Secrets of the APA Inner Sanctum

Alan Kazdin, APA PresidentSo, here I am at the “Leadership Conference” of the American Psychological Association in Washington DC. This is where all the new presidents-elect of the APA’s 54(!) divisions gather together to be initiated into the second circle of APA-ism.

I learned a few things about the APA today that I thought others might be interested in. But first a trivia question. Every APA member is allowed to cast 10 votes for one of more divisions that s/he wants to be represented on the APA Council. (The multiple votes allow one to split ones influence in various ways: all 10 to a single division; 5 each to two divisions; 7 votes to one and 3 to another, etc.) This process is called “apportionment.” Which division to you think receives the greatest apportionment votes from the APA membership? (Answer at the bottom of this post.)

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has been following APA politics over the past decade that the primary concern of the Association is membership: membership numbers, divisional membership, average age of members, numbers of student affiliates and “early career” members, numbers of ethnic minority members, etc.

The numbers we were given this evening in a talk by APA President Alan Kazdin tell the reason why. The average age of APA members has now slipped north of 50 years, and only 18% of APA members are under 40. Divisional memberships, in particular, are down virtually across the board.

I was given some interesting numbers that pertain specifically to the membership of Division 26 (Society for the History of Psychology). There are 610 members in SHP. They are 80% male, 86% white, and 52% over the age of 65. Although there has been much concern expressed by the divisional executive about these numbers over the years (myself included), it would appear, simply, that many people become interested in history in the second half of their careers and join the division then. About 2/3 of SHP’s membership comes from the eastern US: 28% from New England or the Mid-Atlantic states, 21% from the “North-Central” region of the US (I am guessing OH, IN, MI, WI, MN, IL, IA), and 17% South Atlantic. Only 4% is Canadian. Some 22% of SHP members declare “clinical” to be their “major field,” 17% “experimental,” and 11% “general/methods & systems.” Despite this, few SHP members also hold memberships in clinical or other applied divisions: 33% are also members of Division 1 (General Psychology), 27% are also members of Division 2 (Teaching of Psychology), and 22% are also members of Division 3 (Experimental Psychology).

And now for the answer to the trivia question. Division 39 (Psychoanalysis) gets the greatest slice of the apportionment vote with 5.86% (nearly 9000 votes). This may come as a surprise to those who like to declare that psychoanalysis is “dead” in psychology. It gives psychoanlaysis 7 seats on the powerful APA Council, more than any other single division. In second place is Division 42 (Psychologists in Independent Practice) with 5.32% (just over 8000 votes) and 6 council seats. For the record, SHP gets 0.37% of the apportionment vote (577 votes) and gets 1 council seat (which is currently occupied by David Baker, Director of the Archives for the History of American Psychology in Akron, OH).

About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.

3 thoughts on “Secrets of the APA Inner Sanctum

  1. In response to Jacy’s question, The Psychoanalysis Division (39) has over 3100 members. This makes them relatively large, but not the largest Division, by any means. The Psychotherapy Division (29) has 3300 members; the Clinical Division (12) has 4700; the Independent Practice Division (42) has 5100. However, less than half of Division 39 members (45%) belong to any other Division. This contrasts with Divisions 29 (80%), 12 (80%), and 42 (70%). As a result, a large proportion of the Psychoanalysis Division members give all 10 of their apportionment votes to that one Division, whereas members of other large Divisions are more likely to split their apportionment votes among a number of Divisions. As a result, Psychoanalysis has the largest apportionment vote and, consequently, gets the largest number on seats on APA Council.

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