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Volume 24, Issue10December 2011

Presidential Column

Douglas L. Medin
Douglas L. Medin
Northwestern University
APS President 2011 - 2012
All columns

In this Issue:
A Science We Can Believe In

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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    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


  • A Science We Can Believe In

    APS, our Board and our Members are against scientific misconduct… at least (by my estimate — more on that below) 98.03 percent of them are. Does this sound like something newsworthy enough to devote a column to? I’ve decided to interrupt my planned series of opinion pieces to write a bit about (mis)conduct and the practices of science. My main motivation is to offer a large dose of optimism to some younger psychological scientists who may be in danger of slipping into cynicism about our field. This column benefited from extensive help from Rumen Iliev, a postdoctoral fellow in our lab. There are some bad vibrations in psychological science these days, owing to two highly publicized cases of unambiguous scientific misconduct where internationally known psychological researchers were found to have faked data.

Practice


  • Writing a Psychology Textbook: Is It For You?

    Writing a psychology textbook can be a worthwhile and rewarding experience. This article will explore the reasons for writing a textbook, the personal and professional prerequisites, the nature of the commitment, suggestions for gaining textbook writing experience before you decide to write your own text, and finally, the criteria for deciding whether to write a textbook. Reasons for Writing a Textbook: Some Good and Some Not So Good Here are some of the reasons psychologists write textbooks. Money Making money is often the first reason people think of for writing a textbook. It’s not a very good reason. Unless you’re writing an introductory psychology text or perhaps a text for a survey course in social, child, or abnormal psychology (the courses with the highest enrollments), you’re not likely to make a significant amount of money.

First Person


  • The Art of Collaboration

    For me, choosing the right graduate school was about finding a department that not only allowed me to collaborate with other labs but encouraged it as well. At its best, collaboration is a collection of individual effort and skills that makes a project greater than what the collaborators could have achieved on their own. At its worst, collaboration can lead to burned bridges and arguments about where the project went wrong. Collaborating is not easy — it requires patience, works best when the group has a clear goal in mind, and brings the greatest rewards when things work out as intended.

More From This Issue


  • Global Psychological Science at Its Best

    Pursuing big questions in psychological science is an international effort. APS recently co-sponsored programs featuring cross-cutting research presentations by some of the most distinguished scientists in the field. World-class psychological scientists came together to share their latest findings at symposiums on epigenetics, social neuroscience, and embodiment.

  • NIA Announces New Funding Opportunities

    The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has announced two funding opportunities for psychological scientists. According to the NIA, the goal of this initiative is to generate interdisciplinary applications “examining social, emotional and economic behaviors of relevance to aging” using an approach that investigates both relevant behaviors and the underlying genetics or neurological processes associated with the behaviors. The agency states that proposals may focus on social, emotional, or economic behaviors alone, or on the interaction of these behavior types. For more information on this opportunity, click here.

  • Song Recognition

    “Memory is essential for making music meaningful,” says Carol Lynne Krumhansl, Professor of Psychology at Cornell University. “Musical emotion is considered to occur in moments when our expectations are violated, with the resolution delayed in artful ways. This creates waves of tension and relaxation that depend on our knowledge of musical structure acquired through past listenings.” Krumhansl has suggested that the ability to recognize and predict musical patterns may follow universal principles and that the brain is surprisingly sensitive to musical regularities in unfamiliar cultural contexts.

  • Stress Hurts Our Minds and Our Bodies

    Stress isn’t just “in our heads.” It can impact our physical well-being too. According to psychological scientist Elissa Epel of the University of California, San Francisco, chronic stress can affect what we eat, how our bodies process insulin, and even the health of individual cells in our bodies. Epel’s research has shown that a serious consequence of chronic stress is premature aging. Previous research determined that telomeres, which are protective DNA sequences found at the ends of chromosomes, deteriorate as people age.

  • Brenda Milner Awarded Prestigious Pearl Meister Greengard Prize

    When APS Fellow and Charter Member Brenda Milner was studying Henry Gustav Molaison (aka Patient HM) in the 1950s, awards were not at the forefront of her mind. Decades later, she has been awarded the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize for her novel contributions to neuroscience, especially her work with Molaison. Milner became interested in Molaison because he could no longer commit new events to long-term memory. She was determined to find out why. From her experiments with Molaison, Milner found that people have multiple memory systems, and her research led to a greater understanding of how the brain works.

  • Temptation: It Depends on How You’re Feeling

    From gravy-soaked turkey to home-baked cookies, the holiday season is full of temptations. In a series of experiments published in Psychological Science, researchers examined the role visceral states — such as hunger — play in people’s response to temptation. In one experiment, two groups of smokers rated how pleasurable they thought smoking was and were then told they would be given money for delaying smoking. Smokers who were craving cigarettes rated cigarettes as being more pleasurable than those who were not craving a cigarette. Also, the participants who had cravings were also more likely to smoke instead of taking the money.

  • Rising Stars

    Joan Chiao Jaap Denissen Andrew Livingstone Lauri Nummenmaa Nickola Overall Gaia Scerif Lars Schwabe Nicole Tausch Peter Titzmann Yana Weinstein Joan Chiao Northwestern University, USA http://culturalneuro.psych.northwestern.edu/Lab_Website/Welcome.html What does your research focus on? I conduct research in social affective and cultural neuroscience. Currently, my research adopts a 'cultural neuroscience' framework to examine how cultural and genetic factors give rise to everyday emotion and social cognition. What drew you to this line of research? Why is it exciting to you?

  • Psychological Science For All

    Interesting and important psychological research is published every day around the world, yet the rumor is that most psychology journal articles are read by an average of six people. Psychological research spans multiple disciplines, advances our understanding of human behavior, and offers relevant insight for everyday life. So why does only a small fraction of the valuable information studied by psychological scientists reach a broader audience?

  • Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice

    Select your favorite metaphor for the extended time that it typically takes for scientific findings to gain widespread clinical use — a clogged pipeline, a leaky pipeline, or a chasm to be bridged — the lag is long for whatever image you choose. In fact, in 1998, the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine (IOM) noted an unacceptable gap between research and practice in the drug and alcohol abuse field by stating that treatments might never get to the adoption phase. The IOM recommended inviting practitioners to collaborate in designing research projects that the treatment community could feasibly adopt.

  • APS Award Address

    The work Earl Hunt described in his James McKeen Cattell Award Address at the 2011 APS Convention focused on some tough questions about intelligence research — questions like “Who cares about trigonometry?” The answer, of course, is that people in nations that value math and science care about trigonometry, because their culture deems trigonometry to be relevant to success. “It’s very important to understand trigonometry to understand many of our cognitive artifacts,” says Hunt.

  • Why Does Music Move Us?

    “There’s nothing in a sequence of notes themselves that creates the rich emotional associations we have with music,” says psychological scientist Daniel Levitin. So why does music trigger profound emotional experiences? When we listen to music, our brains impose a structure on sounds — yet music affects us very differently than most patterns. “After all,” Levitin points out, “we don’t get all weepy-eyed when we experience other kinds of structure in our lives, such as a balanced checkbook or the orderly arrangement of first aid products in a drug store.” According to Levitin, the brain works to arrange music and other sounds into a coherent whole based on experience and expectations.

  • A Spirited Debate Over Chicks

    In July, APS put out a press release on why chicks prefer certain types of music based on “Chicks Like Consonant Music,” a study published in Psychological Science. On November 9, 2011, Jason Goldman wrote about the study on the Scientific American blog: Day Old Chickens Prefer The Same Music That You Do Chris Shea then wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal questioning Jason Goldman’s approach: Neuroscience Can’t Explain Wagner (or B.B. King) On November 14, 2011, Jason Goldman came back with this blog in response to Chris Shea: If Chickens Like Consonant Music, Will They Hate B.B. King?

  • Review of Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

    Do cognitive biases show up in people other than college sophomores? Do people make decision mistakes outside the lab, when real incentives are on the line? Are smart people immune from bias? Are these biases really mistakes? Does experience eliminate biases? As a card-carrying member of the biases-and-heuristics crowd of the behavioral decision research field, these are the questions I have continually been asked over the years, despite my belief that they were answered conclusively long ago. In accepting an invitation to review Thinking, Fast and Slow (TFS) by Daniel (Danny) Kahneman, I anticipated getting a comprehensive and clear response to these decades-old questions.

  • APS-EASP Cosponsored Symposium to Discuss Trends in Social Neuroscience

    Pursuing big questions in psychological science is an international effort. APS recently co-sponsored programs featuring cross-cutting research presentations by some of the most distinguished scientists in the field — “Social Psychology and the Neurosciences: Perspectives and Pitfalls” at the European Association of Social Psychology (EASP); “Exploring the Dynamic Interaction Between Genes, Environment and the Brain” at the Federation of the European Societies of Neuropsychology (ESN); and “Where is Embodiment Going?” at the European Society for Cognitive Psychology (ESCOP). Here are some of the program highlights. A Discussion on Social Psychology and the Neurosciences at EASP 2011 Gün R.

  • Cutting-Edge Research on Embodied Cognition at an APS-ESCOP Cosponsored Symposium

    Pursuing big questions in psychological science is an international effort. APS recently co-sponsored programs featuring cross-cutting research presentations by some of the most distinguished scientists in the field — “Social Psychology and the Neurosciences: Perspectives and Pitfalls” at the European Association of Social Psychology (EASP); “Exploring the Dynamic Interaction Between Genes, Environment and the Brain” at the Federation of the European Societies of Neuropsychology (ESN); and “Where is Embodiment Going?” at the European Society for Cognitive Psychology (ESCOP). Here are some of the program highlights.

  • APS and ESN Sponsor Distinguished Symposium on Epigenetics

    Pursuing big questions in psychological science is an international effort. APS recently co-sponsored programs featuring cross-cutting research presentations by some of the most distinguished scientists in the field — “Social Psychology and the Neurosciences: Perspectives and Pitfalls” at the European Association of Social Psychology (EASP); “Exploring the Dynamic Interaction Between Genes, Environment and the Brain” at the Federation of the European Societies of Neuropsychology (ESN); and “Where is Embodiment Going?” at the European Society for Cognitive Psychology (ESCOP). Here are some of the program highlights.

  • Serving Humanity: Saths Cooper on the 30th International Congress of Psychology

    The International Congress of Psychology (ICP) is a meeting held every four years to bring together psychological scientists from around the globe. The 30th ICP will be held July 22-27, 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa. Saths Cooper, President of the upcoming ICP, took a few minutes to tell the Observer about the theme of the meeting and what participants can look forward to. How did the Union of Psychological Science choose the theme Psychology Serving Humanity for the 30th ICP? The theme Psychology Serving Humanity was chosen by the South African hosts because it resonated with what we in the southern tip of the African Continent view as psychology's unfulfilled mission.

  • Psychological Science Inspires New Merit Badge

    Why earn a merit badge for nutrition when you could earn a badge for psychological science? For the first time in over 25 years, Girl Scout badges are getting overhauled. Scouts can still earn traditional badges like the Cook or the Athlete, but now they can also earn a badge called the Science of Happiness. The badge was the result of a collaboration between APS Fellow Martin Seligman, a researcher from the University of Pennslyvania known for his work on positive emotion, and Girl Scouts USA. To earn the badge, girls form a strategy for increasing their personal happiness, and then they test that strategy over a period of one month.