From Division 21: Synergistic Opportunities for Collaboration between Division 21 and Division 46 Members

Kim-Phuong L. Vu

Kim-Phuong L. Vu

Robert W. Proctor

Robert W. Proctor

Kim-Phuong L. Vu, PhD
California State University Long Beach

Robert W. Proctor, PhD
Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

Division 21: Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology promotes research on human performance and applies psychological principles to the design of technology, consumer products, and complex systems for effective human-machine interactions. Members of Division 21 seek to design safer, more effective, and more reliable systems through a user-centered approach and evidence-based recommendations. APA recognized Division 21 in 1956, with the primary organizer being Franklin V. Taylor. The division began functioning in 1957 with Paul M. Fitts as its first President (Alluisi, 1994). Taylor served as the second President and division 21 has given an award for outstanding contributions to the field in his name since 1962. The work of Taylor and Fitts in applying psychological principles to the design of military technology is still widely cited. Although the emphasis early in Division 21’s history was on military technology, members of the division have contributed to the development of new technologies in a variety of areas that have evolved to include media psychology.

We think that the goals of Division 21 complement those of Division 46: Society for Media Psychology and Technology, which include advancing psychology in the practice and science of media communications and technology. Both divisions recognize the importance of technology and media communications in a variety of real-world contexts. Whereas Division 21 is mainly concerned with designing technology and media for effective use by humans, the description provided for Division 46 focuses more on how technology and media are used in the practice of psychology and in the daily lives of individuals.

Because our divisions take different perspectives on the design and use of technology and media, we think that together we can provide a more complete view of the relevant psychological principles that impact the design and use of media. As both Division 21 and 46 members are composed of researchers and practitioners in different areas, our members should benefit from being part of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary teams which are better able to apply psychology to address larger societal issues than a one-discipline team (Proctor & Vu, 2019).

One topic area where there is an overlap of interests is that of the use of media for online learning. Division 46 members are likely interested in the perceptual and sensory experiences provided by the media to immerse the individual in the learning environment, whereas Division 21 members would focus more on how the design of the online modules include features that are consistent with cognitive principles known to enhance learning of knowledge and skills. At the 2019 meeting in Chicago, Division 21 is highlighting the use of video games as research and learning tools and their impact on different community members. We invite Division 46 members to attend these sessions and use this opportunity to interact with Division 21 members to form new collaborations.


Alluisi, E. A. (1994). APA Division 21: Roots and rooters. In H. L. Taylor (Ed.), Division 21 members who made distinguished contributions to engineering psychology (pp. 4-21). Washington, DC: APA Division 21.

Proctor, R. W., & Vu, K.-P. L. (2019). How psychologists help solve real-world problems in multidisciplinary research teams: Introduction to the special issue. American Psychologist, 74, 271-277.

(Editor’s Note: Kim Vu is President-Elect of Division 21 and Robert Proctor is Immediate Past President of Division 21)


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