Cover Story

Psychologists in Non-Traditional Academic Departments

No Starving Artist, Psychologist Collaborates in Advertising

By Patrick Vargas

Patrick Vargas

Patrick Vargas earned a BA in philosophy from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and a MA and PhD in social psychology from The Ohio State University. Vargas has appointments in the departments of advertising and psychology, and the Institute for Communications Research at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on implicit measures of attitudes and personality.

As a teenager I was interested in pursuing a career in painting, drawing, or photography. My parents, possibly fearing that they would end up financially supporting a struggling artist for the rest of their lives, tried to guide me in directions where I could earn a living using my artistic interests. Advertising seemed like a good possibility and in the summer following my junior year in high school I took a course on advertising at Cornell University. That summer course was the last time I studied advertising until after I finished my PhD, 10 years later.

As an undergraduate I developed interests in stereotyping and prejudice, and attitudes and persuasion. I pursued those interests to the social psychology program at The Ohio State University, where I was fortunate to receive thorough training from some of the best in the field. Following a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of New South Wales, where I studied affective influences on cognition, I moved in to the Advertising Department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

My training in psychology did not completely prepare me to enter an advertising department. But my relative ignorance of advertising probably turned out to be something of an advantage at the very beginning – on my interview visit I did not even know enough to be nervous about interacting with some of the biggest names in advertising. What most impressed me about the advertising faculty at UIUC was their diversity and collective receptiveness to a wide variety of research. The current advertising faculty have degrees in advertising, communications, English, journalism, history, law, psychology, and sociology. They conduct interpretive, qualitative, and quantitative research. It is exciting and enlightening to give a social psychological talk to colleagues who come from completely different research paradigms. Many of the research-oriented discussions I have with my advertising colleagues could never occur with traditionally trained social psychologists.

Advertising opened new doors for collaborative efforts. Rich Petty once told me, “If you hang out with ducks long enough, you start to quack like a duck.” It’s true; even interpretive research is beginning to make sense to me. I am collaborating with an interpretive researcher on a project examining the role of imagery in persuasion. We bring different skills to the table, each of us somewhat skeptical of the other’s methodology; but both of us are willing to learn from one another, and we are having fun working together. I had the opportunity to work at the Leo Burnett advertising agency. This experience gave me some insight into “practical” uses of advertising research, providing me with numerous classroom examples.

I was unprepared to enter the advertising department and teach courses in advertising. It took me most of one semester to figure out that undergraduate advertising majors are very different from undergraduate psychology majors. The former tend to be more goal-oriented than the latter in that advertising students generally have clearly defined goals of working in advertising agencies when they graduate from college. They are most receptive to information that they perceive to be directly relevant, and ultimately helpful, to their future careers. Psychology majors tend to be much more tolerant of abstract information, and broad theories. Still, I try to impart to the advertising students that nothing is so useful as a good theory, and I am getting better at conveying this to them.

One primary reason I feel so comfortable in the program is because I was preceded by two top-notch social psychologists, Sharon Shavitt and Thom Srull. The department has a history of embracing social psychology, and I am fortunate to follow in that tradition. The UIUC Department of Psychology is also one of the best in the country and I have developed good friends and colleagues there and regularly attend psychology colloquia, and collaborate with faculty in the Social Personality Organizational group. I’m fortunate to be able to embrace my social psychology roots and venture deeper into the research pond with the advertising ducks.

‘Quantitative Methods Travel Well’ from Educational Psychology to Nursing

By Steve Owen

Steve Owen

In 1970, Steve Owen earned a PhD in educational research from Purdue University and joined the educational psychology department at the University of Connecticut, where he taught courses in social cognitive theory, human motivation, learning, educational psychology, and multivariate analysis. In 1993, he was inducted as a lifetime honorary member of the nursing honor society, Sigma Theta Tau International. In 1999, Owen began a new career as a biostatistician in the University of Texas Medical Branch’s School of Nursing.

During almost 30 years in educational psychology at the University of Connecticut, I gradually layered skill in quantitative methods on top of knowledge of general psychology content, such as learning theory and motivation). The slow shift, fueled more by interest than by careful career planning, was almost entirely unintentional. But it proved to be good fortune. I retired from the University of Connecticut and took a position as a biostatistician in the School of Nursing at the University of Texas Medical Branch. I imagined it would be a dramatic career shift, but quantitative methods travel well.

Still, there are some interesting differences.

