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Volume 21, Issue7August 2008

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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  • Decision Making, Rationality, and Reasoning

    Taking advantage of their overlapping annual meetings in Chicago, APS and the Association for Behavioral Analysis (ABA) jointly presented a symposium on “Decision Making, Rationality, and Reasoning: From Human to Animal,” showcasing some of the latest research on how (and why) animals and humans make certain decisions. According to Allen Neuringer, Reed College, voluntary decision making is defined by one’s ability to behave in a predictable, semi-random, or totally random manner depending on the environment and/or the cues one receives. In an uncertain environment without a clearly superior option, one’s choices are made more or less according to chance.

  • Keynote Address: Stress and Health Across the Lifespan

    As Shelley Taylor tells it, it was twenty years ago when a colleague knocked on her office door and said she absolutely must join this new psychological society if she wanted to be taken seriously as a scientist. Taylor did become a Charter Member of the Association for Psychological Science (called, at the time, the American Psychological Society), and her scientific contributions since that time were so significant that the society named her an APS Fellow, then a William James Fellow Award winner (in 2001), and, most recently, she was Keynote Speaker at the APS 20th Annual Convention in Chicago.

  • Presidential Symposium: Time Will Tell

    The ghosts of psychology past, present, and yet to come sprung from the lips of the three celebrated speakers in the Presidential Symposium at the APS 20th Annual Convention. Tackling the talk’s theme — psychology as a hub science — Richard Thompson tracked a history of behavioral knowledge enhanced by brain imaging, Daniel Kahneman questioned the current conversation between psychology and economics, and Claude Steele envisioned a field dominated by interdisciplinary studies and translational funding.

  • Bring the Family Address: Long Life – The Unexplored World

    Thinking about the future is a theme that is dominating many areas of psychology. How do people make decisions that affect their well-being, their financial security, and their health? How and when do people defer immediate gratification for long term benefit? Why do we misunderstand what will make us happy tomorrow or 10 years down the road?  In today’s society, these questions are particularly relevant as we adapt to unprecedented longevity. APS Fellow and Charter Member Laura L. Carstensen, Stanford University, is well-known for her work treating the future as an independent variable in people’s present thinking.

  • Inside the Psychologist’s Studio: Daniel Kahneman

    It’s not often that one gets to see the founder of a field up close and personal. But that was the rare treat enjoyed by those fortunate enough to attend the annual Inside the Psychologist Studio event at the APS 20th Annual Convention. Nobel Laureate and APS Fellow Daniel Kahneman talked to a riveted audience about the relationships between psychology, economics and policy; academic controversies and collaborations; and living a balanced life both personally and professionally. He was interviewed by longtime collaborator and fellow behavioral economics pioneer Richard Thaler of The University of Chicago. Kahneman spent his childhood in Nazi-occupied Paris.

  • Investigating Interracial Interactions

    The last several decades have seen large declines in racial bias in social institutions in the United States. While far from perfect, barriers have been substantially decreased in education, business, politics, and communities.   Yet, at the individual social level, interracial interactions can still be stressful. Jennifer Richeson, Northwestern University, has explored the psychological processes involved in this dichotomy. She presented her recent findings in the presentation “Negotiating Interracial Interactions: Costs, Consequences and Possibilities” at the APS 20th Annual Convention.

  • Behavioral Science at the National Institute on Aging

    The National Institute on Aging (NIA) used the APS 20th Annual Convention as an opportunity to showcase the best of its behavioral science portfolio and to spread the word that the portfolio is expanding.  The message was clear: behavioral science investigators should look to NIA for research support. A workshop featured NIA’s brightest stars, many of whom are renowned psychological science researchers.  APS President John Cacioppo and Past President Robert Levenson introduced the program, describing how NIA has had a remarkable influence on their careers as well as those of so many researchers, new and old.

  • Sex Differences, Aging: The Psychological Science in the Public Interest Symposium

    Reports published in the APS journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest (PSPI) are produced by teams of scholars from different perspectives —  and sometimes different disciplines — whose mission is to produce a consensus on a socially or politically relevant topic about which our science has something to contribute. There are few more hot-button topics than that of sex differences. APS Fellow and Charter Member Diane F.

  • Student Events at the APS 20th Annual Convention

    The winners of the Student Research and RiSE-UP Awards during the convention’s Opening Ceremony. The APS 20th Annual Convention featured a full slate of student-oriented events organized by the APS Student Caucus (APSSC) 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.

