Kay Deaux: Hello. I’m Kay Deaux. I’m a former president of APS. I’m here in Boston at the meeting in 2010 and I’m interviewing Janet Taylor Spence, who was the first elected president of this organization. Great to have you here, Janet Janet Taylor Spence: It’s wonderful to be here. Thank you very much Kay Deaux: Over the many years of her career, many people have observed, admired, and followed the work of Janet Spence, a woman and a scientist who has contributed so much to the field of psychology. Her contributions to the research literature are broad and span, they span time, they span topic, starting with early critical work in the field of anxiety and much later on worked on masculinity and femininity and sex role attitudes Her editorial work has been prodigious as an editor of Annual Review, as a long-term editor of Contemporary Psychology and many other editorial responsibilities that warranted a recognition from the National Academy of Sciences for that work. Her professional contributions to the field are enormous. And as APS’s first president, she set this organization on a path that has continued to allow it to grow and she continues to serve as wise counsel to the organization even now So, let me go back to Oberlin perhaps to start back at your earliest encounter with psychology Oberlin is a perfectly reasonable choice for a smart, young woman from a liberal and educated family to go to. But why psychology? Why when you went to Oberlin did something about psychology catch you? Janet Taylor Spence: Well, my answer probably will surprise you. Some place in high school I decided I wanted to be a psychologist. Now the embarrassing part is that I can’t tell you what I knew about psychology, I knew absolutely nothing, I don’t know where I heard about it, but that’s what I decided I wanted to be. So, off I went to Oberlin, I was going to be a psychologist. But it didn’t turn out to be what I thought it was at all. It was a very, very tough course that we went through and had very little to do with “people.” The low spot was a point when I had to read in a course on comparative psychology a study on the classical conditioning of goldfish tails. That really tore it I walked out of that class and said, “I can’t stand this. I’m going to change my major to political science.” Well, I had taken a lot of political science courses and actually I ended up with a double major. I was very cautious and I wasn’t willing to quite give up. But my senior year I took a course in history of psychology — it was mandatory in those days — from a retired professor This was wartime so they brought back a lot of retired people to teach these courses Well, this was a marvelous course and for the first time I began to understand what psychology was all about, even the classical conditioning of goldfish tails. This professor, and this thrilled me half to death, had been a student with William James. He didn’t do his doctoral work with him but he had taken a number of courses with William James and I thought that was absolutely marvelous So, that was my salvation Kay Deaux: Well, and psychology’s salvation, too, I think, that you didn’t go to political science. So, after Oberlin, you then went to Yale initially, you did some work with Catharine Cox Miles I believe, and then you moved to University of Iowa where you worked with Kenneth Spence and with quite a number of exciting people who were at Iowa at that point in time. You then got your Ph.D., a young woman, 26 years old, I believe, or something of that sort in 1949, and you were to become a professor Now at that time, we are in 1949, there weren’t very many women professors in psychology or probably any other department and perhaps in some of the all-women school in the East Coast but mostly no. You got a job at Northwestern

You went to Northwestern as their first female professor. You were the only professor obviously in the department. What was that like? Janet Taylor Spence: What shall I say, interesting I got the job more as a fluke than everything else. The head of the department had a family in Iowa City and he came down to visit them and then he dropped into the psychology department and saying, “Well, we have a position. Do you have anybody to recommend?” And I was recommended. I sort of filled the bill of what they needed. And he had a quirky sense of humor and decided that he’d persuade his faculty to hire me as an experiment. Well, very fortunately, I didn’t hear until much later that I was an experiment and a lot of the senior professors at any rate thought this was going to be an unsuccessful experiment Well, fortunately, it didn’t and at that point somebody was willing to spill the beans about how I got there. But fortunately I arrived and I did not know how unusual this was. I was amazingly naïve. But that was a great shield So, it allowed me to say, “This is very interesting.” Kay Deaux: Now, interesting, sometimes you said you were tested and teased in a number of ways Janet Taylor Spence: Yes. Well, the closest I could figure out people had various expectations There was one group, mostly the senior professors, who was afraid that what they’d hired is somebody who was sort of prim and proper and blanched at a cuss word or anything of that sort and, well, nobody wanted that. Then, there was a few people who were afraid I was going to be one of the boys, you know, slapping people on the back, and no, they didn’t want that And then there were others who thought, well, maybe I turned into the department playgirl Well, there was a little bit of ambivalence about that one but my job of course was to say, none of the above. So, as far as the testing part, well, sometimes I had to make a day-to-day decision There were about four or five of us who ate lunch every day, this was mostly the younger ones, so we ate lunch every day in a seminar room and occasionally boys will be boys, so they started telling dirty jokes. Well, if it was funny, I’d laugh. If it was a little raunchy, maybe I’d smile. Occasionally they got really bad, so I would simply sort of finish my lunch and just ease out the door I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it but I also wanted to say I’m not