  • Discriminant function analysis has fallen from favor in the health professions. In its place, logistic regression dominates, even though odds ratios are harder to interpret than many imagine.
  • In the social sciences, there is more attention to the harm of chopping continuous variables (say, with median splits) in order to force data into an ANOVA structure. In the health professions, there is little hesitation about converting age, income, or depression scores into high versus low. A variation occurs in health surveys, where questions are often constructed to force a dichotomous response (e.g., Do you get short of breath when bathing or dressing? Yes or No).
  • More than liberal arts schools, health professions universities are financed by grant support. Although applications to federal agencies typically require a power analysis, in which effect sizes play a crucial role, health researchers generally avoid reporting effect sizes when they publish results. So many published studies, focusing solely on statistical significance to draw conclusions, exaggerate (with large N) or overlook (with small N) findings.
  • At the same time, health researchers are far more likely to include confidence intervals in reporting research results.
  • Theory does not drive most research in the health professions; it tends to be in the back seat. The emphasis is more on practical applications: Does drug X work better than drug Y? Does surgery method A decrease length of hospitalization?
  • Large epidemiological databases invite mindless data mining. Researchers often report their discovered associations, sometimes urging causal interpretations, and journalists extend the causal exaggerations.

Liberal arts campuses, of course, have concentrations of psychologists, and quite a few associated faculty who have a nodding acquaintance with psychological science. A health science school will typically have a psychiatry department, but those faculty concentrate on their practice and are usually not that well rounded in basic psychology. But this is not an academic desert where a psychologist feels isolated and lost. In such a place, there is great opportunity to spread some messages about what psychological science is all about. Nurses, allied health faculty, and medical faculty sometimes harbor quaint stereotypes about who academic psychologists are and what they do (therapy, right?). Media carry interesting stories about discoveries in psychology, but many readers seem unaware that there is psychological science behind the articles.

Faculty here are more tolerant than I had expected of anon-medical associate in their midst. They’re very patient with my stumbling through the vocabulary of a medical school. But at the same time, they are often fascinated to hear about, say, principles of social cognitive theory. It is not just that they are amused by such theory, but because they come to understand that it can inform and broaden their research efforts. For example, self-efficacy measurement has now caught the attention of many of my colleagues, and they have begun to plug it into their own research and grant applications. And, because self-efficacy measures are tailored to the particular behavior under study, they are discovering that instrument development is not some high-powered talent that only a precious few can accomplish.

My former life has not faded entirely to memories. I still have-and use-shelves of books on cognition, self-regulation, motivation. Even E.G. Boring’s History of Experimental Psychology still gets its pages turned from time to time. I can’t resist buzzing around Current Directions in Psychological Science, even when grant deadlines are bearing down on me. And thanks largely to the electronic age, I continue to write and collaborate on research with earlier partners.

So this has been a fascinating foray into the health professions. I love my colleagues’ impression that I am offering valuable statistical assistance. What I haven’t revealed, until now, is the symbiosis: they are eager to absorb ideas from a distant field, and I am learning more from them than I ever expected or hoped.

Teaching Dentists to Treat People, Not Teeth

By Marita Rohr Ingehart

Marita Rohr Ingehart

Marita Rohr Ingehart is an associate professor at the University of Michigan school of dentistry and an adjunct associate professor in the department of psychology. She was educated at the University of Mannheim, Germany, and came to the University of Michigan as a visiting professor in the 1980s. Her research focuses on the role of psychosocial factors in oral health and oral health care.

Why would a dean in one of the 52 dental schools in the United States hire a psychologist as a full time faculty member? The short, if not cynical, answer to this question is that US dental schools have to get accredited every five years and need to demonstrate that behavioral science is one part of their curriculum. Additionally, behavioral science is also one area in the National Board exams for all graduating students. This means that even if a dean is not aware of the potential contributions a psychologist could make to the dental school community, pragmatically it may seem wise to cover all bases and have a psychologist on board.

Why would psychologists want to work in a dental school? Unless they had been trained as dentists before getting a degree in psychology, the answer to this question is difficult, and may lie in pragmatic reasons such as the availability of jobs for dual-career families. However, independent of the reasons a psychologist ended up in a dental school, a description of the ways in which psychologists can contribute to teaching, research, and service in this setting is interesting.

