Dateline NBC Giving Away Psychology

A few years ago, when I was Director of Communications at APS, I was always struck by the motto featured at the bottom of every piece of APS stationary: “Advancing the scientific discipline and the giving away of psychology in the public interest.” I know that the dedication to George Miller’s directive was – and is – very much at the core of every APS activity. And although I’m no longer at APS, it is still an important part of my day-to-day job as an assistant producer in the Psychology Unit of Dateline NBC.

Dateline’s Psychology Unit was developed to bring the psychology lab to viewers, and viewers into the lab. Dedicated to uniting journalism and psychological science, our goal is twofold: to look at the news in a new way, bringing psychology’s science and sound methodology to viewers; and to cover psychological research in the most comprehensive and responsible way possible.

The unit is led by Andi Gitow, an Emmy Award-winning producer and psychologist who was a research scientist at Columbia University. Andi also taught social psychology, trained medical students, wrote peer reviewed articles and practiced clinically. I joined Andi at Dateline in 1999 and continue my work there in the psychology unit.

Dateline NBC has highlighted a number of exceptional psychologists and their research. Dateline pieces have included:

  • My Brother’s Keeper, featuring John Darley’s work on bystander apathy
  • Follow the Leader, a look at conformity research including Asch’s and Milgram’s classic work on conformity and obedience
  • Eyewitness, an examination of the science of eyewitness recall and its reliability
  • I’ve Got A Secret, featuring the research of Dan Wegner
  • Friendly Persuasion, a examination of persuasion techniques with Robert Cialdini
  • The Green Eyed Monster, featuring Abe Tesser’s work on envy
  • Pride and Prejudice, a look at the implicit attitudes research of Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald that became part of a hour-long special on racism that also featured Janet Schofield’s work on children and prejudice
  • First Impressions, a story about impression formation featuring Frank Bernieri and Leslie Zebrowitz
  • Sight Unseen, a look at the phenomenon of inattentional blindness featuring Dan Simons
  • Alter Ego, a report on Dissociative Identity Disorder and the criminal justice system
  • Natural Born Killers, a report on the biology and genetics of criminality

Not quite a “Call for Papers” this article is, in effect, a call for research. We, at Dateline, are constantly pursuing new stories and we encourage you to contact us with your own ideas and research; we are eager to continue translating science into accessible and meaningful television.

With millions of viewers and a flexible format that allows for multi-part features, full-hour documentaries devoted to single subjects, or series of continuing reports, Dateline NBC provides a great means of educating the public about the field and about the topics that effect their lives. We also have strong and solid relationships with other NBC venues such as MSNBC, The Today Show, and Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, offering possibilities for additional exposure.

On a final note, we wish to thank all of the researchers who have so generously opened up their labs and their work to us. Please be assured that we are as dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the science as we are to presenting it to Dateline audiences in a way that is accessible, entertaining and informative.


Observer Vol.15, No.5 May/June, 2002

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