Division 6: An experiment in progress

The division president shares highlights of the joint APA Convention program offered by Divisions 3 and 6, which he hopes will generate interest among young researchers

By Mauricio R. Papini, PhD

A major challenge for Division 6 (and apparently for other APA division as well) is to survive a new generation of young professionals who apparently do not engage in scientific societies as much as was done by previous generations. Thus, a present and future challenge will be to generate enough interest to attract new members. How can we generate such interest?

It seems somewhat surprising to me that our division would be in this position, given current levels of social awareness about the importance of psychological research on brain-behavior interactions and the comparative psychology of cognitive processes. There are several ways of generating interest for Division 6 among young researchers, but, in my opinion, the single most important option is to hold high-quality meetings. Thus, my effort as President of Division 6 was directed at generating the best possible scientific program for the forthcoming APA Convention in Orlando, Aug. 2-5, 2012. As you will see, this was a team effort. Here is what we did.

In recent years, our program has been outstanding, but, in my perception, somewhat isolated from the rest of the conference, including especially other divisions. When I attended the leadership conference for president-elect members (January 2011, Washington D.C.), it was obvious to me that the 56 divisions currently in the APA structure were far too many. Sitting at the lunch table were several colleagues who had presided over more than one division (three divisions in one case). This should not occur so often if divisions represented truly distinct areas of psychology. A negative consequence of this proliferation of division is the atomization of the convention program. On the positive side, having extensive overlap with other divisions allows for a potentially fruitful cooperative approach to division activities. But this requires a special effort, as we discovered during this past year.

One of those sitting at the table was Karen Hollis, then president-elect of Division 3 and former president of Division 6. Karen and I decided to do something that, unfortunately, does not appear to be as common as it should be: pool resources together and come up with a joined program organized by the two divisions. We had two committed and effective program chairs, Victoria Chamizo (Division 6), and Nancy Dess (Division 3). I had asked Victoria to develop a program with a strong international presence. As a result, we will have a very exciting line up of speaker and symposia, covering a diversity of topics of interest to our members. At the risk of offending somebody who is left outside, here are some examples of presentations (in alphabetical order) scheduled for the forthcoming joined program between Divisions 6 and 3:

  • Peter Balsam (Columbia University): "Comparative psychology and transgenic models of psychiatric disorders"

  • Merilyn Carroll (University of Minnesota): "Predictive and protective effects of non drug rewards on drug abuse"

  • Victoria Chamizo (University of Barcelona): "Landmark vs. shape learning: Environmental enrichment and sex differences"

  • Jonathan Crystal (Indiana University): "Validation of a rodent model of episodic memory"

  • Terry Davidson (American University): "A vicious-cycle of obesity and cognitive decline"

  • Dominic Dwyer (University of Cardiff): "Associative learning, perceptual learning, and face recognition"

  • Edward Eisenstein (VA Healthcare System): "A comparative approach to the evolutionary significance of habituation and sensitization"

  • Michael Ferkin (University of Wisconsin): "Voles recollect the what, where, and when of sociosexual encounters"

  • Charles Gallistel (Rutgers University): "Memory and the computational brain"

  • Patricia Grigson (Pennsylvania State College of Medicine): "Drug-induced suppression of intake of a saccharin cue: More a process than a property"

  • Karen Hollis (Mount Holyoke College): "Empathy and deception in insects and other nonhuman animals: Intentions and algorithms"

  • Robert Honey (University of Cardiff): "Avoidance but not aversion following sensory-preconditioning with flavors"

  • Raymond Kesner (University of Utah): "Subregional analysis of the hippocampus in mediating episodic memory"

  • Evan Livesey (University of Sydney): "Associative learning and attention"

  • Tetsuro Matsuzawa (Kyoto University): "What is uniquely human? An answer from the study of chimpanzee mind"

  • Ian McLaren (University of Exeter): "Associative learning and memory"

  • Amrita Panda (Calcutta University): "Does automated warning and obsession predict vigilance for individuals with visual impairment?"

  • Neil Rowland (University of Florida): "How the hunter-gatherer became a glutton"

  • Mel Slater (University of Barcelona): "Bystander responses to a violent incident in an immersive virtual environment"

  • Brian Smith (Arizona State University): "Honeybee learning: From behavior to molecules" Carmen Torres (University of Jaen): "Reward loss and gene expression in Roman high- and low-avoidance rat strains"

There will be several symposia, sessions with oral presentations, and a record number of posters. In addition, several speakers of interest to Division 6 members will participate in the APA Convention, including David Buss, Nicola Clayton, Frans de Waal, and Paul Rozin among others.

Of course, one isolated event may not have a lasting effect. For this effort to have an impact among behavioral neuroscientists and comparative psychologists, it will have to be continued in years to come. It is useful to remind ourselves about the strategic importance of participating in at least one major psychological conference per year, especially for those of us who work in psychology departments and do research with nonhuman animals. We need to constantly remind our colleagues that what we do belongs in Psychology for historical, scientific, and practical reasons.

If you plan to be in Orlando, I hope you will enjoy our scientific program. If you are not attending, I hope to see you next year in the APA Convention, in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 31-Aug. 4, 2013.