Zeitgeist for Canadian Psychology in the 1980s:
Contributions from SFU

Kai Lee Klymchuck & Dan Miller
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University

The 1980's, the "Me Generation", or, perhaps more aptly, the "Why Me Decade", Yuppies, DINKs ( Dual Income No Kids ), and personal gain seemed to permeate the zeitgeist of this era. Families were not having kids and single women were ( unless they were aborting). Divorce seemed almost fashionable ( Did you live with your Mom or Dad?). More women than ever before were making names for themselves in the workplace, but in spite of this, the unemployment rate was soaring. The economy was uncertain ( Black Tuesday, October 1989 the market crashed many times worse than the fall of 1929), and the homeless population was skyrocketing while social assistance programs were being stretched to unprecedented levels.

Some of the most famous entertainers of the times were doing their best to increase public awareness of specific social plights through efforts such as Band Aid, Live Aid, Farm Aid , and Comic Relief. Rock Hudson, a man whose name could once make women swoon, had become the first celebrity to die from AIDS, an event that sparked the widespread fear and paranoia so often born of both uncertainty and ignorance. Use of recreational drugs was becoming so popular that governments had declared "war" on a psychedelic substance. Alcohol was as popular as ever, but driving under the influence would get you a condescending leer from even the most irresponsible of your peers. People were increasingly more reluctant to enjoy a cigarette after a nice steak and egg breakfast and more inclined to have a fibre and fruit breakfast followed by the latest aerobic workout video. Rights, for minorities, majorities, criminals, victims, animals, trees, oceans, lakes, rivers, streams and concepts, seemed to be major topics for conversation at most dinner tables throughout the nation. What was the effect of all this on psychological research in Canada?

In order to provide a sample of the research stemming from western Canada from 1986 to 1990, we shall consider those articles in Canadian Psychology which have originated, or been contributed to, by faculty members from Simon Fraser University.

The July 1986 issue held two such articles. The first, authored by Crawford and Galdikas, considered rape from an evolutionary standpoint; weighing the selective costs and benefits of rape to both the aggressive, and the receptive, parties in question. The second article, written by Meredith Kimball, defined feminist psychology, outlined past accomplishments in this area and suggested some possible future directions for research and feminist therapy.

In 1987, Patricia Hadaway and SFU professor Barry Beyerstien take up the plight of the smoking minority with their paper, THEY CAME FOR THE SMOKERS BUT I DIDN'T SPEAK UP BECAUSE I WASN'T A SMOKER: LEGISLATION AND TOBACCO USE. This paper provides a spirited argument that suggests that both "smokers and non-smokers should support the rights of the smokers to indulge their habit", further suggesting that government was interfering in the rights of individuals too much already and at great social cost. This was an argument that was attacked by Kaplan and Parlow (1988), who possibly misinterpreted the paper's concerns, and was again defended by Haladay and Beyerstein in 1989.

Additionally, as many of us here at SFU would expect, Vito Modigliani published a paper in 1988 entitled FEATURE AND RULE SELECTION IN CATEGORIZING TASKS, to represent the more technical end of the psychological spectrum. He also proceeded to explain how the act of making an operational definition is key in understanding the roles of bottom-up and top-down processing in categorization tasks.

Depression in women was the subject of a invited response by Marlene Moretti (now of SFU) and Donald Meichenbaum in "An analysis of sex differences in depression: The search continues" (January, 1989). These authors evaluated Janet Stoppard's studies on gender and depression, agreeing with Stoppard's view that any understanding of the causes of depression in women as a distinct group must consider the role that factors such as socio-economic and environmental conditions play on the development of female depression. The pair disagreed, however, with Stoppard's claim that "cognitive-behavioral therapy" approaches to the treatment of depression were male-biased and disempowering to women. Thus suggesting instead that the goals of such programs were to increase individual self-efficacy and stress-management ability - the lack of which are implicated in the occurrence of depression in both sexes.

In a submission entitled "Law and psychology in Canada: The need for training and reserch" (July, 1990), James Ogloff argued that the social scientific knowledge and applied skills of the psychologist could serve to inform the legal process. He also suggested that the applied skills of the psychologists as professionals within the legal arena needed to be supported by a solid educational foundation in both law and psychology. Despite the current unavailability of psych-legal educational opportunities within Canada, Ogloff's survey of 30 university psychology department chairs revealed a good deal of interest in developing programs of study that wold straddle both disciplines. Simon Fraser University established its Law and Psychology graduate studies program under Ogloff's direction a few years after the publication of this article.

University funding cutbacks and a proposed plan for faculty renewal were addressed in a response paper from Marilyn Bowman ("A view from Simon Fraser University") in 1987. While new demands were pressing upon universities from the non-academic community to provide more and varied services, Bowman noted with disappointment a concomitant decrease in the provision of funding to universities to defray the costs of offering such services. Bowman stated that while there was no substitute for the adequate monetary support of universities, a plan to encourage early faculty retirement (as presented by Renner in the same issue) might not only brighten the financial outlook for straitened departments. She also pointed out that it might also provide the means to attract younger scholars to teaching. Despite the potential for such benefits, however, Bowman observed only modest participation in the early retirement option at Simon Fraser University.

Conelius P. Rea published an article entitled "Teaching psychology to grade school children" (July, 1988) which outlined SFU's "Mini-University" program to which members of the psychology department had provided active and popular participation since 1984. The goal of the program, which provided a summer session of academically related activities for 10-16 year olds, was to improve relations with local schools and communities and increase the public's knowledge about the field of psychology. The program has been a highly successful one. Over 80% of respondents to a survey evaluating the program (1986-1988) indicated they would recommend the program to others. In addition, evaluation results appear to have supported an increase in appreciation and understanding of psychology among the participants of this entertaining educational program.