Observations

Mischel Festschrift

Inspirational scientist, prolific artist, skilled thumb wrestler, unskilled Citröen driver, demanding advisor, supportive friend. These are parts of the multi-faceted portrait of Walter Mischel provided by colleagues, friends, and family who attended a Festschrift in his honor on June 11, 2005.

Although the event included a personal look at one of psychology’s leading investigators — who emphasized that he is NOT retiring — its primary purpose was scientific. The department of psychology at Columbia University and its chairperson, Geraldine Downey, hosted a day-long conference entitled “Toward a Science of the Person: Paradigm Change in Psychological Models of Human Nature (1950 – 2000 – 2050?).” The conference addressed the question that has been central to Mischel’s work: what theoretical conception of the individual can best foster a cumulative, socially beneficial science of persons? This question was addressed by a series of eminent figures in psychological science: personality/ social psychologists Susan Anderson, Ozlem Ayduk, Niall Bolger, Nancy Cantor, E. Tory Higgins, Rudy Mendoza- Denton, Richard Nisbett, and Yuichi Shoda; cognitive psychologists Gordon Bower, Ed Smith, and Robert Sternberg; and the cultural anthropologist and cultural psychologist Rick Shweder. Conference attendees also heard from a physician and medical researcher, Paul Mischel of UCLA, who explained how his analyses of patterns of consistency and variability in cellular functioning in the development of brain cancer was informed by Walter Mischel’s analyses of how patterns of consistency and variability in action are signatures of an individual’s underlying personality systems.

For anyone who might have had only superficial knowledge of Mischel’s past and ongoing contributions, the conference provided an important reappraisal. Professor Mischel himself has noted that, according to the test makers, he is the correct answer to a test item that once appeared on a state licensing exam: “Which psychologist does not believe in personality?” The conference made clear that what Mischel “does not believe” is that simple models of human nature, in which complex individuals are reduced to a few test scores describing average tendencies in their behavior, are sufficient for our science. His bottomline message is that persons deserve a better science of persons than that. Rick Shweder, for example, noted that Mischel’s work, starting in the late 1960s, challenged “both personality psychology and social psychology [to] revise their most basic explanatory model, in [which] all human behavior is a joint function of two mutually exclusive causal factors, namely, inside the person vectors (such as global personality traits) and outside the person situational demands.” Mischel’s work called for “a new meta-language,” Shweder continued, “that circumvents the person/situation divide” by viewing persons as “meaning-makers” and viewing “the ‘situation’ as at least partly a mentally mediated fact.”

Mischel’s reactions to the event reflected the feelings of many: “…it was a truly wonderful day, full of ideas, memories, warmth, humor, and fresh hopes. It did not simply honor me, but as colleagues noted, it honored our mutual commitment to the vocation we pursue and love. I am grateful for all of it, and to those who made it all possible.”

Daniel Cervone
University of Illinois at Chicago

APS Establishes Katrina Relocation Directory

Hurricane Katrina displaced thousands of faculty and students from the Gulf region’s colleges and universities.

Campuses across the country have opened their doors to displaced students, offering opportunities to continue their education despite the tragedy. Similarly, colleges and universities are providing opportunities to faculty and researchers who have been uprooted by Katrina.

As part of this effort, APS has established the “Katrina Relocation Directory for Psychological Scientists” to connect faculty, grad students and others in psychological science seeking a temporary home to continue their educational, teaching, and research pursuits.

“Academic institutions across the country have generously and without hesitation opened their doors” to students, educators and researchers from the areas affected by the disaster, said Alan G. Kraut, APS Executive Director. “Hurricane Katrina may have dealt a devastating blow to the Gulf Coast region, but the academic and research communities have ensured that those displaced can continue their scientific endeavors.”

To post a listing or view the Relocation Directory, visit www.psychologicalscience.org/relocation.

