An Overview of Canadian Research as Presented
in Canadian Psychology 1989-1993

Anne Gear, Patrece Thomas,
Diane Merasty, & Roselle Quinones
Simon Fraser University


Reviews literature published in Canadian Psychology between 1989 - 1993. Shows a shift in focus from a human science perspective towards a natural science approach, partly due to the rise of cognitive psychology. It appears that this transition has caused an identity crisis in Canadian psychology.



A review of the literature published in Canadian Psychology (The Canadian Psychological Association) in the five years between 1989 and 1993, shows a shift in focus of Canadian psychology from a human science approach towards a more natural science approach. Within this context, there is also a shift from developmental and social psychology to cognitive psychology. These transitions have not been made smoothly. The rise of cognitive psychology has caused criticism, debate, and conflict between academic and clinical psychology. It appears that during this period, Canadian psychology underwent an identity crisis that was played out in the literature, as Canadian psychologists debated issues central to the future of the discipline.

In 1989 and 1990, Canadian Psychology was characterized by its focus on the human science perspective. Most of the articles in seven out of eight issues were based on social, developmental, or ethical concerns. Many of these contained research or policy implications, but almost no statistical analysis. The last issue in the block showed a reversal of the trend with the natural science perspective featured in the majority of articles.

Canadian Psychology, 1989, Vol. 30

During the first issue of the year, four articles were published, each with a different focus. One was an article written in French on stress and immunity. The only article in this edition that was of a natural science focus was Perceptual Isolation, Sensory Deprivation, and REST: Moving Introductory Texts out of the 1950s (Suedfeld, P. & Coren, S.), a statistical analysis of sensory deprivation research covered in introductory psychology texts in use in Canadian universities. The remaining articles were human science in focus; one covered the subjective experience of phantom-limb phenomena; the other was a feminist social psychology article on the adequacy of cognitive-behavioural theories for understanding depression in women.

The second quarterly issue featured a developmental theme. Three of the four articles were about child care, highlighting developmental concerns, especially day care. Two of the articles originated at American universities, and focused on comparisons between the U.S., Canada and Europe. All were based in social psychology, all contained policy implications, and all three were of a human science orientation. The fourth article featured in this issue was a psychological/philosophical review of 20th century art.

The following issue was a special one on aging and gerontology. Of 9 articles, 2 were of the natural science perspective. These focused on metamemory and proactive interference. The remaining seven articles were of the human science perspective, and focused on issues of motivation, quality of life, and sexual expression. The human science articles contained social policy suggestions for the support of the aging population.

The last issue contained an article written in French on the cross-cultural validation of psychological questionnaires. While it did not make use of statistical analysis, it did provide suggestions for future surveys. The remaining three articles were all written from the human science perspective. Two were on stress and conflict resolution; the third was an introduction to the German school of Kritische Psychologie (critical psychology). None of the articles made use of statistical analysis, and only one contained policy implications.

Canadian Psychology, 1990 Vol. 31

In the first issue of 1990, all the articles were either reviews, debates, or criticisms of other work. The first was a criticism of Rushton's Differential K theory of racial differences by Weizmann et al. (York University). This article was followed by, Ideals and Psychology, in which J. Macnamara (McGill) argues that the role of ideals must be taken seriously in modern psychology, and that by modeling the discipline of psychology after the physical science, the study of the human mind is obscured. The Prototype Concept in Personality Assessment, by R. Broughton reviews the prototype approach to research in personality. One French article discusses R. Schafer's idea of the visions of reality (a construct which describes subjective experience, life history and the concept of time) as it applies to psychotherapy.

The second issue featured one natural science review of research articles on Canadian adolescence studies. It was the only article to make use of statistical analysis. The other three articles were of the human science perspective and covered three areas of interest. One dealt with the lack of progress toward a treatment for premenstrual syndrome, another with human evolution. The last was a social psychology article on access to children by grandparents. All articles in this issue contained policy or research implications except the article on evolution.

The third issue was a special one dealing with the philosophical, historical, and ethical facets of psychology from the human science perspective. One article by T.B. Rogers looked at Proverbs as Psychological Theories: Or is it the Other Way Around? This article investigated the use of "sayings" such as "beauty is only skin deep," in the formation of experimental hypotheses. It was followed by a series of "invited comments." The four remaining articles focused on epistemology, history, and philosophical perspectives and their influence on the current psychology. Two of the articles contained ethical or research suggestions.

