The Society for the History of Psychology, Division 26 of the American Psychological Association, has issued a call for papers for the 2013 annual convention. The convention will be held in Honolulu, Hawaii from July 31 to August 4. The deadline for submissions has been extended from Friday, November 16, 2012 to Tuesday, November 20, 2012. Full details can be found here.
Thoughts on having read (half of) Stanley Fish’s 2011 book, How to Write a Sentence:
Long ago, in order to seem more “scientific,” the discipline of psychology decided to adopt (and rigorously enforce) a staccato, just-the-facts writing style. We drill it into our students in nearly every course, using a multi-hundred-page writing manual that everyone is expected to own and use. Indeed, in some courses, knowledge of APA style seems to loom more important even than knowledge of the psychological topic (cognition, personality, social, etc.) that is supposedly being taught.
It was originally intended, I suspect, to be a kind of anti-style in which “things” would be the only persuasive factors at work, all rhetorical techniques having been banished to the not-entirely-trusted realm of “words,” so that the reader would not be confused by the eloquent flourishes of crafty belle-lettrists of times past (or of the humanities present). This justification is, of course, ridiculous. A spare, telegraphic writing style is every bit as much a style as an elaborately ornamented one; giving the appearance of reporting “just the facts” is every bit as much a rhetorical technique — viz., one intended to be persuasive beyond the mere quality of the content — as is one that displays erudition through the most startling verbal gymnastics.
My question, then, is what important insights has psychology, the discipline, made it difficult or impossible to express by cleaving so strictly to this particular style, rather than allowing a wider range of writing styles to exist side-by-side in the discipline?
Linda Beebe, the senior director of PsycINFO (the psychology search engine), has written a brief history describing the evolution of the world’s premiere resource for psychological literature. [Update: the original link is no longer accessible; see a cached version here.] It provides a fascinating look at a part of the discipline that we often take for granted.
PsycINFO began in 1967 with the first electronic publication of the bibliographic records included in that year’s print Psychological Abstracts. The ability to produce an electronic product so early in the computing revolution came about as a result of grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a Scientific Information Exchange Project.
In 1965 the APA Publications Board approved an experimental study of the feasibility of producing Psychological Abstracts by the Photon process, which would yield magnetic tapes that could be used for information retrieval.
The production process was crude by today’s standards, as the electronic output was the result of a long paper-and-pencil creation process. However, when implemented in 1966, it greatly changed nearly everything about the production of Psychological Abstracts….
With a monthly, rather than a bimonthly, publication schedule, lag times were cut dramatically from as much as 3 years to as little as 3 months. The quantity of abstracts published also increased, moving from 8,381 in 1963 to 13,622 in 1966; and by the end of the decade the annual output had risen to 18,068….
In 1980 PsycINFO published 31,764 abstracts in electronic form…. By 1989, the annual total had grown to 52,442 abstracts….
The million-record mark was reached in 1995. Now there are more than 3 million records. Many of these link directly to PDF and HTML full-text, through the PsycARTICLES database. Continue reading Brief History of PsycINFO
A digital archive of material related to an American Psychological Association questionnaire on research ethics issued between 1968 and 1970 has been launched online. This resource, the Wesleyan Digital Archive of Psychology has been put together under the leadership of Jill Morawski and Laura Stark, both of Wesleyan University. Although the material for the digital archive is still under development, several sample surveys are currently available on the site, both as transcriptions and as digital images (as pictured at left). The Wesleyan Digital Archive of Psychology is described as follows:
Between 1968 and 1970, more than 3,000 psychologists wrote to leaders of the American Psychological Association and described instances of ethically questionable research. The psychologists were responding to a questionnaire that the APA mailed to two-thirds of its members—19,000 psychologists in all. The organization used psychologists’ stories to update its ethics code in 1973.
The stories offer a vivid, panoramic view of American psychology in the decades after World War II from the perspectives of students, practitioners, and human subjects of research. The Wesleyan Digital Archive of Psychology is creating an electronic repository of the responses in two formats: as transcribed text documents, and as digital images. As of October 2010, transcription of the first wave of the questionnaire responses (comprising 1,000 responses) is complete. Continue reading Wesleyan Digital Archive of Psychology
I think this counts as an event worthy of breaking AHP’s summer silence.
The American Psychological Association (APA) has come out in favor of stripping James Mitchell of his license to practice. Mitchell (pictured right) is one of the psychologists who worked for the CIA developing and applying controversial “enhanced” interrogation techniques that were used against terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay prison and other “black sites” that the CIA maintains around the world. An Associated Press article about the APA’s actions can be found here.
The is move surprising because the APA has been heavily criticized both from within its membership and without for being evasive in efforts to forbid its members from participating in such activities. First it issued directives with ambiguous wording. When the membership voted overwhelmingly in favor of a more direct statement against torture, the APA Board came under fire for dragging its feet in implementing the resolution.
According to a blog post by psychologist and anti-torture activist Jeff Kaye, the APA may have been altering and deleting articles from on-line versions of its own publications that documented its participation in torture workshops co-mounted with the CIA and the Rand Corporation.
Kaye cites articles from the APA’s Science Policy Insider News website and from APA’s Spin that have been previously cited in major publications such as Vanity Fair, but whose URL’s now only bring up a “page is not available” message. He says that the originals can now be found only through “a web archive search engine.”
Kaye concedes that “the scrubbing of the page describing truth drugs and sensory overload could be attributed to some normal archiving decision, or the victim of a web do-over” but insists that “the excision of the text and link to the site on the referring page cannot be an accident.” (Indeed, the APA launched a major overhaul of its web site in the past year.) Kaye continues:
APA has a history of bad faith on such issues. Recently, they rewrote a problematic section of their ethical code, dubbed the Nuremberg loophole by some, which allowed psychologists to violate their ethical rules if done to comply with “law, regulations, or other governing legal authority.”
