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172004Volume 17, Issue4April 2004

Presidential Column

Henry L. Roediger, III
Henry L. Roediger, III
Washington University in St. Louis
APS President 2003 - 2004
All columns

In this Issue:
What Should They Be Called?

About the Observer

The Observer is the online magazine of the Association for Psychological Science and covers matters affecting the research, academic, and applied disciplines of psychology. The magazine reports on issues of interest to psychologist scientists worldwide and disseminates information about the activities, policies, and scientific values of APS.

APS members receive a monthly Observer newsletter that covers the latest content in the magazine. Members also may access the online archive of Observer articles going back to 1988.

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    Disaster Response and Recovery

    Disasters like Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut draw massive media coverage, trauma interventions, and financial donations to victims. But psychological research shows the efforts don’t always yield the intended benefits.

Up Front

  • What Should They Be Called?

    "They" refers to the animals - human and infrahuman - in our experiments. It used to be simple: they were subjects, or in certain types of perceptual experiments, observers. In the older literature much was written about them in abbreviated form, S and S's or O and O's. However, those simple days are gone. Now we are treated by a bewildering array of rules to use in naming the creatures in our experiments. I count 18 pages in the American Psychological Association Publication Manual (2001) devoted to how our subjects (oops! participants) should be described, including a seven-page table, Table 2.1. Seven pages? What has the world come to? Most of the people participating in psychology experiments are college students. We get a lot of grief about this, I know, and we often feel abashed and ashamed. I don't know why.

APS Spotlight

  • What Drives Scientific Research in Education?

    For more than 100 years, education research as a scientific endeavor has been at the center of scholarly and political debate. With the recent advent of "evidence-based" policy and practice in education and related fields, the debate has taken on heightened importance and political overtones. In the summer of 2000, a bill to reauthorize the primary federal education research agency included a legislatively, not scientifically, devised definition of what constitutes "scientifically based research" in education. This action signaled the field's lack of credibility with policymakers and the high stakes associated with articulating and upholding standards of high quality science. That was the context, in the winter of 2001, when a National Research Council committee met to address three related questions in response to a request from the National Educational Research Policy and Priorities Board:1 1) What are the principles of scientific quality in education research? 2) How can a federal research agency promote and protect scientific quality in the education research it supports? 3) How can research-based knowledge in education accumulate?

  • Same Subject, Different Setting: Teaching Psychology from the Two-year Perspective

    As a graduate student in social psychology at the University of Oklahoma, I was groomed to go out into the world and work at a college or university as a psychology professor; this became my goal. In 1996, while I was almost done with my dissertation, a job offer at a private four-year college came my way, complete with a reduced teaching load so that I could finish my dissertation. I excitedly took the job and moved to Ohio where I taught for four years at The College of Wooster. In 1997, during my first year at Wooster, I finished my dissertation and began the road toward tenure. After very good second and fourth year reviews, I was well on my way, but my personal life dictated a change of venue. In 2000, I quit my tenure track position with no job prospects on the horizon, and planned a move to Phoenix, Arizona. I had several interviews for non-academic research jobs, and one academic job interview at Mesa Community College. I really wanted to continue teaching but thought the chances of landing an academic position were slim. When I was offered a residential faculty position at Mesa I took it, and my opinion of community colleges changed forever.


  • Storytelling in Teaching

    "Tell me a fact and I'll learn. Tell me the truth and I'll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever." - Indian Proverb Once upon a time, long ago and far away (or perhaps not so long ago), teachers did not use fancy PowerPoint presentations, overhead projectors, or even chalkboards. They simply shared their knowledge through stories. Think back over your years of sitting in classrooms. What are the moments that you most remember? For me, one of those moments was my professor in introduction to psychology spinning the tale of Rosenhan's pseudopatients, perfectly sane individuals who checked into a mental institution and proceeded to act in normal ways. It seemed like an amazing adventure - what was going to happen to these people in the mental hospital? The class was hanging on his every word.

First Person

  • A Beginner’s Guide to Graduate Advising

    Although this guide is primarily intended for students beginning advisor/advisee relationships, I hope that faculty may also find it useful. Your relationship with your advisor may be the most important collaboration of your graduate career. As with most collaborations, success in graduate school requires team effort. Graduate advisors have much more power than undergraduate advisors. Graduate degree requirements (particularly PhD) are much more vague than undergraduate requirements. Many expectations are not explicitly stated and are left to the discretion of you and your advisor. Communication is critical to the success of a student/advisor relationship. Clear expectations make life easier for all involved. Your advisor might not have all the answers, but he or she may be able to help you find them. The following topics should be discussed as early as possible with your advisor.

