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Volume 20, Issue4April 2007

Presidential Column

Morton Ann Gernsbacher
Morton Ann Gernsbacher
University of Wisconsin, Madison
APS President 2006 - 2007
All columns

In this Issue:
The True Meaning of Research Participation

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 True Meaning of Research Participation

    I’ve been doing a happy dance lately, ever since learning that a manuscript I contributed to was recently accepted for publication in Psychological Science. In fact, I’m just about as excited as I was 25 years ago when I received my first editorial acceptance. Only this time, I didn’t receive the notification directly; rather, it was forwarded to me by another author, because on this manuscript I’m merely the third of four coauthors. The first author conceived the study, initiated the data collection, supervised the statistical analyses, and wrote the first draft. The study empirically challenges conventional wisdom and provides a powerful demonstration of the level and nature of autistic intelligence. The first author, Michelle Dawson, is autistic.1 Like many autistic people, Ms. Dawson is very interested in the topics in which she’s interested. She reads so prodigiously that she’s known as the living PubMed around my lab. At least once a week, we find ourselves emailing her to ask if she knows of “any other studies on …,” and within an hour we receive an annotated bibliography, much of it from her memory. She’s a polished writer and, most of all, she’s a scrupulous thinker.

  • Twelve Tips for Reviewers

    Many critical skills needed for becoming a successful academic are typically not taught in graduate school, at least not in any formal way. One of these is how to review journal articles. Few students coming out of graduate school have much experience reviewing papers, and yet, at least for those students continuing on in research, reviewing is a skill that will be increasingly critical as their careers develop. In fact, being a good reviewer can greatly help a career. If a young psychologist becomes known as an excellent reviewer, he or she may be selected as consulting editor, then associate editor, and then perhaps the primary editor of a journal. How do people learn to review? I suspect most newly minted PhDs learn to review papers in the same way that the children in Albert Bandura’s famous 1960s studies learned aggressive responses, which is to say, by imitation. Just as children who watched one boy smack a BoBo doll with a bat (and received praise for doing so) would tend to do the same when it was their turn, so do young academics learn to review.

APS Spotlight


  • What’s Hot in Psychology?

    Suppose you are a newly minted PhD looking to make your mark in psychology. What should you study? Such decisions are usually driven by a combination of personal curiosity, mentors’ influences, and happenstance. But as most of us have more scientific interests than we can realistically pursue at any given time, it couldn’t hurt to try to pick a research topic strategically. Different scientists take different approaches. Some seek out big, well-established research topics. They may thrill at the prospect of competing against other laboratories for the latest scoop, value the specialized meetings and societies that evolve around well-established topics, or appreciate that areas with a lot of research being done tend to attract steady sources of funding. Other researchers prefer to work in areas that have been neglected or are just emerging.

Practice


  • Twelve Tips for Reviewers

    Many critical skills needed for becoming a successful academic are typically not taught in graduate school, at least not in any formal way. One of these is how to review journal articles. Few students coming out of graduate school have much experience reviewing papers, and yet, at least for those students continuing on in research, reviewing is a skill that will be increasingly critical as their careers develop. In fact, being a good reviewer can greatly help a career. If a young psychologist becomes known as an excellent reviewer, he or she may be selected as consulting editor, then associate editor, and then perhaps the primary editor of a journal. How do people learn to review? I suspect most newly minted PhDs learn to review papers in the same way that the children in Albert Bandura’s famous 1960s studies learned aggressive responses, which is to say, by imitation. Just as children who watched one boy smack a BoBo doll with a bat (and received praise for doing so) would tend to do the same when it was their turn, so do young academics learn to review.

