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Volume 20, Issue7August 2007

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.’

First Person


  • Student Events at the APS 19th Annual Convention

    The APS 19th Annual Convention featured a full slate of student-oriented events organized by the APS Student Caucus (APSSC) Board in collaboration with APS staff and student-affiliate members. The events 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 Kickoff and Student Social The 2007 Convention Kickoff and Student Social was a huge success. Almost 250 student affiliates attended the event in a private room at the Hilton Washington. Attendees had the opportunity to meet fellow students while enjoying complimentary food and drinks. The gathering also allowed APSSC Board members to introduce themselves and provide information about upcoming student events at the convention.

More From This Issue


  • Festschrift in Honor of Sandra Scarr

    Organized by Richard Weinberg and Kathleen McCartney, the Festschrift in honor of Sandra Scarr celebrated her lifetime contributions to the understanding of fundamental problems relating to child development and family life. The celebration began with a banquet on Saturday, May 26, 2007, and continued with a day-long program on Sunday, May 27, 2007. Honoree Sandra Scarr takes in the festivities.

  • Intelligence Redefined

    According to traditional intelligence paradigms, intelligence peaks around the age of 25. Discouraging news for the 26 and over set. But take heart: APS Fellow and Charter Member Phillip L. Ackerman argues for a new definition of adult intelligence and he has an impressive body of research to support it.

  • PSPI Symposium

    Valerie F. Reyna (Cornell; left) and Stephen D. Penrod (John Jay College; middle), this year’s presenters at the Psychological Science in the Public Interest (PSPI) symposium, sit with symposium chair, APS President, and PSPI co-editor Morton Ann Gernsbacher (University of Wisconsin; right). Penrod discussed the 2006 PSPI report (written with coauthors Gary L. Wells and Amina Memon), “Eyewitness Evidence: Improving Its Probative Value.” Hundreds of people have been wrongly convicted due to mistaken eyewitnesses, Penrod said.

  • The End of the End of Ideology

    In the aftermath of World War II, many social scientists claimed that individual citizens' political attitudes lacked the consistency to be considered ideological and that there was little difference is the psychological processing of liberals and conservatives. According to these thinkers, the era of entrenched political ideology had ended. New York University's John Jost, however, declared that "The End of the End of Ideology" is here, in his invited address at the APS 19th Annual Convention in Washington, DC.

  • Award Addresses

    Further coverage of the Award Addresses will appear in upcoming Observers William James Fellows The William James Fellow Award honors APS Members for their lifetime of significant intellectual contributions to the basic science of psychology. Richard Shiffrin delivers his award address, “How Events Produce Knowledge, and Knowledge Encodes Events.” Elliot Aronson during his award address, an interview by his son, Joshua Aronson, and colleague, Carol Tavris, entitled “The Art of Doing Science in Social Psychology.” James McKeen Cattell Fellows The James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award recognizes APS Members for a lifetime of outstanding contributions to the area of applied psychological research.

  • Decisions, Decisions

    The themed program "Risky Decision-Making Across the Lifespan" at the APS 19th Annual Convention included a symposium on everything from the neurological basis for decision-making to the wide-reaching societal implications of understanding how we make the myriad decisions we face everyday. Sage or Just Age? According to Ellen Peters, Decision Research and the University of Oregon, by 2050 the number of people over 60 will surpass people under 15 for the first time in history, underscoring the importance of research into how older adults make decisions.

  • Motivational Speakers

    Like many people, I start my day with a cup of coffee. A small vice, yes, but I have few reservations about my artificial boost of motivation. This, of course, isn't the only thing that pushes me -- and presumably the rest of the coffee drinkers of the world -- to be a go-getter. As I learned at the themed program "Cross-Cutting Perspectives on Motivation" at the APS 19th Annual Convention, there are a lot of ways to get motivated. Why Even Bother? Motivation has taken a back seat to cognition in many research programs in recent decades, but lest we forget, psychologists have long relied on motivation to explain behavior (see Freud, Sigmund).