Usually psychologists in dental schools teach one to three courses to dental and dental hygiene students per year and give guest lectures in other courses. At the University of Michigan School of Dentistry the students have a behavioral science course in their first term, which covers dental fear and pain, communication with the patient, and oral health promotion. In the second term of their first year, they have two behavioral science courses. The first class focuses on communicating with patients from different social groups such as children, older adults, persons from different ethnic/racial backgrounds, with different sexual orientations, different disabilities, or diseases.

The second course is a Behavioral Science Practicum in which each of approximately 100 students is videotaped three times in interactions with patients. The first interaction is with a typical patient while the student takes a medical/dental history. The second interaction is with a peer as a patient during a dental cleaning, and the third interaction is with a regularly scheduled patient in the health education section of a dental exam. These videotaped interactions are self-evaluated, peer-evaluated, and instructor-evaluated. They are also discussed in small group settings. Guest lectures are given to undergraduate dental students as well as to dentists in the graduate specialty programs. Orthodontic graduate students learn, for example, about patient cooperation with orthodontic treatment and communication, and the pediatric graduate students learn about child development, the role of the family, and communication with children and parents. All teaching is only truly successful if the knowledge base of psychology is applied clearly to the professional situation – which means that psychologists need to be motivated to self-educate about dentistry.

Research activities are a function of the faculty member’s own interests and the fit of these interests with important research questions in the dental setting. In 1991, I published a book entitled Reactions to Critical Life Events – A Social Psychological Analysis, which served as a starting point to explore the role of stress in oral health. This interest developed into a focus on the outcomes of oral health care and how oral health affects a person’s quality of life (Inglehart & Bagramian, 2002). Oral health-related quality of life is a truly psychological topic that can alert dentists to the fact that they treat patients and not teeth. It is at the core of every patient’s interest in oral health promotion and the utilization of oral health care services. Patients want to have a good quality of life, which includes the abilities to chew and bite, speak and smile. They do not want to live with acute or chronic oral-facial pain, andthey want to feel good about the way they look. Dentists need to be aware of these facts and to act accordingly. This concept of oral health-related quality of life is also important in light of the findings in the first U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health from the year 2000. This report pointed to tremendous oral health disparities and the lack of access to oral care for large segments of the U.S. population. Psychologists are well equipped to conduct research that documents the personal suffering, for example, of young children who cannot sleep through the night and cannot pay attention in school because of dental pain that is due to poor oral health and a lack of access to care. In this sense, psychologists can contribute to connecting the technical aspects of dentistry with the bigger picture that oral health plays in a person’s life. Interdisciplinary collaborations on research projects are of course crucial in this context.

Service to the dental school community is a function of a psychologist’s own interests and the needs perceived in an organization. The services can include being a research mentor for clinicians and students who want to study psychosocial outcomes of dental care, serving on committees, or providing insights from one’s own discipline. A specific example of service as it played out in one university is that the perceived need for better education about treating patients with different disabilities led not only to the creation of a committee on treating such patients, but also to the provision of monthly, free continuing education programs on this topic for students, staff, and faculty members. These service activities offer a great opportunity to find common interests with other members of the dental school community and to work collaboratively in interdisciplinary teams.

The life of a psychologist in a dental school is interesting, but it can lack discipline-specific intellectual stimulation at times. Reaching out to colleagues in a psychology department and working collaboratively is therefore crucial. An adjunct appointment in a psychology department also opens the door for faculty to teach students who self-select into courses, rather than only students who are required to take the courses.

On the whole, there are benefits to working in this nontraditional setting. In many instances, a psychologist can be a patient advocate. Sometimes it feels like exploring an uncharted domain. The challenges are those that all psychologists face when they enter a nontraditional field. There are dangers of being seen as second-class citizens, and as less scientific than other faculty members, because “everybody knows about psychology.” The major challenge is to ensure that cross-discipline communication is successful and does not break down. Whenever the challenges seem to outweigh the benefits, I find it useful to think of Moscovici’s work on minority influence. He tells us to be persistent, consistent, and to have a positive self-esteem. He points out that in the end, history shows that progress and change are brought not by the majority, but by minority members who persist. The change in dentists’ perspectives from treating teeth to treating patients might be slow, but psychologists can definitely contribute to it.

Inglehart, M.R. (1991). Reactions to Critical Life Events: A Social Psychological Analysis. New York: Praeger Publishers.

Inglehart, M.R., & Bagramian, R.A. (Eds.). (2002). Oral Health-Related Quality of Life. Quintessence Publishing Company.

