their opinions. Before long, we narrowed the lists down to a much smaller list of potential authors. Soon we were ready to begin writing to people on our list and asking for their participation.
To our surprise, we began receiving acceptances almost immediately. Our informants were anxious to tell their stories. We received some declinations -- a few who felt they had already told their stories in some other source; a few who felt they weren't ready to tell their stories; and a final few, sadly, whose health would not permit them to undertake the project. Still, we were exhilarated with the acceptances and with the range of interests they represented.
In our initial contact we had laid down some guidelines. We wanted the autobiographical piece to be both personal and professional, and we provided a rough outline of the suggested topics. However, we were careful not to be too rigid in our format, and this flexibility was a central concern of ours. We wanted the story to be told in the manner and style of the informant. We wanted his or her voice to be the dominant one, not ours. And so we did not press for uniformity either in the initial outline or in the final editing. We had to face some realities regarding the length of the piece and citations, but even in that we tried to be as pliant as possible.
One of the obvious benefits of working with such accomplished individuals is that the editing demands were relatively slight. That was not a surprise. All the contributors have written extensively, and several have been involved in major editing projects of their own. The surprises, if there were any, came from the diversity expressed in the individual essays. Even within our somewhat restricted age range and choice of specialty, the voices of developmental psychology are distinct. The view of the field and the manner in which it was entered and practiced exhibit as much diversity as there are contributors. And yet there seem to be at least two things that all the contributors have in common -- a personal style that would have to be called "inquisitive," and a feeling regarding their contributions that would have to be labeled "satisfaction," or something close to it.
We invite you to share in the life experiences and accomplishments of these gifted contributors to developmental psychology. We hope you find their essays to be as rich and rewarding as we did.
Dennis Thompson John D. Hogan November 1995
Birren, J. E. & Birren, B. A. ( 1990). "The concepts, models, and history of the psychology of aging". In J. E. Birren and K. W. Schaie (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of aging (3rd ed., pp. 3-20). San Diego: Academic Press.