Cover Story

This year marks the beginning of the second quarter century for the annual G. Stanley Hall Lecture series at APA's Annual Convention. In this year's lectures, four psychologists will discuss how the science underlying their cutting-edge research can enhance thinking, learning and discussion in the classroom.

This speaker series honors APA's first president, Granville Stanley Hall (1844-1924), and is designed to improve the teaching of introductory psychology. An APA Div. 2 (Society for the Teaching of Psychology) committee selects speakers and organizes the program, which is sponsored jointly by Div. 2 and the Council of Teachers of Undergraduate Psychology.

In Washington, D.C., the speakers and their talks will be:

  • Barry Schwartz, PhD, Swarthmore College, "The paradox of choice: Why more is less," Friday, Aug. 19, 10 a.m.

  • Barbara L. Fredrickson, PhD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, "What good are positive emotions?" Saturday, Aug. 20, 2 p.m.

  • Daniel J. Povinelli, PhD, University of Louisiana, Lafayette, "What's human about the human mind?" Saturday, Aug. 20, 1 p.m.

  • William Buskist, PhD, of Auburn University, will deliver this year's Harry Kirke Wolfe Lecture, named for the renowned psychologist-educator (1858-1915) and focused most exclusively on teaching. Buskist will speak on "Pathways to excellence in the teaching of psychology," Friday, Aug. 19, 11 a.m.

When more is less

Is more really more? Are having a greater number of choices necessarily beneficial to us? Common sense says yes--after all, variety is the spice of life--but Barry Schwartz's research suggests that more may be less. Schwartz points to empirical evidence for the "paradox of choice," in which a greater number of available choices leads to lower satisfaction and less well-being. Ironically, too many choices promote paralysis rather then optimal decision-making, Schwartz claims. He will explain the cognitive and affective pitfalls of too much choice, highlighting the implications of this research for public policy.

Schwartz is the Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Psychology at Swarthmore College.

Positive emotions and self-preservation

Positive psychology, which focuses on people's strengths and those qualities that enhance life, has consequences for emotions. Barbara Fredrickson, a pioneer in positive psychology, developed the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. In contrast with negative emotions, which evolved from behavioral responses for self-preservation (e.g., flight, fight), her theory claims that positive emotions expand our temporary thought-action sequences (e.g., exploration, play). Across time, our positive emotions created adaptive, personal psychological resources that helped to ensure our ancestors' survival. Fredrickson will share up-to-date findings supporting the broaden-and-build theory while focusing on its relation to psychological well-being.

Fredrickson is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Differentiating the human mind

Comparative psychology explores the psychological similarities and differences that exist between different species. What do any observed differences mean? How do animal minds differ from the human mind?

Daniel Povinelli will review the history of comparative psychology, noting particular pitfalls along the way, including the past presumed intellectual supremacy of the human mind and the difficulties in reconciling species placement on the evolutionary ladder (where are apes and chimpanzees placed relative to people?). Povinelli will describe an ideal comparative science of animal minds, one appreciating the diversity among species, thereby viewing Homo sapiens as one species possessing a unique set of cognitive abilities that demand serious, sustained examination.

Povinelli is director of the Cognitive Evolution Center at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.

Achieving teaching excellence

In his Harry Kirke Wolfe lecture, William Buskist will explore key teaching-related questions: What is teaching excellence in psychology? What qualities characterize an excellent teacher in the discipline?

Buskist, an award-winning teacher and scholar of teaching, will examine the different paths teachers take to demonstrating excellence in the classroom. Some teachers try to hone their teaching effectiveness in the classroom, for example, while others try to contribute to teaching efforts beyond this traditional venue. Buskist believes that teaching mastery occurs when teachers work to attain a level of expertise in what they do. He will describe what activities constitute excellence in the teaching of psychology and explain how it is achieved.

Buskist is the Alumni and Distinguished Professor of the Teaching of Psychology at Auburn University.

Each of the 2005 G. Stanley Hall speakers will give their talks at a regional psychology conference over the next year.

Dana S. Dunn, PhD, is a Moravian College psychology professor and chair of the 2005 G. Stanley Hall Selection Committee.