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Volume 24, Issue4April 2011

Presidential Column

Mahzarin R. Banaji
Mahzarin R. Banaji
Harvard University
APS President 2010 - 2011
All columns

In this Issue:
Making the Most of Online Searches

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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  • This is a photo of a piece of paper torn to reveal the phrase "uncover the facts"

    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


  • Making the Most of Online Searches

    APS Members are editing and updating entries on psychological concepts, methods, and people on Wikipedia as part of the APS Wikipedia Initiative (APSWI). I hope you will join those efforts to ensure that such entries are clear, accurate, and accessible. To help make the most of online searches, the search engine Google has a special team dedicated to Search Quality and User Happiness. In this month’s column, a member of that team offers insights into making the most out of Internet search results. -Mahzarin R. Banaji APS President On the face of it, you’d think that searching on a modern search engine such as Google is a pretty simple and straightforward skill. And mostly, you’d be right. It’s the exceptions that are interesting. We’ve all had the experience of trying to find something that we just can’t quite seem to nail down.

APS Spotlight


  • The Right Fit

    As a social psychologist, I have always thought of myself as someone who was acutely aware of the power of the social situation to shape individual behavior. And yes, I admit that I have oftentimes (privately) felt as if I had an advantage over those outside of our field in being aware of often overlooked social cues that are as important as personality when deliberating on impressions and accounting for human behavior — cues such as nonverbal communication, the power of images in the media to shape our thoughts, etc. Yes, I liked to think that I was an observant student of life and that my awareness of all of the many social psychological cues in social situations would serve me well in my own social encounters.

Practice


  • Photo of a happy group of students studying.

    How Should Students Study? Tips, Advice, and Pitfalls

    It has happened to all of us in some form or another. A student comes to our office (or emails, calls, or texts) and says “I studied so hard for your exam and I still only got a __ (insert low grade here). What should I do?” How should you respond? Is this the time to reveal all those secret, super-successful study techniques that you have kept carefully hidden from your students all these years? Well, most of us have no collection of such hidden gems, so we recite the litany of things we have heard work well. Even textbooks provide general prescriptions on how to study, and there are also a number of student study guides (e.g., Fry, 2004; Tamblin & Ward, 2006). But what really works best and, as important, what does not work well (even though you think it should)?

First Person


  • Student Notebook News ;-)

    Experimental Participants Demand Fewer Rights, Insist on Being Called ‘Subjects’ In today’s changing world of experimental psychology, people who participate in research studies are provided with a bounty of privileges. They enjoy the benefits of knowing the details of each experiment before they get involved, and they even receive payment or credit for classes in exchange for their participation. However, if a subset of experimental participants has their way, all of this might be about to change. “It’s only fair that these researchers respect us enough to treat us as we are,” says Oliver Shortfather, undergraduate chemistry student at Boatwright University and founder of the Society for Appropriate Protection of Subjects (SAPS).

More From This Issue


  • APS Janet Taylor Spence Award Recipients 2011

    The APS Board of Directors is pleased to announce the 2011 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 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.

  • APS Grant Supports International Conference on Psychology Education

    Contributions from Shirley Zhang, Fiona White, Judi Homewood, Jo Milne-Home, Nida Denson,Victor Karandeshev, Sherri McCarthy, Annie Trapp, Steve Provost, Frances Martin, Lucy Zinkiewicz, and Jo Earl Psychological literacy was among the hot topics at the Fourth International Conference on Psychology Education (ICOPE). One hundred twenty attendees from 17 countries, including Taiwan, Chile, and Columbia, met in Sydney, Australia to share information and research on psychology education.

  • Letter From the Fashion Editor

    Dahling! As a psychological scientist, you spend all of your time studying the Inner Being. Dare we say even to the point that the Outer You is being neglected? If I see those shiny-at-the-knee corduroys or those too-sensible-to-mention oxfords one more time, I will absolutely positively make a scene that will have even Charlie Sheen running for cover. (Charlie Sheen is the name of my accessory Chihuahua – how was I to know?) Fortunately, there’s something you can do.

  • Skirting the Issue: Fashion Disorders

    “Mike” (not his real name, which is Lamont) has been living with a Fashion Disorder his entire life. He has trouble making the basic everyday choices about clothes people make every day – from matching his belt to his shoes to shaving off his soul-patch. And Mike isn’t alone – over 35% of Americans have the disorder, even though very few of them recognize their condition and even fewer seek treatment. Those of us who have to look at them are the ones who suffer. But that’s about to change. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has announced the addition of Fashion Disorder (FD) to the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Made-Up Disorders, the DSM.

  • Psychological Scientists On the Town

    April Fools! We hope you’ve enjoyed this special Fashion Supplement! While looking good is important, we’ll stick to what we know and love best: Psychological Science!