Kaye’s blog item item has been picked up by the website of Harper’s magazine.
(Thanks to Ron Sheese for alerting me to this.)
In a meeting of the Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association, held in Washington over the weekend, the Association’s funding of the Archive for the History of American Psychology (AHAP) for 2010 was restored to previous levels. The change to APA’s funding of AHAP came as the result of a friendly amendment to the 2010 APA budget proposed by James Pate, Council Representative of the Society of the History of Psychology, Division 26 of the APA.
AHP previously covered the APA’s decision to reduce its funding of AHAP from $60,000 to $20,000 a year, as well as the resultant fallout from this decision, which included the resignation of prominent APA member Ludy Benjamin Jr. from the association. This weekend’s budget vote reversed the drop in funding to AHAP, but only for 2010. Efforts to ensure a long term restoration of APA funding for AHAP continue.
In response to news of APA’s increase in 2010 funding for AHAP, David Baker, Director of the Archives of the History of American Psychology, informs AHP that, “We are very pleased that our colleagues on the APA Council of Representatives would rally to the cause of the history of psychology.”
The APA’s decision to cut funding to AHAP, and the resultant fallout, was previously discussed on AHP here, here, and here.
Previously on AHP: during the American Psychological Association’s (APA) annual convention, held earlier this month in Toronto, the APA Council approved a drastic cut in funding to Archives of the History of American Psychology (AHAP). AHP’s previous coverage of APA’s funding cuts to AHAP, and the fall out thereof, can be found here and here.
Now, Christopher Green, President of the Society for the History of Psychology, Division 26 of the APA, has voiced his opinion on the recent decision to cut funding to AHAP. Green, in a recent letter to APA President James Bray, voiced his disappointment at APA’s decision with respect to AHAP. Both Green’s letter to Bray and Bray’s response follow.
In his letter to President Bray, Green wrote:
I am compelled to register my extreme disappointment with the shabby treatment that the APA has accorded the Archives for the History of American Psychology (AHAP) at the University of Akron. Although the APA’s normal annual contribution to AHAP had already been approved by APA Council earlier in the year, an unelected APA administrator took it upon himself to unilaterally cut the contribution in half, exposing this important research institution — an affiliate of the Smithsonian — to serious operational difficulties in the middle of the year with no advance warning. Continue reading SHP Pres’s letter; APA Pres. Bray’s Response
Breaking news: Ludy Benjamin Jr. has resigned from the American Psychological Association.
In addition to his well-known and long-standing scholarly involvement in the Society for the History of Psychology, for which he was recognized as a Fellow in 1981, he has also shaped the last quarter-century of several APA divisions: Teaching (Division 2), for which he was recognized as a Fellow in 1982; General Psychology (Div. 1) and Psychology of Women (Div. 35) in 1990; and Experimental Psychology (Div. 3) in 1997.
His presence will surely be missed.
But the reasons for his resignation run deeper than the recent cuts made to the Archives of the History of American Psychology. In a note sent to the listserv of the Society for the History of Psychology, he explained:
I began thinking about resigning when APA Council began passing resolutions on the involvement of psychologists in torture and interrogations that were opposite to positions taken by other national associations in health care and public welfare. But I stayed in because of the AHAP funding issues. As I indicated in my resignation letter to James Bray, I was not resigning because APA cut funds to the Archives. But I was resigning because the process was, in my opinion, one of subterfuge from the initiation of the cuts in Central Office through what I perceived as the rigged debate on the floor of Council in Toronto.
He will also return his Presidential Citation, awarded for his many contributions to the Association.
I have been a student affiliate member since my senior year in college and a member since 1971. I have been to every APA convention since 1974. In the nearly 40 years of my membership I have held many offices in APA on boards and committees and APA Council, as well as spending two years in APA Central Office as Director of the Office of Educational Affairs. APA has given me much and I have worked hard for the Association in return.
Yet, even as he resigns from the APA, he won’t be leaving History.
Resigning was not an easy decision for me. It is something that until recently I never imagined that I would do. APA has meant much to me and it pains me to leave the Association in this way. However, I feel that my own values do not mesh well with those of the Association’s leadership. I will continue to support the Society for the History of Psychology and maintain my membership there.
To join the Society for the History of Psychology, without first joining the American Psychological Association, find information here. For information about how to support the Archives of the History of American Psychology (both financially and in terms of donating historical materials), look here.
The American Psychological Association (APA)’s 117th annual convention wrapped up yesterday in Toronto, Canada. The Society for the History of Psychology (SHP), APA’s Division 26, put on a full and engaging program of 39 sessions over the four days which culminated with APA Council bestowing upon Dr. Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. a presidential citation in recognition of his contributions to the discipline. But a decision by APA council just before noon on Sunday would put a damper on the mood of the whole event: they have decided to cut their annual contribution to the Archives for the History of American Psychology (AHAP) from $60,000 annually to $30,000 this year and $20,000 next year. This decision was made against the recommendations by many on council who stood to speak up against such a significant budget cut to an archives that counts among its collection the papers of many past APA presidents and APA divisions.
These actions by the APA are extremely disappointing. I would go so far as to say that from the point of view of a graduate student in the history of psychology, they are discouraging. AHAP is the only archives dedicated to psychology in North America and serves as a valuable resource to all who are interested in the discipline’s history. I contacted David Baker, director of AHAP, who replied that “It is indeed disappointing that the Executive Management Group and the Board of Directors fail to see the value of our shared past.”
I hope you will join me in (1) writing to APA Council of Representatives in protest of this decision and (2) donating to AHAP to show our support of the work they do for the discipline.