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Volume 19, Issue4April 2006

Presidential Column

Michael Gazzaniga
Michael S. Gazzaniga
University of California, Santa Barbara
APS President 2005 - 2006
All columns

In this Issue:
The Cognitive Revolution: The Next Wave

About the Observer

Published 6 times per year by the Association for Psychological Science, the Observer educates and informs on matters affecting the research, academic, and applied disciplines of psychology; promotes the scientific values of APS members; reports on issues of international interest to the psychological science community; and provides a vehicle for the dissemination on information about APS.

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    Myths and Misinformation

    How does misinformation spread and how do we combat it? Psychological science sheds light on the mechanisms underlying misinformation and ‘fake news.’

Up Front


  • The h Index in Science: A New Measure of Scholarly Contribution

    Debates have long swirled about how to measure the contributions of scientists and other scholars. Such assessments are necessary for hiring, for promotion and tenure, for raises, for election to honorary societies, and for awards, among other purposes. Scholarly productivity is one such measure. It is easy enough to count publications and also relatively easy to parcel them into various categories: refereed journal articles, book chapters, books, and so on. Further, one can judge the quality of the journal for articles (perhaps using impact factors) and the quality of the books published (a major publisher or more nearly a vanity press). However, we all know that scholars can be quite productive, publishing even in the best of journals, without their work having much influence on the field. The impressive number of publications amassed by some researchers may represent much ado about not very much, the bane of all scholarly publishing. So counting publications does not necessarily tell much, except for the obvious point that in order to publish something important and influential, it is first necessary to publishing something. Enter the citation index.

  • The Cognitive Revolution: The Next Wave

    Scientific progress sometimes comes not from new methods, but from new concepts, new ways of framing old problems. The cognitive revolution is a wonderful example of this. The language of information processing and computation provided a new way of thinking about what the brain does. Recently, though, I was forcefully reminded that this revolution is not yet complete. It's not just a matter of explaining its implications to the scientific community at large. We psychologists have barely begun to tap the potential of the cognitive revolution for transforming our own field. What occasioned these thoughts? Recently, I had to explain to a panel of eminent biomedical scientists — most were pharmacologists, biophysicists, chemists, molecular biologists, and physiologists — what I spend my time doing and why they should care. You all know the problem this poses. No one thinks that having a heart gives them special insight into how it operates.

APS Spotlight


  • Champions of Psychology: Dan McAdams

    An ongoing series in which highly regarded professors share advice on the successes and challenges facing graduate students. Dan McAdams' research addresses how adults make sense of their lives through stories and how identity is a life story people begin constructing during late adolescence and young adulthood. McAdams, a professor of psychology and human development and social policy at Northwestern University, has written or edited 12 books, including The Stories We Live By (1993) and The Person: An Integrated Introduction to Personality Psychology (3rd Ed., 2001). McAdams is the 1989 winner of the Henry A. Murray Award in Psychology for the study of personality and human lives. APSSC: Your research addresses the notion of identity as a life story that we construct in late adolescence and early adulthood. For students of psychology currently in that phase of life, what advice would you offer as they craft their identities and become scientists? McAdams: I have never been comfortable offering onesize- fits-all advice on people's lives. Everybody's life story is unique.

  • Surviving the Tenure Review Process: ‘Still Not King’

    Among the worst parts of the tenure review process is the number of times one doesn't hear the decision. In the hilarious "Very Secret Diary of Aragorn, Son of Arathorn" (a parody by Cassandra Claire based on a character from The Lord of the Rings), each day's entry ends with some variation on the statement "Still not King." Similarly, candidates awaiting the outcome of their tenure review are regularly reminded that they are up for review and still not tenured. For me, reminders of tenure review came in two forms: requests for additional materials for my tenure packet and well-meaning updates on how well the process was going. I began to suspect that the requests for additional materials might be some sort of test. Perhaps only candidates who produced redundant documents without comment or complaint were truly fit for promotion within the bureaucracy. Indeed, it seemed like an elegant and easy way to trick undesirable whiners into revealing themselves. Thankfully, all documents were transmitted electronically, so this element of the "screening" process would not eliminate passionate environmentalists by mistake.

Practice


  • The h Index in Science: A New Measure of Scholarly Contribution

    Debates have long swirled about how to measure the contributions of scientists and other scholars. Such assessments are necessary for hiring, for promotion and tenure, for raises, for election to honorary societies, and for awards, among other purposes. Scholarly productivity is one such measure. It is easy enough to count publications and also relatively easy to parcel them into various categories: refereed journal articles, book chapters, books, and so on. Further, one can judge the quality of the journal for articles (perhaps using impact factors) and the quality of the books published (a major publisher or more nearly a vanity press). However, we all know that scholars can be quite productive, publishing even in the best of journals, without their work having much influence on the field. The impressive number of publications amassed by some researchers may represent much ado about not very much, the bane of all scholarly publishing. So counting publications does not necessarily tell much, except for the obvious point that in order to publish something important and influential, it is first necessary to publishing something. Enter the citation index.

