President's column

The division president discusses the reasons why this year's conference theme is important and how it could infulence future division convention programming

By Dean Keith Simonton, PhD

The theme of Division 1's convention programming for the 2012 APA Convention is "The science of psychology and the psychology of science."

For many years, I have been fascinated with two interrelated issues: the psychology of science and psychology as a science. The former topic concerns the cognitive, differential, developmental, and sociocultural variables associated with individual creativity and discovery in the sciences, whereas the latter topic regards the field, domain, and individual characteristics conducive to the enhancement of psychological science. My interest in the psychology of science dates back to the beginning of my career, but it received a special boost in the mid-1980s when I attended the first-ever conference devoted exclusively to the subject. My conference presentation led directly to the 1988 book Scientific Genius: A Psychology of Science, plus dozens of publications ever since, including some in the Review of General Psychology (RGP).
My research on psychology as a science grew out of the psychology of science. After all, if somebody is going to study scientific creativity, then one has to distinguish the sciences from other creative domains, such as the arts. Yet where does psychology fit in these distinctions? Is psychology a biological science, a behavioral science, a social science, or all, or none? My curiosity regarding this issue accelerated when I began teaching the history of psychology at both undergraduate and graduate levels. For instance, does our discipline’s history have the same structure as observed in the history of physics or biology? Are great psychologists comparable to great physicists or biologists? Research on these issues also yielded some articles in RGP and other venues.  
The psychology of science and psychology as a science clearly overlap whenever we consider the cognitive, differential, developmental, and sociocultural factors that enable researchers and practitioners to contribute to scientific psychology. This convergence is treated at length in my 2002 Great Psychologists and Their Times: Scientific Insights into Psychology’s History. It will also provide the principal basis for my forthcoming Presidential Address: “Is Psychological Science a STEM Discipline? Field Attributes and Researcher Characteristics.” Here I will explicitly use the psychology of science to evaluate psychology’s status as a science.
Delivering a talk on the topic of choice is not the only privilege given the division’s president. He or she also has the opportunity of influencing the divisional program at the forthcoming APA Convention. For that purpose, I asked Dr. Gregory J. Feist to assemble a program with a heavy dose of both topics—and, if possible, their convergence. Greg was unusually well equipped for this task. In 2007, he received our William James Book Award for his The Psychology of Science and the Origins of the Scientific Mind, the definitive statement in the field. The year before he had also guest edited a special RGP issue devoted to that general topic. Given these credentials, Greg’s final program did not disappoint. Scattered throughout are events dealing with the psychology of science, psychology as a science, and even both at once. In particular, we will have symposia on “Psychology of Science as a General Psychology,” “Naturalism, Transcendence, and the Nature of Psychological Inquiry,” “History and Identity of Psychology,” “The Boundaries of Psychological Science—Naturalism or Beyond?” and “Revisiting Psychological Explanations: Reflections from Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology.” Of course, the divisional program is by no means confined to those subjects. The program is truly worthy of a general psychology in its range and depth.
Therefore, I look forward to seeing all of you in Orlando!