image description
Volume 19, Issue8August 2006

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.

APS members receive the Observer newsletter and may access the online archive going back to 1988.

Looking to connect with the Observer? Visit the About page to learn about writing for us, advertising, reprints, and more. We’d love to hear from you. If you have questions about your subscription, please email APS@psychologicalscience.org.

Latest Under the Cortex Podcast

Trending Topics >


  • 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.’

APS Spotlight


  • Presidential Symposium: The Medium Is Still the Message

    “Can we talk?” Joan Rivers’ signature catchphrase is something psychologists might consider adopting, at least according to a panel of eminent journalists talking about “The Mind in the Media” at the APS 18th Annual Convention. For the audience, it was in part an object lesson in the disconnect between the world of science and the world of the popular press when it comes to communicating about research findings. In a freewheeling tough-love kind of discussion, moderated by APS President Michael Gazzaniga, the panelists — NBC senior science correspondent Robert Bazell, New York Times science editor Erica Goode, Wall Street Journal deputy opinion editor Daniel Henninger, New York Times columnist and Dana Foundation chair William Safire, and author Tom Wolfe — all agreed that psychologists need to get out more, figuratively speaking.

More From This Issue


  • Student Events at 18th Annual Convention

    The 18th Annual Convention featured a full slate of student-oriented events produced by the APS Student Caucus Board in collaboration with the APS staff and student-affiliate members. The program included events that highlighted student research, disseminated valuable information about graduate school and publishing, and provided the opportunity to network with top researchers and fellow students. APS Student Caucus Convention Kick-Off Students of scientific psychology gathered from all over the world to meet each other at the Student Caucus’ Convention Kick-Off.

  • Bad Apples or Bad Barrels? Zimbardo on ‘The Lucifer Effect’

    It is rare when a social scientist actually embraces theologically loaded words like “good” or “evil.” Most prefer to speak in more muted terms of violence and aggression, or use the sanitized, judgment-free language of psychopathology — the language of disorders. Not so, Philip Zimbardo. “Psychologists rarely ask the big questions,” the eminent Stanford psychologist said, addressing a standing-room-only crowd gathered to hear his talk, “The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil,” at the APS 18th Annual Convention. “We have all kinds of great techniques for answering small questions. We’ve never bothered to ask the big questions.

  • David Myers on Teaching Psychological Science Through Writing

    David Myers, Hope College, was prevailed upon to deliver the inaugural APS Lecture on Teaching Psychology at the APS 18th Annual Convention. His address, “Teaching Psychological Science Through Writing,” focused on the sharing of psychological knowledge through forms of writing (“printed squiggles,” as he called them). A prolific author, Myers described writing as a powerful medium that is a form of agency and a way to effect change. This annual lecture, presented yearly at the APS Annual Convention, is supported by the APS Fund for Teaching and Public Understanding of Psychological Science.

  • Steps Toward a Science of Well-Being

    Are you happy right now? Is reading this article an enjoyable use of your time or are you already reaching to turn the page? What about your life in general? Are you satisfied? Daniel Kahneman wants to know. For the last 10 years, he has been working to develop a standard measure of well-being that is respected by economists, as well as psychologists and sociologists, and can be used in policy decisions.

  • Eating into the Nation’s Obesity Epidemic

    “What product does the slogan ‘Melts in your mouth, not in your hand’ belong to?” Kelly Brownell challenged his listeners. They chuckled and shouted in unison “M&Ms.” The audience hadn’t expected a pop quiz when coming to hear Brownell’s invited address, “Changing the American Diet: Real Change Requires Real Change,” at the APS 18th Annual Convention. Next came “They’re Grrreat!,” “I’m lovin’ it,” “Break me off a piece of that …,” and finally “I go cuckoo for …” Of course, the audience knew every one. But they couldn’t answer one question, what departments create the federal government’s nutrition guidelines and, most importantly, what are they?

  • Testifying in Court Can Amplify Trauma For Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse

    It goes without saying that childhood sexual abuse is often a traumatic experience. Add to that revisiting the abuse in courtroom testimony, and a complex picture emerges about the full impact the abuse can have on a victim. In her invited address at the APS 18th Annual Convention, “Childhood Trauma, and Court: The Psychology and the Law,” Gail Goodman, University of California, Davis, discussed research findings on the after-effects of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), highlighting the potentially damaging effects of a related event that is all too often overlooked: the trauma of testifying about CSA during trial.

