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Volume 23, Issue10December 2010

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 online and print subscriptions to the Observer, including the online archive going back to 1988. The print edition is a member-only benefit.

Looking to connect with the Observer? Visit our Contact the Editor page to discuss writing for us and our Advertising page for sponsorship opportunities. If you have questions about your subscription, please email APS@psychologicalscience.org.

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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.’

Up Front


  • Presidential Column

    Launched in 2001, Wikipedia is now the most commonly used source for general reference on the Internet. It ranks fifth among the world’s most visited websites and contains over 17 million articles in multiple languages. The English version alone is read by 13 million people a day. Wikipedia’s unique and remarkable feature is that it is the largest collaboratively produced knowledge repository that has ever existed. It can potentially be edited by any of the two billion people worldwide (30% of the global population) with access to the Internet. It is clear that Wikipedia is the general public’s primary source of expert knowledge, including psychological science. Unfortunately, the quality of information about psychological science in Wikipedia is uneven and for many of our most central theories, methods and discoveries it says not much that is of interest or importance.

APS Spotlight


  • A Moving Research Story

    By Teresa A. Treat Every once in a while, you pick up the phone, and something ex­traordinary happens. On March 3rd, Alan Christensen, Chair of the Psychology Department at Iowa, called to ask if I’d be interested in interviewing for a position. On July 6th, I crammed clothing and my favorite statistics books into my car and made the move to Iowa City. Iowa was high on my “Top-10” list of clinical science programs and psychology departments, so this was a thrill­ing opportunity to pursue a dream job. Knowing that Janet Spence’s journey from Yale to Iowa had worked out so very well in 1946 also spurred me onward. None­theless, the move to Iowa presented quite an array of stressors and uncertainties. It also meant departing Yale’s Psychology Depart­ment, my highly stimulating and supportive academic home for the first nine years of my faculty career. I deliberately choose to capitalize on the numerous opportunities afforded by departmental transitions to re-examine and re-create myself and my career.

  • An Alternative Career Path: Research Management

    By Susan E.F. Chipman Members of APS may find it interesting that I chose to enter psychology specifically as a science, among other sciences that I might have chosen at a critical point in my life. Like many research psychologists, I came to the field via a convoluted path. I majored in mathematics at Harvard, also studied physics, and took a small but choice sample of psychology courses to meet general education requirements: George Miller and Jerome Bruner’s Psychological Conceptions of Man (actually a very early cognitive science course), and Erik Eriksson’s Psychological Study of Life Histories. The early days Losing interest in mathematics and unable to decide on a new academic direction, I would need to find a job, but at that time even women who had graduated from Harvard had difficulty escaping the secretarial ghetto. I decided to apply to the Harvard Business School, which had recently opened to women, was admitted and even awarded a fellowship (see Chipman, 2009, for an account of being one of only 10 women among 700 students). Women students today may have difficulty imagining what that era was like.

Practice


  • A Brief Guide for Teaching and Assessing Critical Thinking in Psychology

    In my first year of college teaching, a student approached me one day after class and politely asked, “What did you mean by the word ‘evidence’?” I tried to hide my shock at what I took to be a very naive question. Upon further reflection, however, I realized that this was actually a good question, for which the usual approaches to teaching psychology provided too few answers. During the next several years, I developed lessons and techniques to help psychology students learn how to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of scientific and nonscientific kinds of evidence and to help them draw sound conclusions. It seemed to me that learning about the quality of evidence and drawing appropriate conclusions from scientific research were central to teaching critical thinking (CT) in psychology.

More From This Issue


  • Global Warming Warnings Can Backfire

    From Priuses to solar panels and plastic-bag bans (and even green dating!), it seems that everyone’s going green. The message that our world is in danger if we do not take action is also everywhere: from images of baby polar bears drowning to frightening images of a parched barren future. The push to go green is based in good intentions, but an upcoming study in Psychological Science shows that the popular “do or die” global-warming messages can backfire if the situation is presented too negatively. In the first of two experiments by psychological scientists Robb Willer and Matthew Feinberg of the University of California, Berkeley, students were gauged for their political attitudes, skepticism about global warming, and level of belief in whether the world is just or unjust. Participants then read a news article about global warming. Half of these participants received articles that ended with warnings about the apocalyptic consequences of global warming, while the other half read ones that concluded with positive messages focused on potential solutions to global warming, such as technological innovations that could reduce carbon emissions.

  • Mortimer Mishkin Awarded the National Medal of Science

    APS Fellow and Charter Member Mortimer Mishkin from National Institutes of Health (NIH) — and one of the first recipients of APS’ William James award for lifetime achievement in basic research in psychological science — was one of 10 individuals to receive the prestigious National Medal of Science from President Barak Obama in Washington, DC. Mishkin is Chief of the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) Section on Cognitive Neuroscience, and acting Chief of its Laboratory of Neuropsychology (www.neuron.nimh.nih.gov/mishkin.html). Mishkin has spent over five decades working with nonhuman primates on understanding the pathways for vision, hearing, and touch, and how those processing streams connect with brain structures that play an important role in memory. His team discovered that the brain uses divergent pathways to process two different types of memory: Cognitive memory (new events and information) is processed separately from behavioral memory (skills and habits). “There is no more complex piece of matter in the universe than the human brain, and so the complexity is a huge challenge,” said Mishkin in an NIH press release.