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332020Volume 33, Issue4April 2020

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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  • Thumbnail Image for Disaster Response and Recovery

    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.


  • The 2020 recipients, selected for their dedication to their students and colleagues, are Toni C. Antonucci, Elizabeth Bjork and Robert Bjork, and E. Tory Higgins.

  • Lisa Feldman Barrett digs deeper into William James’s theories on how we think about psychological categories. Counterintuitive hypotheses naturally follow.

  • In exploring aging societies around the world, psychological scientists find significant variability in social relationships and family structures, individuals’ needs and expectations, and potential solutions for maintaining quality of life. Declining fertility rates and each country’s unique situational context point to the need for flexibility with regard to policy development related to aging.

  • Researchers are delving into groundbreaking technologies to observe how modifying our bodies can also lead to profound changes in our sense of self, identity, and cognitive processes.

Up Front

  • Forward Into the Past, Part 2

    This column was completed before COVID-19 became a pandemic. More on that topic next month. In last month’s Observer column, I suggested that a robust and replicable psychological science might be more achievable if we heed some advice from William James. He advised his 19th-century colleagues to think of psychological categories, such as emotion categories, not as “eternal and sacred psychic entities” (James, 1892, p. 374–375)—i.e., not as psychological types—but as populations of situated, variable instances, similar to Darwin’s understanding of animal species. In this month’s column, let’s follow James’s line of thinking a little further.

Recent Research

  • Research Briefs

    Thinking of You: How Second-Person Pronouns Shape Cultural Success Grant Packard and Jonah Berger Second-person pronouns (i.e., you, your, yours, and yourself) might contribute to the popularity of some songs. Packard and Berger analyzed the lyrics of songs ranked on the Billboard charts and found that those that used “you” words more often had a higher sales rank. This was especially true when “you” was the object of someone’s actions (e.g., “cats love you”) rather than the subject (e.g., “you love cats”). The authors suggest that “you” might evoke another person in the listener’s mind and foster social connection. Three laboratory experiments supported this finding that songs with “you” as an object were more popular and more liked, indicating that pronouns can shape cultural success. Psychological Science Turtle, Task Ninja, or Time Waster? Who Cares?

APS Spotlight


  • Teaching: Psychologists and Intervention / Sexual Objectification

    Edited by C. Nathan DeWall Teaching Current Directions in Psychological Science offers advice and guidance about teaching a particular area of research or topic covered in this peer-reviewed APS bimonthly journal, which features reviews covering all of scientific psychology and its applications. When Psychologists Should Intervene and When They Shouldn't Sex Objects Are Processed Like… Objects When Psychologists Should Intervene and When They Shouldn't By C. Nathan DeWall Walton, G. M., & Yeager, D. S. (2020). Seed and soil: Psychological affordances in contexts help to explain where wise interventions succeed or fail. Current Directions in Psychological Science. In Press. Most students study psychology because they want to improve their lives, their relationships, or their community.

First Person

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