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Volume 19, Issue2February 2006

Presidential Column

Michael Gazzaniga
Michael S. Gazzaniga
University of California, Santa Barbara
APS President 2005 - 2006
All columns

In this Issue:
Divided We Lose

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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Up Front


  • Divided We Lose

    I can remember a lunch I once had with Leon Festinger. We used to lunch once a week in New York at our favorite Italian restaurant, Il Bambino. Back in those days, one could have a vodka martini and grilled scampi for five bucks. But that wasn't the best part. The best part was hearing and learning from Leon. I have written about those joys for the first issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science (the new APS journal due out next month). In one such lunch, Leon looked at me as I was waxing poetic about something or other and said starkly, “Mike, it is probably the case that not much relates to anything else.” He was always skeptical about the synthetic, the integrative interpretation, and yet paradoxically it was what fascinated him.

APS Spotlight


  • Canadian Cultures

    It interests and confounds me that most people in the United States seem to know little, and few seem to care, about the history, characteristics, or complexity of Canada. Several years ago, I accompanied a woman originally from Toronto to a dinner otherwise attended by US-born faculty. At some point during the evening, a rather gauche man across the table said to my Toronto-ite friend, “There isn't really much difference between Canada and the US, is there?” As she hesitated, considering a diplomatic response, I offered “Sure there is. People in Canada don't litter.” The generalization came from my childhood of frequently visiting and occasionally living with relatives in Ontario and Quebec. At a time when many people in the United States casually tossed wrappers, cans and bottles, cigarette butts, and other debris from car windows — and some regularly brought household and industrial waste to the nearest empty lot, field, gully, or gutter — Canada was largely free of haphazard human rubbish. My aphorism is somewhat less apt today; public education campaigns and fines have reduced US littering, while consumerism and weakened civility have increased it in Canada.

  • Go Away. Here’s How.

    What began with a simple click at www.cies.org led me to an abundance of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and, eventually, to Nepal. I received the Fulbright Award in March of 2004 along with an offer to choose a 5- or 7-month stay, and even an extension without stipend for an additional few months in the South Asian wonder. However, my journey began long before my 7-month stint. I applied for the Teaching/Research Award twice. I did not receive the award the first time I applied, and at the suggestion of the then-director of the Fulbright Commission in Kathmandu, I considered new approaches to the process and revised my application. Of course, the application process begins with the decision to pursue a Fulbright Award. One can access the available awards for the 2007-2008 academic year at www.cies.org. Awards are listed by world area or country, by discipline, and by profession. In my case, I knew that I wanted to go to Nepal, so I did not spend time looking at opportunities in other countries but focused my application on this destination.

First Person


  • Take it Personally

    Since my days of beginning graduate study, I have heard a wealth of advice regarding how to find the right mentor. What I haven't heard is how to balance the two most crucial qualifiers in the mentor-protégé relationship: matching personality and research interests. Typically, students are advised to find a match between their interests and the professor's research, to obtain information about potential mentors, and to get information from other graduate students who have worked with that particular professor (Dittmann, 2005). Assuming the student has found one or more professors whose research is of interest, further suggestions are made with regard to initiating the relationship and assessing the mentor's purpose in facilitating the student's transition into the professional environment. These steps are, of course, necessary.

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  • An Unhealthy Start in Life — What Matters Most?

    The following editorial originally appeared in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest (Vol. 6, No. 3), in conjunction with the report 'Neurotoxicants, Micronutrients, and Social Environments: Individual and Combined Effects on Children's Development' by Laura Hubbs-Tait, Jack R. Nation, Nancy F. Krebs, and David C. Bellinger which appears in the same issue of PSPI. Life isn't fair. The report by Hubbs- Tait et al. (available online at www.psychologicalscience.org/pspi/neurotoxicants) describes how neurotoxic metals, micronutrient deficiencies, and social environments can combine to give a child an unhealthy start in life.

  • ‘To be or, or … um … line!’

    How do you learn all those lines?” It is the question most asked of actors and their art. The ability to remember and effortlessly deliver large quantities of dialogue verbatim amazes nonthespians. Most people imagine that learning a script involves hours, days, and even months of rote memorization. But actors seldom work that way; in fact, they often don't consciously try to memorize lines at all. And they seldom consider memorization as defining what they do. What gives actors their seemingly effortless memory capabilities? Could acting teach us something about memory and cognition, and could acting principles help those with memory problems?

  • Good as Gold

    When turning on their TVs to watch the 2006 Olympic Games in Turino, Italy this month, people all over the world will witness the same events. They will be thrilled by the same luge races and awed by the same figure skaters, and they will join in universal bafflement that there is actually an Olympic sport called skeleton. However, new research published in this month's Psychological Science shows that the explanations people will give for their heroes' achievements will vary drastically from culture to culture.