  • Evaluating and Improving Your Teaching

    Faculty who take teaching seriously will inevitably ask themselves one especially important question: "How can I become a more effective teacher?" The question implies that an individual's teaching, no matter how good it may be, can become better. Its answers can lead to improved teaching practices and student learning. Faculty may have been "perfect" in the classroom yesterday, but it is almost impossible to string together a week of such days, let alone an entire semester's worth. Pondering this question is the first step on the road to helping one's students learn more effectively. The second step is to seek answers, which often leads faculty to explore two effective teaching strategies: reading the teaching literature and seriously evaluating their teaching. A review of this literature is beyond the scope of this article, although good starting points include McKeachie (2002) and Perlman, McCann, and McFadden (1999, 2004), and the journal Teaching of Psychology. Instead, we focus on different strategies for evaluating teaching. Why Evaluate Teaching? The evaluation of teaching has two purposes. The first, called formative evaluation, is aimed squarely at improving teaching.

First Person


  • The Truth About ‘Open’ Labs

    When underclassmen decide to join a research lab, many ask the wrong questions: "Which lab is the easiest?" instead of "which lab is the best fit for me?" It is a typical assumption among students that the "open" lab is less demanding, but they are later shocked to find it is, in fact, no less of a challenge. So here it is — the truth — about open lab settings. The open lab operates based on the research interests of project leaders, usually graduate students, who explore their field of research. Under the direction of project leaders and close supervision of faculty advisors, undergraduates join in whichever projects they wish to work. One of the greatest advantages of working in this type of lab is the peer mentorship that results. When students work directly with a faculty member on a research project, that advisor becomes a student's greatest resource.

More From This Issue


  • Women and Substance Abuse

    In the fight against substance abuse, women are battling tougher odds with fewer weapons. That was the message from a panel of behavioral scientists and community health advocates at a recent conference on gender differences and substance abuse. "Of all those stigmatized with the burden [of substance abuse], women are probably getting the worst of it all," said Nora D. Volkow, the conference's keynote speaker and director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

  • Social Policy and Subjective Well-Being

    Big Psychology Grants is an occasional series featuring large-scale studies and other notable programs in psychological science. This month, we profile a center that will extend the behavioral economics research to public policy in health and aging. Subjective well-being is a hot topic in the behavioral sciences, and only getting hotter. How people feel about their place in modern society — and how to make them feel better about it — is a topic that concerns economists, sociologists, and policymakers. As researchers from these fields look for ways to conceptualize, measure, and influence well-being, they've found, to no one's surprise, that psychologists have a lot to say.

  • Psychologists at Play

    Once music is in your blood — or at least in your grey matter — it stays there. For some psychologists, a love of music has meant a lifetime of divided loyalties: pursuing research and teaching by day; practicing, rehearsing, and performing by night. Whether it is a love that has endured through graduate school, first employment, and tenure, or a fling that has faded along the way, for those who study music and the mind, it is not unusual to have music on the mind. "For me it's like the two worlds of the brain," says professor of neurobiology and physiology Aryeh Routtenberg, Northwestern University.

  • Memory on Trial

    "I do not recall" may be I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's best defense. Libby, 55, faces charges of perjury, making false statements, and obstructing justice in the investigation of whether Bush administration officials unlawfully disclosed Plame's identity to the media. The former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney has enlisted the aid of renowned memory researcher Daniel L. Schacter. The Harvard University psychology professor's work could be key to the defense team's claim that in 2003 and 2004 Libby was so consumed with national security matters he almost certainly forgot details of conversations about undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame.

  • NIH Moving to Online Grant Applications

    Whole forests are breathing a collective sigh of relief at the news that paper grant applications will soon be a thing of the past at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In December 2005, NIH began a two-year transition to an electronic submissions system for grant applications. The online application is available through www. grants.gov, a joint venture of 26 grantgiving federal agencies. The site accepts submissions for over 900 grant programs, representing about $350 billion in funding.

  • No Monkey, No Cry

    Those who know her best describe Sylvia as closed off and even "disdainful." So it was a shock that the 23-year-old baboon turned to her companions for support when her daughter and best grooming partner, Sierra, suffered a fatal encounter with a lion. Sylvia's observed behavior – seeking comfort from social contact – was humanlike. Research has uncovered shared biological underpinnings for this social behavior in baboons and humans. According to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, baboons experience bereavement much the way humans do, with a rise in hormones called glucocorticoids.