Observations

School Starts Next Fall for UC-Merced

APS Fellow and Charter Member Carol Tomlinson-Keasey is the inaugural chancellor of the University of California, Merced — billed as the United States’ first new research university of the 21st century. After years of anticipation, the Merced campus will open in the fall of 2005.

Tomlinson-Keasey, a distinguished developmental psychologist and longtime UC faculty member and administrator, will oversee the first new campus of the university to be built since 1965, and the first UC campus to be located in the Central Valley.

Upon naming Tomlinson-Keasey chancellor in 1999, APS William James Fellow Richard C. Atkinson — then president of the University of California system — called her “an innovator, a highly respected academic leader, and an individual with an unwavering commitment to the new campus.” Atkinson chose Tomlinson-Keasey out of a 100 candidates. “Her extensive knowledge of the UC system and her experience as an early pioneer in the development of UC Merced make her uniquely qualified to serve as the founding chancellor,” he said.

She also attributes much of her development to her experience as a psychologist. “Maneuvering among the political minefields takes a sophisticated understanding of interpersonal interactions and social psychology,” she said, citing her background in statistical analysis as particularly helpful. “From admissions decisions to understanding the economic impact of sustainable buildings, an ability to digest, understand, and question statistical presentations is invaluable. I have relied on regression analysis and multivariate statistics in more cases than I would ever have imagined.”

UC Merced will offer a broad range of undergraduate and graduate programs and is projected to grow to a 25,000-student enrollment at full build-out by approximately the year 2030. Its inaugural areas of study will include a Social, Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences major, within which students may choose an emphasis in psychology or economics.

Two of its major hires were psychologists: Kenji Hakuta, former professor of psychology at Stanford University, was named dean of the School of Social Science, Humanities, and Arts at Merced; in that same school, J. Arthur Woodward, who served as chair of the psychology department at the University of California, Los Angeles, will be a professor.

“In terms of making decisions, being a psychologist helps you make sure you have done your interpersonal due diligence as well as your financial due diligence,” Tomlinson-Keasey said. “While you are gathering information relevant to the decision, you need to understand the interpersonal issues that might be an outgrowth of particular decisions. As a psychologist, you are also aware of the multiple impacts of a decision and how you might adjust your behavior in ways that, while they do not change the decision, do change the impact.”

Geller Honored

APS Fellow and Charter Member E. Scott Geller was given the title Alumni Distinguished Professor recently, in recognition of his extraordinary academic citizenship and distinguished service within the Virginia Tech community.

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors reserves the Alumni Distinguished Professor designation to recognize members of the faculty who have made outstanding contributions to the instructional program of the university and who have touched the lives of generations of alumni. Only 11 professors throughout the university hold the title.

Time Isn’t Money

Regardless of what a past significant other may believe, most of us have no trouble committing. In fact, recent psychological research shows that people over-commit when it comes to future projects and appointments, believing falsely that they will have more time in the future than they do in the present.

Gal Zauberman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and John Lynch Jr., Duke University, found that participants believed they would have much more spare time in the future than spare money. The results, published in a recent issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, came from surveys that asked undergraduate students how much money and time they had today versus how much they thought they would have in a month.

Zauberman and Lynch believe that the nature of time fools most people into thinking they will soon have more; we seem to forget how daily demands fill our time. “Supply and demand of money are relatively constant over time, and people are aware of that,” they wrote. “Compared with demands on one’s time, money needs in the future are relatively predictable from money needs today.”

Overall, the future seems to be seen through rose-colored glasses: unlike today, the alarm will go off on time, work will get done before deadline, and traffic will move quickly. However, this is not the reality come tomorrow.

“People are consistently surprised to be so busy today,” Zauberman and Lynch wrote. “Lacking knowledge of what specific tasks will compete for their time in the future, they act as if new demands will not inevitably arise that are as pressing as those faced today.” And the cycle continues.

Loftus Elected to Royal Society

APS Past President Elizabeth Loftus, University of California, Irvine recently became the first psychologist elected to the prestigious Royal Society of Edinburgh.

