The idea for Psi Chi was born one night in 1927 in the basement of the psychology department at the University of Kansas when two students, Frederick Lewis and Edwin Newman, took a break from research. Lewis was exploring learning with chicks while Newman was localizing brain function in dogs (Lewis, 1991). Over the next year a committee was formed to determine whether or not a need existed for a student organization in psychology (Cousins, Tracy, & Giordano, 1992; Lewis, 1979). Despite some negative responses, the committee felt an organization was needed. After several working meetings a constitution was approved on September 4, 1929, fittingly, at a research conference—the Ninth International Congress on Psychology held at Yale University—officially marking the beginning of what is now the oldest student organization in psychology and the largest psychology-related organization in the world (Hogan and Sexton, 1993). Since that time, the purpose of Psi Chi has been and continues to be to "encourage, stimulate, and maintain excellence in scholarship of the individual members in all fields, particularly in psychology, and to advance the science of psychology."
The most obvious way Psi Chi strives to achieve its purpose is through grants, awards, and publications. Each of these programs is carefully developed to include all phases of the research process. For instance, the Undergraduate Research Grants provide funds to defray the cost of research and the SuperLab Research Grant gives members the ability to apply for SuperLab software and a response box for computer based research. These grants are intended to help in research design and data collection. Once data is collected it needs to be disseminated. Psi Chi has Undergraduate Research Conference Grants to help chapters develop local research conferences. It also has regional conference programs and research awards at the annual conventions of the EPA, SEPA, MPA, SWPA, RMPA, and WPA and national research awards given at the national meetings of the American Psychological Association and American Psychological Society. The Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research provides an excellent avenue to learn the publication process and be better prepared for research careers in psychology. The Journal additionally highlights the faculty advisors who play a significant role in developing student researchers and the future leaders of our profession.
Faculty advisors and mentors play a critical role in advancing the science of psychology. Not only do they teach students about research methodology in the various specialty areas of psychology but they also work closely with students, getting to know them and showing them, at least indirectly, how to teach and mentor others. This interaction is critical because we know that students who are mentored are more likely to mentor others (Johnson, Koch, Fallow, and Huwe, 2000). Therefore, Psi Chi has Faculty Advisor Grants to aid Psi Chi chapter advisors in their own research and to help them provide additional opportunities to engage students in research within a mentoring relationship. Similarly, Psi Chi has Summer Research Grants that allow students to work with a professor from a different school on research that is particularly interesting to them. Psi Chi also sponsors members to participate in the NSF/REU program providing high level research experiences over the course of a summer.
The Guilford and Allyn and Bacon awards are presented to students who have conducted exemplary empirical research in any area of psychology while the Erlbaum Award is presented for outstanding research in cognitive science. It is our hope that all Psi Chi members conducting research would aspire to these awards recognizing research excellence. An overview of award winners between 1999 and 2002 reveals that these students have published nearly 20 articles, made more than an equal number of presentations, and have enrolled in medical school and graduate programs in all areas of psychology including clinical, counseling, social, and cognitive psychology. Their publication accomplishments are particularly impressive when you consider that these students have not yet finished graduate school. These award winners clearly show the great potential Psi Chi members have in shaping the future of psychological science.
Psi Chi also has a Distinguished Member Award which is presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to both psychology and to Psi Chi. There are currently 21 Distinguished Members. Some have played an important role in promoting scientific training in psychology (e.g., Brewster Smith). Others are immediately associated with a particular study (e.g., Philip Zimbardo and the Stanford prison study). Another six Distinguished Members are listed among the most eminent psychologists of the last century (Haggbloom et al., 2002). These members include Albert Bandura, Jerome S. Bruner, J. P. Guilford, Neal E. Miller, B. F. Skinner, and Joseph Wolpe. Why did these individuals, who helped shape psychology from its infancy as a new academic discipline around the turn of the last century to its present state, devote their time to Psi Chi? Perhaps one reason is passion. Research was not done to gain acceptance into a graduate program. Research was done out of curiosity and a passion for learning. The Distinguished Members also share a passion for developing a psychology based upon empirical investigation and applying the principles learned through research to address real-world problems. Finally, they share a passion for students and student development. This passion for psychology, for research, and for students is the driving force behind the grants, awards, and publications that have been developed over the years by the members of Psi Chi's National Council.
Therefore, we would like to encourage you to continue to pursue your interests in psychological science. Be inquisitive. Be creative. Be a life-long learner utilizing the skills you are developing as a researcher. Be a change agent in the field of psychology and in society by applying the knowledge you gain through research. Finally, continue Psi Chi's tradition of research excellence and pass that tradition along to the students and people you will work with in the future so that the next 75 years of Psi Chi will be as influential as its first 75 years.
Cousins, R. H., Tracy, C., & Giordano, P. J. (1992). Psi Chi and Psi Beta: The two national honor societies in psychology. In A.E. Puente, J. R. Matthews, & C. L. Brewer (Eds.), Teaching psychology in America: A history. (pp. 403-427). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Haggbloom, S. J., Warnick, R., Warnick, J. E., Jones, V. K., Yarbrough, G. L., Russell, T. M., Borecky, C. M., McGahhey, R., Powell, J. L., Beavers, J., & Monte, E. (2002). The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. Review of General Psychology, 6(2), 139-152.
Hogan, J. D., & Sexton, V. S. (1993). Psi Chi, the national honor society in psychology. In J. L. Pate and M Wertheimer (Eds.), No small part: A history of regional organizations in American psychology. Washington, DC: APA.
Johnson, W. B., Koch, C., Fallow, G., & Huwe, J. (2000). Prevalence of mentoring in clinical versus experimental doctoral programs: Survey findings, implications, and recommendations. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 37, 325-334.
Lewis, F. H. (1979). Twenty years of Psi Chi. In A. C. MacKinney (Ed.), History of Psi Chi, the national honor society in psychology: Fiftieth anniversary, 1929-1979 (pp. 62-75). Arlington, VA: Psi Chi.
Lewis, F. H. (1991, August). Psi Chi: The early years. Paper presented at the 99th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. San Francisco.
Fall 2004 issue of the Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research (Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 95-96), published by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright, 2006, Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.