Science Directions

Last year I was invited to speak on the warring parts that make up psychology. I dutifully provided examples of all kinds of separations we were living with.

As I pointed out in a previous column, we started out with divisions of psychology, but are steadily turning them into separate societies outside of psychology. We began with physiological psychology, but now talk of neurosciences; we started with cognitive psychology, but now refer to ourselves as cognitive scientists.

I mourned and lamented and then even tried to show how splitting into smaller parts was not all bad, given that the smaller parts into which we were dividing allowed for new recombinations. I thought of biochemistry in our neighboring sciences and of psychophysics, and more recently of psychopharmacology, as examples of fruitful splitting and recombination in our own science.

The audience was kind and applauded, but I was not satisfied. Yet, a few months ago I was again inspired to write a column called "The splitting of psychology" for the Science Directorate newsletter--Psychological Science Agenda. I started to write an abbreviated version of my paper when I suddenly got an idea.

I had heard of a movement that some librarians started in Seattle with the motto, "What if everybody read the same book?" They selected a book, and many people actually read that same selected book; citizens of Seattle put buttons on their lapels, bragging about having read that book, and they even accosted one another to discuss the characters they had read about.

What would happen, I said to myself, if all or at least some psychologists all read the same book? Could we start talking to one another about the same theory, concept or data? Could we learn to learn from each other? I suggested starting with the book edited by Joseph M. Notterman, namely "Evolution of Psychology: Fifty Years of the American Psychologist." I also suggested that we could start with "Alice in Wonderland," but I now think we are not yet ready for anything quite that sophisticated.

Anyway, I have received the largest number of e-mails in response to that column, even more than the number I received to my terrorism column. I continue to get e-mails even as I write this column. People have sent me the titles of other books as candidates for discussion. We may well want to use those after we have finished with our first book.

Those e-mails gave me encouragement, and I decided to get moving. I persuaded APA's Books Department, the publisher of the book, to make it available at a reduced cost beginning Dec. 1 at $19.95 in paperback and $24.95 in hardback.

I have started a listserv, which I now invite all of you who are interested in engaging in discussions of the Notterman book to join. We will begin our discussion Dec. 1. I invited Joseph Notterman to get us started in our discussions, and he has agreed to do so. I believe we are ready to talk. Please read the book and join us; register and I'll see you on the net.

When you register, you will receive information on how to send your comments on the listserv. You will receive an introductory note from Joseph Notterman, and then you'll be ready to start discussing. If you join after the discussion is in progress, you'll be able, should you wish, to read the discussions that have taken place before your entry. Then, when we are through discussing that book, we will find another one and discuss that. This is what we need to do to bring psychology together again, not for its own sake, but to make all parts of our science more fruitful and productive.