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Mathematical, Statistical and Computing Psychology

Mathematical, Statistical & Computing Psychology - More Than Meets The Eye

07 February 2018 | by Mathematical, Statistical and Computing Psychology

The following blog has been written by Dr Andrew Rutherford of Keele University, and provides an introduction to the work and history of the Mathematical, Statistical, & Computing Psychology Section.

The Mathematical and Statistical Section was founded at the BPS Annual General Meeting in March 1969, with the section’s inaugural meeting being held at Tavistock Place in London on 11 December 1969.

Its first Annual Meeting was held on 21 March 1970 at the University of Birmingham, which means that 2019 will see the 50th Anniversary of the section’s foundation!

The application of the statistical branch of mathematics to data analysis was a well established part of psychology by the 1940s, but by the early 1960s, research interest and activity in applying other mathematical approaches to psychological research was increasingly evident.

In 1964, the British Journal of Statistical Psychology was renamed as the British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology, and the first edition of the Journal of Mathematical Psychology was published in the US. In the same year, the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behaviour was established, while the European Mathematical Psychology Group was formed in Paris in 1971.

The Development of the Section

Presentations delivered at the initial Annual Scientific Meetings suggested section interests were split almost equally between data analysis issues and matters to do with the computational modelling of psychological processes.

However, as the latter topic began to enter the mainstream of cognitive psychology, its section presence began to decline.

The presentation of issues in data analysis certainly increased over the 1970s and 1980s, but so did consideration of PC use, particularly with respect to running on PCs data analysis that previously had been carried out exclusively on mainframe computers.

Another topic attracting attention at this time was labelled networking communication. Nowadays, this is known as... email.

In 1984 ;the section initiated a name change to reflect some of these developments, when members voted to modify the section’s name to the Mathematical, Statistical and Computing Section to acknowledge specifically the substantial computing and other IT interests and activities held by many section members.

Today’s MSCP section

In 2017, members voted to restore Psychology to the section’s title.

The aim of this name change was to align the section name with the majority of other section names and so emphasize the psychological focus of the mathematical, statistical and computing interests held by its members.

Like all sections, the MSCP section exists only in virtue of the contribution made by its members, and the current MSCP Section Committee is very keen to encourage interested BPS members to join the MSCP Section and participate in section activities.

The MSCP Section Committee also is very keen to attract new and enthusiastic MSCP Section Committee Members willing to be involved with the development of MSCP section activities and the deployment of MSCP Section resources to benefit MSCP Section Members activities and interests.

An independent MSCP Section website and the (BPS) MSCP Section mailing-lists are two areas which have been identified for development. Therefore, anyone with interest, enthusiasm and some ability (actual or potential!) to develop this website, and/or the (BPS) MSCP Section mailing-lists should give serious consideration to joining the MSCP Section Committee and engaging with these developments.

Data analysis will always be an important part of the section’s interests and activities, but the committee is also keen to support other topic areas of interest to our members. Areas identified for development so far include Mixed (i.e., quantitative & qualitative) Methods, Human-Computer Interaction, and Computational Modelling.

Join Us

Like other BPS Sections, the MSCP Section is run by a committee, which meets about three times a year, and comprises a Chair, an Hon. Secretary., an Hon. Treasurer, up to eight ordinary members, and up to four co-opted section members, plus a PsyPag representative.

Any BPS member can join the MSCP section at a cost of £10 per annum.

Moreover, following simple nomination by two other section members, any MSCP section member can stand for election to the committee.

Formal nominations, administered by the BPS Office, are usually presented in October and elections take place in November, with the election results announced shortly after and then formally ratified at the AGM in December.

Only members’ active participation in the MSCP section can ensure it succeeds by developing in a fashion that fulfils member wants, needs and expectations. And please don't for a minute believe you need to be some sort of mathematical, statistical or computing genius to join and benefit from section membership, as anyone with an interest in any of the areas, topics and activities covered by the MSCP section should find something to gain from joining.

If you would like to find out more about us or are interested in joining the section (and maybe even its committee), then please contact the current MSCP Chair, Andrew Rutherford, at [email protected], or the current Hon. Sec., Mike Morison, at [email protected].

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