going to be part of a boys’ locker room, so I am setting up limits, and I think that kind of thing worked Kay Deaux: It’s interesting, you know, as I said, I was at Northwestern shortly after you had left and there were many stories about you and about this wonderful professor, this woman professor — it was still adjective, woman professor — and stories about how someone said you attracted students like flies and yet at that time — that’s in a good way — but at that time it was still — I was an undergraduate in an honors seminar and the professor counseled me against going to Ph.D., he didn’t want women who were Ph.D.s and indeed he didn’t even want women who were graduate students So, I think it’s interesting that even though you were apparently a remarkably successful example and experiment, they weren’t willing for another 12 years, I believe, to try this experiment over again. Something I think it shows sort of the power or the limited power sometimes that even wonderful tokens have on changing a system that is still an old-boys network You left after Texas and then you had some experiences with nepotism in your career After you left Northwestern, you went to Iowa and you did not have an appointment in the department. Nepotism is a word that actually some people don’t know what it means anymore, fortunately I guess, but because it was a policy that relatives couldn’t be hired in the same department and sometimes I think even in the same school, it usually worked

against women, so that it was usually the man who had the appointment and the woman was found a job someplace else. And so, in Iowa you were at the VA Hospital, and then a few years later when you and Kenneth moved to Texas, you were “tucked away,” I think he used in some cases and in another case I think I’ve heard you say “dumped” at the Austin State School for Retarded. At that point, do you remember what you were thinking? Did you have any thoughts that you could be a professor again after these sort of side trips that you were being forced to take? Janet Taylor Spence: Well, the experience in the Austin State School was pretty horrendous And very fortunately for me, somebody higher up decided that it would be a very good idea for the educational psychology department to hire me. At that time, they of course were very interested in my husband, Kenneth Spence, and anything to make Kenneth happy, they’d have to make me happy and I was absolutely delighted that there I was back in academia So, that part of it was at least temporarily solved Kay Deaux: I should take this advantage of putting on the record, many people think that you were my major advisor but in fact, much to my loss, you were not because you were still in ed psych when I was there Janet Taylor Spence: That loss was mutual, by the way Kay Deaux: Thank you. Shortly after then, I left. You did move over to psychology and interestingly almost immediately became chair of the department, which I should note was still an all-male or was another all-male department at that time. So, there you were suddenly chair of a department that still didn’t have very many women in it but you did get back into academics. Was there any difficulty, your coming into that department of all men and suddenly becoming the chair of the department? We’re now at least into the late ’60s Janet Taylor Spence: I had good backing all the way up and down the line including the fact that my predecessor was now a vice president So, from that point I didn’t. I had more problem with the support staff particularly the males who had never had a woman boss them, so that was a very interesting and very touchy Kay Deaux: Well, you certainly made it through all of those. I’d like to talk a little bit about the research that you had done over the years because you have done so much of it, more than we can possibly talk about, but at one point you’ve described your work as sort of two phases, a before-gender and an after-gender phase, or BG and AG or something In the BG phase, the before-gender phase, you started out of course with manifest anxiety and made major contributions to our understanding of that concept and developed a scale, the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale which is still used today some 60 years later. During that period of time though, at the various locations that we’ve talked about where you were, you also did work on reinforcement, intrinsic motivation, you worked with schizophrenics in children and college students. How do you see that portion, the BG portion of your work fitting together? Janet Taylor Spence: Well, I’ve already mentioned that I started out with investigating a theory about manifest anxiety and how it affected various kinds of test performances. But when I moved to the VA Hospital, I didn’t have a subject pool, there’s no way I could continue that research. But I discovered that there was a very lively theory going on in schizophrenia about their sensitivity to what might be called rewards and punishments and the old Thorndikean sense of those terms. So, I was in a very good position to start investigating the implications of that hypothesis. Here I had access to a large pool of schizophrenic patients, I had access as a comparison group to a large number of hospitalized veterans who were there for medical reasons. So, I was really able to get some fairly large scale studies going on those particular hypotheses and actually have some articles and print about those All right. So, there I got started on that line of research. Whoops. I found myself in Texas in the Department of Educational Psychology Well, one interesting thing about that was that the department did not quite know what to do with me, so one of the things they asked me to do was to teach graduates — it was

