In this issue

Presidential Column

Presidential goals center around communication. We would love to hear from you.

By Irene Hanson Frieze, PhD

Irene Hanson FriezeI am honored to be serving as your president. As I take on my duties, I continue to learn more and more about our division. Probably one of the most important things we do is offer various awards in psychology. Earlier this year, as president-elect, I chaired the William James Book Award Committee. This award is offered every year to the book that best brings together the various areas within psychology. This year, we received 33 books that were nominated for the award. After much debate, the members of the committee — longtime Div. 1 members Doug Candland, Kathy Ryan and I — decided to make two awards to books that explained current research in important areas within psychology and did that in a way that was accessible to the reader. Both winners were very excited with the news that they had won the award, and the book publishers as well as their own universities were also excited. Their reactions speak to the importance of these awards. Not only do we provide more visibility to these excellent books, but we also do an important service to the field with this prestigious award. Our other awards for lifetime accomplishments as well as for students also serve important roles for the division.

In addition to awards, we publish interesting papers in our journal, Review of General Psychology. These papers are generally reviews of the literature, and involve integration of different areas within psychology, adding to the mission of the division. Although only founded in 2008, the journal has grown to be a major source of revenue for the division. It also has an increasing impact factor as more people learn about the journal. Our present editor, Gerianne Alexander, will be ending her term in 2019. We will begin searching for a new editor in late 2017. Please let me know if you have thoughts about who might take over, following in the excellent tradition set by Gerianne and by previous editors.

Finally, we strive to offer an exciting and intellectually stimulating program at the annual APA meetings. Along with the formal program, we are increasingly turning to our division suite at the convention to offer additional programming, and to provide a place where division members can meet each other and interact more informally. If you have not already done so, please make a point of visiting next year when we meet in Washington, D.C.

One of my goals as president is to increase communication among the many officers and committee chairs who do the work of the division and with you, our members. One way we do this is with our website. If you have suggestions for our webpages, please let us know. We are working to establish ourselves through other forms of social media too. In addition, we are exploring a second listserv to allow for discussion of different topics by our members. Our present listserv only provides formal announcements. We expect to set up a committee to explore different types of social media and how we can best facilitate greater communication between division members. Please email any thoughts you have about social media and communication or about the division with me. I would love to hear from you. If you have any comments or questions for this column, please submit them here.

In the coming year, a central theme for the division will be the issue of replication of the published findings of psychological research. Past-president Nancy Baker wrote about this previously in one of her columns. The problem that has been widely discussed in the popular press as well as in scientific publications. My view of this failure to replicate, which I hope to elaborate in my presidential address at APA next year, is that much of the reported “findings” in the psychological literature are, to a greater or lesser extent, affected by the characteristics of the sample used in the research. It may well be true that certain generalizations apply to some groups and not others.

Attitudes are particularly embedded within a cultural context. For example, attitudes about what types of sexual activity are appropriate vary widely across the globe, as well as within different groups within the United States. While some may believe that any sexual activity outside of marriage is not permissible, others, such as U.S. college students, may find such behavior as quite normal. I have also noted widely changing college student attitudes on this issue as well as others relating to sexual behavior over my more than 40 years of teaching young adult college students.

Many other issues show clear variation across groups as well. (See Frieze, Sales and Smith's 1991 paper on this issue in Psychology of Women Quarterly). For example, it is well established that there are marked differences in the expectations of women and men about how well they expect to perform on an athletic or academic tasks. Men tend to overestimate how well they will do, while women tend to underestimate. Of course, there are also wide individual differences within groups, as is typical for psychological assessments of all types. A similar gender difference has been found in other cultures, but it seems unlikely that this expectancy difference is biologically rooted. It is likely that this pattern would vary across cultures. I would also predict that expectations depend on past performances, and this difference may disappear or even reverse with certain types of tasks.

Before the field can even attempt to replicate findings across studies, it is essential to determine when there is a legitimate expectation that the finding is a fundamental aspect of being human and when it is to a greater or lesser degree based on past learning and cultural values. We hope to explore some of these issues in more detail at APA next year.