Adventures of an Experimental Psychologist in Medical Imaging

By Elizabeth Krupinski

Elizabeth Krupinski

Elizabeth Krupinski went to Cornell University as an undergraduate in psychology and received her PhD in experimental psychology from Temple University in 1992. She is a research professor at the University of Arizona in the departments of radiology and psychology. She is the director of evaluation and assessment for the Arizona Telemedicine Program and President of the Medical Image Perception Society.

Sometimes you start out with one goal in mind and go down a completely different road. That’s precisely what happened to my career path. After entering the psychology program at Cornell University as an undergraduate pre-med student with my eye on clinical psychology, I soon found myself moving in a different direction.

The neurobiology and behavior track fascinated me – inserting electrodes into the visual cortex of neonate hamsters to examine neuronal cell death. I found the higher-level perceptual and cognitive issues more intriguing than the biology or medical side of things. I continued with my master’s degree in experimental psychology, concentrating on visual perception issues in art and aesthetics theory. While finishing the degree, my advisor told me about an associate of his, an educational psychologist in needed of a research assistant. While I had little practical research experience outside the classroom, but called for an interview. That interview with Calvin Nodine gave my career path a twist, leading me to my present position.

Nodine had just moved from Temple University to the Medical Image Perception Laboratory in the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Radiology. He made the move to collaborate with Harold Kundel, a radiologist who had also recently made the move to Penn from Temple. It wasn’t clear to me what psychology had to do with radiology, but I soon found out and have been involved in this area ever since.

I was hired at Penn and simultaneously pursued my PhD in experimental psychology at Temple, concentrating in visual perception. After graduation in 1992, I moved to the Department of Radiology at the University of Arizona to continue medical image perception research.

Radiology at its most basic level involves looking at an x-ray image – visual perception – and rendering a diagnostic decision – cognition. It sounds simple enough until you realize that although the basic anatomy is fairly consistent from person to person, there are wide variations in appearance of normal and abnormal anatomy, which the radiologist must process and interpret. Errors can occur at significant rates with significant impact on patient care and treatment. Understanding the perceptual and cognitive mechanisms that underlay the interpretation of X-ray images is the goal of the type of psychology research I have been doing for nearly 15 years so that we can improve the diagnostic accuracy of radiologists and thereby improve patient care.

One of the main tools of my trade is eye-position recording to examine the ways in which radiologists search images and allocate attention in their search for features that would indicate the presence or absence of disease. Over the years I have investigated the perceptual causes of error, the use of perception-based feedback to improve performance, and the nature of expertise in radiology. Another important component to my study are human factors issues such as how should images and related information be displayed on a monitor to optimize search performance, and what types of physical properties of displays – luminance, tone, and scale – influence search and decision strategies.

Being in radiology has not, however, isolated me from the traditional psychology department or developing collaborative relationships with those in other fields. I have a joint appointment in the psychology department and have taught the Introductory Measurement & Statistics course for over 10 years. This not only keeps me in touch with those involved in basic perception research, but it has provided me with the opportunity to recruit psychology students to experience a more applied psychology research environment. Having an eye-position recording system gives me the opportunity to collaborate with others in the psychology department who want to use this tool to investigate topics of their own interest, such as reading or figure-ground discrimination. Aside from the physical separation between the main campus where the psychology department is located, and the medical school where radiology is located, I have experienced no barriers working in this rather non-traditional environment.

I would encourage those considering careers in psychology and even those already in psychology, to consider non-traditional environments where psychology in its many forms can play major roles. One of the greatest privileges of working in radiology as an experimental psychologist has been my role in improving the care and treatment of patients by understanding and improving the performance of radiologists in their interpretation of radiographic images.

An Unplanned Career in Planning

By Michael Lindell

Michael Lindell

Mike Lindell received his PhD in social psychology from the University of Colorado in 1975. His primary research focus is on the processes by which individuals and organizations prepare for environmental hazards and respond to them when they strike. He also has done some work on quantitative methods, especially indexes of interrater agreement.

What is it like to be a psychologist in a Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning? I am on the planning faculty with six professors who have doctoral degrees in planning, three who have their degrees in sociology, and one who has a law degree (but is a certified planner). My research and service activities are relatively similar to what I did when I was in a psychology department, as is my research methods course. However, the rest of the courses I regularly teach are in environmental hazards-an introductory course in hazards and disasters, and advanced courses on disaster response planning, disaster recovery and hazard mitigation planning, and hazard analysis and management.