This issue contained the second French article of the year, which presented a criticism of research approaches to anorexia nervosa. This issue contained the most articles in the natural science model. The previous seven issues reviewed in this block (1989-1990) contained no more than one article each in that model. Two were cognitive investigations, one refuted the left/right brain model, and the other was a study of attention, coding, and planning. Both made use of statistical analysis. The third applied a natural science approach to a human science problem. The Impact of Canadian Employment Selection Issues on Validation Research, by M.R. Kerr, discussed the problems of scientific validity in job placement programs based on applied psychological testing. Only one article in this quarter was from a human science perspective. It presented the view that psychologists should be working toward the improvement of social conditions as a moral duty of the profession.

Two issues per year contained one French article each. Three of the issues were devoted to specific topics, child care, aging and historical bases of psychology were featured. All but two articles in this block originated in Canada. The two that were from universities in the U.S. were in the issue on child care.

In 1991, Canadian psychology continued a gradual shift towards natural science. Consequently, many articles focused on central issues in the discipline of psychology; ethics, roles and social responsibilities were debated. The rise of cognitive psychology seems to have raised the age old conflict between academic and applied psychology.

Canadian Psychology, 1991 Vol. 32

Much of the research focused on differences and the meanings underlying various kinds of development. There were many articles on language development: however, the bulk of the articles depicted human differences, i.e.: race and sex. Generally, the research in 1991 supported both the humanistic and the experimental realms of psychology.

The first article discussed language development, making one think about all aspects and contexts of words. For example, "Are words powerless or are they meaningless?" This article distinguished itself by presenting examples in which one was to try and decipher what words one found "powerless or meaningless." For example, the word "womb." The wo in womb presents a female connotation within this word. Another example was "why do so many words begin with man, or have the word embedded within. (i.e.: manufacture, manhole, chairman, manual, mandible, manner etc.) This article was intriguing because it nicely illustrated how words should not be looked at as "simply just words."

Another topic that was thoroughly addressed involved human differences. J.P Rushton (University of Western Ontario) replied to Weizman et al.'s 1991 criticisms in a controversial article, Do r-K Strategies Underlie Race Differences? A Reply to Weizman et al. . Rushton uses data tabulated to claim that on diverse traits including: brain size and intelligence, maturational delay, sexual restraint, quiescent temperament and social organization, the Caucasoid average falls between those of Mongoloids and Negroids. He further claims that the r-K continuum of reproductive strategies can be used to explain the differences. This article is followed by Eggs, Eggplants and Eggheads: A Rejoinder to Rushton by Weizmann et al., discussing whether or not Rushton's work should be presented in scientific journals or at scientific conferences and the dilemma posed by publication giving legitimacy to Rushton's work, which demands response from other scientists, which in turn gives legitimacy to Rushton's work. This sentiment in also voiced by in the following article: Rushton's Racial Comparisons: An Ecological Critique of Theory and Method by J.L. Anderson.

The second issue of 1991, focuses on problems in areas of diagnostic tools. Researchers addressed problems of sexism in the American Psychological Association's, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and how sexist labeling in the mental health system is harmful to health. This was followed by discussions on how normal is defined. Research also addressed the problems of assessing and interpreting interactions in correlational analysis of behavioural science research.

The third issue began with a collection of papers based on an Invited Symposium, W(h)ither The Discipline, presented at the Meetings of the Canadian Psychological Association, Ottawa, June, 1990. The papers addressed the academic vs. professional conflict in psychology, focusing on the rise of Cognitivism and its impact on experimental, social and clinical psychology. Other topics discussed were: the relationship between psychology and sentencing reform, the roles of psychologists in assessment, court testimony, intervention, education and research involving parents with mental retardation and their children and empirical work in the psychologies of religion. Ends with a historical biographical sketch, John Ridley Stroop: Creator of a Landmark Cognitive Task (C.M. Macleod).

The remaining articles reviewed current issues in deafness and the role of research and training in psychology. Authors and researchers are successfully devising assets to these people, such as more and more literature written in Braille, vocational opportunities, advancements in technology etc. However, negative aspects were also spoke of such as mainstreaming and its deficits.

Throughout 1991, a humanistic perspective was displayed, through ethical concerns, gender differences, sexism and child abuse. The implication of social development was analyzed under all these frames. However, there is evidence of natural science. This is apparent in articles discussing language development, which involves cognition. As mentioned previously, researchers have implemented some experimental techniques in the deaf community. Generally, in 1991 psychology in Canada was a mixture of both humanistic and natural science perspectives.

