Past President’s Column: Our Mediated World Warps a Life of Meaning

Mary Gregerson

Mary Gregerson

Mary Gregerson, PhD

This is my last Division 46 leadership column. For decades I have led or participated in Division 46 activities. For those tossing around thoughts of becoming involved in Division 46 leadership, here are highlights, including a summary of the multitude of Convention programs I have presented on behalf of Division 46—publications are already in the public domain and more readily available. Please contact me if you would like to discuss any topic further.

The Cast of Characters

Peter Sheras, Lou Perrot, and Rochelle Balter encouraged me to join the Division since they knew of my interest in telehealth and telemedicine. I and colleagues had introduced to members of APA and the Virginia Psychological Association this cutting edge approach to service delivery through a range of programs including workshops and symposia. Peter awarded me a Presidential Citation for editing The Amplifier and introducing the idea of an electronic version.

When elected Division 46 Member-at-Large, I joined a Board headed by the late Rhoda Fisher. The late Shirley Glass, after discussion with me and others, created The Media Watch, an oversight Committee. This Committee, among other activities, awards–when able to locate a worthy recipient–the Golden Psi, recognizing excellence in the fictional portrayals of psychology and psychologists in the media. I was also a founding member of the News Media, Public Education, Public Policy Committee, which typically annually named the News Media Award for excellence in the non-fictional use of behavioral science. Furthermore, I edited the third book in the Division 46 Book Series that Florence Kaslow headed–The Cinematic Mirror in Psychology and Life Coaching (2010), which is a slow burner, reaching 10,000 hits last year.

Next, the Board appointed me Treasurer to assume an unfulfilled term and then the APA Division 46 members elected me to consecutive terms. Throughout these years of overseeing the purse strings for Division 46, I met and cultivated many important colleagues and presented numerous collaborative programs bridging with other Divisions. Most significantly, in conjunction with a number of other APA Divisions to commemorate the 100th anniversary of William James’s famous 1910 treatise based upon a 1906 talk to Stanford University on “The Moral Equivalent of War,” I spearheaded the award of a Special Golden Psi to The Hurt Locker (Bigelow, 2008), which then also won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

My first thought while in recovery from surgery when I learned of my election to the 2016 Presidency of Division 46 was “what an interesting experience I have in my future.” Immediately I started organizing the Media First Responder Corps pro bono consultation corps. The development and deployment of this Corps is chronicled in past Amplifiers. Through this initiative, my professional life immeasurably has been enriched internationally, nationally, and locally. Internationally colleagues and I discovered like-mindedness transcending cultural barriers in our countries’ leaders willingly embracing behavioral science to contour and deliver safe, effective, and socially just messages through mass media that protect and buffer communities as well as promote social justice. Nationally I watched others make crucial contacts with key officials in their own hometowns to counter trauma-by-television effects as well as to promote social justice by countering the well-established racial/ethnic bias in crime reporting. Locally in my hometown I am now a recognized behavioral science expert to which community leaders reach out to confer at times of community distress, whether natural or human-made. Together, we foster our local communities becoming safer, more resilient, and socially just during the challenges surrounding natural disasters or community crises. Amplifier reports chronicle the Media First Response odyssey (MFR2014, MFR2015, MFR2015Summer, MFR2016, MFR2017).

Throughout these years, I have published and presented numerous media psychology and technology programs. These presentations included, but were not limited to, symposia, panel discussions, Town Halls, and workshops. I served as Chair, Discussant, Presenter, and Panelist in programs spanning across Divisions other than Division 46, including:

1. Society for General Psychology;
9. Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues;
10. Society for the Psychological Study of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts;
13. Society for Consulting Psychology;
17. Society for Counseling Psychology;
21. Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology;
24. Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology;
32. Society for Humanistic Psychology;
36. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality;
52. Society for International Psychology; and
56. Society for Trauma Psychology.

Colleagues and I innovated new Convention program formats. For instance, the Town Hall reserves a large segment of the program for active audience input, or podcasts created videos that endured beyond the Conventions. Importantly, my three edited volumes, The Cinematic Mirror for Psychology & Life Coaching (2010), Technology Innovations for Psychology & Life Coaching (2011), and Teaching Creatively and Teaching Creativity (2012) were based upon either in part or fully (2012) APA Annual Convention Programs. After reviewing these presentations, media psychology and technology themes emerged:

  • Telehealth/Telemedicine
  • Disaster Preparedness and Recovery
  • Films and Television
  • Media Expert Consultation to Popular Press

What’s up next for each of these themes?  Best practices for service delivery and practice management are at the forefront in Telehealth/Telemedicine. For Disaster Preparedness and Recovery, the community consultation approach called Media First Response has evidence of effectiveness and now needs systematic program evaluation. Besides film critiques and reviews, turning a psychological eye to the industrial and organizational needs to produce films and television shows a brave new world for media psychology and technology. The American cultural thirst for psychological/behavioral expertise and commentary on many phenomena has jettisoned globally with worldwide connectivity, so systematizing ethics, ethos, and professionalism continued to challenge us with each new technology bursting on the scene.

Thanks for the ride! Let’s turn the corner, blow the whistle, and keep movin’ our train down that track, whether real or virtual. I look forward to continuing contributions to each of these areas even though I have now attained APA Life Status. As Robert Frost aptly said in his “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” poem:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

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