Canadian Journal of Psychology:
A Review of Special Issues Published From 1984 to 1988

Monica Wacker & Sarah Lieu
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University


The following is a discussion of the Special Issues of the Canadian Journal of Psychology for the years 1984 to 1988. Each Special Issue was released in June of those years (there was no Special Issue for 1986), and was dedicated to a specific topic area. Each of the Special Issues contained articles and reviews that were entirely devoted to that topic area alone. The Special Issue journals we investigated were:

We were interested in why these particular topic areas might have been selected for the Special Issues and whether the time period (1984 to 1988) could explain the selection of the topic areas. We were also interested in determining what type of research was being done in each of these topic areas.

Special Issues: 1984 to 1988

Special Issue on Animal Memory (1984)

While it is not indicated in the articles as to exactly why the topic of Animal Memory was chosen for the 1984 Special Issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychology , the introductory article to the Special Issue gives some indication. It suggests that there has been a growing interest in this field since the 1970's. Prior to the 1970's, research on animal memory was mostly physiological in nature. Behaviourism was the dominant paradigm in Psychology and researchers tended to focus on animal learning, believing memory to be an effect of that learning and therefore not warranting special study. However, in the late 1960's there were a number of trends, which contributed to the interest in studying animal memory behaviourally rather than just physiologically. Influenced by the growing development of computers, many psychologists began to understand humans and animals not as passive biological organisms but as processors of information. The computer was used as an analogy for understanding mental processes. This interest in information processing required a move away from strictly studying behaviour, to studying the processes and mechanisms going on within the organism. Another boon to animal memory research was the development of an experimental design called the delayed matching-to-sample procedure. This generated a lot of research of memory in monkeys and pigeons. Thus, a number of developments in the late 1960's sparked an interest in studying animal memory and this interest appears to continue today.

Twelve papers make up this Special Issue on Animal Memory. Six of the articles discuss experiments using pigeons, three articles discuss experiments using monkeys, and one article describes an experiment using rats. In addition there were two review articles: one was a review of experiments done with food-storing birds and the other review article reviewed memory experiments involving either human or animal subjects. The experiments described in all of the articles appeared not to be overly stressful for the animals, no doubt reflecting the strong influence of animal rights activists in the 1980's. There were many types of memory experiments described using a variety of experimental designs. As examples of this diversity there were experiments concerning the navigation memory of rats in a swimming pool; an article reviewing experiments done with food-storing birds and their ability to remember caches of hidden food; and a number of experiments conducted with pigeons using the delayed matching-to-sample procedure. (The delayed matching-to-sample procedure involves reinforcing pigeons for pecking at the correct alternative of two coloured keys, which matches a sample they were shown earlier.)

Special Issue on Skill (1985)

There is no direct explanation given in the articles as to why Skill would have been chosen as the topic for the Canadian Journal of Psychology 's 1985 Special Issue. However, it is stated in the introductory article of this issue that there has been a "renewed interest in understanding skilled performance". Perhaps because the previous year had been a year for the Olympics, with the games being held in Los Angeles, there was a stimulation of interest in skill. Perhaps, too, the increasing shift away from a strictly stimulus-response Behaviourism to more cognitive psychological approaches may have led to interests into what makes up skill (for example, automaticity). In fact, the articles in this Special Issue are concerned with in-the-mind processes that account for expertise and skill.

Of the eight articles in the Special Issue on Skill, there were five review articles, and only three experiments were included. According to the introductory article to this Special Issue, a wide range of topics and methodologies typified the study of skill in the 1980's. The articles reflect this diversity in covering a range of topics that include skill in multiplication, motor performance, programming, reading, memory, sports, and musical performance.

Special Issue on Aging and Cognition

Traditionally, cognitive decline with age has been related mainly, to biological changes affecting neural mechanisms. Now it is becoming increasingly clear that the story is far more complex, and other factors related to the individual, such as his/her social environment, and clinical history, interact with age and biological change to influence cognitive function. The aim of this special issue was to discuss new insights in some major problem areas between cognition and aging, provide a sense of progress that was being made. Additionally, the aim was to identify challenges and new directions for research. The papers selected for this special issue all contain new experimental findings emanating from established research programs concerned with central issues in cognitive gerontology. Included are reports of basic and applied research that focus, for example, on lost and spared memory performance, clinical assessment in normal and abnormal aged populations, and the effective use of animal models.

Special Issue on Child Development: When Things Go Wrong

The present special issue is devoted to the problems in children's development of sensory, perceptual, cognitive, behavioural, social, and emotional. The scientific study of applied issues in the everyday lives of children has only recently become an integral part of mainstream psychological science. The three dominating factors that contributed to the increased interest in study applied questions are: applied perspectives, cultural and contextual influences, and changing methods in developmental psychology.

First, the present volume is filled with examples of fresh insights on development gained from taking applied perspectives that have increasingly helped to enrich our understanding of human nature and development. For example one study by Keith Humphrey and his colleagues on the use of sonar aids by blind children provides a direct test of some prominent theories on the nature and course of infant perceptual development. Second, it has become clear that cultural and contextual influences play a major role in shaping cognitive and social development. As a consequence, more attention is being paid to the salient real-world settings such as families, schools and day-care centres, places where development occurs. Third, as development psychology has matured, it has shown greater willingness to tackle complex, socially relevant issues. Couple with a greater flexibility in utilizing a variety of methods such as single subject and qualitative research designs, the scientific study of development has become better equipped to focus on childhood psychopathologies like autism or on children with sensory or motor handicaps.