  • Preparing for a Class Session

    "When the task is done beforehand, then it is easy. If you do it hurriedly and carelessly, it must be hard." (Cleary, 1989, p. 5) There is much to be gained from preparing for a class session by meditatively contemplating what works well, previous mistakes made, the nature and needs of your students, and your goals for the session. This process is separate and different from the usual content preparation. We recognize, however, that the realities of academe often preclude this process, and we do not fault teachers who cannot prepare before each class session, ideal as that may be. Often, faculty have rushed from a meeting, were delayed getting to campus by family matters, or were engrossed in writing and looked at the clock a bit late. They now have a class to teach, and in the few minutes that remain, if any, “best” preparation is difficult. Some teachers might think about their classes only once a week, and others might think about them even less frequently. To encourage and help such efforts, we present the types of preparation teachers might do before a class session. Interestingly, we found nothing in the teaching literature on preparation for individual class sessions.

First Person


  • How to Get the Most Out of a Conference

    ‘Tis the season for academic conferences and conventions. This month, the Student Notebook asks two graduate students to help demystify the conference experience. The first article offers helpful suggestions on surviving the APS 19th Annual Convention in Washington, DC, in particular, whereas the second piece offers tips on how conference neophytes can take full advantage of every conference experience. How to Survive a Convention: Tips and Recommendations By Jennifer Thorpe Whether the APS 19th Annual Convention will be your first convention or your 15th, there are many things you can do to maximize your experience. Pace yourself. A large convention like APS’s can be daunting. If possible, arrive at the convention a little early and get your registration materials immediately.

More From This Issue


  • Brewer Award for Perlman

    Baron Perlman, Chief Editor of the “Teaching Tips” column in the Observer since 1994, has received the American Psychological Association’s Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award, recognizing a career of significant contributions to teaching psychology. Recipients are required to have demonstrated an excellent record in teaching, along with innovative teaching research, development of effective teaching methods, and novel courses.

  • Statistical Reform in Psychology

    New research published in the March issue of Psychological Science suggests that efforts to improve statistical practices in psychological research may be paying off. Geoff Cumming, Fiona Fidler, and colleagues at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, examined whether guidelines set forth in 1999 by the APA Task Force on Statistical Inference (TSFI) had been implemented in psychological research. The authors analyzed articles published in 10 leading international psychology journals from 1998 to 2006, focusing on three practices central to the statistical reform debate: null hypothesis significance testing, confidence intervals, and figures with error bars.

  • Planet of the … Dogs?

    If you are a sci-fi fan, you know that Earth’s future is pretty bleak. Forget global warming. The true doom of our species bides its time in our zoos and research facilities, plotting our downfall under our very noses. Yes, in a mere few thousand years, an evolutionary eyeblink, the apes — chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans — will rise up and enslave humanity, building a complex (albeit warlike) society on the ruins of our own. How will this scenario unfold? Can it be prevented? As psychologists, perhaps we should ask this: What is the boundary that the near-future apes in Pierre Boulle’s novel Planet of the Apes and the subsequent films had to cross to become, well, human?

  • The Banality of Evil

    APS Fellow and Charter Member Philip Zimbardo calls it his own “evil of inaction,” and he has been making amends for it for more than three decades. The Stanford University psychologist is referring to his part in orchestrating a now infamous psychological study, a classic of the social-science literature known as the Stanford Prison Experiment. The experiment began in the summer of 1971 as an undergraduate class project on the psychology of incarceration. Zimbardo created a mock prison in the basement of the psychology department building, and volunteers were randomly assigned to roles as either prisoners or prison guards. Things started going wrong almost immediately.

  • How to Avoid the Budget Blues: Q&A with Grant Swinger

    Following is an interview with Dr. Grant Swinger, Director of the Center for the Absorption of Federal Funds, who spoke with Daniel S. Greenberg, a Washington journalist. Greenberg has previously interviewed Dr. Swinger for Science, the New England Journal of Medicine, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. DSG This is a tough year for the federal research budget. It may be up a bit here and there in current dollars, but in constant dollars, it doesn’t look so good for NIH and many other funding agencies. GS No, no. Whatever the budget, there’s plenty for those who recognize the opportunities. We’ve seen the issues and funding opportunities come and go. Poverty, drugs, crime. Auto safety.