More From This Issue

  • Strategies and Tactics for Training Graduate Students to Become Competent Teachers

    I received my PhD in social psychology from Saint Louis University in 2003 and am in the midst of my second semester as assistant professor of psychology at Georgia Southern University. In graduate school I received outstanding research training and extensive experience teaching. I think I love research and teaching equally, and I am fortunate to be a member of a psychology department that values and rewards both endeavors. Graduate students often receive the message that they must choose between being a great researcher or a great teacher. As a member of both the American Psychological Society and the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, I strive to be both.

  • A Cultural Lens on Facial Behavior in Emotions

    Many contemporary psychology textbooks (Gleitman, 1995; Myers, 1998) describe facial expressions of emotions as universal, citing famous studies by both Ekman and Izard and their colleagues (Ekman, 1973, 1994; Ekman et al., 1987; Izard, 1980, 1994). In these studies, respondents from different cultures were asked to identify a number of facial expressions. In the initial studies, respondents selected one emotion from a list. Across many cultures, people chose the 'correct' emotion at a frequency above chance for six to 10 emotions.

  • Meeting of the Minds: Creative Collaboration Highlights Psychology’s Role in SSRC

    The Social Science Research Council champions cutting-edge interdisciplinary, international social science fields as they first emerge. The SSRC also brokers graduate and postdoctoral fellowships, funded by foundations or government agencies, and distributes them to applicants in areas ranging from human sexuality to child survivors of war to culture-specific health practices to media, culture, and education.

  • PROFILE: NSF Human and Social Dynamics Program

    The National Science Foundation has launched an ambitious five-year priority area that will devote $24 million annually to exploring how humans and our institutions adapt to the constant fluctuation of changes that characterize our world.

  • Informed Consent and Consent Forms for Research Participants

    Informed consent is a communication process by which researchers reach agreement with people about whether they wish to participate in research. Confusing informed consent with a signed consent form may violate the ethical intent of informed consent, which is to communicate clearly and respectfully, to foster trust, comprehension, and good decision making, and to ensure that participation is voluntary. Consent forms are often written in "legalese" and are long, complex, and often inappropriate to the culture or language of the potential subject, insulting, and virtually impossible for most people to comprehend.

  • APS Receives $1 Million Gift

    Noted textbook author David Myers has pledged $1 million to the American Psychological Society to establish an endowed fund that aims "to enhance the teaching and public understanding of psychological science for students and the lay public, in the United States, Canada, and worldwide." This is the first such endowment received by APS and it is seen as a giant step forward for the Society and for the field more generally. The gift is being made by the David and Carol Myers Foundation, which receives and will distribute all author royalties from Myers' general audience books and his introductory psychology texts.

  • Heading in the Right Direction: Basic Research in Psychology Leads to Safer Brain Surgery

    The man in the mask holds up a piece of cardboard and demands that the man lying on the table identify the item pictured. The man on the table is trying to comply, but he's groggy, nervous, and increasingly incoherent. That's understandable, since he is missing a chunk of his skull about as big as the width of your hand. A technique originally developed to study false memory helps reduce risk of neurosurgery by more accurate "mapping." Another man in a mask is standing near the exposed brain and manipulating a set of wires attached to the pulsing organ, which is naked but for a scattering of tiny numbered pieces of sticky tape across its surface.

  • The Picture for Behavioral Research: An In-depth Look at the FY 2005 Federal Budget

    In February, the White House released its federal budget request for the fiscal year 2005. The figures for behavioral and psychological science research funding are expected to increase, but the question remains if Congress will be as generous to the field as it has been in recent years. With elections looming, and the deficit continuing to grow, the budget outlook is more unpredictable than ever.

  • Why Did You Study Psychology?

    Why did psychology’s leading researchers take that first course? Was it the compelling advice of a master? Perhaps a sudden epiphany? There’s a story behind every good psychologist. A cross-section of psychologists were asked to share their stories and illuminate the heart of this careerma king decision. This series showcases the paths of psychologists in various disciplines from around the world. Animal Appetite By Elizabeth D. Capaldi I was a math major my first two years in college. I picked math because I loved geometry - the logic of it appealed to me. I felt great pleasure when you got to QED at the end of those proofs. When I started school, all my friends were English majors.