Twenty psychologists from around the world gathered at the presidential program, "International Perspectives on Psychology's Emerging Issues," to share national and regional perspectives on the state of psychology and to call for more international collaboration. Participants talked about the struggle to make psychology relevant to the public and to expand its reach.
"In most of the world, the usefulness of psychology has not been apparent," said Saths Cooper, PhD, president of the Psychological Society of South Africa. Many parts of the developing world-including former Eastern Bloc countries-still see it as a "bourgeois discipline"-an image that limits psychology's ability to address the problems of daily life, he concluded.
Another participant shared his vision of psychology that speaks to the people.
"We need to encourage practice by individual psychologists who mirror the societies in which they practice based on demographic diversity and language ability," said Andres Consoli, PhD, president of the Sociedad Interamericana de Psicologia.
Some Western nations-which often have the advantage of a shared language and culture-have been very successful in raising public awareness of psychology. Five years ago, for example, the Australian Psychological Society (APS) began its "National Psychology Week," which blankets the media with story ideas and important findings. As a result, psychology has become a household word in Australia, said APS President Amanda Gordon.
Now that the public is more aware, the society has set its sights on access.
Meanwhile, Asian psychology continues to benefit from Western knowledge, said Sarlito W. Sarwono, PhD, president of the Asian Psychological Association, but is also incorporating the region's divergent world views, which include Confucianism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism and other traditions, which focus more on the collective than the individual.
All of the regions and countries represented could benefit from cultural and professional exchange, the speakers concluded, urging audience members and other participants to continue the conversation by attending the International Congress of Psychology meeting next July in Berlin. For more information on the conference, go to www.icp2008.de.