As someone who studies achievement, Jacquelynne Eccles, PhD, recognizes how already successful things can be improved upon. That's the approach she's taking as she becomes editor of Developmental Psychology—try to keep up the good work and add some more of her own.
"I want to really applaud the work of current Developmental Psychology editor Cynthia García Coll," says Eccles, a University of Michigan psychology professor. "She has gone a long way toward broadening the journal and bringing in more interdisciplinary perspectives."
Those perspectives are important to Eccles, who studied microbiology, sociology, anthropology and economics in addition to psychology. As she progressed through her career, her research interests broadened, drawing on more of her interdisciplinary background.
She began her research career looking into what motivates people to achieve in such competitive areas as school, sports, instrumental music and, more recently, computer-based skills. In that last area, she wondered why girls didn't pursue the STEM disciplines—science, technology, engineering and math—as frequently as men. Why were those fields so gendered?
That led to questions about everyone's achievement motivation. "Our work generalized out of trying to understand how people make achievement plans in general—'Why aren't women going into math?' Then the question becomes, why does anybody do anything?" Eccles says. "That's been the guiding principle in our research."
She's seen that broadening reflected in many areas of developmental psychology, and she's glad to see the journal has kept up with this trend. Neuroscientists, sociologists, psychologists, economists and anthropologists are all talking to each other now, Eccles says. And they're not just talking about purely psychological issues, either—it's poverty, ethnicity and a wide range of identity issues.
"It's no longer just a nature-nurture debate among developmental psychologists," she says. "We're working much less in isolation."
To encourage further interdisciplinary growth, Eccles says she'll seek out commentary from scientists in different fields to broaden everyone's thinking on developmental topics. She wants to provide room for longer articles that tell a more complete story, integrating interdisciplinary findings and mixed methods.
"It's very easy to adopt insular perspectives and not to understand the contribution of work going on in fields that are more peripheral to our vision," she says. "Showing interdisciplinary cooperation is an important teaching function of the journal."