You Hate Strawberry Ice Cream

Elizabeth Loftus is at it again. First she had Alan Alda hating eggs, and now she’s making us hate strawberry ice cream. In her recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Loftus, along with Daniel Bernstein, have found that simply suggesting food preferences actually caused participants to turn their noses away from the delicious treat.

The study, designed to test the consequences of false memory, involved 131 students who completed a questionnaire on their food preferences and experiences. They were asked what experiences they had with food when they were younger, such as whether they “had a corndog at a baseball game” or “ate a piece of banana cream pie.” After their answers were recorded, Loftus, University of California, Irvine, and Bernstein, Univeristy of Washington, gave participants what they were told was a computer-generated analysis of their supposed “true” preferences, including a general childhood like of pizza or dislike of spinach. Forty-seven of the students were given a false analysis that included how they had become ill after eating strawberry ice cream as a child.

“You essentially tell them falsely what their data means,” said Loftus a Past President of APS. “To insure that they process their analysis, we get them to dwell on the list.”

On a second questionnaire, after being given several minutes to ponder their “true” prefences, participants were asked to rate their preference of several foods on an eight-point scale. Nearly 20 percent of the 47 participants, who noted no dislike for strawberry ice cream during the initial questionnaire, confirmed that they would prefer not to eat it in the future.

Loftus is unsure how well this could work as a dieting practice. “We’ve shown this avoidance in an experimental session, in less than an hour,” she said.

The effects may not last indefinitely, but the fact that they influenced the participants at all is promising. Loftus was also successful in convincing participants of a preference for asparagus after some careful convincing. While the strawberry ice cream trick worked, previous experiments with foods such as potato chips and chocolate chip cookies were not as successful.

APS Welcomes New Journal, New Associate Editors for Perspectives

Ed Diener, founding editor of the American Psychological Society’s newest journal, Perspectives on Psychological Science, has assembled a group of world-class associate editors for the journal. Joining Diener, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, are associate editors David Barlow, Boston University; John Cacioppo, University of Chicago; Judy DeLoache, University of Virginia; Daniel Schacter, Harvard University; Larry Squire, University of California, San Diego; and Anne Treisman, Princeton University.

Perspectives, which Diener said will “appeal to the entire scientific psychology community,” will publish both invited and submitted manuscripts (all peer-reviewed). The journal will include an eclectic mix of larger and more integrative articles, including broad integrative reviews, overviews of research programs, standard literature reviews, meta-analytic reviews, theoretical statements, book reviews, and eclectic articles on topics such as the philosophy of scientific issues, opinion pieces about major issues in the field, autobiographical reflections of senior members of the field on some topic of interest, or even humorous essays and sketches. This broad array of articles will provide a comprehensive pulse of the field in every respect. The inaugural issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science will be published in early 2006.

For more information, including submission guidelines, on this and other APS journals, visit www.psychologicalscience.org/journals.

Perspectives on Psychological Science

Editor

Ed Diener, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Associate Editors

David Barlow, Boston University
John Cacioppo, University of Chicago
Judy DeLoache, University of Virginia
Daniel Schacter, Harvard University
Larry Squire, University of California, San Diego
Anne Treisman, Princeton University

Editorial Board

Michael C. Anderson, University of Oregon
Mahzarin Banaji, Yale University
Dorret Boomsma, Vrije University of Amsterdam
Ross Buck, University of Connecticut
Avshalom Caspi, King’s College London
Neal J. Cohen, University of Illinois
Tim Curran, University of Colorado
Susan Goldin-Meadow, University of Chicago
Charles Hulin, University of Illinois
Margaret E. Kemeny, University of California, San Francisco
Elizabeth Loftus, University of California, Irvine
Nora Newcombe, Temple University
Deniz Ones, University of Minnesota
Harry Reis, University of Rochester
Norbert K. Semmer, University of Bern
Daniel Simons, University of Illinois
Howard Tennen, University of Connecticut

Observer Vol.18, No.10 October, 2005

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