A blog about problems in the field of psychology and attempts to fix them.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Is Templeton "Philosophy's Bite"?

Recently, I wrote about my grant submission to the Templeton Foundation. In the time since, I have also submitted a "letter of intent" to Templeton for a much more ambitious project to bring together those currently working on the variants of embodied cognition. I promised to write something about Templeton's really smart application process, but that will wait for now. Here I wanted to respond, at least a bit, to those who believe Templeton should be shunned. I'm inspired to do so by a recent pair of articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In the most recent one, philosophers react to Freeman Dyson question, "When and why did philosophy lose its bite? How did become a toothless relic of past glories?" While the earlier article doesn't answer that exact question, it draws out the conflicting interpretations of "The Templeton Effect" on philosophy: Many are concerned that Templeton is "buying philosophy", but there is also little doubt that Templeton is motivated by concerns similar to Dyson's... and while Dyson is talking about it... Templeton is aggressively making things better.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Perception-action Publishing Opportunity

Greetings noble readers!
As you surely know, the International Conference on Perception and Action is in Lisbon, Portugal, July of next year. That's the big conference that happens every other year, bringing together an international group of researchers interested in understanding motor control, intentional dynamics, perception-action linkages, affordances and affordance-based-control, as well as other topics, empirical and theoretical, that fit under the perception-action or ecological psychology umbrellas. For every conference, a book is published based on the presented posters. Last year's conference, in Brazil, generate Studies in Perception and Action XI, edited by Jay Smart and myself. The president of ISEP, Bill Mace, has asked if I would be willing to work on the book for the Lisbon conference. It would be the first time they have ever had an experienced editor working on the project (probably a good idea in general).

I told Bill I would be happy to lead a team, but wasn't interested in doing the project solo. Then... after some contemplation... I thought it would be good to reach out to this network. We are looking for one, or preferably a few, people willing to sign on with me. I think a three or four person team would be ideal to spread out the work, while not putting too many cooks in the kitchen. This is an excellent opportunity for very senior graduate students, post-docs, new professors - for whom this could act as a career advancement - or anyone more senior who was feeling noble-minded - for whom this would be an admirable act of service. You will get exposed to a vast range of research, interact with several senior members of the field, and establish yourself as a contributing member of the profession.

Obviously, I can't make any promises on who will ultimately be put on the project, but if you would be willing to help out, and would like to be considered, please drop me a line. A call for papers and posters will likely go out soon. There will be an early May deadline for getting the finished product to the publisher. So most of the work will happen in bits and spurts between January and May.

Many thanks,


P.S. And of course, this is also a publishing opportunity for those who attend, as all presented posters also become (very brief) book chapters.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"We are" Penn State... apparently

Some readers might know that I teach at a branch campus of Penn State. In the context of a high ranking research institution, I am at a 4,000 person campus trying to transition from being a 2-year "feeder" school just over a decade ago, to a bachelor's granting institution in the liberal arts mold. In that context, Nicholas Rowland (a sociology prof.) and and I have been co-running an undergraduate research lab here for the past three years.

We have supervised a massive number of student presentations at conferences (N > 30) at venues ranging from regional meetings like the Pennsylvania Sociology Society to international meetings like Developmental Psychobiology. We also have quite an impressive number of publications with student authors. Most of the lab projects are student driven, so we have given student's CV lines on studies ranging from video games and violent behavior, to U.S. attitudes towards atheists, to the founding of African American Studies at Penn State, and more, plus a good number of book reviews in professional journals. This while I have maintained my own line of research regarding Ecological Psychology and New Realism, and Nicholas become a key player in Actor-Network Theory and started making waves in the State Theory literature.

At any rate... Recently, there have been efforts to re-emphasize the academic and educational sides of Penn State, and part of this is a "Faces of Penn State" campaign, highlighting prized faculty and staff. In the latest round of updates to come out today, they Nicholas and I. My pic is 4th in on the top line, with a direct link here. They solicited nominations over the summer, and... despite being on a branch campus... Nicholas and I received the most nominations of anyone. This is a major accomplishment for us, but also a crucial step forward for the promotion of research on our campus.

So... there it is... shameless self promotion... but after all the hard work we have put into creating the lab, it is really nice to get some recognition. The Penn State slogan is "We are" "Penn State" (shouted in a two-part alternation). This is one of the first times, for me at least, that has seemed true.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Unifying Psychology: On framing a positive message

As some of you may know, I am editing a special issue of the Review of General Psychology. The focus is on potentially unifying theories. There are, of course, many past attempts to bring unity to the field. Most take two forms: First, there are the pipe dreams; bold visions from young Turks or senior scholars. Second, there are those who want us to give up the quest for a unified underlying theory and instead claim that we are already unified sufficiently by our agreed upon subject matter. The latter often come off as apologists, who hope we can learn to revel in our differences. Neither of these approaches is necessarily bad, but I am not sure another special issue with one of those focuses would be helpful, and suspected there was a better way to make progress.