Quotes from Featured Former Presidents

Richard Suinn

These quotes are from Richard Suinn's interview with Wade Pickren, conducted on March 26, 2000.

Regarding issues he faced while part of APA Governance:

“One, of course, was a notion of somehow communicating to the ethnic minority, to people of color, an optimism that APA and psychology are places that there is room for you and don't give up and don't be pessimistic, and the way in which I tried to accomplish that…was to make it known that if an ethnic minority student in a university program would invite me to come and visit them, I would go there at their invitation…and meet with the students, and what I wanted to accomplish there was to basically end with a statement that says you're psychology graduate students, stick with it, regardless as to what may be happening. We need you to be psychologists, and there are some good things that are occurring in APA in terms of the gradual increase in diversity within APA." (p. 37)

Regarding how he would like to be remembered as President of APA:

“A person, a person who was reachable…sometimes people will say you've been a very gracious president, and to me that's a people aspect, and it's part of my upbringing, I think.” (p.99) 

Ernest R. Hilgard

The following quotes are taken from a conversation that took place between Ernest R. Hilgard, Ph.D and Robert R. Sears, Ph.D in Prof. Hilgard’s Stanford office on December 30, 1986. Both are past presidents of the APA, Hilgard serving in 1949 and Sears in 1951. The full transcript is available from the APA archives.

"[The 1943] Convention brought together people from the various societies representing psychology. It was called Intersociety. It was not strictly an APA meeting. The Important reason for having an interdisciplinary or intersociety meeting was that the American Association for Applied Psychology (the AAAP) was gaining prominence. It arose in part as a protest against the dominance of the APA by the academics. The AAAP was developing a certain amount of loyalty towards itself which looked as though It might lead to some division within the APA. This was one reason for having this intersociety Convention to see If the various Interests of psychology could be properly represented In the American Psychological Association."

Regarding Applied Psychology and WWII:

“It is worth mentioning the war experience, in which so many people who had been purely academic were involved in applied fields of one sort or another and were proud of the way in which their psychology could be applied. I think that, given the whole atmosphere. There was no other time in which this could have been done as well.”

Regarding presidential addresses:

“I remember one president which will go unnamed. I was sitting right next to Edna Heidbreder who was pretty perceptive about things and said “This poor fellow, he is talking too near to the ceiling of his abilities". There's a real tendency to do something world shaking and It's kind of frightening.”

Paul Meehl

These selections are taken from an interview conducted with Paul Meehl, May 19, 2000. The transcript is available from the APA archives.

"When I was counseled in high school…I filled out the blank that said what do you intend to do for a living, and I wrote college professor. I had never met a college professor, it just was obvious to me from reading stories and novels that was the life."

"I would tell them what I wanted to do, and they would either tell me it’s been done, or they would tell me what you want, it can’t be done and there, you have to have a certain amount of nerve, well…I’m not a Ph.D. in statistics but I know mathematics and I’m smarter than these guys and I’ll do it myself. So, that’s how I invented taxometrics."

Regarding being elected APA President:

"I am very legalistic, when you get the notice that says you got elected, don’t tell anybody. I took it literally; apparently I’m the only one in the history of the outfit that ever did that. And Stanley Schachter, social psychologist and good friend of mine, was absolutely astounded, he said I cannot conceive of anybody not being able to tell. I didn’t tell anybody but my wife".

William James

Taken from Principles of Psychology, Vol. 1, p. 244

Regarding the principals of psychology:

"The rush of thought is so headlong that it almost always brings us up at the conclusion before we can arrest it. The attempt at introspective analysis in these cases is in fact like seizing a spinning top to catch its motion, or trying to turn up the gas quickly enough to see how the darkness looks."

Joseph Matarazzo

Taken from American Psychologist, Vol. 37, p. 12

Regarding the challenges of the American psychologist:

"To successfully grapple with one of the more important challenges of the last 2 decades of the 20th century, we must aggressively investigate and deal effectively with the role of the individual’s behavior and lifestyle in health and dysfunction. There is much more that could be done at the interfaces of normal physical health and behavior."