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Kristi S. Multhaup
Mark E. Faust
Univ. of North Carolina at Charlotte
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I have been interested in science for as long as I can remember. At first I wanted to be a physicist and with that in mind I left Irvington, New Jersey to begin my college career at Caltech. It was exciting to have classes with the likes of Linus Pauling and Richard Feynman.
Feynman was particularly amazing for the depth and breadth of his interests and knowledge. He organized a special lecture series on Thursday mornings when there were no other scheduled classes, at which he would hold forth on any topic of his choosing.) As broad and deep as the educational experience in the physical sciences was, I also discovered at Caltech the enormous appeal of the psychological sciences. There were two chief, and very different, sources of inspiration. One was Roger Sperry who had a professorship in Psychobiology. His early research on split-brain preparations, which he presented in the freshman biology class, was extremely thought provoking (and, of course, remains so to this day). The other was the psychologist John Weir who taught a course on human relations that had some very “touchy feely” components, and that I found as thought-provoking as Sperry’s work.
As much as I enjoyed my time at Caltech, two years there was long enough for me to conclude that I really wanted to do something with more human content than physics. During the summer following my sophomore year while casting about for a new direction I went to the Stevens Institute of Technology for an intensive three-day series of psychological tests. At the end of the testing the consultant I had been assigned laid out several plausible careers for someone with my interests and aptitudes. One was to be a psychologist. That seemed like a very reasonable option, especially considering how interesting I had found my exposure to the field had been at Caltech. I transferred to the Newark campus of Rutgers University and finished out my undergraduate career there. There were some really great people at Rutgers including Dan Lehrman, a comparative psychologist, Dorothy Dinnerstein, a perceptionist (and later famous as a feminist writer), Mavis Hetherington, a developmental psychologist, and William D. Wells, an applied psychologist who had ties to the Benton and Bowles advertising agency in New York. I ended up getting a part-time job working with Wells on issues related to the concerns of B&B’s clients. For example, we used a tachistoscope large enough to hold four cans of Glade room deodorizer, and then tested the colors of the can tops for conspicuity. (When I applied to graduate school I visited Leo Hurvich at NYU and he asked me what I had been doing. I told him about the Glade experiment; his shocked response was something to the effect, “Why in God’s name would anyone do that”? )
My time at Rutgers was intellectually stimulating. For Lehrman’s class I pressed my family (my parents Lou and Lillian Egeth, and my younger sister, Toby) into service running an experiment in our cellar: I attempted to replicate James McConnell’s then new and famous experiments on the cannibalistic transfer of learning in planaria. We were unable to accomplish the first step—we could not classically condition the planaria. As far as I am concerned, this is the correct result. For Dinnerstein’s class in Experimental Psychology (a class of five students) I had somewhat better luck and did experiments that led eventually to two publications. One was a test of Estes’s notion of one-trial learning, and the other was the discovery of a new thermal aftereffect. (John Locke was wrong: If you put one hand in cool water and one hand in warm water, and then put both hands in middling water, the hand that was previously in warm water does not necessarily feel cool and the hand that was in cool water does not necessarily feel warm. Depending on the temperatures, assimilation occurs rather than classical contrast.) This may make it sound like I became quickly and completely dedicated to a career in experimental psychology. Thinking back, I’m not sure this was the case. I found some of the popular social science books published at that time (e.g., The Organization Man; The Hidden Persuaders; The Lonely Crowd) to be enormously interesting, and I was a very keen reader of Freud; it strikes me that with a slightly different “reinforcement schedule” I could well have gone into another field of psychology.
I went to Michigan for graduate school. It was great. (I sometimes wonder if I am a Pollyanna; I like every institution I have attended or worked at.) The faculty was outstanding, consisting of such luminaries as Paul Fitts, Jack Atkinson, Arthur Melton, Clyde Coombs, Spike Tanner, James Olds, and Robert Zajonc to name just a few. There were also outstanding junior faculty such as Dick Pew and Dan Weintraub. My first year project was jointly supervised by Fitts and Atkinson and was on the effects of need for achievement and task anxiety on performance in choice reaction time tasks. I offer this information as evidence that when I entered Michigan I was perhaps not completely set on what later became known as “cognitive psychology” as a career choice. But somehow the choice was made. Perhaps it was influence from fellow students. The students in my class, who entered in 1961, sometimes felt that we learned as much from one another as we learned from the faculty. This may not sound credible, but keep in mind that my classmates included Amos Tversky, Ed Smith, Irv Biederman, Bob Crowder, and Bob Sorkin. My closest collaborator at Michigan was Ed Smith; we did research on mental set and visual search and got embroiled very early in the effort to distinguish parallel and serial processes in perception and memory. That latter project formed the basis of my thesis research, which was carried out in the Human Performance Laboratory under the supervision of Paul Fitts. When Fitts died during my last year at Michigan, Dan Weintraub took over as my advisor.
