Psychologists on Non-Traditional Academic Departments

Psychology in Business SchoolsBy Max Bazerman

Max Bazerman is the Jesse Isidor Straus professor of business administration at Harvard University. He was previously on the faculty of the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University for 15 years. Bazerman’s research focuses on decision making, negotiation, creating joint gains in society, and the natural environment.

As a faculty member in a business school1 since 1979, I have often heard concerns and observations such expressed by psychology PhDs recruited by my department, including:

  • Economists dominate business schools.
  • There’s no subject pool in business schools.
  • You have to teach MBA students.
  • The pay is much better in business schools.
  • Business schools don’t appreciate basic research sufficiently.
  • Professors in business schools don’t get their own lab space.

While each one of these statements is at least roughly accurate, they fail to capture, both individually and in total, the key distinctions between being a psychologist in a psychology department and being a psychologist in a business school.

Before clarifying what I believe to be the key differences, it is important to note the similarities. Business schools and psychology departments both value the creation of new knowledge. Both value publication in what they view to be top journals. Both prefer dedicated teachers over indifferent educators. You can find excellent doctoral students as a member of a psychology department or as members of a business school. You can also have great psychologists as colleagues. In my most recent two positions (Northwestern, 1985-2000; Harvard, 1998 to present), I have had the opportunity to collaborate with, and learn from, excellent members of psychology departments, including Doug Medin, Dedre Gentner, Reid Hastie, Tom Tyler, Dan Gilbert, Dan Wegner, Nick Epley, Richard Hackman, and Mahzarin Banaji. At the same time, I have interacted with many excellent psychologists employed in business schools, including David Messick, Leigh Thompson, Keith Murnighan, Jeanne Brett, Deb Gruenfeld, Teresa Amabile, and Lorraine Idson. Both sets of colleagues have been essential to my intellectual development. A faculty member working in either a psychology department or a business school can expect to have access to collegial interaction across schools.

Yet differences do exist. Business schools tend to provide more generous research funding and to have better networked computer systems for research. Psychology departments tend to be better programmed to run pure laboratory experiments. However, flexible researchers can overcome the limitations of either group.

So, what are the key differences? First, in a psychology department, you are likely to be located near psychologists from beyond your immediate group of close colleagues. As a social psychologist, you are likely to know more about the latest developments in cognitive, developmental, and clinical psychology than your counterparts in the business school. By contrast, in a business school, you will interact with economists, psychologists, sociologists, interdisciplinary researchers, and still more economists (yes, there are a lot of them in business schools). A great deal can be learned from either group of colleagues. I think that psychologists benefit especially from interactions with basic researchers, but I also believe that top-notch social science emerges across disciplines. In addition, life experiences prompt observations that can fuel social science. Business schools may have the edge on prompting real-world thinking.

A second difference is that in a psychology department, faculty have very crisp preferences about journals. In a business school, more openness exists to the nature of the outlet. Publishing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology or Psychological Bulletin is valued very highly, but so is publishing in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes and the Academy of Management Review. Business schools offer more flexibility, but also create more ambiguity of expectation.

Third, and most importantly, as compared to those in psychology departments, psychologists in business schools tend to do research that more closely approaches prescription. This does not mean that they are practitioners. Rather, it means that their research is often one step closer to offering advice than is research conducted by members of psychology departments. A key example of this distinction comes from the field of behavioral decision research, pioneered by Amos Tversky and Danny Kahneman. Behavioral decision research delineates the systematic ways in which people psychologically deviate from rational behavior. Members of psychology departments have been undecided concerning where this field fits into their departments. Cognitive psychologists have criticized the identification of departures from rationality as lacking a model of underlying cognition, and social psychologists have appropriately noted that much of this work is not about social behavior. In contrast, because departures from rationality clarify mistakes for humans to avoid, behavioral decision research has been a natural fit in business schools. The fact that these departures are often measured against economic models provides further dialogue between psychologists and their colleagues in other business school departments. As a result, behavioral decision researchers have flocked to management schools, while their intellectual cousins in social-cognitive psychology remain more comfortable in psychology departments.

