Observer Vol. 24, No. 2 February 2011


Hunch for $1,000


IBM and the game show “Jeopardy!” announced recently that “Watson” — a computerized contestant long in the works — is ready to show its cognitive savvy on the air. For three consecutive nights starting February 14, Watson will match wits with Ken Jennings —who won 74 games in a row, the longest streak ever — and Brad Rutter, who holds the record for “Jeopardy!” winnings, more than $3.2 million.... More>

Letter/Observer Forum

Asking Perceptive Questions Is Crucial to Students’ Critical Thinking

I would add an eighth guideline to D. Alan Beasley’s “A Brief Guide for Teaching and Assessing Critical Thinking in Psychology,” from the December 2010 Observer: developing students’ abilities to ask perceptive questions. As teachers, we spend a great deal of class time either providing information to students or asking students questions. We ignore a more crucial task: helping students become better at seeking information for themselves.... More>


Want a Better Relationship?

ary W. Lewandowski, Monmouth University, told CNN that putting your partner first is relationship advice of the past. Lewandowski, who is speaking at the APS-STP Teaching Institute this May in Washington, DC, and his colleague, APS Fellow and Charter Member Arthur P. Aron, Stony Brook University, study “self-expansion,” how individuals use a relationship to accumulate knowledge and experiences.... More>


When the Zebra Loses its Stripes


The capacity to remember that a zebra has stripes, or that a giraffe is a four-legged mammal, is known as semantic memory. It allows us to assign meaning to words and to recall general knowledge and concepts that we have learned. The deterioration of these capacities is a defining feature of semantic dementia and can also occur in Alzheimer’s patients. A group of French neurologists and neuropsychologists has identified the elements of semantic memory that are the first to deteriorate and may thus have explained why a surprising phenomenon known as hyperpriming can be seen in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.... More>


Getting Outside Myself to Help the Thai People


Those of us in higher education have a tendency to develop tunnel vision and become overly focused on our professional careers as scientists. When world problems remote from our homes become the lead story in news reports, we often pay only brief attention. That was me until 2004, when a tsunami struck Phuket, Thailand.... More>