Letter from the Editor: Introduction to the March 2010 issue of The Experimental Psychology Bulletin

Emily Klein, Georgia State University



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Greetings from your new editor.

In this issue we have several columns that highlight changes that are occurring within Division 3.  First, John Wixted’s Program Chair report (see Executive Committee Meeting Minutes) describes the difficulties he went through as Program Chair and articulates a belief held by many academic research psychologists.  Namely that APA is primarily composed of non-scientifically oriented clinicians and that there is very little to be gained with an APA membership or by attending the annual meeting.  Upon distribution of the minutes, there was some discussion among Division 3 executive committee members whether John’s report should be published verbatim or if it would be better to summarize what was said and present the information in a more upbeat way.  Ultimately, the committee decided to publish the complete report, exactly as delivered, even though it highlights some areas of weakness.  While I can see how this report may be interpreted as depressing, I also think that it provides an important talking point and serves as a wake up call.  Academic research psychologists are a minority within the APA organization and the annual meeting is a clinically-oriented conference. These are very real issues that affect membership and the decision to attend the APA annual meeting.  Division 3 members should be discussing what this means and whether (and how) we should be doing something about it.

So, in the spirit of starting a dialogue, let me ask you: Why is APA (and Division 3) membership is important?  Is there anything that could or should be done to increase the benefits of membership?  What (if anything) should be done to increase Division 3 membership and representation at the APA annual meeting? Should we recruit additional members more aggressively?  Do we need to change the way we organize sessions at APA?  I encourage you to ask these questions of yourselves and of your colleagues.  I also encourage you to share your answers with members of the executive committee and on the newly created Division 3 yahoo group discussion group .

Also included in this newsletter are the details of a proposed name change for Division 3 from “Experimental Psychology” to “Cognition and Behavior”.  According to Ralph, an informal poll of the Division 3 membership revealed that most young members viewed the name “Experimental Psychology” as antiquated and declined to indentify themselves as experimental psychologists.  I was rather stuck by this because despite being a “young” member of Division 3, I do identify myself as an experimental psychologist and have no qualms about it.  I appreciate the term for its breadth and believe that it places me in the group of psychology professionals who are actively engaged in laboratory research and differentiates me from psychologists whose primary interest is in clinical practice.  Indeed, on the APA website Division 3 is described as a group with members who are employed in a variety of settings including universities, colleges, government, and industry and are united by their commitment to the development of experimental psychology as a science.  No mention is made of any particular research area.  However, as Ralph points out, several subareas that used to fit under the umbrella of experimental psychology have since formed their own divisions.  Perhaps it is time for those of us who study behavior and cognition to do the same. The naming issue will be decided at the August 2010 Division 3 business meeting.  Until then, I am happy to remain an experimental psychologist: one who just so happens to study cognition and behavior.

What about you?  Do you consider yourself an experimental psychologist?  If not, what do you indentify yourself and why?

As always Division 3 members are the best source of information for future articles.  Please let me know if there is anything you’d like to see in future issues (or better yet, write an article yourself!). I welcome all questions, comments, and compliments at edklei0@gsu.edu.