Canadian Psychology, 1992, Vol. 33

1992 opened with a focus on violence against women and children, with entire issues focusing on these concerns. Following a humanistic point of view, many of the articles discussed sexual abuse against children and violence against women. There is also discussion of the treatment and prevention of sexual abuse. Most of the researchers used social intervention methods, such as involving the victims with others who have experienced the same abuse.

The first issue was devoted to the theme of violence and its aftermath. The discussion of feminist's deaths comes against the backdrop of what different feminists believed about family violence. First, many feminists believed that a lot of "hidden incest" occurs within families. Unfortunately, because this usually involved the fathers of the family, the mothers felt threatened and could only remain submissive. No external help was available. In addition, these feminists discussed violence against women in the past versus violence against women now. This kind of violence was generally accepted. In general, these feminists took on a very critical perspective involving family violence, and these women were considered the "Ground-breakers" in Canadian Psychology.

For the remainder of the year, Canadian Psychology devoted entire volumes to the history of social psychology and the history of psychology in Canada. The roots, evolution, styles, and traditions of social psychology throughout the years was discussed. However, the main concern of social psychology was the idea that it is disappearing. Social psychology is predominantly becoming an interdisciplinary approach. Examples of this psychology needing to borrow from other disciplines can be seen in the assessment of personality types, dream analysis or images and neuropsychological validation of learning disabilities.

The literature in 1992, reflects a social approach and concern about the decline in Canadian social and humanistic psychology. These volumes largely centre upon the humanistic perspective, with some glimpses of degression towards a natural science approach.

Canadian Psychology, 1993, Vol. 34

During the first quarter of the year, Canadian Psychology focused on the impact of the contributions made by the faculty at the Universite de Montreal. Celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the university, many reflected back on the major contributions made by the university to the discipline of psychology. The department of psychology at the Universite de Montreal offers research programs encompassing the sectors of modern scientific psychology.

A majority of the research conducted and produced through the university centred around the notion of relationships and interactive natures of individuals in group and structured settings. By looking at the interpersonal relationships between and among people, researchers examined the cognitive and the behavioural correlates. The research looked at immigrants and their adjustment to a new cultural identification; the formation of informal groups with formal or structural environments; and the social implications on women in the work force and the effects it posed on their roles as mothers, wives and labourers.

Stepping away from the sociological influences, a more concentrated effort was made towards a more scientific approach. Research designs combined cognitive psychology and neuro-psychology. In one instance, a means of memory assessment by a computerised test battery was proposed to refine the assessment tools of mnesic functions. It looked at three main areas of memory: working memory, levels of processing in long term memory, and implicit and explicit memory. When creating research designs and methods of assessment, Olga Favreau from the Universite de Montreal pointed out that data should be reflective of the hypothesis and the aim of the research project. Favreau advises researchers not to be diverted from the given path so as to ensure the validity and testability of the results.

Moving onto the second issue of the year, it was evident that researchers, such as P.C. Dodwell from the Unvierstie de Montreal, Larry Jacoby from McMaster University and Pierre Jolicoeur from the University of Waterloo, were embracing the value of cognitive research as presented in the first quarter of the year. Cognitive areas such as problem solving, perception, memory, awareness and attention were the focus of research. The ideas presented in the past, such as perceptual notions of top-down / bottom-up, were expanded on and further investigated.

Researchers, like Barbara Wand, became curious about psychology as a discipline and the unity of psychology as a profession and an academic discipline. Their starting point focused on university education and its impact on students studying psychology. By looking at such factors as the influence of grades and percentages, researchers were able to analyse to what extent these factors influenced students geared towards psychology as a profession.

For the remaining quarter, much of the focus shifted to research design and assessment procedures for interpreting data. Research methods were extensively used and analyzed as a means to move psychology more into the scientific realm. Statistical methods as well as quantitative and qualitative research methods offered the best means for achieving the scientific status that psychologists were seeking. For example, Bruno Zumbo from the University of Ottawa and Donald Zimmerman from Carleton University analyzed the use of parametric statistical methods versus nonparametric methods when assessing ordinal data. From their analysis, they concluded that parametric statistical tests are best when assessing ordinal data.

During 1993, the discipline of psychology in Canada encompassed the ideals of the humanistic sciences by looking at the individual and the interactive processes while at the same time moving ahead into the scientific realm of natural sciences through statistical research. Thus, the debate between academic and applied psychology also continues. It appears that Canadian psychologists are struggling to define the future of their discipline.