Where do you belong? This may be a tough question. As decision researchers would advise, many new psychology PhDs apply to both psychology departments and business schools, and then wait for more data. Hopefully this column adds a bit of guidance regarding the key distinctions that psychologists might find in a management school, in comparison to the comfortable surroundings of a psychology department.

Creating an Identity for Sport PsychologyBy Robert N. Singer

Robert N. Singer is professor in the department of exercise and sport sciences at the University of Florida. Singer received his PhD in 1964 from Ohio State University. His research interests are in understanding the role of cognitive processes in the acquisition of motor skill as well as in expertise, with implications for training them to facilitate achievement.

As a former collegiate basketball and baseball player, I have always held a deep love for sport and an appreciation for experiences associated with dedication and determination. Through the years, I have attempted to attain proficiency in many sports. My fascination and admiration for superb performers as well as those factors that contribute to excellence have shaped my career path in countless ways.

My first calling led me toward becoming a physical education teacher and coach. During my doctoral studies in physical education at Ohio State University, however, I became enthusiastic about psychology and the scientific study of behavior in addition to research, experimental methods, and statistics. I was able to create a minor in the psychology of learning and achievement area, and my personal challenge was not only to digest the contents of the psychology classes but to do it well.

In 1964, I was hired by the Department of Physical Education at Ohio State University. During my stay at OSU and through other experiences at Illinois State University and Michigan State University, I developed undergraduate and graduate motor learning courses. This knowledge, combined with my undergraduate class notes prompted me to write a textbook in 1968, entitled Motor Learning and Human Performance. It was recognized as one of the top 20 books in education that year.

I began a 17-year career at Florida State University in 1970, in what was then called physical education. I created undergraduate courses, as well as master’s and doctoral programs, in sport psychology in 1972, perhaps the first or among the first in the United States, and completed the same work at the University of Florida shortly after I was hired there in 1987 as chair of the department of exercise and sport sciences. During my entire career, I have always had close relationships with colleagues of significant scientific and professional stature in psychology. We have collaborated in a variety of ways, such as sharing ideas for research and serving on advisory committees for doctoral students. I would not have been able to personally accomplish what I have, nor establish national and international graduate programs in motor learning and sport psychology, without the professional and research support of my university psychology colleagues.

My primary research interests are in understanding the role of cognitive processes in the acquisition of motor skill as well as in expertise, with implications for training them to facilitate achievement. The preparatory state for self-paced acts is crucial, considering control over emotions, cognitions, body mechanics, and performance consistency. I have developed the 5-Step Strategy, a preperformance routine, to enhance learning and performance, and it is being researched under various laboratory and field conditions (e.g., Singer, 2000, 2002). In contrast, externally-paced acts with tight time constraints and event uncertainty require early anticipation, adaptive decision-making, and timely effective actions. I have been studying sport experts and novices in regard to such factors, as well as visual search patterns, with implications for understanding successful performance (e.g., Singer et al., 1998). My research agenda, considering self-paced and externally-paced events, could be summarized as “Attentional and Cognitive Processes, Deliberate Conscious Activity versus Automaticity, and the Acquisition of Skill to Expertise.”

I am also professionally involved in developing perspectives about the nature and direction of sport psychology, considering scholarly, curricula, ethical, and professional issues. Since the field is still not well-understood not clearly articulated, it is important to generate an identity and focus for sport psychology. The Handbook of Sport Psychology (Singer, Hausenblas, and Janelle, 2001) has made a major contribution in this regard.

