Stanford University professor Philip G. Zimbardo, PhD, has been elected APA's 2002 president, a post he will assume next January.
Zimbardo, who has taught at Stanford since 1968, is a household name in psychology circles thanks to his highly regarded textbook "Psychology and Life," the oldest continuously selling textbook in the country. The president-elect is also the person who put a familiar face on psychology with the PBS TV series, "Discovering Psychology," which he helped create, co-wrote and hosted. The 26-program series has aired for the past decade on educational TV channels and been used in classrooms around the world.
Others know Zimbardo best for his 1971 prison experiment, which showed the negative consequences of putting healthy students in mock prison with other students as their guards.
"It's part of my legacy, for better or worse," says Zimbardo. "It holds a timeless fascination about the dramatic transformation of human nature by situational forces, and as such is one of the bookends of social psychology's basic lesson of the power of situations in influencing human behavior, along with Stanley Milgram's obedience to authority research."
His goal of giving psychology away to the public is also seen in his pioneering research on shyness in adults, which paved the way for creating his shyness treatment clinic.
Zimbardo's other research interests include studies on exploratory behavior in rats, test anxiety in children, anxiety and affiliation, cognitive dissonance, attitude change and persuasion, time perspective, deindividuation, violence, vandalism and most recently, discontinuity theory as the basis for psychopathology.
Zimbardo knew early in life that he wanted to be a psychologist-educator.
"I grew up in the South Bronx ghetto of New York City in a poor, uneducated Sicilian-American family," he says. "Some lessons learned from that survival experience are that people, not material possessions, are our most valuable resource, that diversity is to be embraced because it enriches us, and that education is the key to escaping poverty and to thriving."
After attending Monroe High School (with classmate Stanley Milgram), he went to Brooklyn College--where he published his first research article on race relations--then earned his PhD in psychology at Yale University. Before coming to Stanford, he served on the faculties of Yale, New York University (NYU) and Columbia University.
He has received numerous honors for his distinguished teaching from NYU, Stanford, the American Psychological Foundation, APA's Div. 2 (Society for the Teaching of Psychology), the Western Psychological Association, Phi Beta Kappa and others.
Priorities for the year
Zimbardo has several goals for his presidential term, all geared at making APA "more vital and psychology more dynamic," he says.
His priorities include:
Developing programs to deliver mental health care to the millions of Americans who need it. "There are many treatments we can provide, but people aren't using them because of the stigma associated with mental illness, the lack of relevant information and access barriers to care." This is especially true among minorities, adolescents, and families, he says.
Applying all that psychology has learned from its research in cognitive, motivational, developmental and social psychology to transform educational practice across the entire curriculum and improve student learning and teacher effectiveness.
Promoting greater respect for psychology's scientific foundation across all members of APA as well as among the public, legislators and the media.
Engendering greater pride and unity among all psychologists in the value of our scientific discipline and professional practice.
Making psychology more inclusive and APA more enriched by "embracing the diverse contributions of ethnic and racial minorities, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and other psychologists not traditionally represented fully." He also believes APA governance will benefit from "opening itself to greater participation of young psychologists, women and minorities as we create a new, vibrant mosaic of psychology in this millennium."
Expanding APA's role in electronic technology, endorsing our involvement in research and utilization of emerging technologies for research, education, therapy, publishing and even in streamlining our old fashioned process of electing APA presidents.
Zimbardo also has specific plans for bringing psychology's scientists and practitioners together.
"For starters, I will convene both regional and national forums of key representatives of both groups of scientists and practitioners to discuss and to discover realms of mutual interest, to be charged with generating appropriate recommendations that will increase the synergy between these mutually vital cores of psychology," he says.
In addition, he plans to recommend "developing strategic alliances between psychology departments and professional schools of psychology that will benefit both."
"I hope," says Zimbardo, "that my tenure will be memorable for making APA stronger, psychology more influential, psychologists more proud of our heritage and contributions to knowledge and society, and in building the right bridges for practitioners and scientists to cross back and forth--without tolls."
For more information about APA's new president, visit www.zimbardo.com.