foundations from the Foundation, Spring 2012: R.G. Barker

foundations from the Foundation for Rehabilitation Psychology…building an endowment that supports student research, professional education and the advancement of Rehabilitation Psychology.

Roger G. Barker, PhD (1903-1990)
Psychological Aspects of Rehabilitation (PDF, 121KB)
Barker, R. G.
Psychological Bulletin, Vol 40(6), June 1943, 451-453

The first selection for “foundations from the Foundation” comes from Roger G. Barker, PhD (1903-1990) who earned his doctorate from Stanford University and later studied with Kurt Lewin. In the 1940s, while at the University of Kansas, Barker and his colleague Herbert F. Wright established the Midwest Psychological Field Station in the small town of Oskaloosa, Kansas. From 1947 to 1972 the research team published empirical studies based on their observations in Oskaloosa, disguising the town as 'Midwest, Kansas'.

Barker and colleagues were the first to conceptualize the “behavior setting” to help explain the interplay between the individual and the immediate environment. Barker was the first to observe that the number of behavior settings in an organization was relatively constant regardless the number of its members, a finding with application to the integration of individuals with disabilities. Barker died of a stroke at the age of 87—he was living in Oskaloosa at the time of his death. Division 22’s Distinguished Research Contribution Award is named in Dr. Barker’s honor.

Barker is credited with founding Ecological Psychology ["Ecological Psychology: Concepts and methods for studying the environment of human behavior," Barker, R. G. (1968), Stanford University Press, Palo Alto, CA]; however his interests were broad. In 1943 while still at Stanford, Barker became involved with the rehabilitation of members of the armed services injured in the early days of America’s involvement in World War II. He authored a short article in "Psychological Bulletin" [Volume 40, No. 6, pages 451-453] titled "Psychological Aspects of Rehabilitation" (PDF, 121KB) in which he shared his thoughts about the training various kinds of professionals should have to adequately engage in rehabilitation with returning service members. He provided an outline of a course curriculum developed at Stanford for that purpose. With just a little updating of language, the course could be offered today. We thought you might enjoy this glimpse “back to the future.”