Letter/Observer Forum


Experimental Designs Book A Classic

Julian C. Stanley
Johns Hopkins University
professor emeritus

I look back with some amazement and embarrassment at my first major encounter with the concept of ‘intelligence.’ It was in 1937, when as an 18-year-old college senior in the library to study for my rural sociology class I happened across Henry H. Goddard’s large book entitled Feeblemindedness: Its Causes and Consequences. His rather lurid descriptions of the Kallikaks, Jukeses, and Edwardses fascinated naive me, a chemistry major. I read the entire volume without realizing how shoddy his major thesis and advocacy of eugenics were. A psychology course soon thereafter, using Woodworth’s classic textbook, dispelled some of that misunderstanding, but my interest in intelligence has persisted for the ensuing 66 years.

Yet, of course, I would not classify that book as a psychology classic [January 2003 Observer]. Far from it. But it did reflect the tenor of the time and got me started.

Many years later, in 1960, I collaborated with a truly great psychologist, Donald T. Campbell of Northwestern University (I was a professor then at the University of Wisconsin, Madison), on what became in 1963 a chapter entitled “Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for research on teaching” in N. L Gage’s excellent Handbook of Research on Teaching (pages 171-246) (Chicago: Rand McNally).

Almost immediately, we were inundated with reprint requests. After giving away 500 (quite an expense), we secured permission from the American Educational Research Association, which held the copyright to the handbook, to offprint a slightly revised version of the chapter as a separate little book re-entitled Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Research, letting AERA keep the royalties. It is still in print, in a second edition, now published by Houghton Mifflin in Boston. Over the years at least 250,000 copies have been sold and used as supplemental textbooks in a variety of graduate courses, especially psychology, education, sociology, and history. Long ago it became a “citation classic.” Most former graduate students in the social sciences have studied, or at least heard of, Campbell and Stanley.

This collaboration with Don Campbell was one of the high points of my professional career. He showed me a rare level of creativity and insight into the designing of experiments, perhaps leading to my creating the Laboratory of Experimental Design in 1961 at the University of Wisconsin. For about 37 years it served well as the vehicle for training a considerable number of specialists in research methodology and measurement, long after I left the university in 1967 to move to Johns Hopkins University.

Thus, I feel confident that Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Research should be listed as one of the most influential psychology books of the last century. Don Campbell is no longer alive to confirm my belief, but I feel sure he’d agree.

Courtesy Titles and Degrees

Michael Lee Hood
Psychological Research Associates
PhD candidate

I have often wondered why APS (and for that matter, APA) journals omit the titles of PhD level authors [January 2003 Observer]. It isn’t an issue of ego-fluffing. There is an important distinction between doctoral-level and masters-level scientific practitioners, and I believe it is germane to the relative merit one accords research, published or otherwise, to know the level of training of the authors.

For instance, we might be inclined to overlook minor deficiencies in theoretical character and representation respective of the overall validity we attribute to a study presented by a master’s-level researcher so long as methodology is sound, whereas for doctoral-level researchers we might rightly expect a higher-level theoretical acumen. I have found many master’s-level authors that presented excellent methodological research papers culminating in published articles, although they were somewhat lacking in their theoretical foundation.

Knowing that these were master’s-level researchers allowed me to look beyond the slight deficits and see the underlying soundness of the research itself. While I would not like to see a presentation marred by a string of titles and associations ad nauseam, I do believe the inclusion of an individual’s level of training is important to the overall appreciation (and expectation) of published research.

Rosemary Lyndall Wemm
San Ramon, California

Due to the lack of international parity in the naming of credentials, the use of titles and degree names in professional publications can lead to false attributions of status and respect [January 2003 Observer].

American-titled degrees are not equivalent in level or content to similarly-named degrees offered outside the US. UNESCO equates U.S. postgraduate programs with the professional Bachelor degrees available in other parts of the world.

A PhD awarded outside the United States is not designed to be an appropriate credential for the practice of professional psychology. The use of the title “doctor” for licensed professionals, even on an “honorary” basis, is not universal. A title does not, of itself, prove worth.

Patricia M. Crittenden
Family Relations Institute

The title Dr should be used when credibility rests on having the degree noted by the title [January 2003 Observer]. It should not be used when credibility rests on other factors. In research, credibility rests on the method, not the degrees and, therefore, use of the title appears like a means of distracting readers from the method of deriving the data and focusing them on the authority of the author. That seems inappropriate.

