Canadian Psychologist: 1971 to 1975

Students in Tom Bauslaugh's 1st Class
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University


During the 1950's, Canadian psychologists began to feel the pangs of an identity crisis within the field of psychology. Until that time, psychology had been primarily theoretical with laboratory experimentation as its main source of information. However, during and after World War II, many Canadian psychologists felt that they had an obligation to society. With society in such turmoil during the 1940's, many psychologists felt they had a social responsibility to apply their knowledge for the good of society. Thus flourished applied psychology. Much to the dismay of the experimental psychologists, psychology was being taken out of the laboratory and put directly into society. In addition, the issue of an identity crisis had arose because of the debate over whether or not psychology should be promoted as a pure science or an applied profession. The concern was that if psychology was to be maintained as a pure science, then we should only be dealing with the theory and its implication - not its application.

During the 1960's, there were conferences held to try to remedy the argument. However, regardless of the outcomes of the conferences, psychology seems to still be going through an identity crisis as evidenced by the focus that articles in the Canadian Psychologist took between 1971 to 1975. Issues from social psychology and education programs to experimentation and behaviourism were included. The diversity of these topics suggests that Canadian psychology was still struggling with its basic fundamentals even into the 1970's and the articles published in the Canadian Psychologist reflects this conflict.


During 1971, the Canadian Psychologist focused on psychology's application in the education field, in particular graduate training programs. Even with respect to education, psychologists differed in the appropriate methods used to prepare graduates for the real world. In the first article, Brodsky (1971) summarized a symposium of different perspectives on how graduate training should be taught to ensure that the student's time and money would result in the maximum level of benefit to them and to society once they had graduated. Professor Arthur suggested a bold approach whereby Ph.D. programs should be more technically oriented rather than just theoretically and research oriented as they had been in the past. He felt that a graduate student's knowledge of technology, such as computers, would improve their job opportunities (Brodsky, 1971). In the second article, Ronald W. Johnson (later Professor Johnson), critiqued the symposium from a student's perspective. From Johnson's own experience of the graduate training program, he found little practical application of the information he had learned. He felt that graduate school was simply a place where prominent professors shape students' beliefs to match those of the professor. In essence, Johnson suggested that graduate training programs produce carbon copies of its instructors (Johnson, 1971). Finally, the third article summarized the findings of a survey done by Artur Z. Arthur. He found that most psychology graduate training programs focused on basic psychology issues, such as behaviour modification and research methods, even though there was a great need for applied psychology programs in the areas of gerontology and rehabilitation (Arthur, 1971). Additional articles explained how psychological principles could be applied to help students cope with stress in college and university. As well, community programs could be improved with the help of well-educated psychology graduates (Waxer, 1974). Thus, during 1971, there was indecision amongst the psychological community about how best to educate graduate students in preparation for the outside world.

Toward the end of 1972, the emphasis moved towards early childhood education. Articles in the Canadian Psychologist reflected the opinion of many psychologists that education happens in the real world and that the physical-classroom-type education system is not appropriate to ensure that children are learning real life skills (Goodman, 1972). Goodman (1972) expressed the importance of learning through the imitation of others for social skills such as language. Psychologists were interested in how psychology could be applied to enhance the education system (Goodman, 1973). With respect to education, the Canadian Psychologist displays an applied-psychology approach.

Social Psychology

Another orientation in the area of applied psychology is social psychology. From 1971 to 1975 psychologists invested considerable research time exploring issues that fall into this category. Articles in the Canadian Psychologist cover a wide range of issues including drug abuse (Milstein, Pihl & Smart, 1974), bystander response (Lay, Allen & Kassirer, 1974), the death penalty (Vidmar, 1974) and the formation of impressions (Boyd & Perry, 1972). With respect to social psychology topics, the greatest emphasis, during the early 1970's, was placed on driving safety (Stroh, 1973; Strachan, 1973; Wilson, Lonero & Brezina, 1973). As well, two articles of particular relevance to Canadians were published. One on the interaction of people who speak different languages (Taylor & Simard, 1975) and the other on ethnic stereotyping (Gardner, 1973). Another topic of importance - ethics in social psychological research - was addressed by Wiesenthal (1974).