Sport psychology can be viewed as one of a number of sport sciences or as one of many specializations in psychology. In a department like ours, termed Exercise and Sport Sciences at the University of Florida, or Kinesiology elsewhere (such as Pennsylvania State University), the interest is in research and education related to achieving in sport, exercise, and other movement domains. Generally speaking, psychologists are more interested in clinical and counseling services for athletes, although research is on the increase. Due to the typically different professional, educational, and research perspectives associated with sport psychology in departments of psychology and departments of exercise and sport sciences, this specialization has grown rapidly in depth and breadth in recent years because of the collaborative efforts on the part of many dedicated people.

My academic, scholarly, professional, and personal relationships bridge these two areas and doing so has enabled me to be constantly challenged, stimulated, productive, and enthusiastic about my work. I feel as excited now as I did when I began my career. Indeed, my path from my doctoral degree until now was totally non-charted and unexpected, as sport psychology was not recognized in the 1960s as a discipline worthy of study. I have been fortunate to feel fulfilled, and I am appreciative of my numerous and varied opportunities, which include serving as head of the Sport Psychology Division of the first Sports Medicine Committee of the United States Olympic Committee in 1978.

After all these years of studying the psychology of behavior and the cognitive/neuroscience literature, while attempting to contribute to the scientific body of knowledge, as well as have an impact in the “real world” in certain areas associated with sport psychology, I still feel a sense of frustration. I wish I could apply what I think I know to my “game.” I would like to anticipate better in tennis, not lose my temper in golf, concentrate more effectively when I bowl, and endure more pain on the treadmill and in the swimming pool to improve cardiovascular fitness. But then again, where would the excitement be in this type of sport?

Singer, R.N. (2002). Preperformance state, routines, and automaticity: What does it take to realize expertise in self-paced events? Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 24, 359-375.

Singer, R.N., & Burke, K.L. (2002). Sport and exercise psychology: A positive force in the new millennium. In J.L. Van Raelte & B.W. Brewer (Eds.), Exploring sport and exercise psychology 2nd edition (pp. 525-539). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Singer, R.N., Hausenblas, H.A., & Janelle, C.M. (Eds.). (2001). Handbook of sport psychology, 2nd ed. New York: Wiley & Sons.

Singer, R.N. (2000). Performance and human factors: Considerations about cognition and attention for self-paced and externally-paced events. Ergonomics, 10, 1661-1680.

Singer, R.N., Williams, A.M., Frehlich, S.G., Janelle, C.M., Radlo, S.J., Barba, D.A., & Bouchard, L.J. (1998). New frontiers in visual search: An exploratory study in live tennis situations. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 69(3), 290-296.

Applying Scientific Psychology to Questions of LawBy Jennifer K. Robbennolt

Jennifer K. Robbennolt is an associate professor of law and senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution at the University of Missouri School of Law. She earned a JD and a PhD in social psychology from the University Nebraska-Lincoln and served as a law clerk for the Nebraska Supreme Court. Before joining the University of Missouri, she was a research associate and lecturer at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and department of psychology.

My interest in the intersection of psychology and law began when I took an undergraduate course in psychology and law at Willamette University. My interest was piqued, and I pursued a law degree and a PhD in social psychology simultaneously in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s law/psychology program. After graduate school I spent some time clerking for a state Supreme Court judge, and a post-doctoral research appointment in public affairs and psychology, I joined the faculty of the University of Missouri School of Law as an associate professor of law and senior fellow in the Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution. In this role I have many opportunities to apply the theories and methods of psychology to interesting and motivating legal questions.

As a psychological scientist working on research topics that involve both psychological and legal questions, I have had the opportunity to explore areas as diverse as how citizens and judges determine punitive damages and the implications of these findings for tort reform. I have also explored the role of empirical research in informing the law of intestacy, the role of the media in influencing the public’s perceptions of the legal system as well as the decisions of various players in the system, and the role of apologies in the resolution of disputes.

