Cover Story

The annual G. Stanley Hall Lecture Series at APA's convention will feature psychological issues ranging from birth to death, with a peek at important issues on how and what we learn in between. The lecture series is organized by the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (Div. 2).

This is the 23rd year of the G. Stanley Hall lectures. Each year four renowned speakers discuss emerging trends that teachers of psychology can incorporate in their teaching. G. Stanley Hall, APA's first president, was a prominent educator more than a century ago.

The G. Stanley Hall lecturers and their talks include:

  • Martha McClintock, PhD, "Pheromones, social dynamics and the control of fertility and disease."

  • Roxane Cohen Silver, PhD, "Thinking critically about coping with life's traumas."

  • Joshua Aronson, PhD, "Narrowing the minority-white achievement gap: lessons from psychology."

The final G. Stanley Hall address, which focuses on teaching, is the Harry Kirke Wolfe Lecture. Randolph Smith, PhD, will present "A social psychology toolbox for the college classroom." Harry Kirke Wolfe's undergraduate laboratory ranked third in the country in production of undergraduates who later attained doctorates.

Pheromones, social processes and trauma

Martha McClintock will discuss how pheromones interact with social processes to affect us in important ways, starting with influences on fertility and continuing through life. She has found that social interactions can regulate such fundamental biological processes as ovulation and immune function. Further, putative human pheromones and unconscious social odors can also regulate mood and psychological states, as well as neuroendocrine mechanisms. She will discuss these complex social and biological interactions.

At the other end of life's spectrum, we face the prospect of death, a source of major psychological trauma for survivors. Roxane Cohen Silver, who currently directs a national longitudinal study of the effects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, studies people's responses to such trauma as the death of a loved one. Her research includes the effects of death resulting from violent situations such as war and from uncontrollable circumstances such as natural disasters. She also investigates more commonly occurring sources of trauma like divorce, physical disability and childhood sexual abuse.

Silver's lecture will highlight her research, which has revealed that people hold poorly supported assumptions about responses to trauma. She has discovered that victims of traumatic events do not respond with an orderly and predictable sequence of emotions and behavior. Trauma may not lead to early and intense distress, and the distress may be out of proportion to the objective level of stress and trauma a person experiences. There may even be an experience of positive emotions resulting from trauma.

A more complete understanding of coping requires an examination of the differences as well as the commonalities in response to trauma.

Society's impact on minorities

As we move from birth to death, we learn about our environment, becoming social beings in the process. Joshua Aronson will discuss how the socialization process works to the detriment of some minorities.

His research has focused on the educational difficulties associated with prejudice and stereotypes, including the theory of stereotype threat. Aronson has argued that the combined effects of prejudice and low self-esteem contribute to differences across cultural and ethnic groups. He will draw on attribution theory and self-theories to further explain the dynamic that results in differential academic attainment. In his presentation, Aronson will propose interventions that can help remedy this achievement gap.

Classroom intervention

Randolph Smith will describe why the classroom is as amenable to psychological intervention as any other social circumstance. In his Harry Kirke Wolfe Lecture, Smith will identify how social psychological principles affect the behavior of both the teacher and students.

Certain patterns of student behavior are predictable from the social environment of the classroom. Teachers who are aware of these social dynamics and the effects of their behaviors on students will be able to exert effective classroom management.

Smith will discuss the advantages of being able to predict the way students will act in a learning environment, one of which will be reduction in teacher frustration in the classroom. Further, he will identify specific strategies that will permit teachers to manage student behavior and classroom learning more effectively.

Smith's background has led him from studies of human learning and memory to a more applied focus on the teaching. He edits Teaching of Psychology, the journal of Div. 2.

Barney Beins, PhD, is APA's director of pre-college and undergraduate programs.