This time period marks the commencement of studies on driving habits. As Zelhart (1973) points out, estimates of the rate of drinking and driving were still being sought and very few drinking and driving programs had been evaluated in Canada. With regard to driving under the influence, two studies were conducted; one investigating current Federal Government measures (Stroh, 1973), and the other looking at a new program entitled "The Alberta Impaired Drivers Project". In Stroh's (1973) article, it was noted that while the Ministry of Transport was employing new methods to reduce drinking and driving, psychological research into the matter was restricted without government support. This article reflects the lack of government support for applied psychology in this domain.

The Alberta Impaired Drivers Project was the first of its kind to be put to use in Canada. Drivers convicted of driving under the influence were required to participate in this program which inform drunk drivers of the influences alcohol can have on driving, encouraged drivers to evaluate their drinking and driving habits, and forced offenders to examine the consequences of their habit (Strachan, 1973). The program's goal was to provoke an attitude change towards drinking and driving. The program was deemed a success as there was a statistically significant decrease in reoffenders (Strachan, 1973). This article depicts the importance of applied psychology.

An experiment regarding a driving skills improvement project was also conducted during the early 1970's. Ontario drivers with 9 or more points on their license participated in a Driver Improvement Program (Wilson, Lonero & Brezina, 1973). An experimental group was given a skills improvement package and group discussions; the control group received only a letter asking them to drive with caution. Three months after treatment the experimental group displayed a substantially lower collision rate as compared to the control group, but at six months this difference had disappeared (Wilson et al., 1973). This article shows how psychology can influence and shape society's behaviour and how its effects can deteriorate without continued application.

An issue relevant to Canada is the interaction of people who speak different languages. The study of cultural dualism was important during the 1970's and is especially important today considering the Quebec separatist movement is so strong and since Canada has since adopted a multicultural policy, being a country that houses many different languages. A large concern for many people living in a new country is the preservation of their cultural identity and traditions (Taylor & Simard, 1975). Taylor and Simard (1975) investigated the effects a positive attitude and personal attributes, such as motivation and knowledge of the language, will have on the level of interaction people are willing to allow between themselves and someone who speaks a different language. In addition, Gardner (1973) examined how Canadians view stereotypes. He felts that rather than looking at the characteristics of the stereotype itself, research should place more emphasis on the person making stereotypes (Gardner, 1973).

During 1974, psychologists concerned themselves with ethics, especially the use of deception in social psychological experimental research (Wiesenthal, 1974). The article focused on whether psychology could be scientific-based in the search for truth, but at the same time, take on the risk of creating distress in the experimental subject (Wiesenthal, 1974). Social psychologists felt that there was excessive dependence on the use of deception and new methods must be created to replace it. These new methods included unobtrusive measurement with the subject being unaware that they are under observation (Wiesenthal, 1974). At this same time, the American Psychological Association was creating new ethical standards to be upheld by experimental psychologists (Wiesenthal, 1974). Thus, at a time when psychologists felt a social responsibility towards the good of society, the use of traditional psychology research methods was neglecting society's safety. A change in methodology was needed.

From the above, it is apparent that social psychology was useful in exploring many issues pertinent to Canadians in the seventies. Driving habits, dualism, ethics, and other social issues, such as drug use and bystander response, were all of great concern. Many psychologists in the early part of the 1970's saw the importance of applied psychology as evidenced by the number of social psychology articles in the Canadian Psychologist at that time.

