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Has Google replaced the brain? Psychological scientists are decoding how technology has reprogrammed our minds.

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Volume 25, Issue2February 2012

Presidential Column

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

In this Issue:
Rigor Without Rigor Mortis: The APS Board Discusses Research Integrity

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


  • Rigor Without Rigor Mortis: The APS Board Discusses Research Integrity

    Please excuse this further sidetrack from the road we were on in my previous columns. Two months ago, the column I had planned was displaced by a response to the considerable attention that various media paid to a social psychologist’s faking of data and the attendant questions about whether psychology was especially susceptible to cheating. The implication seemed to be that many, if not most, of the most striking results in psychology might be bogus.[i] I argued in my previous column that there is nothing special about psychology when it comes to fraud, that meta-analyses suggest that fraud is rare (about 2% of researchers admit to it), and that tools intrinsic to the practices of science, such as replication, help root out “false positives,” or Type I errors (concluding that some effect is present when in fact it is not), and produce a science we can believe in. But can we do better, at least in the sense of encouraging practices that allow science to function more efficiently and effectively? The APS Board took up this and related questions at our retreat in early December.

  • Psychology’s Woes and a Partial Cure: The Value of Replication

    Psychology has come in for some bruising in the news media recently. The huge fraud case involving Diederik Stapel of Tilburg University in the Netherlands reaped a large amount of (well-deserved) negative publicity. Coming on the heels of other fraud cases at well-respected universities in North America, some see a trend emerging. In addition, recent publications provide additional ammunition for those firing at psychology in that the papers show that some researchers employ shoddy research practices (e.g., cherry-picking data to make some point) or use wrong statistics to bolster their claims (this kind of study comes along every few years, it seems). The media had a number of different takes on the Stapel affair. The Los Angeles Times ran a story (by Amina Khan; November 5, 2011) headlined “Dutch scientist accused of falsifying data” that focused on Stapel and his fraud. Other media outlets were more generous with their blame. The Chronicle of Higher Education provided several stories. The first (on November 3) focused on Stapel (“The fraud who fooled almost everyone”).

APS Spotlight


  • Why I Became An Administrator… And Why You Might Become One Too

    Perhaps no field lends itself to application in and to a university setting the way psychological science does. Becoming an administrator is a wonderful way for psychological science to positively touch the lives of many people in a university setting. As we move on with our careers, some psychological scientists become more and more concerned about how the scientific work we do can make a practical difference. Academic administration can provide an ideal venue for making a positive and meaningful difference, or at least, it has for me.

  • How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Testifying Before the US Congress

    This adventure began with an email I nearly deleted as spam. In 2007, Heather Kelly from APA asked to help gather evidence to fight an amendment to the National Science Foundation (NSF) authorization act that called for de-funding my NSF grant along with six others — on the grounds that Representative John Campbell (R-CA), a first-term member of Congress, thought the titles sounded “silly.” Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) used my grant as an example to defeat this amendment and to question the wisdom of politicians second guessing peer-reviewed science. After all, the same research they called silly was being incorporated by the US Army Research Institute into training programs for soldiers.

  • More Than Just a Grade

    After reading Mahzarin Banaji’s (2011) article in the Observer calling APS members to action, I was sold on using the APS Wikipedia Initiative (APSWI) as a classroom tool. It was just a matter of waiting until the right course came along. When I was scheduled to teach a graduate class in clinical neuropsychology this past fall semester, I decided it was the perfect course to try out APSWI because I always strive to include a community outreach component in the courses that I teach. The mission of APSWI provided a great vehicle for promoting social justice, particularly within the context of a Neuropsychology course.