a graduate department, so I had no subject pool — and one of the things they asked me to do was to teach a graduate course in child development. I hadn’t had a course in child development since I was an undergraduate back in the early ’40s, so I did a lot of reading, getting myself up to speed so I could teach a graduate course. But in the process of doing that I discovered that there were some very similar kinds of hypotheses about children So, picked up on that theme, went around getting access to children through the Austin public schools, got myself a nice NIH grant and off I was on a whole series of studies about children So, that’s about how that came about Kay Deaux: And then, there’s the after-gender The after-gender. So, you’ve moved now into the Department of Psychology of Texas, it’s the late ’60s, it’s the early ’70s, and you moved to something quite different it seems at least on the outside from what you’ve been doing before. How did you get into gender? Janet Taylor Spence: Well, first, unfortunately just before I moved, my husband died unexpectedly so I was at a very different place in my personal life, but as far as my prior research is concerned, it ran out of intellectual steam. The field had moved on. The cognitive revolution was going full steam. Also, ironically, my research in children showed that the ideas of what was going on were very wrong. They had more cognitive explanations and in a sense I succeeded in calling off my own research. So, there I was really at a somewhat crisis point in my life but I was a department chairman and, goodness, I had enough to keep me busy, but while I was waiting for inspiration to strike I happened to read, for editorial reasons, it was a book I was editing, a study by my colleagues, Elliot Aronson and Bob Helmreich, about competency in men. A very interesting study, I won’t go into the main purpose of it, but just to say that I was reading that study and it occurred to me that their stimulus persons were all male, their judges were all male, and at that time that was very common There was a large scale preference for using men. No explanation. Didn’t need to. Justification? Of course, that’s what we will do Kay Deaux: That’s the way the world is Janet Taylor Spence: That’s the way it was But feminism and the women’s movement was in the air so it suddenly occurred to me to ask the obvious question, but who likes competent women? So, I went to Bob and said, “Let’s do a little study. Wouldn’t that be fun?” So, I thought, you know, I’ll just fill in the time doing that. Well, that little study grew and grew and grew and it got more and more complex. And then I thought, well, maybe people’s role attitudes might have something to do with their reactions, so I developed a sexual attitudes measure called the Attitudes Towards Women Scale, which subsequently has taken a life of its own. Well, I went through all of this and by the time I finished I was so intrigued and so enchanted with the whole thing saying this is my new research career So, I stumbled into it and I’m very lucky and very glad Kay Deaux: Well, I think the field is very glad that you did too. Not only is the Attitudes Towards Women Scale had a long life, so has the Personal Attributes Questionnaire which you and Bob developed at that time I’m curious about what your colleagues thought I mean, you were working with Bob Helmreich, was one of your colleagues, but gender research was still quite new at that time. Did your colleagues support you in this or were they sort of indifferent to it? Did they sort of pooh-pooh it in any way? Janet Taylor Spence: Well, of course I was well enough established that nobody was going

to attack me in any way but it was still very dangerous research for younger people to do There were some voices in the field who were very explicit about this was ridiculous, it was trivial, nobody should pay attention to it, it was a false way to go. So, it was not welcomed in many corridors. But it was my view of the — one of my tasks was to have people take this seriously, so, then in all of the studies that I did, I leaned over backwards that these studies would be absolutely impeccable methodologically, they’d be beautifully analyzed and analyzed half to death, that everything I wrote was in the most neutral voice possible, I did not get into political issues or take stances, and I tried to have them published in the best journals. And my view is that if I get to do all of that, people would be likely to read it, people would be likely to respect it, and people would say, “All right. This is a legitimate area of research.” In those days, people usually had to write to you to get reprints. That’s about the only way to get — even copying was not easy. So, I kept track of who requested articles. If it were all going to be women, that wasn’t good. I wanted a broad audience and it seemed to be working, so that of course encouraged me to go on from there Kay Deaux: Well, we are all very glad in the field, those of us who have followed that you went on from there and gave us so much material to work with You’ve been — over the years, you’ve been as I suggested in the introduction, you’ve been involved in a lot of organizations and you’ve led a lot of organizations from regional associations to APS to APA to just innumerable places, you’ve been at the helm and helping to lead those organizations and helped those organizations figure out what to do. Do you have any sense of why or any feeling of what makes you so good at that, why you were so easily rising to the — not easily from your point of view but so often being called to rise to the top and to take charge of something? Janet Taylor Spence: I got into all of these organizational activities relatively late in my career, this was relative to the present But again, there was a whiff of feminism and the women’s movement in the air and suddenly various organizations discovered that there were actually women in their midst. So, quite — it was a very small period of time when this began to happen. I got all of these phone calls, “Please come and do this,” “Please come and do that,” “Please do something else,” and I had the feeling that if I said no, some of them weren’t going to ask another woman, and indeed that happened in several cases, somebody would say, “Well, I invited a woman and she said no.” Kay Deaux: Therefore they’re all going to say no Janet Taylor Spence: So, therefore they’re all going to say no. So, I felt some obligation that if there was something I thought I could contribute, I said yes. Well, and of course, once there, I thought it was important to do a good job, so I was very conscientious about doing my homework and I tried to contribute the best that I could. And in the process I found I enjoyed it, it was fun, it was challenging, and I enjoyed diversity. So, it was a case of one thing leading to another, so I kept on going Kay Deaux: Kept on going and people kept on asking you and people kept on benefiting from it. You have watched psychology change a lot over the years. As you said, you yourself experienced a point where the cognitive revolution was coming in and some of the old models of

