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History of the EPS: Membership

J. D. Mollon

From the very beginnings, no topics have exercised the Committee and the membership so much as have the arrangements and the criteria for electing members.In the Provisional Rules of 1946, membership was to be by invitation only and the total number of members was limited to 24.By 1947 the limit was 30 'or such higher number as may be determined from time to time by resolution of the Committee'. In 1950, at the fourth AGM, the limit was raised to 40, but this could only be a temporary expedient.

At a Business Meeting in Edinburgh in 1948 Oldfield pointed out that the EPG set itself two ideals, not wholly compatible: '(1) as a high-grade discussion group; and (2) as a forum for University and research psychologists, many of whom are somewhat isolated.'To achieve the first purpose, it was judged that the Group had to remain small, so that members felt free to express their ideas in confidence to their friends within the club. In that era, there were several groups, such as the Ratio Club and the Hardy Club, that had a similar ethos. Horace Barlow recounted his anger at discovering that a synopsis of his talk had been circulated to all recipients of ONR grants in the USA. The finger of guilt points at one H. A. Imus, who was elected as a Visiting Foreign Member of the EPG in January 1952 and whose affiliation is given as 'Office of the Assistant Naval Attaché, US Embassy'.

The elaborate rules of the original EPG, and the formality of the earliest records, suggest that Zangwill and his colleagues always (at some level) expected that their discussion group would evolve into a national society.The last AGM of the Experimental Psychology Group was held on December 30th., 1958, when membership stood at 64. At the same meeting, the Experimental Psychology Society was constituted, with 74 founder members. The transition was largely handled by the then President, Edmund Hick - and by the Honorary Secretary, John Brown. The new Society had no limit on total numbers, but successful candidates had to attract the votes of a majority of those voting. In 1973 the requirement was reduced to 25% of those voting. As far as I am aware, no qualified and properly nominated candidate has since failed to secure election. For something more than 25% of electors always vote for all candidates. Membership is today close to 600.

In 1987 Richard Cavonius and I, judging that the election arrangements had become somewhat lax, proposed for election an entirely fictitious candidate, one Philip Holden. His qualifications, publications and EPS talk were as imaginary as his affiliation (Avalon Image Systems). His nomination was approved by the Committee and he was duly elected, securing the votes of more than 25% of those voting. In retrospect, I believe that Cavonius and I underestimated the offence that this practical joke would give to several members of the Society. But it probably has had a wholesome effect on the maintenance of the Society's minimal requirements.

Although the EPS is now a much larger society than in 1946, and a much more open one, many of the attractive features of the original group survive from the days of 1946, when Oliver Zangwill arranged dinner for his colleagues at Clayhithe. Our Officers are active academics, giving up their time voluntarily to administer the Society. Our meetings are still without name-badges or registration procedures or fees. They are run not by professional conference organizers, but by Local Secretaries who see themselves as arranging a pleasant occasion for their colleagues. Let us hope that it is a very long time before the EPS appoints professional administrators.