Experimentation Methods

As discussed above, experimentation methods were under analysis by psychologists during the period of 1971-1975. It appears that articles in the Canadian Psychologist during the early seventies reflected not only disagreement about the benefits of psychology, but, also the best method for experimentation. In 1972, interest was focused on the value of single-subject experiments. Edgington (1972) expressed that one-subject experiments are useful for drawing statistical inferences about treatment effects on the individual experimental subject or it could be used for some special ability or abnormality. However, in contrast, another opinion expressed in the article was that single-subject experiments are not representative of the general population and they cannot provide significant statistical inferences. As a result, there were few single-subject psychological experiments published since they could not yield valid statistical inferences which was the general requirement of psychology journals at that time (Edgington, 1972).

However, in 1975, a researcher tried to alleviate the problems that single-subject experiments presented by integrating single-subject and multi-subject approaches in order to take advantage of their separate strengths and avoid their weaknesses (Shine, 1975). Shine came up with five research steps designed to carry out such an integration. The five steps were the Probing Function, the Verification and Generalization Function, the Detection Function, the Identification Function, and the Control Function. Shine (1975) pointed out that if we wanted a successful integration, we must have the following two conditions; first, we must employ repeated measures; second, we must have some statistically sophisticated single-subject designs available. During the early seventies, psychologists were constantly facing opposition to their traditional methods.

Biased results were the concern during 1973. Sampling bias was one cause as cited by Silverman and Margulis (1973) who pointed out that sampling bias can lead to generalization problems since 80% of psychological studies use college students as subjects, people who, for several reasons, are not representative of the general population. First, they suggest that samples may become biased as certain types of people may choose certain types of experiments to participate in. For example, researchers have seen a consistent and plausible pattern of trait differences between people who seek personality-related studies and those who do not. As a result, it is very important for us to obtain unbiased experimental subjects. Furthermore, Johnson (1973) points out another problem - traditionally, researchers relied upon volunteers for obtaining human subjects for an experiment. Volunteers might behave differently from non-volunteers and thus, bias the results. Yet still another concern over volunteer subjects arose. Psychologists began to wonder whether they had the right to demand participation, especially from undergraduate psychology students. A coercion factor was involved. Silverman and Margulis (1973) pointed out several alternatives to biased sampling to develop a better system of experimentation.

Another concern in 1973 was experimenter bias. During the 1970's, psychologists were concerned about the fact that different experimenters obtained significantly different results from comparable subjects (Page & Yates, 1973). Articles in the Canadian Psychologist pointed out that some psychologists were not aware of the problems concerning psychologists' attitudes toward experimenter bias and related issues. The results of a questionnaire sent out to psychologists in North America proved to be very useful for future psychological experimentation and helped to directly assess its impact on the scientific ideology and practices of psychologists (Page & Yates, 1973). The results implied that, in general, most psychologists were familiar with the effect social psychological issues, such as culture factors, can have on experiment results. However, different psychology disciplines had different judgments. For example, those in perception, physiology, and animal areas had different judgments compared to those in social, educational, or clinical areas. Also, Page and Yates (1973) found that most psychologists continued to neglect the importance of gender of both the experimenters and the subjects in research design. This problem can be referred back to the lack of generalizability mentioned previously. Further attention was focused on the attributes of experimenters and the processes by which experimenter biases are generated. The research done by Page and Yates (1973) showed that differences in attributes (e.g. experimenter's sex, age, race, religion, and intelligence) influenced the results. In short, researchers in 1974 continued to find experimenter characteristics that might operate in a number of ways to influence subjects' behaviour and thus, bias the results (Silverman, 1974). During the early 1970's though, it was difficult to foresee the seriousness of these problems. The problems in the articles in the Canadian Psychologist indicate the need for reassessment of traditional experimentation methods.

In the following year, 1974, articles in the Canadian Psychologist focused on evaluation procedures and models of evaluation. There seemed to be a contradiction between traditional procedures used and the ultimate purpose of the experiment. Traditionally, the most common evaluation procedure used was the classical experimental model (Ryan & Moffitt, 1974). These experiments tended to measure the effects of one or two independent variables on the dependent variable, but in reality, there was a demand for multivariate factors. As a result, three major models of evaluation were proposed: Evaluation by Objective, a System Approach, and a model by Ackoff (Larkin, 1974). At that time, Davidson (1970, cited in Larkin, 1974) felt that the appropriate role for psychologists should be program operation and evaluation rather than direct service of individual clients. This is consistent with the identity crisis psychology was still going through during the early seventies.

