The journal Perspectives on Psychological Science continues to recognize the 25th anniversary of APS by featuring a series of special sections that take a look at how the field has changed over the last 25 years.
The special section in the November issue includes articles that explore a wide range of topics, including the science of well-being, the burgeoning field of social neuroscience, advances in research on autism and dyslexia, integrative approaches to understanding the brain on stress, psychological perspectives on cardiovascular diseases, the challenge of examining health disparities, and the development of parent-training programs.
In the early 1980s, researchers examining subjective well-being (SWB) focused primarily on its demographic correlates; since then, the questions and methodologies used to examine SWB have grown in both variety and scope. In addition to studying the main components of SWB, scientists are examining the top-down and bottom-up factors affecting SWB and the long-term outcomes of this trait. SWB research has moved beyond the individual to the national and international level, with researchers examining differences in SWB across various societies and cultures. Although this field has blossomed over the past 30 years, many avenues remain open for exciting new research.
John T. Cacioppo and Stephanie Cacioppo
When the field of social neuroscience was proposed almost 25 years ago, its researchers faced a daunting prospect. Not only did they have to justify such a discipline’s existence, but they also had to integrate research and theory from a range of diverse fields and perspectives. Although some fragmentation can still be seen in social neuroscience, there is also evidence of increased communication and collaboration. The tremendous advances in our understanding of the social brain, mind, and behavior will be carried on by new generations of interdisciplinary researchers.
The study of autism and dyslexia has undergone quite a few changes in the past 25 years. Early work developing autism and dyslexia measures for use in adult populations, combined with brain-scanning technology, has given scientists important insights into the neural and behavioral profile of these disorders in adulthood and has opened the door to similar work in children. Although much has been learned about autism and dyslexia in the past 25 years, more remains to be discovered, and future work should focus on the brain mechanisms dedicated to processing social stimuli and how they contribute to the development and maintenance of these disorders.
Bruce S. McEwen
In the late 1960s, members of the Behavioral Science Program at The Rockefeller University consisted of a who’s who of researchers in physiological psychology, cognitive psychology, and animal behavior. The work conducted in this program led to the idea of the brain as a key organ of stress response. Scientists examining the effect of stress have branched out into studies of early vulnerability to stress, the effect of stress across the lifespan, positive adaptive effects that occur in the aftermath of stress exposure, and neural and biomedical measures of cumulative stress. The next stage of research in this field will include studies examining ways we can alter brain function in the aftermath of stress exposure and adversity.
Karen A. Matthews
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States. Research examining psychological influences on the development of CVD began in the early 1970s with investigations into the influence of Type A personality on CVD risk. This early research helped contribute to the recognition of behavioral and psychological science as an integral part of health and medicine research and practice. Although the Type A research was an excellent starting point for a psychological approach to the study of health, the field has moved forward, using multilevel modeling and a life-span approach to understand how a wide range of psychological constructs relate to a diverse array of disease outcomes.
Nancy E. Adler
In the past two decades, scientists have identified an important association between socioeconomic status (SES) and health disparities. During this time, they have moved from studies examining the presence of an SES-health disparity gradient to studies examining the mechanisms that are responsible for this phenomenon, such as increased violence and stress, and lack of health care and exercise. Although this research has resulted in a better understanding of how health disparities are formed, the next step is to design interventions and introduce policies aimed at the pathways by which inequality damages health.
Marion S. Forgatch, Gerald R. Patterson, and Abigail H. Gewirtz
The past 25 years have seen the development of a variety of parent-training programs. Although many of these programs have been shown to be effective, few have made it into routine practice. Forgatch, Patterson, and Gewirtz discuss the first decade of work implementing the Parent Management Training-Oregon Model intervention as an example of the way parenting interventions are put into practice in real-world settings. The road from the beginning of the implementation process to the point at which a community can take control of the program is a long one. Fortunately, the creation of new technologies capable of breaking down communication barriers may help speed the process in the future.