  • Memory and Consciousness: Consciousness to Unconsciousness and Back Again

    Have you ever been driving through busy streets, listening to the radio, and suddenly realized you had no recollection of driving the previous 14 blocks? All of the turns you made, the abrupt halts, the traffic cop, had been absorbed by some part of your brain separate from your conscious awareness. Have you ever seen a familiar face but could not remember who it is or from where. These experiences illustrate how our memories, experiences, and even our sense of self filter from consciousness into unconsciousness and back again.

  • A Learning Machine: Plasticity and Change Throughout Life

    Drawing together five psychological scientists unlikely to cross paths outside of a conference, one of the APS 18th Annual Convention’s themed programs, “Plasticity & Change: A Lifelong Perspective,” showcased extraordinary research from various areas, all suggesting that the brain is almost infinitely adaptable from earliest infancy through latest adulthood Although their research approached the topic from different angles, each presenter demonstrated the brain’s extraordinary capacity to bend, stretch, expand, and specialize itself in response to challenges.

  • Making Sense of Terrorism

    It is far easier to interview New Yorkers about 9/11 than it is to interview Osama bin Laden about why he does what he does. For that obvious reason, “The Psychology of Terrorism,” a collection of themed programs that bridged various disciplines within the field, skewed towards the psychology not of terrorists, but of the terrorized. When there is such hunger for answers, it makes sense to devour the low-hanging fruit first. This was one of three themed cross-cutting programs making a debut as a new feature of the APS 18th Annual Convention. In the terrorism program, a symposium on terrorism-related psychology focused on the questions on everyone’s mind: What creates a terrorist?

  • Freedom and Choice, Culture and Class

    Ask for a cup of coffee in Starbucks and you’ll face a seemingly infinite number of choices: tall, soy, java chip frappuccino, extra-hot, half-caf. Shop for jeans at the Gap and you’ll face endless walls of them: long, lean, drop-waist, distressed denim, short cuffed. Thirst for an orange juice — but would that be orange banana, extra-pulp, no pulp, vitamin C-infused? America is erupting with choices. In consumer goods, politics, and media the word “choice” is equated with freedom, in particular having the freedom to live the life you want, and the more choices you have, the more freedom. But this shouldn’t be surprising.

  • When Behavior Met Statistics

    David Baker, director of the Archives of the History of American Psychology, began the annual History of Psychology Symposium, “A Sampling of Statistics in the History of American Psychology,” with a personal blast from the past: His former student, Kevin T. Mahoney, was the first speaker. Mahoney reviewed the agricultural origins of modern statistical sampling and described the central role played by psychologists in the development of early federal statistical programs. An outgrowth of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the “Master Sample” was an attempt by the US Department of Agriculture during the 1940s to find out how farmers felt about new federal agricultural programs.

  • Psychological Science in the Public Interest

    Lead authors of two recent issues of Psychological Science in the Public Interest (PSPI) present their findings at this year’s APS Annual Convention Interactions of Neurotoxins and Social Environments in Cognition Laura Hubbs-Tait, Oklahoma State University, led the team that produced the December 2005 PSPI report, “Neurotoxicants, Micronutrients, and Social Environments: Individual and Combined Effects on Children’s Development.” Her team consisted of specialists in child development and social environments (herself), pediatrics and nutrition (Nancy F. Krebs, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center), and neurotoxicology (Jack R. Nation, Texas A&M University, and David C.

  • The Quest for a Science of Clinical Psychology: A Progress Report

    As a pioneer in the scientific study of clinical science, Richard McFall is in a unique position to speak on the state of science in clinical psychology. That state, he said, has seen brighter times. McFall, the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Scientist Award from the Society for the Science of Clinical Psychology (SSCP), made his remarks in his award address at the APS 18th Annual Convention. “The scientific foundations of clinical psychology within the field generally are eroding,” said McFall, Indiana University. He cited a large increase in the number of doctor of psychology, or PsyD, degrees awarded in recent years.

  • Nature, Nurture, Nuance

    Back in the day, if you studied environmental influences on behavior, it was easy to ignore the other thing — genes — in your work. By the same token, geneticists were happy to focus on biological inheritance and dismiss effects of environment as something far outside their purview. But those days of “nature versus nurture” are over. What was once seen as a battlefield is starting to look more like a romance — nature wedded to nurture, the two inextricably intertwined and interdependent.

  • The Myth of Prodigy and Why it Matters

    Judging from his boyish appearance and his voracious curiosity, it’s easy to imagine Malcolm Gladwell as some sort of child prodigy. And he was. But not the way you imagined. As a teenager growing up in rural Ontario, the bestselling author of Blink and The Tipping Point was a champion runner, the number-one Canadian runner of his age. He was encouraged to dream of Olympic gold, and indeed was flown to special training camps with the other elite runners of his generation — on the assumption that creating future world-class athletes meant recognizing and nurturing youthful talent.