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Bill McKeachie
BPS updates

One on one - with Bill McKeachie

Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan

12 July 2009

One hero from psychology past or present
Donald Marquis – the most brilliant person I have ever known, but also very helpful.

One moment that changed the course of your career
When Marquis asked me to stay at Michigan, teach the 500-student lecture sections
of introductory psychology, and train our graduate student teaching assistants to teach.

One book that you think all psychologists should read
Donald Hebb’s 1949 book, Organization of Behavior.

One alternative career path you might have chosen
Becoming a minister. I believe God is Love – a value not a supernatural being.

One great thing that psychology has achieved
Helping people understand that character traits are not just inherited and there is possibility of change right into old age.

One challenge
Getting graduate students to enjoy their work.

One thing that you would change about psychology
Maybe for some, there’s an overemphasis on technology and brain imaging.

One nugget of advice for aspiring psychologists
Find something you enjoy and do that, even if it won’t make you rich.

One thing that ‘organised psychology’ could do better
Help the public understand that psychology is not all clinical psychology, and that we don’t read minds or analyse everyone’s behaviour.

One hope for the future
More and more individuals are attending college, and introductory psychology is the most popular elective course; so we should have an increasing percentage of the population that has a better understanding of human behaviour.

One regret
That I had to give up teaching at age 85 when I had my hips and shoulder replaced (the result of 50 years of pitching fast pitch softball).

One proud moment
In 1976 I pitched three no-hitters. (I was also APA President that year).

One cultural recommendation
Join a choir and sing. My wife and I had sung in the First Baptist Church choir for 60 years. We’ve had choir directors who set high standards but made it fun.

One problem that psychology should deal with
How to resolve conflicts at the interpersonal level, group level, and national level. Many psychologists are trying to do just this.

One anecdote
I chatted to B.F. Skinner at an APA?convention. I said, ‘Well, Fred, are you slowing down any as you get older?’ He said, ‘No. I’m working on another volume of my autobiography and a couple of other books.’ ‘Are you still spending time playing the piano and organ?’
‘No. I gave my grand piano to my daughter. I couldn’t see the music any more.’ (He had macular degeneration). ‘Couldn’t you just enjoy playing by ear?’, I asked. ‘No, I never could do that.’ ‘Well, organists usually do a lot of improvisation,’ I pressed. ‘Couldn’t you just enjoy improvising?’ ‘No, I never could improvise,’ he replied. ‘Well, you’re a learning theorist. Couldn’t you just enjoy playing pieces you had memorised?’ ‘No. I never could memorise music.’
What a tragedy!