  • As Seen (Mostly) in Psychological Science

    That little red dress might be giving off more signals than you think. Wearing red might be asking people to associate you with success…if you are playing sports. Trained referees were asked to decide tae kwon do matches between opponents in blue and red. Judges tended to favor the contestant in red, especially when the match was very close. So if you want people to think of you as a success, remember to “think red.” Hagemann, N. et al. (2008). When the Referee Sees Red. Psychological Science, 19(8). _______________________________________________________________________________________ Is the person you’re having a drink with a good guy or a meanie?

  • Who Wore It Best?

    It's that time of year again! Freudian tweed is so last century, and lengthy lab coats are so last semester. Bring on the thick glasses, industrial strength duct tape, pastel bowties and the latest technology in pocket protectors. APS has the inside scoop on what’s hot and what’s not for the office, lecture hall and lab. But who best represents APS fashion and flare?  We let you decide. Online voters weighed in on who best embodies spring 2011 psychological fashion. April Fools! We hope you’ve enjoyed this special Fashion Supplement! While looking good is important, we’ll stick to what we know and love best: Psychological Science!

  • Science on the Runway

    The Proud Shopper Gets the Flashy Blazer It’s been known that happy shopping can be dangerous to your pocketbook – positive feelings can create a “rose-colored glasses effect” that makes products more desirable. But recent research suggests that this is even more complex: Proud customers tend to buy flashy things, like jewelry and clothes, while contented customers buy products that instill comfort, such as easy chairs and appliances. Before you head out to get your new spring wardrobe, make sure your mood fits first. Griskevicius,V. et al. (2010). Journal of Consumer Research. The Many Shades of Rose-Colored Glasses: How Positive Emotions Influence Desire for Consumer Products.

  • Convention Wear

    Everyone knows the Annual Convention is more than an opportunity to learn about psychological science. Sure there’s the Presidential Symposium, hundreds of posters and zillions of speakers, but what it all comes down to is lookin’ good for the Presidential Reception. If you want to impress old acquaintances and make new connections, be sure your outfit transitions easily from day to night. Since the convention is in our Nation’s Capital, only variations of Red, White and Blue are acceptable. April Fools! We hope you’ve enjoyed this special Fashion Supplement! While looking good is important, we’ll stick to what we know and love best: Psychological Science!

  • ‘Memory, Like Liberty, Is a Fragile Thing’

    APS Past President Elizabeth Loftus is this year’s recipient of the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for her pioneering research on human memory, which has had a profound impact on the administration of justice in the United States and abroad.

  • Money Eases the Pain of Losing

    What makes a loser feel better? Thinking about money. An upcoming study in Psychological Science found that people continue to make comparisons until they are happy, but only when they have the cognitive resources to do so. In the first experiment, winners were unaffected by the actual value of the prize they received, simply winning was satisfying enough. For losers, however, the greater the consolation prize, the more satisfaction they reported. Since making the salient comparison to winners left them unhappy, they were prompted to search for more satisfying standards of comparison (e.g. having this money is better than having no money like I did before the game).

  • APS Fellow Kroll Receives $2.8 Million from NSF to Study Bilingualism and the Brain

    APS Fellow and Charter Member Judith Kroll, Director of The Center for Language Science, at Pennsylvania State University, has received a five-year, $2.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Kroll, together with Co-PIs Paola Dussias, Ping Li, and Janet van Hell, will lead a team of domestic and international researchers to study and understand what goes on in the minds and brains of bilingual speakers when individuals first learn and then actively use two languages. The NSF-funded project, “Bilingualism, mind, and brain: An interdisciplinary program in cognitive psychology, linguistics and cognitive neuroscience,” involves researchers from 10 universities.

  • Chicken Soup Really is Good for the Soul

    Winter is just about over, but warm and soothing comfort foods are good all year. Why does comfort food make us feel so much better when we’re down? Research in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science shows that comfort food brings up associations of positive relationships and makes us feel less lonely. Volunteers who thought of chicken noodle soup as comfort food had greater access to relationship related words when they ate a bowl of the soup. In a second experiment, volunteers who had secure attachment styles and wrote about comfort foods did not feel as lonely after belongingness threat (writing about a conflict with a close other).

  • Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry Elicits Extreme Fanfare

    In the off-season of 1920, Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee dealt an up-and-coming slugger named Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees to raise cash for a Broadway play he was backing. The Red Sox had dominated major league baseball for the first two decades of the century, but the World Series drought that began in 1918 lasted … and lasted, until 2004. Many Red Sox fans blamed the losing streak on the unpopular trade, which became known as the “Curse of the Bambino.” For years, whenever the Red Sox played at Yankee Stadium, home team fans would jeer: “1918! 1918!” The curse may have been broken in 2004, but the fans haven’t let it go entirely.