The Cognitive Upside of Aging

Big Data involving thousands and thousands of participants is enabling researchers to track the development of different cognitive skills across the lifespan with increasing accuracy. And the results of these studies bring light to some surprising — and perhaps heartening — findings about the aging brain.

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Volume 30, Issue2February 2017

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 the Observer newsletter and may access the online archive going back to 1988.

Looking to connect with the Observer? Visit the About page to learn about writing for us, advertising, reprints, and more. We’d love to hear from you. 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.’

Featured


  • This is a photo of Marisa Randazzo.

    After spending a decade helping the US Secret Service identify genuine dangers to the President’s safety, Marisa Randazzo is applying her science to guiding schools on threat assessment.

  • This is a photo of Steven A. Pinker at the APS Annual Convention in Chicago

    APS William James Fellow Steven A. Pinker provides a tour through recent research on the mechanics of common knowledge — and its centrality to everyday life.

  • A mix of behavioral research, economic studies, and time-series data portend some unsettling effects of climate change on human social interactions.

Up Front


  • Three Mediation Stories, Three Analytic Strategies

    APS is launching a new journal, Advances in Methodologies and Practices in Psychological Science. One goal of the journal is to make methodological advances in psychology and neighboring disciplines accessible to researchers across all areas of psychological science so that each area does not have to reinvent the wheel. In that spirit, I asked Steve Raudenbush and Guanglei Hong, two of my collaborators and colleagues at the University of Chicago, to take a look at three scenarios that psychological researchers typically treat using path analysis. Although superficially similar, the scenarios differ at the core. Acknowledging these differences has led to new statistical techniques — techniques that we hope will find their way into all areas of psychological science.

Practice


  • Teaching Current Directions in Psychological Science

    Aimed at integrating cutting-edge psychological science into the classroom, Teaching Current Directions in Psychological Science offers advice and how-to guidance about teaching a particular area of research or topic in psychological science that has been the focus of an article in the APS journal Current Directions in Psychological Science. Current Directions is a peer-reviewed bimonthly journal featuring reviews by leading experts covering all of scientific psychology and its applications and allowing readers to stay apprised of important developments across subfields beyond their areas of expertise. Its articles are written to be accessible to nonexperts, making them ideally suited for use in the classroom. Visit the column for supplementary components, including classroom activities and demonstrations. Visit David G. Myers at his blog “Talk Psych”.

First Person


  • You Need Technology to Survive Graduate School

    A Google search anthropologist reported that 90% of the population did not know what CTRL/Command + F does (Madrigal, 2011). Yes, you read that right. Hopefully that number has decreased by now, but if you are part of the majority, stop what you’re doing and try it. It allows you to search for any term on nearly any page of any application or browser you have on your computer. When you have more work than you can do in a day, shortcuts like this one can be game changers. In this article, we will introduce you to some of the key applications that we use to survive graduate school. Plus, we include the part you really care about — the cost. Many of these apps have free trials, or even free versions, but consider them with an open mind, because some of them are really worth digging into your pockets for.

More From This Issue


  • This is a photo of Marisa Randazzo.

    From Protecting POTUS to Safeguarding Schools

    After spending a decade helping the US Secret Service identify genuine dangers to the President’s safety, Marisa Randazzo is applying her science to guiding schools on threat assessment.

  • This is a photo of Steven A. Pinker at the APS Annual Convention in Chicago

    Uncommon Insights Into Common Knowledge

    APS William James Fellow Steven A. Pinker provides a tour through recent research on the mechanics of common knowledge — and its centrality to everyday life.

  • Professors’ Influence on Display in APS Membership Initiative

    Back when APS was established, our membership grew quickly, largely through word of mouth. Many of our current leaders today tell us that they joined as students because they were strongly encouraged by their professors and research mentors to be part of this important new group dedicated to the science of psychology. Invoking that same spirit on the eve of our 30th= year, we recently asked our current faculty members to engage their students with APS. “As a professor and mentor, you play an integral role in shaping your student’s careers,” said APS Executive Director Sarah Brookhart in an email to faculty.

  • Updated Common Rule on Human Subjects

    The US Department of Health and Human Services has released an update to the regulations that set forth federal protections for human subjects in research, also known as the Common Rule. Changes to the Common Rule, which was last revised in 2005, are of significant interest to psychological scientists. Among other things, the types of research that are considered exempt from the Common Rule have been expanded to include certain benign behavioral experiments and interventions. Read about the updates to the Common Rule here. Additional information will be available on the APS website and in future issues of the Observer.  

  • The Science of Love Is All Around

    The science of love and romance continues to stir the passions of psychology researchers around the world. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we offer a sample of new and notable research examining matters of the heart.

  • Global Warming and Violent Behavior

    A mix of behavioral research, economic studies, and time-series data portend some unsettling effects of climate change on human social interactions.

  • Mental Flexibility May Buffer Against Emotional Stress

    Doing “cold” math calculations and regulating “hot” emotions may seem like unrelated cognitive abilities, but both tasks depend on our capacity to manipulate and update information. Researchers have long speculated that the two abilities might be connected, and new findings are providing some evidence for the link. According to data from a brain-imaging study conducted at Duke University, students who had relatively greater activity in a specific area of the prefrontal cortex while completing mental math exercises also reported more robust emotion regulation skills compared with their peers. The findings are published in the January 2017 issue of Clinical Psychological Science.

  • Mischel to Be Interviewed for Inside the Psychologist’s Studio

    APS Past President Walter Mischel’s studies on children’s self-control are classics in the field of psychological research, and he’ll reflect on his storied career and other aspects of his life for an Inside the Psychologist’s Studio interview on March 24, 2017. Mischel will be interviewed for the APS video series by APS Past President Mahzarin R. Banaji during the International Convention of Psychological Science (ICPS) in Vienna, Austria.