John H. Krantz
Hanover College

I prefer that APS not use either titles or degrees [January 2003 Observer]. It seems a way to short cut our responsibility to listen or read carefully what another person has to say and evaluate it on its own merits. The use of degrees and titles seem to be a way of defining an “expert.” So a person with the proper paper – a degree or license or certificate – has been anointed and we listen to them. By implication we would then listen less to those unannointed? We have a responsibility to evaluate all arguments based on the content not the source. A title or degree does not render the argument more or less valid.

Not an Intuitive Armchair Psychologist

David E. Leary
University of Richmond

Since it is appropriate for contemporary psychologists to acknowledge the shoulders on which they stand, I was pleased to see the feature story on “‘Unforgettable’ Classics: Classic Psychology Texts Stand the Test of Time” [March 2003 Observer]. In particular, I was pleased that the article focused so much attention on the classic text and insights of William James (1842-1910). However, I would like to amend the impression it gave that James was so ‘intuitive’ that he was able to develop his still-relevant insights while sitting in an armchair, without the benefits of experimental and empirical data. To do so, I would like to make three points.

First, James read widely, carefully, and with comprehension in the rapidly growing international literatures of experimental physiology, evolutionary biology, scientific neurology, and medical psychiatry, not to mention psychophysics and physiological psychology, and he used these literatures in their original form (in French, German, and Italian, as well as English), rather than through secondary sources. In addition, he personally met and maintained an active correspondence with many of the major historical figures in these areas. Besides reading what they wrote and hearing what they had to say, he was renowned for drawing implications from their work that were both acute and apt, often reaching conclusions that surpassed their own. In fact, as mentioned in the article, he frequently articulated stronger arguments than did the original authors themselves – and he did so, with remarkable fair-mindedness, even when he disagreed with their positions.

Second, although he did not conduct many experiments, James did in fact pursue experimental research and other empirical work, both to confirm the results of others and to expand what was known about various topics, especially pertaining to varied states of consciousness. While he is famous for criticizing dry-as-dust empirical research and for saying that day-in-and-day-out experimentation was possible only for those constitutionally incapable of boredom, he knew what experiments could and could not yield in terms of knowledge; and he continued to encourage, sponsor, and monitor experimental and empirical research, even after Harvard hired Hugo Münsterberg to take his place in directing experimental research.

Third, James reflected very carefully not only on experimental and empirical literature, but also on his own personal experience and that of others. Though not experimental, his observations of the phenomena of human consciousness and activity were clearly empirical, and he interpreted these phenomena in relation to extant psychological theories, with sensibilities honed by extensive meditation on great literary works – works by such favorites as Shakespeare and Goethe, which contained at least as much insight about the complexities of human experience as could be found in the psychological literature of his day.

In sum, William James relied on a lot more than native intuition and a comfortable armchair. He worked very hard for a very long time, probing data with thought and challenging thought with data.

Who’s not a psychologist?

David Klahr
Carnegie Mellon University

Douglas Whitman [March 2003 Observer] claims that “simply occasionally publishing in psychology journals is not sufficient reason to be labeled a psychologist.” He then asserts that the set of ‘close, but no cigar’ candidates for potential consideration, but ultimate exclusion, from the set of legitimate psychologists includes, among others, Herbert A. Simon. Whitman cautions us not to label Simon as a psychologist because Simon “received his PhD in economics and his work spanned artificial intelligence, expert systems, and decision making.” A minor problem with this statement is that Simon’s PhD is in Political Science, not Economics. The more troubling problem is Whitman’s clear implication that making contributions outside of psychology diminishes, or even invalidates, one’s claim to be a psychologist, regardless of the substantive contribution to our science.

Even though Simon was one of the prime movers in the cognitive revolution, and even though he had a profound and immutable influence on the psychology department at Carnegie Mellon University, and even though he was among the elite members of the psychology section of the National Academy of Sciences, and even though he received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association, the Gold Medal Award from the American Psychological Foundation, and published hundreds of papers in psychology journals, he was not a real psychologist by Whitman’s criteria. If only he hadn’t also done all those other things.

Whitman concludes his koshering process by acknowledging that psychology has benefited from the work of many “non-psychologists” (as defined by him), and he suggests that we ask why they have been able to make so many “zeitgeist-breaking, innovative” contributions to psychological science. I suggest that, instead, we frame the issue in terms of the theoretical constructs of another profoundly influential “non-psychologist” (whose dissertation was on mollusks) and think about what would happen to our field if we followed Whitman’s categorization criteria and only assimilated without also accommodating.

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