The academic environment of a law school is both similar to and different from that of a department of psychology. Psychological scientists within departments of psychology may have primary interests in diverse areas of psychology (ranging from cognitive to social to developmental to neurological and so on). They have in common, however, both a shared interest in the study of psychology and a shared commitment to the use of scientific methodologies to explore their questions of interest. Similarly, my colleagues in the law school have primary interests in diverse areas of the law (ranging from constitutional law to the law of property or contracts, to criminal law and other areas). The common thread that ties us together is not the use of scientific methodology to approach our questions (though interest in empirical research is growing in legal academia), but rather a common interest in understanding, commenting on, and improving the law.

That there are fewer empirical researchers in a law school than in a psychology department is both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity. There are fewer natural opportunities for detailed discussion of methodology or statistics. For such discussions, I often look to colleagues in other departments or at other institutions. But there is a wealth of practical experience that grounds one’s research and stimulates one’s ideas about areas of the law that are ripe for the insights of psychology. Moreover, the opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and exchange abound. Legal scholars with backgrounds in other fields such as sociology, journalism, and political science are very interested in the insights that psychology and empirical research methods might bring to a broad array of topics. There are exciting possibilities for bringing psychology to areas of the law that are not my own substantive expertise (and that have been less frequently examined by psychological scientists).

My interaction with students is somewhat different as well. I am less likely to work directly with graduate students in psychology, though I do sit on thesis committees in psychology, as well as in other departments such as agricultural economics. Instead, being on the faculty at a law school provides me with the opportunity to introduce psychological science to large groups of future attorneys. I am able to introduce them to psychological theories in a variety of substantive legal classes. Even more often, I am able to challenge their thinking and introduce them to scientific ways of conceptualizing and analyzing problems. In addition, I teach empirical research methods to a smaller group of LLM students-attorneys who have returned to school for special training in dispute resolution.

While my identity as a psychologist is relatively salient to my colleagues here, it takes some effort to retain one’s identity as a psychologist when one’s academic home is a law school. A desire to maintain a connection to psychology has implications for decisions about how to frame research questions, where to publish the results, and how to keep current with developments in psychology as well as law. While the challenges are plentiful, the opportunities presented make facing them worthwhile.

Combining Psychological Science and Nursing to Promote Patient AdherenceBy Jacqueline Dunbar-Jacob

Jacqueline Dunbar-Jacob is the dean of the school of nursing at the University of Pittsburgh. Dunbar-Jacobs was the founding director of the university’s Center for Nursing Research. Her research focuses on patient adherence to treatment and work on studies related to AIDS, rheumatology, cardiovascular risk factors, cancer screening, and transplantation.

Nursing is a discipline that routinely addresses pa-tient care and is concerned with the behavior and adjustment or coping of individuals and families. There are varying levels of nursing certification and practitioners are sent out at undergraduate and graduate levels. The education and research programs in schools of nursing reflect those varying levels. While there is an increasing amount of basic laboratory science in nursing, the bulk of the research is clinical. In many ways, nursing is similar to health psychology with an emphasis, however, on both physical and psychological care.

From the time of my undergraduate education, I was pulled between nursing and psychology. My undergraduate curriculum was filled with courses from both, but I graduated with my BS in nursing and migrated into psychiatric nursing. When I entered my doctoral program, my interests in behavior naturally led me to psychology. I completed a program in counseling psychology at Stanford University with a dissertation that merged the two backgrounds – adherence to pharmacological treatment.

Since then, my academic appointments have been in either medicine or nursing. My research interests have remained in patient adherence. The dual discipline training has been a significant asset. Bringing both of my disciplines to bear on the problem has opened doors to collaborations with others. Sitting within a school of nursing has further facilitated that interdisciplinary perspective. When there is a link between disciplines, there is an expansion of thinking that is fun, creative and productive.

