Science Directions

"Once upon a time the world was round and you could go on it around and around."

"Everywhere there was somewhere and everywhere there they were men women children dogs cows wild pigs little rabbits cats lizards and animals."

"That is the way it was. And everybody dogs cats sheep rabbits and lizards and children all wanted to tell everybody all about it and they wanted to tell all about themselves." ("The World Is Round." New York: Avon Books, 1939.)

I know people who relax from a hard day's work by reading mystery stories. I seek out simpler things. I seek out wordplay, and nobody is better at it than Gertrude Stein. What can be more fun than to play with words? Never mind the obvious smart-alecky answer! You're still playing with words. Words can make you laugh, and they can make you cry. They can make you sad, and they can anger you. They can educate you, and they can confound you. They can make you wait, and they can make you late. We talk and we read and sometimes even listen. And we use words in an effort to influence people and work. We talk to order a sandwich for lunch and we talk to get change; we talk to make love and we talk just to be heard.

But talk matters. Countries attack each other over talk they do not like. People get elected because of talk in high places. We buy detergent by means of talk and we talk about it afterward. And we do all of that because talk is enjoyable. Recently we have rediscovered that talk to ourselves may make us feel better, not psychologically but physically. So to the question, "Are you a talker or a doer?," the answer is we're talkers and that's what makes us doers. Because we talk lest we strike, we are able to be around the next time to talk again. We make fun of people who talk "funny," which means they talk "different" from the way we talk. We are offended by people's talk at times, and we offend others just as effectively, although we are not equally aware when we are offended as when we are offensive. There is conciliatory talk and there is aggressive talk; there is assertive talk, which is not the same as aggressive talk, and all of us engage in these different kinds of talk. Why all this talk about talk? Because that is what is most of what we do all day long, week in, week out. In the main, that's all we've got. Now there are many wise sayings about listening being several times more important than talking, but that relationship works only when we're talking and you're listening.

I spend a lot of time talking in my job. I talk with government agencies and with my staff. And I talk with APA members and potential members. I try to be a good listener at all times and I try not to show my surprise at the things others talk about. Because they talk as if I had not talked; they talk as if they had not listened or read what we have been sending out on a regular basis and what we regularly display on our Web sites and our newsletters and magazines. I do find from time to time that my colleagues are not keeping up with what we think of as our literature that we send out so religiously, but then I do get "literature" from other places and do not always read it. So what do I have to complain about?

But I do have a complaint or at least a plaint. The other day, a Member and Fellow in good standing came up with a "new" idea, namely to provide some financial support for our best graduate students for their dissertations. Now, I do hope that at least some of you gasped. How come he did not know about APA's older-than-a-decade long practice of doing just that? We have given out well over 1,000 dissertation awards! I'll bet some of you who are reading this column received such an award.

The fault, of course, dear reader, lies not in the stars but in our talk. How come we have not successfully informed that member? Not enough talk? Not appropriate talk? Not directed well enough or made sufficiently enticing? Well, let me remind you right now of the Sept. 16 deadline for those dissertation awards. More information can be found on our Website.

But now, will you help me? If I ask 10 good scientists to be the recipients and distributors of one bit of significant information once a month, will you each find 10 other scientists to send it to, and have them do likewise until we have informed all of us? Will you volunteer to do this? Talk to me and then let's get the talk moving.