Flinders University was established in 1966, and in 1967 teaching of psychology to first-year students commenced, along with the appointment of the foundational chair, Professor Norm Feather. The School (and former Discipline) of Psychology has always been located in the Faculty (formerly School) of Social Sciences. The faculty, renamed the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences from 1 January 2010, includes three other schools (Business, International Studies, and Social and Policy Studies). A snapshot of the historical timeline for the school is presented in Figure 6.1.
Over the last fifteen years, research interests in the school have been united by a cohesive theme: the rigorous application of theory and methodological approaches from basic psychology through to a range of applied issues of relevance to human behaviour across the lifespan: clinical and health, developmental, social, neuroscience and psychophysiology, memory and cognition. Psychological science is a designated area of research strength within Flinders University. Current staff in the school and their respective research interests are shown in Table 6.1.
Research strengths over the last fifteen years
This chapter presents information about the recent research history of the school since 2000. In particular, we highlight the main themes of our externally funded research and its impact.
The Eyewitness Memory Laboratory Neil Brewer and Nathan Weber
The Eyewitness Memory Laboratory was established in the late 1990s by Neil Brewer, and he and former PhD student and current colleague, Nathan Weber, now manage the lab. It has received continuous ARC funding from the late 1990s through to 2019. This funding has included six ARC Discovery Projects led by Neil Brewer and one led by Nathan Weber; one ARC Linkage International Social Science International; and one ARC-LIEF grant, with total funding of around $2.5 million. Neil Brewer and Nathan Weber have also been involved as chief investigators on eyewitness memory projects funded by the ARC, ESRC (UK), NSF (US) and the British Academy, with funding well in excess of $1 million.
Although there has been a diverse array of projects conducted in the lab, the major focus has been in the area of eyewitness identification. The study of eyewitness identification is important because eyewitnesses frequently make mistakes when presented with a line-up.
Part 1: The birth and development of the School of Psychology (1994-2005)
The birth of the School of Psychology at the University of South Australia on 1 January 1994 was the formal result of some four years of intensive political efforts by a small group of highly dedicated academic individuals. Lobbying to establish a home for psychology commenced even before the agreement to merge two precursor higher education institutions — the South Australian Institute of Technology [SAIT] and some campuses of the South Australian College of Advanced Education [SACAE] — was signed and then ratified by the State Parliament to create the University of South Australia Act 1990 (SA). The university commenced on 1 January 1991.
Prior to 1989, although a number of psychology-educated lecturing staff had been working, teaching students and researching in the precursor institutions, the main problem was that psychology was regarded as a ‘captive’ discipline. It existed in these institutions only to ‘service’ other professions, such as social work, teaching, business, communication, physiotherapy and other health science professions. As a consequence, many lecturers interested in advancing knowledge in the discipline found their academic, teaching and research activities stifled and even prevented by the requirements of the institutions’ academic units, which were often multidisciplinary and professional schools. Much of the time, there were non-psychology academics who determined what areas of psychology should be considered and taught, assessed and researched, all justified ostensibly by the requirements of whatever professions were taught by that school.
There were two exceptions to this. First, at the Magill and Salisbury campuses of SACAE, over the years there had developed two psychology ‘majors’ within undergraduate degrees in teaching, communication and liberal studies, primarily through the efforts of psychology academics Colin Parsons, Russell Hawkins, Gary Childs and several others — although neither of these majors had ever been eligible for accreditation by the Australian Psychological Society [APS]. In 1994, these majors were to become the basis for the new School of Psychology's accredited sequence in a ‘named’ undergraduate psychology degree.