I obviously did not receive preparation for emergency planning in a psychology department, so how did I get here? The most important step was the first one. As a graduate student at the University of Colorado, I worked for a geographer on an assessment of research on natural hazards. This project provided a remarkable exposure to interdisciplinary, problem-focused research. From there, I went to work for Battelle Institute, spending the next 12 years performing multidisciplinary research for a wide variety of sponsors. I initially worked with sociologists and planners in studies of flood evacuation warnings and the response to the eruptions of Mt. St. Helens. After the nuclear power plant accident at Three Mile Island, I spent much of my time for the next seven years evaluating emergency preparedness at nuclear power plants for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. From 1986-1997, I was at Georgia Tech (a visiting position in the Industrial/Organizational area), Michigan State (a permanent position in I/O), and George Washington (a visiting position in I/O and later a permanent position in Administrative Science).

I came to Texas A&M to direct the Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center, a multidisciplinary center that conducts research on environmental hazard management. My background in this area was a good fit with the planning faculty because I had published articles in journals such as the Journal of the American Planning Association and also some books on emergency planning. All of my environmental hazards courses contain a significant amount of material that is related to psychology, but I also teach material from other social sciences as well as the physical sciences and engineering.

Being on a planning faculty has some significant rewards, but it also has some frustrations. I enjoy showing how psychological principles can be applied to problems of emergency planning and many of these are new to the planning faculty and students that I work with. It can be frustrating to spend a lot of time explaining basic psychological principles before getting on to the problem at hand. Sometimes it is a pleasure to talk about psychological concepts and be understood immediately, which is why I have tried to maintain links to psychology departments while employed elsewhere. At Battelle I had an adjunct appointment at the University of Washington and I currently have an adjunct appointment here at Texas A&M.

Perhaps the greatest reward to being on a planning faculty is that agencies look to planners to solve important problems of environmental hazards giving me access to interesting research opportunities. In work for the state of Texas, I reviewed the procedures that were being used to estimate the amount of time required to evacuate coastal counties before hurricane landfall. Transportation planners had devised models of traffic flows, but had no data on how rapidly evacuating households would enter the road network. On the other hand, social scientists had conducted many studies to predict warning response, but most of that research addressed whether households evacuated, not when households evacuated-the information the transportation planners needed. I had some relevant data from my previous research that would satisfy the immediate needs of the evacuation planners, but the need for better data led to a research project funded by the Engineering Directorate at the National Science Foundation. That might seem to be an unlikely funding source for a psychologist, but it just shows how many places there are available to give psychology away, even if you sometimes need to sneak it in.

‘Wild Mice Are Smarter Than I’

By Richard L. Doty

Richard L. Doty

Richard L. Doty is currently director of the University of Pennsylvania Smell and Taste Center and professor of psychology in the department of otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. He received his BA degree from Colorado State University in 1966, his master’s from California State University, San Jose (in conjunction with NASA’s Ames Research Center) in 1968, and his PhD from Michigan State University in 1971.

I am often asked how I became interested in olfaction. Like many careers, mine has been largely based on serendipity. In graduate school at Michigan State University, I was fortunate to take a zoology course from John A. King related to animal dispersal and speciation, and became fascinated with the concept that odors may play a significant role in sexual isolation among closely related animals.

Jack’s laboratory had numerous species from the mouse genus Peromyscus, and I set out to establish the relative odor preferences among them, with the goal of deriving a behavioral taxonomy of the genus. It was in this process that I discovered that wild mice are much smarter than I. Although I never achieved my ultimate goal, I did discover a mid-ventral sebaceous gland in Peromyscus that proved to be a taxonomic marker (Doty & Kart, 1972), and I collected behavioral data that contributed to a theoretical paper, “A Cry for the Liberation of the Female Rodent” (Doty, 1974), which received considerable notoriety at the time.

After graduate school I completed a fellowship with the renowned comparative psychologist Frank Beach at the University of California. In one study, we found that sexual experience is critical for estrous odor preferences of beagles, and that anal sacs do not convey this information (Doty & Dunbar, 1974). In another we discovered that anesthetizing the olfactory and vomeronasal systems of male hamsters eliminates their copulatory behavior (Doty & Anisko, 1973). In 1973 I accepted a position at the Monell Center in Philadelphia, where I specialized in human psychophysics, examining interactions between endocrinology and olfactory function (Doty, Snyder, Huggins, & Lowry, 1981). Subsequently I moved to the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Hospital. After I had been in this position less than a year, a fellow psychologist, R. Gregg Settle, informed me of a National Institutes of Health request for proposals for Clinical Smell and Taste Research Centers. We both seized the moment, and solicited aid in the proposal’s development.