I went directly from Michigan to Johns Hopkins, where I have been ever since. I liked Baltimore (maybe because I met my wife, Sylvia, fairly soon after arriving.) Hopkins was a wonderful and somewhat unusual environment. It was then, and remains, by far the smallest of the highly ranked departments in the country. When I was hired I brought the faculty size up to nine. The others were Mary Ainsworth (developmental), Al Chapanis (human factors), Jim Deese (experimental), Clint DeSoto (social), Tex Garner (experimental), Stew Hulse (experimental), Jim Myer (comparative), and Warren Torgerson (quantitative). In subsequent years I was delighted to be joined by such outstanding colleagues in cognitive psychology as Alfonso Caramazza, Bert Green, Steve Kosslyn, Mike McCloskey, Jim Pomerantz, and Steve Yantis. My own research focused on attention and perception, and I continued exploring the capacity for parallel processing, frequently in the domain of visual search. To give a rough idea of the kinds of research I carried out I will briefly describe just a few of my research endeavors. One early study showed that spatially parallel search was possible for any digit in a heterogeneous display of letters. As parallel search is more typically found for simple feature differences (e.g., a green target among red nontargets), this finding was quite surprising. Another project that has had some impact was the demonstration that search for a target defined as a conjunction of features does not necessarily have to proceed randomly through a display, but that instead subjects can search through just the subset of elements defined by one target feature or the other. This finding formed the basis of the idea of guided search. More recent research showed that the capture of attention is not determined just by the properties of a potentially distracting stimulus, but also depends on the subject’s task set. A last example is research that showed that inattentional blindness might better be thought of as inattentional amnesia. Displays were designed in which an implicit measure showed that subjects were clearly subject to a visual illusion even when they lacked an explicit awareness of the illusion-inducing context. Needless to say, I did not carry out this research by myself. I have had a string of wonderful grad students and postdoctoral fellows, and I attribute much of my success to their intelligence and hard work.
My interest in attention and perception has remained a constant; however, from time to time I have branched out and explored other areas. The first opportunity came when Jim Deese and Stew Hulse asked me to collaborate on a new edition of their successful book Learning and Memory. As this was outside my field of expertise I learned a great deal as I wrote my assigned chapters. My next such diversion was working on spatial cognition and map reading on a grant from the Army Research Institute. A third expedition into new territory was my collaboration with Mike McCloskey on eyewitness testimony. In the early 1980s psychologists such as Elizabeth Loftus and Robert Buckhout were arguing that jurors should be allowed to hear expert testimony by experimental and social psychologists about the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. After reviewing the literature in the course of a graduate seminar, McCloskey and I concluded that eyewitness testimony might not be very accurate, but that the proffered testimony often went beyond the available scientific data. We wrote a few papers explaining our views on the matter and ended up being called by several prosecutors to counter testimony offered by eyewitness experts for the defense. This contact with the real world was, to say the least, interesting. (I don’t know if it’s true, but I would certainly like to think that McCloskey and I are partly responsible for improvements in the research on which current eyewitness experts base their testimony in court.)
I have greatly enjoyed doing research and, over a period of forty years, watching talented students master the intricacies of the field. However, my greatest satisfaction has been watching, along with my wife, the progress of two non-Hopkins students. My daughter, Jill, got her Ph.D. in health psychology from Rutgers and is now working in an advocacy position in Washington, D.C. My son, Marc, is currently a graduate student in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
As my career progressed I found myself agreeing to participate in various service activities. Internally, I was Chair of the Psychology Department from 1990 through 2000. What was particularly satisfying about this position was the opportunity to make the case for well-deserved promotions and hires of outstanding new faculty. Externally, there were the usual NIH and NSF grant-review panels. Another important service to the field was working on the Publications and Communication Board of APA. In addition I got involved in helping to run some organizations. I served on the Governing Board of the Psychonomic Society (I was Chair in 1996). Perhaps 15 years ago I was asked to be a representative of the Psychonomic Society to the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, an umbrella organization with about 20 member societies that represents our science in Washington, D.C. I was President of the Federation from 2003 through 2005. I would like to take this opportunity to urge you to support The Federation, and its sister organization, the Foundation for the Advancement of the Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS). They do very important work helping to educate policy makers in Washington about psychology and associated sciences. For more information see these websites: www.thefederationonline.org and www.fabbs.org.
(Full disclosure: My daughter works for these organizations. Jill was working there before I was elected President, although I don’t believe she was actually responsible for counting the ballots!)
I am delighted to have been elected President of Division 3. Looking at the list of past Presidents (see http://www.apa.org/about/division/div3pres.html), it is clear that this is a great honor. I hope to serve the field well.