Behaviourism vs. Cognitivism

Thus far, the articles published in the Canadian Psychologist between 1971 to 1975 represent a need for psychology to disregard (or at lease improve) its traditional beliefs in exchange for a newer ideology. During 1975, the articles in the Canadian Psychologist discuss that psychology was going through yet another major paradigm shift from behaviouralism to cognitivism. Similar to the debate over psychology's role as a theoretically-based field or an applied science, psychologists were beginning to explore the importance of cognition over behaviourist theories as psychology's central focus. It is interesting to note that at this same time, the journal in question was experiencing its own identity crisis in that its title changed from the Canadian Psychologist to the Canadian Psychological Review.

In 1975, psychologists were still debating over which fundamental belief psychology should be based. Berlyne (1975) discusses the role that behaviourism has played in the field of psychology. It is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal being the prediction and control of behaviour through the analysis of the biological roots of behaviour ( Berlyne, 1975). Advocates for behaviourism, like those for basic or theoretical psychology during the 1950's identity crisis, emphasize the importance of this paradigm because it is biologically based - a true science that society can trust and embrace. Although behaviouralism is usually associated with Skinner's work on operant conditioning, Skinner was not a typical behaviourist (Berlyne, 1975). Thus, behaviourism is concerned with the observation of overt behaviours (Benjafield, 1996). Berlyne (1975) continued to discuss Hull's influence on behaviourism and how his ideas changed the focus of psychology towards a cognitive science. Hull's neo-behaviourism opened the door to later "cognitive" psychology with its reliance upon unobserved intervening variables. Studying the effects that motivation and symbolic processes had on behaviour the article suggested that psychology should re-focus its attention on Hull's interpretation of behaviourism - a cognitive approach (Berlyne, 1975). This cognitive approach to psychology was more subjective than the explicit approach that other behaviourists took. Furthermore, it signified a change in perspective that the field of psychology was considering in the mid-1970's. The focus of the Canadian Psychologist during late 1975 was on cognitivism. Topics such as sensory deprivation and its effects on behaviour, imagery and synchronic thinking, and human sequential predictive behaviour were discussed. Thus, during 1975, there was a conflict over what psychology's focus should be - either behaviourism or cognitivism. This suggests that psychology was still going through an identity crisis well into the 1970's.


The identity crisis of psychology in Canada has weaved itself into many domains. Kuhn (1970, as cited in Wiesenthal, 1974) makes a note of the fact that when a paradigm cannot adequately provide answers to the research problem, a new outlook is encouraged. Canada appears to be experiencing this identity crisis continuously throughout 1971 to 1975. There was no set format as to what psychology shall encompass. With respect to education, there was indecision over psychology's role in graduate training programs as well as early childhood education. There was controversy over whether or not psychology should be applied to the education system. Psychology's identity crisis was also displayed in social psychology, a domain which takes an applied approach. Specifically, the concern over ethics and the scientific approach is a good example of the crisis concerning the identity of Canadian psychology. It questions psychology's scientific approach in the discovery of truth for the betterment of mankind, however, it also reveals the ways in which psychologists often ignore the repercussions the subject will have to face. As well, the articles in the Canadian Psychologist during the early seventies suggest the need for change from traditional experimentation methods to more appropriate ones for human social science, since the old methods did not address sample or experimenter biases which can affect the results of the experiment. Finally, in 1975, Canadian psychology experienced a paradigm shift from behaviourism to cognitivism in response to the psychological communities' needs to focus on more implicit thought processes rather than explicit behaviours. Perhaps the diversity in the articles published in the Canadian Psychologist during the early 1970's opened the eyes of Canadian psychologists and made them realize that psychology should not be a unified discipline. Rather psychology should be diversified to enable exploration of new areas which are in need of psychological analysis. Canadian psychologists responded affirmatively by diversifying the Canadian Psychological Association to include areas such as women's issues in psychology. The powerful influence journal articles can have is surely evident.