  • Truth and Lies, Courts and Spies

    Barbara A. Spellman, University of Virginia, began her presentation with a little quiz drawn from ordinary life -- "Is the sky blue?" she asked. "Is the earth round? Were there weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Was O.J. Simpson guilty?" "I don't really care about your answers," she said. "What I really care about is, how do you know?" According to Spellman, how people judge the credibility and reliability of a source of information may be as important as the quality of the information itself. "Sources of information matter more -- and differently -- from how we might expect," she said.

  • Recent Advances in False Memory Research

    The "Recent Advances in False Memory Research" symposium at the APS 19th Annual Convention showcased innovative research being conducted around the world on this fascinating topic. Presenters explored complex issues surrounding the development, understanding, neural basis, and underlying psychological mechanisms of false memories. Cara Laney, University of Leicester, discussed "Implanting False Memories for Emotional Events Using a Simple False Feedback Manipulation." In her research, Laney used a relatively simple procedure to implant emotional false memories in participants. During the first of two sessions, participants completed simple questionnaires about their past.

  • I Need to Hold Your Hand: The Social Regulation of Emotion

    Have you ever wondered why people surrounded by friends or family appear happier and healthier? Or why a mother's hand so quickly soothes a scared child? University of Virginia researcher James Coan addressed these and similar questions in his invited talk, "Toward a Neuroscience of the Social Regulation of Emotion," at the APS 19th Annual Convention in Washington, DC. He also discussed the growing body of research showing that social contact serves as a buffer between life's stressors and our health and happiness.

  • How Beliefs About the Self Shape Personality and Behavior

    Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck tells the story of Barbara Herbert and Daphne Goodship, identical twins who were separated at birth and adopted into different families, completely unaware of each other's existence. When they were reunited at age 39, both Barbara and Daphne were wearing beige dresses and brown velvet jackets. What's more, they both had the eccentric habit of pushing up their nose, and they both giggled more than anyone else they knew. People are fascinated by separated-at-birth stories like these, and behavioral geneticists have marshaled such colorful detail as evidence of inborn personality traits.

  • Aiming at Happiness and Shooting Ourselves in the Foot

    Let it not be said that psychological science doesn't ask the big questions. You know -- big questions, like: Which is better, a Snickers bar or a bag of chips? What does raising children have in common with a no-hitter in baseball? And, how valuable is a pair of Armani socks really? And let it not be said that psychological science can't provide sound answers. (They are, in order, "the Snickers bar," "more than you'd think," and "it depends.") The thing those big questions all have in common, of course, is the small matter of the secret of human happiness, the subject of this year's "Bring the Family" Address at the APS 19th Annual Convention in Washington, DC.

  • Vive la Difference (Not la Deficit)

    The study of human differences has been an important part of psychological science, but comparing people -- in terms of intelligence or various measures of personality or ability -- has major perils and pitfalls. One of these dangers is the (intentional or unintentional) stigmatization of groups that may result when differences between groups are interpreted as deficits. This year's Presidential Symposium, "Stigma From Science: Group Differences, Not Group Deficits," chaired by APS President Morton Ann Gernsbacher, addressed the subject of social stigmas and the role psychology has played both in reinforcing them and also in helping us overcome them. Divisive Dichotomies Susan T.

  • Inside the Psychologist’s Studio: The Road Taken

    Renowned memory researcher and Past APS President Elizabeth Loftus, University of California, Irvine, shared the personal side of her journey to prominence in the annual "Inside the Psychologist's Studio" program (based loosely on the Bravo channel show of a similar name) at the APS 19th Annual Convention. Interviewed by APS President Morton Ann Gernsbacher and aided by photos from her life, the characteristically candid Loftus talked about her experiences from childhood to her position today as one of the most influential researchers in psychology. She was born Elizabeth Fishman in Los Angeles, CA, to parents Sidney and Rebecca.

  • How Culture Affects the Way We Think

    "Culture is like water for fish," APS Fellow and Charter Member Shinobu Kitayama, University of Michigan, explained during the special Culture and Cognition themed program at the APS 19th Annual Convention. But defining our own culture is difficult, "because it is the only thing we know," Kitayama said in his talk, "Voluntary Settlement and the Spirit of Independence: Some More Evidence from Japan's 'Northern Frontier.'" Speaking to a packed room, Kitayama noted that researchers investigating cultural differences often contrast Western and Eastern cultures.