When Professor Anna Chur-Hansen invited Ted Nettelbeck and me to edit a book on the history of the University of Adelaide School of Psychology (formerly the Department of Psychology) in 2014, we were delighted and we both agreed. Since then, we have discussed the project further and agreed that it would be a good idea to broaden the scope so as to include the history of the Schools of Psychology at the other two universities in South Australia: Flinders University and the University of South Australia (UniSA). This involved inviting other people to contribute, and we have been fortunate to obtain the agreement of Professor Malcolm Jeeves, the foundation professor of Psychology at Adelaide, Professor Norm Feather, the foundation professor of Psychology at Flinders, and Professor Jacques Metzer, the founder of the school at UniSA. In addition, the three current heads of school — Professor Anna Chur-Hansen (Adelaide), Professor Tracey Wade (Flinders) and Professor Kurt Lushington (UniSA) — have agreed to assume overall responsibility for their respective chapters. Consequently, rather than assume the roles of authors, Ted Nettelbeck and I have agreed to be co-editors.
South Australia is fortunate in having three university schools of psychology that are all strong in research. The most recent Excellence in Research [ERA] ratings by the Australian Research Council awarded 4 (out of 5) to all three, indicating that their research is better than world-class.
Psychology has been defined as ‘the study of mind and behaviour’, but it is a profession as well as an academic discipline. As an academic discipline, there are various branches of the discipline, including experimental psychology, social psychology, physiological psychology, and abnormal psychology. Since the introduction of the Psychological Practices Act in 1973, there has been an increased focus on the professional training of psychologists along with increased regulation of the profession. The regulation of the profession has involved the Psychological Board of South Australia, since replaced by the Psychological Board of Australia [PBA], the Australian Psychological Society [APS], the Heads of Departments and Schools of Psychology Association [HODSPA] and the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council [APAC], established in 2009.
This chapter was compiled and edited by Leon Lack, but contains contributions (as listed in the relevant sections below) from Norman Feather, Paul Douglas, Nigel Bond and Peter Wilson.
Given my longevity in the Discipline/Department/School of Psychology from 1971 through to the present, and given that I have viewed its operation at all academic levels from senior tutor on up, it was perhaps appropriate that I was asked to be responsible for getting together observations of the history of this period. It was also fitting that we hear from the perspective of the heads of the unit across this period of time — particularly Professor Norm Feather, the founding professor and head for perhaps the longest period, who is still present most days of the week as emeritus professor, sixteen years after retirement and into his eighties. Included also is a contribution from Professor Nigel Bond, head from 1992-96, and Professor Peter Wilson, head from 1997-2001.
These contributions are woven together with snippets of other aspects of psychology at Flinders — aspects that are less a part of the formal history, but may give a more visceral feel of the place and people across the twentieth century.
We start appropriately with a piece from Professor Norman (Norm) Feather, which draws on an article that he published in the Bulletin of the Australian Psychological Society (1995). He revised the material for this volume to bring it up to date and it is presented here as a personal record.
The early years
The establishment of psychology as an academic discipline at Flinders University occurred in the context of the discussion about what kind of academic structure the new university should adopt and where psychology would fit within that structure. Eventually, in an attempt to facilitate links between disciplines and to break away from old structures, it was decided to establish a number of schools rather than faculties. Psychology was located in the School of Social Sciences, along with other disciplines that included history, politics, social administration, geography, and economics.
Part 2: Recent history (2005-16)
To complement this chapter, academic staff working in the school in 2015 were invited to write about themselves, their highlights and their experiences. This additional material can be located at the School of Psychology's website.
The decade since 2005 has seen large changes to the UniSA School of Psychology. This includes its leadership, research focus, degree offerings and personnel. Of all these changes, the most notable has been the merger of the School of Psychology with the School of Social Work and Social Policy. Another major influence on the life of the school over this time has been the change in vice-chancellors, with the consequent impact on school priorities and activities.
