By Paul Martin FAPS, APS President
IT WAS announced recently that a Professor of Psychology at Princeton University, Daniel Kahneman, was awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize in economic sciences. A few hundred Australian psychologists, myself included, had the privilege of hearing Kahneman speak when he gave a Keynote Address, 'The Psychology of Risk', at the 4th Australian Industrial and Organisational Psychology Conference in Sydney last year.
So what did Kahneman do to achieve such a high honour (not to mention an equal share in US$1 million prize money)? In its announcement, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences cited Kahneman "for having integrated insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty".
Press releases talk of Kahneman demonstrating that humans are often not very rational decision makers: they take short cuts, suffer from biases, and so forth. Of course, most psychologists and members of the lay community would hardly be surprised at such revelations. But apparently this was contrary to the dominant theories in economics at the time Kahneman and his colleagues (most notably the late Amos Tversky) first published this line of work, which was many years ago. Much of the significance of Kahneman's work, however, lies in the fact that it laid the foundations for a burgeoning new field of enquiry, namely behavioural economics and finance. Economics had been considered a non-experimental science but Kahneman's research led to the testing of economic assumptions in the laboratory. His work on how people evaluate risk has broad implications for public policy.
Given the current pressure in Australia from government and its funding agencies for multidisciplinary research, it is interesting to note that Kahneman gained his award for bringing two disciplines together. I was also intrigued to read that since Kahneman moved to Princeton in 1993, he has co-taught the first-year psychology course. In my experience, not too many Australian professors have rushed to take responsibility for teaching psychology at this level!
Papers for Advisor to Science Ministers
In May this year, the Society was contacted by the Federation of Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS), of which the APS is a member, in response to a request from Dr Thomas Barlow, the newly appointed Science Advisor to Ministers Brendan Nelson and Peter McGauran, for "reprints of what they consider the most interesting or influential research produced by their members" during the past three years. We considered it important to respond to the request as we need to raise the profile of psychology at the level of the Federal Government. To progress the task we established a Working Group consisting of the President as Chair, the Director of Science, Manager of Science and Education, and representatives of the National Committee of Psychology and Heads of Departments and Schools of Psychology Association (HODSPA).
This Group did not find the task an easy one, as we were not just looking for excellence in science but also papers that would be understandable and grab the attention of a Science Advisor whose disciplinary background is chemistry rather than psychology. Extensive efforts were made to elicit papers by a number of methods including contacting Heads of Psychology Departments through HODSPA. The group finished up considering more than 160 papers, from which they selected the 13 that seemed most suitable for forwarding to Dr Barlow.
I would like to express on behalf of the Group our most sincere thanks to all the Heads and individual psychologists who submitted papers to us. We enjoyed reading the submissions and it emphasised to us the high-quality research in psychology being carried out across the higher education sector in Australia.
The Ninth Board of Directors
The new Board of Directors had its first preliminary meeting the day after the AGM and its first real meeting on November 1. The Board has three new members in Ted Campbell, Shirley Morrissey and Hugh Woolford. The Society has no formal mechanisms in place to ensure that the Board is 'balanced' and reflects the diversity of our membership. Fortunately, the elected Board at least captures some of the breadth of our membership. The gender ratio is six males to four females. Of the elected Directors, three are from Victoria, three from Queensland, two from NSW, and one from NT. Three of the Directors currently hold full-time academic positions whilst others work as practitioners in the public and private sectors. Most of the Directors are located in capital cities but three are not. At the first meeting of the Board, Amanda Gordon was elected Vice-President.
The first Board meeting is preceded by a planning day and this year the APS Managers were invited to attend. This proved to be a successful experiment. The day was a lively event and many good ideas were generated. The new Board looks forward to accomplishing much in the next year.