President's Column

When the students on my college campus learned that I had been elected president of the American Psychological Association, they were quick to offer their congratulations and advice on what I should do. The first advice I received was from a tired-looking student who told me that I should "change that darn manual."

As you have probably guessed, the reference was to our beloved publication manual. It seems that students don't always see the beauty or utility of running heads (oops, I meant to type "Running heads"--capital "R," lower case "h") or hanging indents. I told this beleaguered student that although I felt her pain, I was aiming a little higher--something closer to world peace.

I realize that my reference to world peace sounds more like I was running for a beauty pageant than the president of the largest psychological organization in the world, so I toned my language down a bit, but the ultimate goal is the same. One of my presidential initiatives is to contribute, even in a small way, to a reduction in prejudice on a worldwide scope. I ask you to join me in this pursuit.

Translating our message

As a small step toward helping people worldwide understand and reduce prejudice, I have been working with an incredible group of psychologists on a translation project we have named "Prejudice in Any Language," which I hope will continue and grow after my presidential year. The project is designed to take some of the best academic literature on prejudice and translate it into multiple languages, so that the information will be available to speakers of many different languages throughout the world and within the United States.

To launch this initiative, we have begun with a broad introduction to the psychological literature on prejudice, written by Scott Plous, PhD, a Wesleyan University social psychologist who is an expert in this area. Plous manages understandingprejudice.org/apa, a Web site funded by the National Science Foundation with thousands of links, interactive demonstrations and teaching resources related to prejudice. Thus far, we have translations posted at this site in Turkish, Armenian, Russian, German and French, with Mandarin, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish and Italian to be added soon. All translations (from English to a second language and then back to English) have been done by psychologists who are native speakers in the translated languages. Please spread the word to psychologists and others who are looking for high-quality information about prejudice translated in these languages. (To find a particular language, visit www.understandingprejudice.org/apa and follow the links for any of the languages listed.) We hope to get the world talking about ways to understand and reduce prejudice.

Toward cross-cultural understanding

Ideally, the prejudice project will grow so that we can locate quality materials on prejudice that are now only available in languages other than English and post translations in English and multiple other languages. Of course, not all prejudices are the same cross-culturally, and we will need to select materials that have wide appeal so that we can learn from each other cross-culturally and across borders. For example, the prejudice among Russian descendants and native Estonians in Estonia has a very different historical basis than the prejudice among Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda or the Germans and Turks in Germany or racial and ethnic groups in the United States. But despite differences, there are also similarities. All these examples involve in-group and out-group processes and often the belief that the members of "the other group" are taking too much of whatever is valuable (e.g., good jobs, land, clean water) for their less-deserving group. One hope is that by learning about the psychological processes that underlie prejudice in general and the specific nature of any particular prejudice in a context, we can better understand and more effectively reduce prejudice. Even a small reduction will make this a worthwhile project.

I hope that the "Prejudice in Any Language" project will broaden over time so that prejudice against specific groups, such as women and girls, the elderly, gays and lesbians, people with disabilities, and other groups will be included, with materials from many different parts of the world and translations into multiple languages. Please contact me with your ideas and advice on how to further develop this initiative. The goals of this project may not be as easy to achieve as changing the publication manual, but even the bleary-eyed student agreed that it was worth the effort.