In common with contemporaries at other schools in the country, the school has seen the transition from traditional to digitally informed teaching practices (with more change in the wings); the reduction in postgraduate offerings (resulting in a singular focus on clinical psychology); the move to a demand-driven education system and less restrictive entry requirements (with psychology accounting for an especially high proportion of these new students); the introduction of Federal Government oversight of clinical registration and program accreditation (with a rise in the cost of accreditation and greater complexity in governance); the introduction of the Australian Quality Framework and the subsequent regulation of degree structures and curriculum standards; an increased focus on research performance (with a greater reliance on external benchmarking, such as the Excellence in Research Australia [ERA] scheme); the expectation of greater individual accountability, leading to the increased formalisation of academic work practices; pressure to increase international student numbers, partly to globalise the student body but also to generate revenue; and, finally, an increased pressure on productivity against a background of shrinking resources. Much of the school's activities over the last decade have been in response to these broader influences.
Over and above the broader external influences, local factors have also influenced the school. The regional teaching units at Whyalla and Mount Gambier have been incorporated into the school, resulting in a greater emphasis on regional engagement. There has been the slow but welcome consolidation of psychology staff from around the university onto one campus at Magill.
The beginning of applied psychology training in South Australia
In 1974 the introduction of the Diploma in Applied Psychology marked a major change in the teaching and research within the then Department (now School) of Psychology at the University of Adelaide. Prior to that time, the Department of Psychology had been almost entirely experimental in its approach to psychology, exemplifying the ‘rats and stats’ tag given by students to the subject. The ‘stats’ tag was to endure to the present time, but ‘rats’ ended in 1996 with the phasing out of practicals using rats in ‘Skinner boxes’, which had been organised for many years by Frank Dalziel to demonstrate operant conditioning principles.
Before 1974, the major division within the teaching of psychology in the department was not, as it is now, between theoretical and applied psychology, but between experimental and social psychology. A general first-year course was followed by Psychology 2A and then 3A, which involved topics like cognition and animal behaviour, and by Psychology 2B and then 3B, which included developmental and social psychology. In neither type of course was there any practical training in how to apply psychology within the community. The A and B streams of psychology were eventually combined into a single second- and third-year course, still without the inclusion of any training in the application of psychology. The third year in psychology was followed by an honours year, again with an experimental focus, and the honours year prepared students interested in research for a PhD in experimental psychology.
The circumstances that led to the Diploma in Applied Psychology began with what became known as the Anderson report (Anderson, 1965), after the state of Victoria set up a Board of Inquiry to investigate complaints about Scientology. The report investigated complaints concerning the practice of Scientology and, in particular, its use of what were considered by the report to be pseudo-psychological assessments using an E meter. The E meter measured galvanic skin response, but Scientologists used it to diagnose psychological conditions as part of a process designed to recruit often-unsuspecting members of the public to the practice of Scientology.
This book does not aspire to cover the entire history of psychology in South Australian universities. Psychology, defined as the ‘science of the nature, functions, and phenomena, of human soul or mind’ (Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1976) or ‘the systematic study of behaviour and the mind in man and animals’ (Sutherland, 1989, p. 354), has been, and continues to be, taught in university departments and schools other than psychology, including education, philosophy, public health and psychiatry.
Psychology was taught for many years at the University of Adelaide well before the school (department) was established in 1955, thanks to the initiative of Jack Smart, professor of philosophy, who appointed two lecturers in psychology: Ullin Place and Syd Lovibond (see Chapter Three). Much earlier, in 1894, the university had appointed a Scot named William Mitchell (later Sir William) at the age of thirty-three as professor of English language and literature and mental and moral philosophy. In 1907, Mitchell published The structure and growth of the mind and later became vice-chancellor and chancellor. He died at the age of 101 (Duncan & Leonard, 1973).
Although the book by Duncan and Leonard provides much valuable information, it does not mention the formation of the Psychology Department. Another recent book on the history of the Faculty of Arts, edited by Harvey, Fornasiero, McCarthy, Macintyre, and Crossin (2014), also does not mention the School of Psychology, though it was a member of the faculty until 1997, when it transferred to the Faculty of Health Sciences. Nonetheless, the School of Psychology provided three former Deans of Arts (Malcolm Jeeves, Tony Winefield and John Brebner), whereas the School of Music was never a member of the faculty.