Arthur, A. Z. (1971) Applied Training Programmes of Psychology in Canada: A Survey. Canadian Psychologist, 12, 46-65.

Benjafield, J. (1996). A history of psychology. Toronto: Allyn & Bacon.

Berlyne, D. E. (1975). Behaviourism? Cognitive theory? Humanistic psychology? - To Hull with them all! Canadian Psychological Review, 16, 69-80.

Boyd, J., & Perry, R. (1972). Impression formation as an interpersonal communication phenomenon. Canadian Psychologist, 13, 207-216.

Brodsky, M. (1971) Summary of a Symposium on Graduate Training in Canada. Canadian Psychologist, 12, 25-29.

Edgington, Eugene S. (1972). N=1 Experiments: Hypothesis Testing. Canadian Psychologist 13, 121-134.

Gardner, R. (1973). Ethnic stereotypes: The traditional approach, a new look. Canadian Psychologist, 14, 133-148.

Goodman, M (1973) Psychological Services to Schools: Meeting Educational Needs of Tomorrow. The Canadian Psychologist, 14, 249-255.

Goodman, Paul (1972) The Relation of Culture and Learning. Canadian Psychologist, 13, 292-304.

Johnson, Ronald W. (1971) A Student Looks At Graduate Training. Canadian Psychologist, 12, 37-41.

Johnson, R. W. (1973). The Obtaining of Experimental Subjects. Canadian Psychologist, 14, 208-211.

Larkin, E. J. (1974). Three Models of Evaluation. Canadian Psychologist, 15, 89-94.

Lay, C., Allen, M., & Kassirer, A. (1974). The responsive bystander in emergencies: Some preliminary data. Canadian Psychologist, 15, 220-227.

Milstein, S., Pihl, R., & Smart, R. (1974). The problem of drug abuse: Has Canada found some answers? Canadian Psychologist, 15, 357-367.

Page, Steward; Yates, Elizabeth (1973). Attitudes of Psychologists Toward Experimenter Controls in Research. Canadian Psychologist, 14, 202-207

Ryan, Thomas J.; Moffitt, Alan R. (1974). Evaluation of Preschool Programs. Canadian Psychologist, 15, 205-219

Shine, Lester C. (1975). Five Research Steps Designed to Integrate the Single- Subject and Multi- Subject Approach to Experimental Research. Canadian Psychologist, 16, 179-183

Silverman, Irwin (1974). The Experimenter: A (still) Neglected Stimulus Object. Canadian Psychologist, 15, 258-269

Strachan, J. (1973). The Alberta impaired drivers' project: A countermeasure to cope with the drinking driver. Canadian Psychologist, 14, 34-48.

Stroh, C. (1973). Alcohol and highway safety. Canadian Psychologist, 14, 29-33.

Taylor, D., & Simard, L. (1975). Social interaction in a bilingual setting. Canadian Psychological Review, 16, 240-254.

Vidmar, N. (1974). Retributive and utilitarian motives and other correlates of Canadian attitudes toward the death penalty. Canadian Psychologist, 15, 337-355.

Waxer, Peter (1974) Community Psychology in Colleges II: Psychologist as Administrator. Canadian Psychologist, 15, 251-257

Wiesenthal. D. (1974). Reweaving deception's tangled web. Canadian Psychologist, 15, 326- 336.

Wilde, G. (1973). Social psychological factors and use of mass publicity. Canadian Psychologist, 14, 1-7.

Wilson, W., Lonero, L., & Brezina, E. (1973). A skills-improvement approach to collision reduction. Canadian Psychologist, 14, 8-16.

Zelhart, P. (1973). Traffic safety: Overview. Canadian Psychologist, 14, 49-50.