learning theory were not as popular anymore Certainly, we don’t talk about behaviorism in the way — it’s more likely now to be part of a history of psychology course probably than talked about in the hallway so much Now neuroscience is what’s talked about in the hallways a lot. I’m just interested in your observations of how psychology has changed over the years, what differences you see in it and what excites you now about it Janet Taylor Spence: Well, you mentioned what’s going on now. Technology has really transformed our science. Think of computers, something as “mundane as a computer,” except that that isn’t. It’s allowed us to do thing methodologically that we couldn’t do, it’s permitted the development of analytic techniques that we’re now able to do, and because we’re able to do them, they’re developed. We’re able to test models, computational models that could never develop and test before. Look at neuroimaging, we just have been transformed by technology, so it’s all very exciting what is going on now But there are other kinds of developments that I’m very interested in. First of all, we have learned to become more diverse. We’re not as parochial. The cross-cultural studies within the United States, cross-national I think is very healthy. We are beginning to understand culture in a way that we didn’t before. We’re sort of edging our way back towards sociology and anthropology, which we lost track of Another development that I’m very pleased about is what’s called translational research All of a sudden, people have the idea that maybe it’s important to think about where their research has practical implications Part of that was because funding agencies thought about that. It’s always been my conviction that we owe the public that supports us something in return. We don’t do this with our own money Somebody is paying for this and so we have some sort of an obligation. But I think the whole field is realizing that And so, there are two things that are going on, sort of an interplay. We have people like Malcolm Gladwell on one hand doing a beautiful job of sort of putting together some research and in a very interesting sort of a way. There’s even some attention to individual studies of The Boston Globe, for example, has a column called Uncommon Sense in which they cite a lot of social science articles including quite a few of APS publications, and some of my current friends who are very bright rejoice in telling me what those studies are. Well, I can’t say, “Yeah, I know. I know.” But that is really a growing awareness On the other hand, we have marvelous things like Claude Steele’s new book which I haven’t seen but I want to get a hold of, Whistling Vivaldi. Now if we have more of that kind of book, then I think we are giving back and the world is going to realize that we really do have something to contribute. And I find all of this very healthy and very exciting Kay Deaux: Yeah. Yeah. I agree. I think psychology has been a bit shy or guarded in some ways about sharing its information in ways that some other disciplines haven’t, and we know quite a bit Janet Taylor Spence: Yes, we do Kay Deaux: Yesterday you gave awards to five young scholars who have started their fields The Transformational — Janet Taylor Spence: Yes, it’s very hard to say. It’s now known as the Spence Award for no other reason that the title is so long Kay Deaux: And Spence is much easier to say Janet Taylor Spence: Spence is much easier

to say Kay Deaux: But it is for people to recognize work that sort of leaps forward, I think you described it in your comments yesterday Janet Taylor Spence: Right Kay Deaux: It was so nice to see you giving this, sort of passing the torch, if you will, to a younger generation. You didn’t get a chance to sort of give them words of wisdom for the future but I wonder if you have any words that you would give them to go forth as they continue Janet Taylor Spence: I’m not going to try to predict the future and whether I have any wisdom to give, I don’t know, but I think the — well, this is a very exciting time, it’s also a very difficult time for many people Funding sources are down, jobs are hard to get, so that while people like our award winners are sure to be supported, there is some money and they’re going to get it, a lot of people are not. And I want to give the word to everyone that do the best you can, times are going to get better, and that not all research can be at the cutting edge, even of the younger people. Ideas are wonderful at the beginning but then there is a grinding process of following up all the implications, and then there’s the new theory that comes along. So, that I can only wish them well, but I think basically what I hope for all of them is that they’re doing what they’re doing because they love it, because it’s fun, that whether they’re award-winning or not, it’s important. And that’s my feeling about what I have done I can’t think of anything more I would rather have done. It was fun and I wish everybody the same kind of joy that I had, and that’s really what I would like to tell them, “Enjoy yourself. What you do is important and please have fun.” Kay Deaux: Well, I can’t think of anything that was more fun than interviewing you for the past number of minutes. So, I want to thank you, Janet, for taking part in this today. It certainly was fun. I’ve learned even more about you than I — there’s some pieces I didn’t know before, so I’ve learned about you and I hope everyone that watches this interview will have learned a lot more So, thank you very much for being part of this. It’s been fun Janet Taylor Spence: Well, I have too. Thank you very much