President's Letter - June 2016

Peter Kinderman's first offering.

13 May 2016

In his private notebook for May 1937, the existential philosopher (and wartime anti-Nazi resistance leader) Albert Camus wrote: ‘Psychology is action, not thinking about oneself.’ Is the point of psychology merely to observe, or to do something useful?

Our profession and discipline is based on our science, our professional practice and our values. We must articulate a vision for the Society that matches those principles. Our mission must be to improve the wellbeing of citizens, in the UK and internationally. At present this may be only an implicit aim of the British Psychological Society, but we should make it explicit. Just to take two examples, we must campaign for everybody who needs it to have access to the very highest quality psychological care and for all children to be protected from abuse and neglect. We need to turn our implicit aspirations into explicit demands.

We are uniquely placed to assist policy makers. But we need to be prepared to speak out. On 1 September 1967 Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech to the American Psychological Association entitled ‘The role of the behavioral scientist in the civil rights movement’ (] in which he argued that psychologists had a duty to support the struggle for civil rights. His arguments are just as relevant today ( We have a duty to speak out about the psychological mechanisms implicated in some of our major social problems: inequality, injustice, abuse, war, terrorism and climate change. And we need to offer practical solutions.

The charitable objects of the British Psychological Society are: ‘to promote the advancement and diffusion of a knowledge of psychology pure and applied’. Members of the Society are experts in things that really matter to people: relationships, education and learning, mental health, health, politics, sport, crime, work, how organisations function, prejudice and intercultural understanding, and more. Psychology is not only a rigorous academic discipline but also a thriving, values-based profession, able to offer both leadership and practical solutions.

I feel extremely privileged that you have elected me as your new President. Succeeding Jamie Hacker Hughes as President of the British Psychological Society will be both a challenge and an honour. Jamie has done a fantastic job, and I’ve inherited a Society in good shape. We have more members than ever and we’re continuing to have a significant influence on public policy. My role as President is to highlight and promote the work of all the members of the Society. So, to contact me with ideas, comments, contributions, or suggestions please e-mail [email protected] or find me on Twitter as @peterkinderman. I will regularly keep in touch with all members and shall be writing a weekly blog on the website.

- Peter Kinderman is President of the British Psychological Society. Contact him at Pr[email protected] or follow on Twitter: @peterkinderman.