James Snow, then chairman of the Otolaryngology Department, and later director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, provided encouragement and resources, and asked the physiological psychologist Eliot Stellar to chair our advisory committee. Although naysayers told us that we would never succeed in light of the competition, we ignored their advice, which was nonetheless well founded. I had only one NIH grant to my credit, no office, no lab, and no formal academic appointment. Gregg was in a similar position. Fortunately we succeeded, and the Smell and Taste Center was established in 1980.

An early dividend was the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test, which provided for the first time a standardized, practical, and sensitive means for assessing smell function (Doty, Shaman, & Dann, 1984). This test led to numerous discoveries, not the least of which was that olfactory loss is common in the elderly and can be an early sign of several neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease (Doty, Shaman, Applebaum, Giberson, Sikorsky, & Rosenberg, 1984; Doty, Reyes, & Gregor, 1987; Doty, Deems, & Stellar, 1988).

My career path was atypical for an experimental psychologist, as I ultimately attained tenure within a clinical medical school department. There are many strengths and weakness of such a position. Medical school facilities are usually excellent, and expensive equipment necessary for some forms of specialized research such as functional imaging, is readily available. For researchers, teaching loads are low or even nonexistent. Although most medical students have little time for research, with the possible exception of summers, medical schools are a mecca for undergraduate work-study students seeking projects to improve their chances to enter medical school, and diverse types of patients are available for research. Residents are also often available for short-term (e.g., sixmonths) research rotations.

There are downsides to such an environment. The clinical faculty is very busy and may have little time for research or have quite specialized research interests. Unrealistic expectations can be placed on PhDs hired as “basic scientists,” and the requisite administrative support may be lacking. Since clinical departments do not confer a PhD, there are no departmental graduate students. One’s ability to do research can be vulnerable to the whims of the department chair, who can be appointed for life (although today renewable employment contracts are the norm).

PhDs are generally constrained from substantive movement into and through the medical school’sadministrative hierarchy, because they are perceived as less critical and more enigmatic entities than are physicians. The PhD’s status is reflected in total salary, which in a surgical department will typically be one-fourth to one-third that of a same-age physician peer. Although often nominally higher than those in psychology departments, medical school salaries reflect 12-month rather than nine-month appointments.

For me, the strengths have outweighed the weaknesses. Psychologists whose talents and interests are of value to a medical school usually find their niche. However, such situations are not for everyone. In general, the traits of tenacity and independence and the ability to perform high quality research that engenders commensurate research funding are prerequisites for establishing such a niche.

Doty, R.L., & Kart, R. (1972). A comparative and developmental analysis of the midventral sebaceous glands in 18 taxa of Peromyscus, with an examination of gonadal steroid influences in P. maniculatus bairdii. Journal of Mammalogy, 53, 83-99.
Doty, R L. (1974). A cry for the liberation of the female rodent. Psychological Bulletin, 81, 159-172.
Doty, R L., & Dunbar, I A. (1974). Attraction of Beagles to conspecific urine, vaginal, and anal sac secretion odors. Physiology & Behavior, 35, 729-731.
Doty, R L., & Anisko, J.J. (1973). Procaine hydrochloride olfactory block eliminates mating behavior in the male golden hamster. Physiology & Behavior 10, 395-397.
Doty, R L., Snyder, P., Huggins, G., & Lowry, L.D. (1981). Endocrine, cardiovascular, and psychological correlates of olfactory sensitivity changes during the human menstrual cycle. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 95, 45-60.
Doty, R L, Shaman, P, & Dann, M. (1984). Development of the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test: A standardized microencapsulated test of olfactory function [Monograph]. Physiology & Behavior 32, 489-502.
Doty, R L, Shaman, P., Applebaum, S.L., Giberson, R., Sikorsky, L., & Rosenberg, L. (1984). Smell identification ability: Changes with age. Science, 226, 1441-1443.
Doty, R L, Reyes, P, & Gregor, T. (1987). Presence of both odor identification and detection deficits in Alzheimer’s disease. Brain Research Bulletin, 18, 597-600.
Doty, R L, Deems, D, & Stellar, S. (1988). Olfactory dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease: A general deficit unrelated to neurologic signs, disease stage, or disease duration. Neurology, 38, 1237-1244.

