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BPS updates, History and philosophy

Back (again) to the future

Helen Haste, Amy Hogan and Yiannis Zachariou on what our members think is in store for psychology in the next 25 years.

18 January 2001

To mark the centenary of The British Psychological Society, we have conducted a Delphi study (see box below) on behalf of The Psychologist. We will make some comparisons with a similar exercise conducted in 1984 by the first author in collaboration with Mark Haggard (Haggard & Weinreich-Haste, 1986). However, that study was confined to Society Fellows, whereas the present one draws a wider sample. As a first step in the present study we invited views from a sample of Fellows and members of the Society’s committees, people likely to be both well informed about current developments in psychology and strongly identified with the field. We drew from both academic and professional domains (in contrast with the 1984 study, which was skewed to older and more ‘academic’ psychologists). The target year was 2025 (in the 1984 study it was 2010). Respondents were invited to write freely on the discipline and application of psychology, and on the future of the Society. Responses varied from several pages of richly considered typescript, to hand-written notes in the margin of the original letter. From this material, we extracted 126 usable ‘predictions’. These were narrowed down by three independent raters to 38 representative items – about the future of the discipline, about waxing and waning topics in the application of psychology, about professional groupings and organisations, the role and status of psychology in influencing wider society, and specific issues around the role of the Society.

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