Latest Issue: Volume 28 Number 6: July/August 2015

Cover Story

Mind Over Matter

Decades at the forefront of attention research have convinced APS William James Fellow Michael I. Posner that attention can literally save lives: He witnessed a group of smokers reduce their cigarette consumption by 60% after just 2 weeks of mindfulness training. He confirmed an increase in brain activity in areas related to self-control among these study participants. Posner’s Keynote Address kicked off the the 27th APS Annual Convention in New York City, where 5,300 attendees met to discuss cutting-edge research on behavioral development, attention, clinical interventions, and more.

Portrait of Self-Control as a Young Process

Stereotypes portray the teen brain as an out-of-control car with “no brakes, no steering wheel, and only an accelerator,” says APS Fellow BJ Casey. Research shows that teenagers take risks because reward centers develop more quickly than control centers in their brains. But changes in the adolescent brain ultimately help prepare teens to become independent of their parents. APS Fellow Ruth Feldman, Clancy Blair, and Angela L. Duckworth also speak about self-regulation across the lifespan in APS President Nancy Eisenberg’s 2015 Presidential Symposium.

The Social Powers of Primates

Frans B.M. de Waal has news for people who think that the tendency to establish cultural norms separates humans from other animals: By teaching a high-ranking female chimpanzee how to solve a complicated puzzle and then watching copycat behavior spread among her group, de Waal and his colleagues documented evidence of both complex social learning and conformity in nonhumans.

The Curse of Knowledge: Pinker Describes a Key Cause of Bad Writing

APS Fellow Steven A. Pinker says writers often assume readers understand the obscure words they use and know the esoteric facts they reference — and these assumptions fuel poor prose.

Why Should Psychological Science Care About Diversity?

A 2010 analysis of articles published in leading psychology journals showed that 95% of all samples came from Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic societies. APS Fellow Robert M. Sellers wants his field to study a broader cross-section of humanity — with investigators from underrepresented groups at the helm.

First-Rate Science on Symposium Sunday

APS always saves some of the best for last — does that mean we’d pass the marshmallow test? Every year, the Annual Convention’s can’t-miss Symposium Sunday offers cutting-edge findings on urgent public and scientific topics. In New York, these include research on attitudes about climate change and nontraditional methods for delivering cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Using Time to Understand Behavioral Development

In the days, weeks, and years following traumatic events from combat to spinal-cord injuries, most individuals respond with resilience and do not go on to develop PTSD, notes APS Fellow George A. Bonanno. Bonanno joins APS James McKeen Cattell Fellow Ian J. Deary, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Emily Butler, and Robert N. Singer for a cross-cutting theme program on how memory, relationships, and even IQ can affect people across different periods of their lifespans — from milliseconds to decades.

New Immigrants, New Research Opportunities

Immigrant study participants can expose the limitations of “universal” theories that are based exclusively on data from small, homogenous groups, says David Rollock. And immigrants who don’t fit into established ethnic or religious categories spur scientists to refine outdated measures and methodologies. Rollock, along with APS Fellow Gilad Chen, Belinda Campos, Carola Suárez-Orozco, and Hirokazu Yoshikawa, participates in a cross-cutting theme program on immigration.

Law and (Dis)order

Even judges can be duped by false confessions. When APS Fellow Saul Kassin showed volunteer judges weak evidence and a coerced confession — one that shouldn’t have been admissible — they nonetheless opted to convict the imaginary defendant. In a program that also covered misconceptions about lie detection and psychopathy, Kassin, APS Fellow John F. Edens, APS Fellow Essi Viding, Brad Bradshaw, Maria J. Hartwig, and Luke W. Hyde explore psychological science’s role in the legal system.

Research for Real Life

At a symposium on findings from the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest — a publication tailored for relevance to the general public — Patrick Corrigan shows that society may be able to combat prejudice by promoting the everyday stories of people with mental illness. Maria Kozhevnikov details a taxonomy designed to standardize applied research on cognitive styles.

Scenes From Convention

See some of the highlighted events from the 2015 APS Annual Convention and mark your calendars for next year's meeting.

Not Just Fun and Games

Psychological scientist Daphne Bavelier remains astounded by her observation that short periods of action-based video-game training nearly erased the gender difference found in geometric mental-rotation tasks. Jeffrey Y. Lin, Bavelier’s copresenter, describes his experience using gaming data to combat online harassment.

The Quest For Replicability

Replication failures result just as readily from sampling variability and measurement noise as they do from sloppiness or questionable research practices, asserts APS Treasurer Roberta L. Klatzky. Klatzky, along with Zoltan Dienes, Sean Mackinnon, and Simine Vazire, gives advice for assuring reliable, reproducible findings.

A Seal of Approval for Clinical Treatments

In an age when all branches of health care face increasing scrutiny from regulatory bodies, APS Fellow Dean McKay, Evan M. Forman, Brett Thombs, and David F. Tolin emphasize the need to back mental-health interventions with hard, empirical evidence. The crucial first step, they agree, will be revising guidelines for determining whether a treatment qualifies as empirically sound.

In Search of Human Uniqueness

APS Fellow Michael Tomasello believes that the most salient difference between us and our closest animal relatives is our ability to determine and share intentionality — that is, to understand and share psychological states of mind. Tomasello has spent more than 20 years comparing the behavior of adult great apes with that of human children.

Teaching Lessons that Last

Two years after taking an introductory psychology course, psychology majors remember, on average, only 60% of the material covered. APS Fellow Regan A.R. Gurung explains that teachers should not reward their students for simply memorizing facts. Instead, he wants instructors to instill lifelong critical-thinking skills.

Overcoming the Classroom Environment

For most of our evolutionary history, humans have learned by trial, error, and observation — not by sitting in a classroom. To make the modern classroom more hospitable to learning, Caroline F. Keating suggests that teachers use specific techniques, such as standing instead of sitting and engaging with students outside the classroom.

The Science and the Injustice of the Central Park Jogger Case

A screening of The Central Park Five, a documentary about racial bias and false confessions, accompanied the “Law & (Dis)Order: Psychological Science in the Legal System” theme program. Yusef Salaam, one of the exonerees in the Central Park jogger rape case, details his harrowing experiences. APS Fellow Saul Kassin and filmmaker Sarah Burns join Salaam for
a discussion of the film.