Report of Division 14, Applied CognitIve Psychology

to the Board of Directors

International Association for Applied Psychology


July, 2004, by Alan Lesgold, President


The Applied Cognitive Psychology division currently has 79 members. This is low, and it would be good if we could raise this level.  To do that, though, we must find a way to counter the current trend among applied psychologists in the areas that can feed our division: human factors, cognitive science, technical training, and human-computer interaction.  Each of those areas is a multidisciplinary realm. People succeed in these areas often because they know more than psychology.  The psychology they are aware of using is only a small piece of what our field studies.  Thus, they seldom see, in our journal and our congresses, the kind of work that excites them.  Instead, they go to conferences and read journals centered on their area of application rather than their discipline of psychology.

One way we might deal with this problem is to seek out a small number of subgroups of people who seem more likely to be broader thinkers and then tailor some activities to those subgroups, perhaps jointly with another organization.  Some possible subgroups include the group that holds the conferences on computer-supported collaborative learning, the human performance modeling technical group of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, or a similar group.  We will be approaching those groups shortly to pursue this possibility.

On a more positive note, the area of applied cognitive psychology is thriving.  One example is the Cognitive Tutor line being marketed by Carnegie Learning.  These intelligent tutoring systems are in use in a number of large school systems and have a well-documented success record.  They derive from cognitive psychological theory and empirical tests of that theory.  On the other hand, they also required strong computer science work and strong computational linguistics.  Similar successes can be reported in a number of areas of interface design, such as the work behind the cockpit designs at Airbus. Work on the teaching of reading has benefited from interdisciplinary work involving neuroscience, psychology, and linguistics.

The problem that we need to solve is finding ways to keep the best talent in these interdisciplinary applied areas connected to psychology and to help bring ideas in the interdisciplinary areas back into the rest of psychology.