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Volume 23, Issue4April 2010

Presidential Column

Linda Bartoshuk
Linda Bartoshuk
University of Florida
APS President 2009 - 2010
All columns

In this Issue:
Can We Make Healthful Foods Taste Good, or Even

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


  • Can We Make Healthful Foods Taste Good, or Even

    Losing weight and eating healthier are national obsessions. Good psychological science helps us understand why the foods that are the healthiest are often not those we like the best. We understand that our food preferences are acquired by mechanisms that evolved to solve short-term nutritional problems. We are hard-wired to love sweet and salty because those preferences save our lives before experience can equip us to protect ourselves. We learn to love flavors that are paired with those experiences our brains are hard-wired to view as good. The result: we are quick to learn to love flavors associated with the energy dense foods that give us fuel to live. Sweet, salty, and fat — the triumvirate of substances that spell survival when we are young — ironically spell chronic disease as science gives us the tools to survive long after we produce our children.

APS Spotlight


  • Alphonse Chapanis: Pioneer in the Application of Psychology to Engineering Design

    Alphonse Chapanis (1917-2002) combined his interests in basic psychological research in vision and perception with applications to engineering design to become a distinguished leader of human factors engineering (referred to as ergonomics in many industrial engineering departments and in other countries around the world). While still in graduate school in 1942, Chapanis joined the Army Air Force Aero Medical Lab in Dayton, Ohio, as the first psychologist to work there. He completed his PhD the following year, which brought him an appointment as second lieutenant and advanced training as an aviation physiologist.

  • Congratulations to the 2010 Janet Taylor Spence Award Recipients

    The APS Board of Directors is pleased to announce the 2010 recipients of the APS Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions, in recognition of the significant impact their work is having in the field of psychological science. The award recognizes the creativity and innovative work of promising scientists who represent the bright future ahead for psychological science. It places these recipients among the brightest minds in our field. This inaugural class of Spence awardees sets an impressively high standard for the award in years to come. This award is a fitting tribute to its namesake, Janet Taylor Spence, the first elected President of APS.

  • Psychology Research with Undergraduates: An Interview With Debra Zellner

    The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) is a membership organization with a mission “to support and promote high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship.” This organization, founded in 1978, promotes undergraduate research by providing faculty development opportunities; sharing information on the importance of undergraduate research with state and federal elected officials, private foundations, and government agencies; and giving students opportunities to share their research.

Practice


  • Improving Classroom Performance by Challenging Student Misconceptions About Learning

    In an overview of the preparedness of high school seniors for college level work, Kuh (2007) comes to conclusions familiar to many teachers. Most entering students are not adequately prepared either academically or in terms of study skills for college level work. This preparation is predictive of college success. The result is that many students founder in college, despite the potential to succeed. As psychologists, we see this phenomenon in introductory psychology, among the most popular college courses and often taken in the first year. But, as psychologists, we can help to address this situation by sharing our knowledge of how people learn with students. This article describes several demonstrations that faculty can use either for teaching psychological concepts related to learning or for instructing students how to study more effectively.

First Person


  • Understanding Confidence Intervals (CIs) and Effect Size Estimation

    The newly released sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual states that “estimates of appropriate effect sizes and confidence intervals are the minimum expectations” (APA, 2009, p. 33, italics added).  An increasing number of journals echo this sentiment. For example, an editorial in Neuropsychology stated that “effect sizes should always be reported along with confidence intervals” (Rao et al., 2008, p. 1). This article will define confidence intervals (CIs), answer common questions about using CIs, and offer tips for interpreting CIs. Asking the Right Question One of the many problems with null hypothesis significance testing (NHST) is that it encourages dichotomous thinking: Either an effect is statistically significant or it’s not (Kline, 2004).

More From This Issue


  • Taxing Unhealthy Foods May Encourage Healthier Eating

    States are beginning to impose “sin taxes” on fat and sugar to dissuade people from eating junk food. Other groups favor subsidies over punitive taxes as a way to encourage people to eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The two strategies have never been tested head to head. So psychological scientist Leonard Epstein at University of Buffalo decided to explore the persuasiveness of sin taxes and subsidies in the laboratory. Epstein and colleagues simulated a grocery store “stocked” with images of everything from bananas and whole wheat bread to Dr. Pepper and nachos. A group of volunteers — all mothers — were given laboratory “money” to shop for a week’s groceries for the family.

  • Aha! So That’s How We Solve Problems

    Important discoveries often involve a moment of insight — the “Aha” experience — and yet the brain mechanisms responsible for these insights have remained largely unknown due to the sporadic, unpredictable, and short-lived nature of such experiences. However, in a groundbreaking study, researchers have identified specific brain areas at work during insightful problem solving.

  • Color My Numbers: New Study Suggests Learning a Key Part of Synaesthesia

    For as many as one in 20 people, everyday experiences can elicit extraordinary associated sensations. The condition is known as synaesthesia and the most common form involves “seeing” colors when reading words and numbers. Many previous studies have shown that the brains of people who experience this phenomenon are different from those who do not. Now, researchers from the University of Padova, Italy, have discovered that learning may also play an important role in synaesthesia and can lead to synaesthetic behavior even when the person is not consciously aware of the experience.

  • Silent No More: The Case for Changing Our Pronunciation

    At its December 2009 meeting, the APS Board of Directors was unanimous in support of a proposal by the APS Pronunciation Committee to change how we say the words psychology and psychological (and psychologist) to include the initial “p” sound. In keeping with APS bylaws, such a change in pronunciation needs to be decided by a vote of our membership. If approved, members would be required, or at least strongly encouraged, to pronounce the “p” sound in the name of our science.

  • Behind the Scenes at Psychological Science: An Interview with Editor Robert Kail

    With global reach and impact, the journal Psychological Science is not only APS’s flagship publication, it’s widely regarded as one of the top places to publish in the field. The Academic Observer sat down with Editor Robert Kail for a frank discussion about the journal’s policies and processes, in the hope that aspiring authors might benefit from hearing the inside scoop on how some editorial decisions are made. AO: As chair of the APS Publications Committee, I frequently tell people that Psychological Science is the greatest success story in the history of psychology.

  • The Science of Hollywood Blockbusters

    There is something about the rhythm and texture of early cinema that has a very different “feel” than modern films. But it’s hard to put one’s finger on just what that something is. New research may help explain this elusive quality. Cognitive psychologist (and film buff) James Cutting of Cornell University, along with his students Jordan DeLong and Christine Nothelfer, decided to use the sophisticated tools of modern perception research to deconstruct 70 years of film, shot by shot. They measured the duration of every shot in every scene of 150 of the most popular films released from 1935 to 2005.

  • APS Member Immordino-Yang Receives Cozzarelli Prize

    APS Member Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, University of Southern California, has received the 2009 Cozzarelli Prize from the Editorial Board of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The Cozzarelli Prize is awarded to articles reflecting excellence and originality in the scientific disciplines represented in the National Academy of Sciences. The six winning 2009 papers were selected for the award from the more than 3,700 papers published by PNAS last year.