Practice


  • Psychology’s Woes and a Partial Cure: The Value of Replication

    Psychology has come in for some bruising in the news media recently. The huge fraud case involving Diederik Stapel of Tilburg University in the Netherlands reaped a large amount of (well-deserved) negative publicity. Coming on the heels of other fraud cases at well-respected universities in North America, some see a trend emerging. In addition, recent publications provide additional ammunition for those firing at psychology in that the papers show that some researchers employ shoddy research practices (e.g., cherry-picking data to make some point) or use wrong statistics to bolster their claims (this kind of study comes along every few years, it seems). The media had a number of different takes on the Stapel affair. The Los Angeles Times ran a story (by Amina Khan; November 5, 2011) headlined “Dutch scientist accused of falsifying data” that focused on Stapel and his fraud. Other media outlets were more generous with their blame. The Chronicle of Higher Education provided several stories. The first (on November 3) focused on Stapel (“The fraud who fooled almost everyone”).

  • Connecting Student Researchers Via Distance Research Talks

    Imagine a room full of college students and police officers anxiously awaiting to hear your presentation on how to better identify missing or abducted children, but wait! The audience is not only in front of you, but they are also in two other states! Can this really happen? Yes it can! We have used distance learning technology to make such presentations possible. To make it even sweeter, the cost was zero because the entire broadcast was through a computer! In these hard economic times when students may not be able to afford to attend conferences, Distance Research Talks allow students to participate in research presentations with little or no cost. Students may learn about research studies directly from researchers by attending state, regional, or national conventions such as the American Psychological Association (APA) or the Association for Psychological Science (APS) annual conventions. However, many students do not have the opportunity to travel to such conferences due to budgetary restraints.

More From This Issue


  • APS to Launch Clinical Science Journal

    APS is excited to introduce a new addition to the APS journal family — Clinical Psychological Science (CPS). At the helm of this new journal is Founding Editor Alan E. Kazdin, John M. Musser Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University and Director of the Yale Parenting Center. Kazdin is joined by a distinguished team of Associate Editors: Tyrone Cannon, Staglin Family Professor, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, and Director, Staglin Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of California, Los Angeles; Emily A.

  • The Science of Online Romance

    Psychological scientist Eli Finkel believes  “we are witnessing the early stages of an explosion of research on romantic attraction.” Why the explosion? The Internet, that’s why. Finkel is the lead author of “Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science,” an upcoming issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest (PSPI). The report explores whether online-dating services help or hinder people in their search for true love. “Online dating is a terrific addition to the array of options available to singles seeking to meet potential romantic partners,” Finkel says.

  • The Realities of Reason

    Reasoning is an ability that comes naturally to most people, and this can be demonstrated, according to psychological scientist Philip Johnson-Laird, by the world-wide popularity of Sudoku puzzles. While some people might be better at them than others, the whole point of Sudoku puzzles is that people can solve them without any formal training. Johnson-Laird, a professor of psychology at Princeton University, explored the depths of this ability to reason in his William James Award Address at the 23rd APS Annual Convention.

  • Rising Stars

    Andrew Butler Duke University, USA http://duke.edu/~ab259/index.html What does your research focus on? Generally speaking, I study human memory and learning. However, I am particularly interested in how the act of retrieving information from memory affects subsequent memory for that information. Many people consider memory retrieval to be a neutral event, much like measuring someone’s weight. Just as stepping on a scale doesn’t change how much someone weighs, memory retrieval is assumed to reveal the contents of memory but leave them unchanged. However, a large body of research has shown that retrieving information from memory actually changes memory.

  • APS Journals February Reading List

    Current Directions Those who play nice as kids have better-quality romances. http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/20/6/355.full Current Directions People may believe men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but research says they’re more similar than we think. http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/20/5/296.full Psychological Science Bacterial smells make people more likely to want to use a condom (and hold their nose). http://pss.sagepub.com/content/22/4/478 Psychological Science The key to preserving that new-marriage shine is to never stop idealizing your partner. http://pss.sagepub.com/content/22/5/619

  • Why We <3 Video Games

    From Mario Kart to World of Warcraft, why are we so obsessed with video games? Psychological scientists predict that part of the appeal of video games is the opportunity to “try on” a better version of you. In research published in Psychological Science, participants reported how they would like to experience themselves (ideal self) and how they experienced themselves while playing video games (game-self). In video games that promoted greater similarity between their ideal- and game-selves, gamers were more intrinsically motivated to play and had a greater attachment to the game.