“I’m honored to join this venerable society,” Loftus said. “It’s rewarding to do research with a real-world impact, and wonderful to have this work recognized by peers. But it’s completely amazing to receive such recognition from a European organization halfway around the world.”

Loftus’ work has shown that memory is highly susceptible to distortion and manipulation, and that people can vividly recall events that never happened. Her research on false memory, the reliability of eyewitness reports, and memories “recovered” through therapy has affected how law enforcement, courts, and psychologists consider such testimony. Recently, she also received the 2005 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Psychology.

The Scotland-based society, founded by Adam Smith in 1783, is among the oldest and most distinguished academies of arts and sciences in the world, and Loftus’ election as a Corresponding Fellow recognizes the international esteem of her research. Fellows include nationally and internationally eminent individuals in the sciences, arts, humanities, professions, industry, and commerce.

Visit www.royalsoced.org.uk for more information.

Law and Ekman

NBC’s “Law and Order: SVU” may be a fictional drama, but the facts were accurate when some of the show’s characters cited APS Fellow and Charter Member Paul Ekman, University of California, San Francisco, in a recent episode.

The show’s detectives struggled to understand how a suspicious self-proclaimed psychic, played by Martin Short, was able to “read” minds and know details about the murder under investigation. The show’s fictitious expert on the criminal mind, Dr. George Huang, discovered that the psychic was intentionally using real-life psychologist Paul Ekman’s methods — which have allowed psychologists to read emotion on the human face — to “read” the minds of detectives.

Ekman’s Facial Action Quoting System defines every conceivable human facial expression as one of 46 “Action Units,” each of which is a contraction or a relaxation of one or more muscles on the face. As displayed by the character on the show, reading facial emotions can help get at the actual emotion, but not the source of the emotion within the person. Ekman has taught his methods to police and other criminal investigators for almost 20 years to help them make more careful evaluations of the people they encounter.

— Sarah Brainard

Hear Ekman at the APS 17th Annual Convention.
Visit www.psychologicalscience.org/convention for details.

Big Changes for the Big Apple

This month APS is holding its 17th Annual Convention in Los Angeles, with the expectation of the highest attendance, the largest number of exhibitors, and best of all, the most exciting scientific program ever. But there are big changes in store for the 18th Annual Convention, which will be in New York City in May, 2006, during Michael Gazzaniga’s term as President.

In February, a task force of APS Board Members and current and former Program Committee chairs recommended, and the APS Board approved, a new Convention format that will feature cross-cutting programs with high profile speakers, who will focus on “larger” issues in psychological science. The topics will involve the full range of psychology’s subdisciplines and intellectual specialties, and the programs will be structured in ways that allow convention attendees to listen to presentations, take part in the discussion with leading researchers, and be active participants in addressing some of the most interesting and challenging subjects in our field.

The topics could all be examined from different perspectives, such as developmental, clinical, social, psychobiological, experimental, cognitive, and industrial-organizational. Examples of suggested topics could include such diverse subjects as: plasticity; imaging; language; bases of schizophrenia; model building; evolutionary psychology; sleep and memory; consciousness; mindfulness meditation; genetics and behavior; gender and X; and research ethics in psychology, just to name a few of the possibilities.

“The APS meeting is much more than a gathering for psychological scientists and students to listen to talks,” said Alan G. Kraut, APS Executive Director. “At its heart, the convention is a forum for idea exchange and debate on the salient issues of the day. These changes enhance these aspects of the meeting.”

Of course the APS Annual Convention will continue to offer the popular Keynote, Presidential, and Bring the Family addresses, poster sessions, and other traditional elements of the APS convention, such as addresses by recipients of APS’s lifetime achievement awards (the William James and James McKeen Cattell Fellow awards); workshops; affiliate organization meetings; student programming; and the Teaching Institute. But the new format will also feature expanded poster sessions tied to the larger issues being discussed, more pre-conference workshops with an emphasis on methodology, and other program innovations.

Planning is underway for the 2006 meeting, but APS Members are encouraged to make suggestions about the new format. Send ideas to convention@psychologicalscience.org.

Observer Vol.18, No.5 May, 2005

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