farah, of the University of Pennsylvania, will also pinpoint the neuroanatomical locations of specialized visual recognition systems, their degree of innateness, and the types of processing in each location.

Mark Rosenzweig of the University of California-Berkeley will present a state-of-the-art lecture on the increasing interaction between psychology and neuroscience, with a look ahead at what forms the relationship may take in the future.

Rosenzweig, who was IUPsyS president from 1988 to 1992, pointed out that IUPsyS is a UNESCO-sponsored organization of national psychology organizations, one per country. The International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP), on the other hand, is supported by dues from individual members. It also holds international congresses every four years but staggers them at two-year intervals relative to IUPsyS. IAAP’s next meeting will be in San Francisco in 1998; IUPsyS’s next meeting is in Stockholm in 2000.

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