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Volume 25, Issue10December 2012

Presidential Column

Joseph E. Steinmetz
Joseph E. Steinmetz
The Ohio State University
APS President 2012 - 2013
All columns

In this Issue:
From Where the Chair Sits

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.’

Up Front


  • From Where the Chair Sits

    Serving as the chair or head of an academic department may very well be the most difficult and challenging job in university administration. At the same time, however, being a department chair or head can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. I know first-hand — I had the pleasure of serving as the Chair of the Department of Psychology at Indiana University for 9 years. The challenges come from being at the interface of the faculty and the administration; the chair or head is on the “front lines” so to speak. In this position you hear the needs, concerns, and frustrations of the faculty and it’s your job to effectively communicate these messages to other administrators so that the faculty’s issues are addressed. The position can be very rewarding as well: Department chairs and heads hire young faculty and watch them mature into productive scholars.

APS Spotlight


  • Our Genes Want Us to Be Altruists

    "Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it. Let's do it. Let's..." Be altruists? While it may not be what Cole Porter had in mind, animals from bees to rats to chimpanzees (though perhaps not fleas) incur costs to their own immediate well-being for the benefit of members of their own species — one reasonable definition of altruism. Humans, of course, are no exception. Many of our daily activities and important life decisions involve setting aside self-interest on behalf of others. Over the past several decades, behavioral scientists have made tremendous strides toward understanding when and why altruism occurs. Notably, across species, it seems to be the case that self-sacrifice is much more likely to occur on behalf of genetically related individuals, which is in line with the predictions of W. D. Hamilton’s (1964) kin selection theory. That’s not to say that altruism toward unrelated others (and even other species) doesn’t occur. Thanks to Robert Trivers’ (1971) theory of reciprocal altruism, we also know that self-sacrifice is more likely toward individuals who could reasonably be expected to reciprocate one day.

  • Developing a Taste for Perceptual Psychology

    No two people perceive a particular food in exactly the same way. Discoveries in genetics and psychology point to genetic variations in taste and smell receptors as root causes of individual differences in taste and smell. These two senses are the primary ways in which humans perceive food flavor (a conglomerate of taste and smell), although learning and experience also play important roles. Recent discoveries have changed how scientists view the perception of taste and smell, but these discoveries, like so many others, have been slow to come to the classroom. There is a critical need to accelerate the speed at which scientific advances enter the classroom, especially discoveries that cross traditional scientific disciplines — in this case, biology, psychology, genetics, and chemistry. The APS Fund for Teaching and Public Understanding of Psychological Science awarded a grant to Danielle R.

First Person


  • Identifying the Missing Pieces in the Study of Families

    The study of families has largely focused on mothers and children despite assertions that more research on fathers is needed (Phares, 1992). One explanation is that mothers have traditionally performed the majority of care-giving duties and therefore may influence child outcomes to a greater degree than fathers. Moreover, some scientists believe that mothers are easier to recruit for participation in research than fathers. Many authors have criticized such explanations with theoretical and empirical evidence suggesting that fathers make important contributions to child outcomes and may not be more difficult to recruit than mothers (e.g., Phares, Fields, Kamboukos, & Lopez, 2005). In recent years, a few researchers have altered their methodology by using samples of mothers and fathers within the same family.

More From This Issue


  • Rethinking Gifted Education Policy

    Although promising future athletes and musicians tend to be identified and actively supported from an early age in the United States, the same intense support is not always provided to children who display academic promise, thus hurting the ability of our most talented individuals to compete in the global economy. A major report by Rena F. Subotnik, American Psychological Association; Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Northwestern University; and APS Fellow Frank C.

  • ‘Tis the Season for Giving

    It’s the time of year to give — whether you’re giving gifts to friends and family, donating to complete strangers, or giving yourself a break. The nature of giving is a rich topic for psychological scientists. Over the last year, several researchers have published new insights into how and why we give in Psychological Science. Thinking About Giving, Not Receiving, Motivates People to Help Others Stressed for the Holidays? Giving Time Can Give You Time The Gifts That Keep on Giving Thinking About Giving, Not Receiving, Motivates People to Help Others We’re often told to “count our blessings” and be grateful for what we have.

  • Inside the Neurotic Mind

    In popular culture, neuroticism carries a light, humorous, even attractive connotation — witness the appeal of comedians like Woody Allen and Larry David or characters such as Liz Lemon on the TV show “30 Rock.” But from a clinical perspective, a negative temperament may play an underlying role in many mood and anxiety disorders. The more that psychological scientists appreciate neuroticism’s serious side, the better they can alleviate the health problems that accompany it. David H.