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Extreme Memory

Memory researcher Henry L. Roediger, III, spoke the digits at a rate of one every 2 seconds. A few feet to his left on the stage, memory athlete Nelson Dellis sat in a chair absorbing each one. Dellis was hunched over, his hands pressed over his eyes, his face a bit red with intensity. After Roediger announced the 100th digit, Dellis leaned back and asked for a moment to let it sink in. He was going to recite them back to the audience, all hundred, in order.

A packed ballroom never sat so silent in anticipation.

Roediger and Dellis had just spent the past hour revealing the secrets of mnemonic memory as part of the Bring the Family Address at the 26th APS Annual Convention. Roediger, APS Past President and a psychological scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, has pivoted some research attention to the spectacular feats…

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Taking It Easy Isn’t Easy

APS President Elizabeth A. Phelps

APS President Elizabeth A. Phelps

You probably don’t need statistics to appreciate the pervasive role of stress in American life, but the numbers are there if you do. A recent Stress in America survey found that a quarter of adults experience high stress on a regular basis, and 42% say their stress levels are rising.

Given the impact stress has been known to have on physical and psychological well-being, that makes it a pretty urgent problem for behavioral researchers to consider.

“As everyone knows, stress is prevalent in everyday life,” said APS President Elizabeth A. Phelps of New York University, by way of introducing her presidential symposium at the 2014 APS Annual Convention. “And it seems to be increasing.”

Phelps gathered a wide-ranging panel to address the roots of stress…

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Three Pioneers Go ‘Inside the Psychologist’s Studio’

At the 2014 APS Annual Convention in San Francisco, three of the world’s most celebrated psychological scientists sat down for interviews about their education, their accomplishments, and their legacies.

It was all part of the “Inside the Psychologist’s Studio” video series, modeled after the popular Inside the Actor’s Studio television program.

This is a photo of Claude Steele being interviewed by Elizabeth Phelps.

Past APS Board Member Claude Steele talks with APS President Elizabeth Phelps.

Past APS Board Member Claude Steele talked about his years of research on stereotype threat — the theory he developed to describe situations in which a person fears their own potential to confirm a negative stereotype about their own social group — and its application to minority students’ academic performance.

In an interview with APS President Elizabeth Phelps, Steele also reminisced…

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Zimbardo Greets Admiring Crowd at APS Convention

This is a photo of Philip G. Zimbardo at the 26th APS Annual Convention.

Hundreds of people filed into the APS Exhibit Hall to meet the scientist responsible for one of the most famous psychology experiments of the 20th century. The line was long, stretching down one side of the huge room and winding around a corner, but Philip G. Zimbardo’s admirers were not deterred.

Zimbardo’s 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment is famous in the social psychology literature and beyond. By placing college students in a made-up “prison” environment and assigning them to serve as either guards or inmates, Zimbardo found that a power imbalance — even one created as part of a simulation for a university experiment — could lead to extreme abuses among the powerful and depression-like responses among the powerless.

Artifacts from Zimbardo’s famous experiment —…

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Reflections on the Failure of Ignorance to Recognize Itself

In his session during the APS–STP Teaching Institute, “Reflections on the Failure of Ignorance to Recognize Itself,” Distinguished Lecturer David Dunning of Cornell University, an APS Fellow, outlined his research into the accuracy — and, more commonly, the errors — of human judgment.

He explained the Dunning–Kruger effect, in which a person who performs poorly in a certain area or task is unable to recognize their own incompetence; as it turns out, the skills that we use to acquire competency are the same ones that are necessary for us to assess our own competency. This leads to a situation that sounds like an Abbott and Costello routine: Those with a great deal of knowledge about a subject also know how well they…

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