  • Serious Research on Happiness

    Ed Diener is a happy man. In happiness ratings of over 80 psychologists, he came in first (never mind that he had read the study detailing what makes a happy autobiography before writing his own). His new book is called Happiness and his position at the University of Illinois is — I’m not making this up — the Smiley Distinguished Professor of Psychology. Diener is also the Editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science. Diener has spent decades researching what makes people happy.

  • Perspectives in Negotiation

    Adam D. Galinsky, Harvard and Princeton graduate, Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision Management at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and speaker for two sessions at the APS 20th Annual Convention, stopped mid-speech, looked at a nearby photographer and confidently took a B-Boy stance (see photo to the right).  “I’m getting inside his head for taking a good shot,” he added.

  • Lifelong Learning at Work and at Home

    Arthur Graesser, Elizabeth Albro, Thomas E. Allen and Xiangen Hu discussed the latest in applied learning research in the symposium “Principles of Complex Learning” at the APS 20th Annual Convention, a part of the APS Lifelong Learning at Work and at Home Initiative. In his talk, Graesser, University of Memphis, introduced 25 principles of learning, a checklist of effective learning strategies grounded in science. These principles range from “students benefit more from repeated testing when they expect a final exam” to “a complex lesson should be broken down into manageable subparts,” and everything in between. Albro, U.S.

  • Delight, Desire, and Dread

    One of the most intriguing things about our brain is the interconnectedness of its various structures and functions. We used to think that one discrete area of the brain was responsible for each particular behavior, but we now know this isn’t the case. By the same token, individual behaviors we used to think of as being singular phenomena are now broken down into distinct components both behaviorally and neurologically.

  • Moving Forward with IRBs: Best Practices

    When the Columbine High School tragedy struck, APS Fellow and Charter Member Roxane Cohen Silver, University of California, Irvine, needed immediate access to the survivors to carry out her disaster trauma research. The UC Irvine Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved her research in a matter of days, via email, and she was able to collect crucial data to help understand how victims cope with trauma. If you’re familiar with IRBs in general, you might be thinking, how in the world was she able to do this?

  • APS: Through the Eyes of the Presidents

    In a session fittingly chaired by APS founding Executive Director Alan Kraut, a panel of 13 APS Past Presidents  shared some of their most memorable moments leading the organization during the session “APS: Through the Eyes of the Presidents” at the APS 20th Annual Convention. This once-in-a-lifetime gathering also chronicled many of the dramatic events that led to the formation of APS. Janet Spence (1988-89) recalled her “two magic moments” as President during APS’s inaugural year. The first was the moment APS sprang into being.

  • The History of APS

    In a room decorated with a brilliant timeline of APS’s history and photos of all the APS Presidents, Robin Cautin of Manhattanville College welcomed the audience to her talk, “The Founding of APS: A New Voice for Psychological Science.”  APS is a prominent organization today, boasting almost 20,000 members, more than 3,300 attendees at its annual meeting, and four of the most widely cited journals in the psychological science field. However, it took a group of extremely dedicated people to start this organization from scratch. To understand the origins of APS, Cautin went back (way back) to the founding of the American Psychological Association in 1892.

  • Nature and Nurture as Allies

    In the APS Convention program on “Genetics, Environment, Culture, and Behavior,” one message was made clear: Research has revealed that nature and nurture are no longer enemies, but instead, they are allies. “For a gene to spring into action, for it to have an impact on your biology, you need something to essentially ‘turn on’ this gene,” said Steve Cole, University of California, Los Angeles, in his address on “Social Regulation of Gene Expression.” “If you take the human genome and put it in a little tube, it’s going to sit there and do nothing,” he continued.

  • Connecting Behavior and Health Before Birth

    What happens in the womb doesn't always stay there. That was the message during the cross-cutting Brain, Body, Behavior, and Health program at the APS 20th Annual Convention. More and more, psychological scientists are realizing how events that take place during pregnancy, or shortly after, can impact a person’s health across the lifetime. David Amaral, University of California, Davis, presented research on a topic at the forefront of public interest  —  causes of autism. Certain antibodies passed from mother to fetus could lead to the disorder in some cases, said Amaral. Amaral and collaborator Judy Van de Water, Ph.D.

  • Sharpening the Learning Curve

    If learning is a lifelong journey, it’s probably safe to say that most of us would be grateful for a few shortcuts along the way. The “Learning, Competitiveness, and Real-World Achievement” program at the APS 20th Annual Convention focused on new strategies to help people learn more quickly, from children developing basic math skills to work groups adopting new procedures in large organizations. From the Classroom… At the most basic level, success in learning depends largely on motivation and the ability to bounce back from mistakes.