One of the interesting things about nursing is, because of its practice settings, interdisciplinary collaborations are second nature. There is a common language and perspective between the health professions that facilitates these collaborations. Bringing a psychological perspective into this setting is generally well accepted and leads to very interesting interactions. For example, I collaborate with medicine, pharmacy, occupational therapy, psychology (health, neuro, clinical, social), public health, biostatistics, and nursing, as well as robotics, computer science, and engineering in my own projects. One of the advantages to sitting in a non-traditional department is the synergy that develops among faculty from diverse disciplines. Maintaining identity is perhaps the most difficult aspect of such a placement and requires continual work.

Psychologist Turned CantorBy Scott Sokol

Scott Sokol is director of the Jewish Music Institute and Jewish special education and an adjunct associate professor of Jewish music and educational psychology at Hebrew College. Previously, he was a research scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor in cognitive neuropsychology at Harvard Medical School.

Like most members of APS, I consider myself a scientist whose field of research lies within psychology, in my case cognitive neuropsychology. My graduate training at Johns Hopkins invested me (or so I hope) with a logical and systematic approach to the study of cognition with critical reasoning skills that have helped ground me across a wide range of professional activities.

After earning my PhD, I moved to a dual-track position as a research scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School. I was named a Fellow of APS shortly thereafter, presumably in acknowledgment of a reasonably successful scientific career to that point, and with the expectation for more of the same in the future. Those expectations notwithstanding, my career soon took several unexpected turns, and I now find myself in the position of explaining to friends and colleagues (including the present audience) how a psychological scientist ended up working as a cantor and a special educator.

As a cognitive neuropsychologist, the majority of my research has been informed by the performance of brain-damaged subjects, including patients who had suffered strokes, head injury, and dementia, and later extended to children with learning disabilities. At some point, it occurred to me that the same patients who had granted me unique insight into cognitive processes might themselves benefit from those insights, and more generally from the emerging paradigm of cognitive neuropsychology as it might be applied to the clinic. I began conducting neuropsychological assessments as an intern, eventually earning a license as a clinical neuropsychologist.

I imagine some of my former professors were not too keen on my move away from basic research, but they were soon to be more greatly disappointed when it appeared that I would give up psychology altogether to become a clergyman. That chapter of my life falls a bit outside the scope of this article. However, for the sake of complete disclosure I will simply say that I took a sabbatical from full-time work as a psychologist and went back to school to study for the cantorate. (For those unfamiliar with this profession, cantors are synagogue professionals whose primary responsibilities include chanting the liturgy and instructing the community in Jewish music.) I maintained a part-time position at MGH during my cantorial schooling, and worked in both careers for a time after my ordination.

About three years ago, however, I left my positions at MGH and HMS to devote myself more fully to the cantorate. At the same time, I helped to begin, and ultimately to direct, an academic program in Jewish Special Education at Hebrew College in Boston. This program trains special educators who plan to teach in Jewish day schools or supplementary religious schools. The curriculum includes general coursework that one would find in any Special Education program (e.g., assessment), as well as coursework specifically geared to the Jewish environment (e.g., developmental reading for those learning Hebrew as a second language). The program attempts to fill a void in the Jewish community, training educators who are able to work with children with cognitive and behavioral disabilities.

One might find it curious that a director of a special education program never took a single course in special education. And yet, I would argue that my scientific training as a cognitive neuropsychologist combined with my clinical training in assessment have actually left me somewhat uniquely qualified for the position. The information-processing paradigm in which I was inculcated offers a great deal to the science and practice of special education. Similarly, the real-world challenges of teaching children with special needs provide important reality-checks to the theoretician and laboratory-empiricist alike.

Within an academic environment that includes only one other psychologist (who primarily teaches codes of Jewish law), I do find myself somewhat isolated from the sort of scientific discourse and collegial interactions that many in more traditional positions take for granted. Nonetheless, I believe that my colleagues and students appreciate the unique contribution that scientific psychology offers into human learning and behavior. Indeed, were I to rewind to the beginning of my graduate training knowing where I would ultimately end up, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change a thing.

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