I am imprinted on psychology conventions--local, regional, national and international. Since my first exposure as a naive undergraduate nearly 50 years ago, I get turned on by attending them, learning from colleagues, giving lectures and workshops, schmoozing with friends, reconnecting with former students, giving tips to student poster presenters, hanging out with publishers, signing books, getting exhibitors' freebies, and especially helping to plan and organize them.
(Forewarning: A persuasive message will soon be subtly embedded in this essay to attend the most fabulous convention ever conceived in the annals of APA. But first comes some personal justification for loving conventions.)
April 15, 1954, New Yorker Hotel, Eastern Psychological Association: After passing a strange interview-assessment to become a graduate student at Yale University, I am instructed to attend a special keynote address. My first convention experience is hearing Neal Miller give his classic summary of principles of motivation and learning. It is simply brilliant. The next year, after presenting my first talk at the New England Psychological Association, I get a motivationally inspiring compliment from an audience member, David McClelland.
Summer, 1959, my first presentation at an International Congress, Bonn, Germany: My first trip abroad, this conference opened new intellectual vistas by exposing me to the perspectives of foreign colleagues. Of course, the highlight of my many such subsequent congress presentations was Tokyo, 1972, which provided the occasion to honeymoon in Kyoto with my new bride, Christina Maslach. A decade later was a different kind of excitement in organizing the Western Psychological Association's (WPA) San Francisco convention that helped transform WPA into one of psychology's most vital regional associations--with a starting lineup of Rollo May, Allen Funt ("Candid Camera" genius), Neal Miller, Judy Rodin and Amos Tversky, backed by a strong supporting cast.
Aug. 23-25, 2002, APA's Annual Convention in Chicago: My prediction? Old-timers will fall in love anew, and new-timers will discover untapped psychological passion at APA's soon-to-be unforgettable convention. I have worked closely with the Board of Convention Affairs to help design a totally new look, new feel, new sound convention. There are so many novel, entertaining, desirable learning experiences every day and evening that you may be overwhelmed--but I guarantee that you will never feel bored or unfulfilled.
So, what's new?
This year's convention is shorter, compact, intensive, doing more than ever before in only three and a half days, all in one convention center; fun-filled evening sessions with senior psychologists challenged by graduate students in "Psychological Jeopardy," as well as a memorable demonstration of ESP and mind reading; a first-time-ever closing ceremony featuring Chicago's famous comedy troupe, Second City; breaking out of traditional thinking boxes with clusters of psychological divisions co-creating new programs with special guest speakers, unusual topics and formats.
The opening ceremony features the venerable Studs Terkel along with other memorable events. The plenary session is jam-packed with excitement, such as honoring the mentor tradition with senior psychologists in conversation with their special students: Martin E.P. Seligman and Susan Mineka; Elliot Aronson and John Darley; Gordon Bower and Bob Sternberg; Joe White and Tom Parham. A townhall meeting of media and psychology will enable representatives from print, television and radio to inform us on how to really give psychology away to the public. Four sessions present different aspects of the psychology of terrorism, one of which involves all former members of different "cults of hatred" to share how they were indoctrinated. Famous authors and national figures will enlighten us on a range of issues: Dean Ornish, Herb Benson, Gail Sheehy, Malcolm Gladwell, Robert Putnam, Steve Pinker and Seymour Sarason, among many others. We'll also explore various dimensions of my presidential initiative--"How Does Psychology Make a Difference?"--with a wide range of super scientists, engaging educators and powerful practitioners.
And did I say there will be music everywhere to create a relaxing, inviting ambience, played by psychologist-musician volunteers, solo and ensemble?
Want to be proud to be a psychologist, to rediscover the joys of psychology, have fun while learning and connect to your psychological kin? Simple. GO TO CHICAGO, AUGUST 2002!