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A Captive African Elephant Calf Exhibits Precocious Social Relationships

African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in their native habitats live in groups of 2 to 50 elephants called family units, usually containing genetically related adult females and calves and juveniles of both sexes. A calf spends most of its time near its mother. Older calves increase the time they spend with other members of the family unit. “Allomothers,” usually young female relatives, assist in rearing a calf by providing comfort and safety. The dominant animal in the group (the “matriarch”) plays a critical role in group dynamics and survival.

The Indianapolis Zoo houses an African elephant group with the demographics and group size recommended to promote the health of captive elephants: four adult females, two juveniles, and two calves. We recorded the interactions between Nyah (female calf, under 1 year old) and her mother (Ivory, 30 years old), her older sister (Zahara, 6 years old), and the dominant elephant (Sophi, 44…


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Social Networks May Guide Parents to Particular Autism Interventions

This is a photo of a child engaging in play therapy.After receiving a life-changing diagnosis for themselves or a loved one, people often turn to social networks for support and information. Parents of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) — which includes autism disorder, Asperger’s, and any developmental disorder not otherwise specified — are especially keen to find interventions that will help their children lead a healthy and fulfilling life.

Scientific research has yielded a number of evidence-based practices designed to help children with ASD. These approaches are “clinical practices that are informed by evidence about interventions and clinical expertise, as well as patient needs, values, preferences, and decisions about individual care.”

But there are many interventions available to parents that are not based on scientific evidence, some of which may cause more harm than good.

Psychological scientists Katherine E. Pickard…


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Everyday Aggression: We Hurt Those Closest to Us

When we think of aggression, we might think of road rage or a bar fight, situations in which people are violent toward strangers. But research suggests that aggression is actually most often expressed toward the people we encounter in our day-to-day lives, such as romantic partners, friends, family, and coworkers.

In an article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, psychological scientist Deborah South Richardson of Georgia Regents University presents an overview of scientific research exploring this “everyday” aggression.

This is a photo of one soccer player yelling at another player.As Richardson explains, only a behavior that is intended to harm someone qualifies as aggression. Aggression shouldn’t be confused with assertiveness or ambition, which don’t necessarily intend harm, or with hostility or anger, which involve expressions of emotion but aren’t behaviors.

Importantly, aggression also involves another living being:

“Breaking a…


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APS Fellow James Jackson Appointed to National Science Board

James S. Jackson, an APS James McKeen Cattell Fellow, Daniel Katz Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Director of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, has been appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Science Board (NSB), the policymaking body of the National Science Foundation. Jackson’s 6-year term on the board will begin in August. As a member of the NSB, he will work with 23 other board members to advise Congress and the President on science and engineering policy.

Jackson is known for his research on race, racism, and culture — and on how these factors influence health, attitudes, and social support across the lifespan and around the world. His research on members of the African diaspora in the United States, the Caribbean, and Europe have employed novel methods including multigenerational studies, longitudinal studies, and interviews.

The vast body of data Jackson…


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The Right Methods for the Right Questions

When psychology emerged as a “modern” science near the end of the 19th century, it developed a methodological orientation that was heavily influenced by other natural sciences, such as physics. As the field of psychology matured, however, researchers became interested in a “complex systems view”; one where many different components interact over time to shape development.

In some ways, research design, measurements, and methods of analysis have failed to keep up with this changing view, leading to a mismatch between the methods psychologists use and the problems they study. This mismatch has been especially troublesome for researchers studying individual development in a developmental science theoretical framework, where a person-oriented rather than a variable-oriented approach is often desirable.

In a 2013 article published in the More>

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