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322019Volume 32, Issue10December 2019

Presidential Column

Photo of Lisa Feldman Barrett
Lisa Feldman Barrett
Northeastern University
APS President 2019 - 2020
All columns

In this Issue:
The Gift of Discovery

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.


  • Virtual reality and other sensory technologies promise new ways of teaching, enhancing cognitive function, compensating for sensory-motor loss, and more, according to APS James McKeen Cattell Fellow Roberta L. Klatzky.

  • What would make the perfect gift for a psychological scientist? APS President Lisa Feldman Barrett suggests “a new scientific tool — the sort that extends what our eyes, ears, and brains can observe, creating opportunities to ask new questions.”

  • Wrapping up 10 years as Editor of Current Directions in Psychological Science, APS Fellow Randy Engle reflects on emerging developments in the field, including the rise of behavioral genetics and behavioral economics.

Up Front

  • The Gift of Discovery

    For many of us, December is a month of festivity and gift giving, so it’s time to muse about what would make the perfect gift for a psychological scientist (other than tenure, or your paper on the cover of Nature). My pick would be a new scientific tool — the sort that extends what our eyes, ears, and brains can observe, creating opportunities to ask new questions. What better gift to yourself than a means to make discoveries? Tools have a central place in the history of our science. In the 19th century, psychology was transformed into a full-fledged empirical science by importing tools from neurology and physiology. These tools helped our predecessors measure changes in heart rate, fashion reaction-time experiments, and observe behaviors in patients with brain lesions.

APS Spotlight

  • Psychological Science Meets Sensory Technology

    Think of sensory technology — wearables, virtual assistants, virtual reality, and more — and  engineers, programmers, and computer scientists often come to mind. But the rise of these devices also means a new horizon of possibilities for psychological scientists, according to APS James McKeen Cattell Fellow and longtime APS Treasurer Roberta L. Klatzky. Sensory technology not only can help us to appreciate the world by stimulating our sensory systems in new ways, but also can be used to advance psychological research, said Klatzky, a professor of psychology and human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University, during her May 2019 award address at the APS Annual Convention in Washington, DC. “We can look at behavior in environments that we could never actually create in reality, through virtual reality,” she said.


  • Teaching Current Directions in Psychological Science

    Edited by C. Nathan DeWall and David G. Myers 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. Psychological Science’s Contribution to a Sustainable Future Going Green: The Cognitive Benefits of Nature Psychological Science’s Contribution to a Sustainable Future By David G. Myers Eom, K., Papadakis, V., Sherman, D., & Kim, H. (2019). The psychology of proenvironmental support: In search of global solutions for a global problem.Current Directions in Psychological Science, 28, 490–495.

First Person

  • Student Notebook: Writing an NIH F31

    The Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) provides predoctoral students mentored research training during their dissertation research. Commonly called the “F31,” the predoctoral NRSA gives awardees a monthly stipend (approximately $25,000 per year, pretax), support for tuition and fees (60% coverage, up to $16,000 per year), and funds for training-related costs ($4,200 per year). In fiscal year 2018, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) received 2,673 F31 applications, and 699 received an award ( The proportion of funded F31s over the last 5 years hovers between 20% and 30% for most institutes at NIH. Writing an F31 application — like writing any grant application — is a mental and emotional odyssey. You may feel overwhelmed and unsure where to begin.

More From This Issue

  • Lee Ross Shares the Evolution of His Signature Work

    APS William James Fellow Lee Ross jokes that the scientific term ascribed to him, Ross’s fundamental attribution error, sounds as if he’s the one who made the error. More than 40 years ago, the Stanford University social psychologist coined the term to describe the way in which we overlook the situational factors that may contribute to a person’s behaviors, attributing them instead to individual characteristics.

  • Hinshaw Receives Ruane Prize for ADHD Research

    APS James McKeen Cattell Fellow Stephen P. Hinshaw has received the 2019 Ruane Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Research for his work on the developmental psychopathology of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The Ruane Prize, awarded by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, is one of the most prestigious prizes for research on neuropsychiatric disorders in children and adolescents and includes a cash award of $50,000.

  • National Academy of Medicine Elects APS Fellow Ted Abel

    APS Fellow Ted Abel of the University of Iowa (UI) has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). Abel is recognized for his work on the interplay of sleep and memory formation and storage as well as the molecular basis of neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders, including autism. Abel is professor and chair of UI’s Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology and Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. He is director of the Iowa Neuroscience Institute at UI.

  • New Directions After Current Directions

    Wrapping up 10 years as Editor of Current Directions in Psychological Science, APS Fellow Randy Engle reflects on emerging developments in the field, including the rise of behavioral genetics and behavioral economics.

  • Fixing the Replication Crisis: The Need to Understand Human Psychology

    In the past 15 years, there has been enormous progress in documenting problems with the credibility of research findings, not just in our own field but also in many areas of science. Metascience studies have helped us quantify the extent of the problem and have begun to shed light on the underlying causes. We need to move now to a focus on fixing the problems rather than just illustrating them. But can this be done? Many of the problems currently under discussion have been known for decades. For instance, in 1976, Michael Mahoney wrote a book called Scientist as Subject: The Psychological Imperative, in which he discussed the bias that reviewers show toward their favored ideas.

  • Inequality and Attitudes

    Psychological scientists Jolanda Jetten of University of Queensland, Australia, and Stefanie Sprong of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, are studying how concerns about wealth inequality can affect support for strong and sometimes autocratic leadership. You were both coauthors on a large international study looking at the link between wealth inequality and political attitudes. What prompted your research? In recent years, research on the effects of economic inequality has gained ground.