Educational Study Takes on New Text With Semiotics

By Donald J. Cunningham

Donald J. Cunningham

Donald J. Cunningham is the Barbara Jacobs Chair in education and technology and member of the faculties of education, cognitive science, semiotic studies and informatics at Indiana University in Bloomington. He teaches graduate courses and seminars in the learning, cognition, and instruction program in the department of counseling and educational psychology. He pursues research and development in computer mediated instruction and is a leading contributor to the development of semiotic/ constructivist theories of learning and instruction.

I completed my doctoral program in educational psychology at the University of Illinois in 1969 under the supervision of Richard C. Anderson and moved to Indiana University, where I am today.

I began my career as a behaviorist, a staunch advocate of B.F. Skinner and the programmed instruction movement, just like my mentor. I was deeply enmeshed within and committed to the scientific study of learning and to systems approaches to the design and development of instruction. I believed that with the proper application of rational canons of science and utilizing an evolving arsenal of methodological tools, we educational psychologists would be able to generate lawful descriptions of the teaching/learning process and, eventually, deliver prescriptions for educational practice.

Although I changed my theoretical proclivities to cognitive information processing as the field of psychology shifted away from behaviorism, I maintained a strong commitment to the traditional model of educational research. During this period, I was carrying out a modest program of research on “prose learning;” that is, learning by reading. I wanted to know what features of prose materials lead to efficient and effective learning outcomes? What strategies should we teach students in order to optimize comprehension? My move away from traditional psychological models began when I wondered exactly what I (and others, as well) meant by prose, text, discourse, etc. To cut a very long story short, this inquiry led me through a maze of discourse theory, literary criticism, hermeneutics, genre, intertextuality, poetics, and inevitably to semiotics.

I remember attending a meeting of the Semiotic Society of America in Bloomington in 1979 and being dazzled by the magnificent array of theoretical conceptions on display. The notion of text takes on quite a different meaning when applied to such diverse phenomena as a ballet, a barroom conversation, the Empire State Building, a seating arrangement at the United Nations, clothing, and so forth. At the time, the majority of research on text learning relied upon perhaps two-dozen texts. (Old-timers will remember Circle Island, a chapter from Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us, etc.) Yet psychologists continued to make sweeping generalizations about text processing and reading as if text were a fixed effect in an ANOVA model. What an impoverished conception of text we had, and consequently what an impoverished view of cognition. I was appalled at my own insularity as a psychologist from the research and writing of so many legendary figures, such as Charles S. Peirce, Roland Barthes, Claude Levi-Strauss, Gregory Bateson, Thomas Sebeok, Umberto Eco, and many more too numerous to mention. I grew resentful of the fact that my training had been so narrow and biased toward a particular world-view of scholarship, and not a little depressed about how insignificant I had come to regard my own previous work and that of most of the rest of my close colleagues at Indiana and elsewhere. A crossroads in my professional – and, as it turns out, personal – life.

When I became confident enough in my own emerging understanding and began speaking and writing about what semiotics might have to offer to education, I was greeted with reactions ranging from benign tolerance from friends and close colleagues to total incomprehension and, at times, hostility from others. More importantly, there was no community of kindred spirits, no identifiable reference group with whom we could share our ideas, sharpen and develop them. In part to form such a community, Gary Shank and I founded Semiotics and Education, a special interest group within the American Educational Research Association. But to our utter amazement, others of a semiotic persuasion “outed” themselves and the rest, as they say, is history.

Although we semioticians are certainly a long way from occupying the position of “normal science” in Kuhnian terms, the term semiotic is slowly creeping into the discourse of educational theory and research. The renewed interest in Vygotsky, the re-evaluation of Piaget’s constructivism and the increased availability of primary and secondary sources on Peirce’s work are only a few of the factors contributing to the gradual emergence of semiotics. We have even reached the point where recent textbooks on the psychology of learning and instruction (e.g., Driscoll, 2000) give extended and sympathetic treatments. Indiana University is exactly the kind of open and inclusive environment for alternative conceptions to flourish, and I am today professor of Educational Psychology, Cognitive Science, Informatics and Semiotic Studies, as well as Jacobs Chair in Education and Technology. That seems nontraditional to me.

Driscoll, M.P. (2000). Psychology of Learning for Instruction (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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