Another famous psychologist who graduated at the University of Adelaide was George Elton Mayo. Mayo studied philosophy and psychology under Sir William Mitchell, graduating with first-class honours in 1910 and winning the Roby Fletcher Prize in psychology, before moving to Queensland, where he completed his MA and became a lecturer, then foundation professor, at the University of Queensland, before moving to the United States. He is well known as one of the founders of industrial/ organisational psychology and the Australian Psychological Society's College of Organisational Psychologists has named a prize after him.
Part 1: 1955-69
The late 1950s and the 1960s were a time of very rapid expansion and development for the University of Adelaide. The vice-chancellor in the 1950s, AP Roe, had embarked on a policy of headhunting worldwide for young leaders in various academic disciplines. For example, in the late 1950s he had appointed Hugh Stretton, dean of an Oxford College, as professor of history; John Trevaskis, a Cambridge classicist, as professor of classics; Jack Smart, a distinguished Oxford philosopher, as professor of philosophy; and Henry Bennett, a Cambridge geneticist and student of RA Fisher, as professor of genetics. In 1959, seemingly continuing this practice, AP Roe's successor, Henry Basten, appointed Malcolm Jeeves, a Cambridge-trained psychologist aged thirty-two, to the newly created chair of psychology.
But this was not the beginning of psychology at the University of Adelaide. We are fortunate that, in an earlier publication by the Adelaide University Union Press of a book by Norman Munn entitled Being and becoming: An autobiography (1980), we have a number of references to the way in which psychology developed in the years before 1960. Norman Munn was born in South Australia in 1902, but in 1923 went off to North America for his education and to make his name as one of the best-known and most distinguished textbook writers of psychology in the mid-twentieth century.
Pre-1960 psychology at the University of Adelaide
Reporting on a visit to Adelaide in 1948, Munn wrote:
There was still no psychologist at the University of Adelaide, although a course was given in the philosophy department. Mrs Amy Wheaton, a neighbour from my childhood youth, was Lecturer in Sociology and taught a course on Social Psychology in that department. In response to Amy's invitation, I gave a lecture on Personality to her students during this visit. (1980, p. 129)
2000 and beyond
John Eaton Taplin was the first external appointment to the position of chair of psychology at the University of Adelaide and head of the department since Alan Welford's appointment in 1969 as successor to Malcolm Jeeves. He was a graduate of the University of Adelaide (he had completed the BSc Honours degree in 1967, supervised by Ken Provins, and he had a PhD conferred in 1972, supervised first by Malcolm Jeeves, but followed by Don McNicol and Ian John when Jeeves moved to St Andrews). Moreover, he had earlier held temporary appointments in the department as technical and professional officer and as a tutor while enrolled in the PhD degree, supervised by Professor Jeeves. Beyond the award of his PhD, he had gone on to complete postdoctoral studies at the University of Colorado in the US and taken up an assistant professorship at Claremont Graduate University in California, before returning in 1974 to the University of New South Wales, where he joined the academic staff in the school led by Professor Syd Lovibond, who had moved from the Adelaide department in 1969. Lovibond was committed to building a strong research-active school that would advance the evidence-based professional practice of psychology, and John Taplin's early career profile provided a good fit with these aims.
Taplin's move back to Adelaide from the beginning of 2000 marked a new phase for the department, which for some twenty years had functioned under a policy of governance by departmental committee convened by an elected chairperson, introduced by the university in 1974. His appointment was welcomed by current staff because he was seen as well qualified to lead the department at a time when the university was increasing expectations that all academic staff should be research-active. He had been a member of the editorial board of the prestigious Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory and during his twenty-five years at the University of New South Wales had built an international reputation as a scholar and researcher.
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