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322019Volume 32, Issue1January 2019

Presidential Column

Barbara Tverksy
Barbara Tversky
Teachers College, Columbia University and Stanford University
APS President 2018 - 2019
All columns

In this Issue:
The Geometry of Thought

About the Observer

The Observer is the online magazine of the Association for Psychological Science and covers matters affecting the research, academic, and applied disciplines of psychology. The magazine reports on issues of interest to psychologist scientists worldwide and disseminates information about the activities, policies, and scientific values of APS.

APS members receive a monthly Observer newsletter that covers the latest content in the magazine. Members also may access the online archive of Observer articles going back to 1988.

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    Disaster Response and Recovery

    Disasters like Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut draw massive media coverage, trauma interventions, and financial donations to victims. But psychological research shows the efforts don’t always yield the intended benefits.


Up Front

  • The Geometry of Thought

    In an undergrad philosophy course, I was introduced to the Law of the Hammer: give a kid a hammer and everything needs pounding. The Law is applied so ubiquitously that it has become self-describing. Our first child illustrated it literally and expensively. Instead of a hammer, he had a screwdriver that he carried and used everywhere, ultimately to pry open a locked car. My personal hammer is more benign: spatial thinking, which I see everywhere. Note: see everywhere. An op-ed by Crispin Sartwell in the November 24, 2018 issue of The New York Times provides a delightful example. How Would You Draw History?


  • 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

  • Student Notebook: APS Student Caucus, Advancing Our Community of Students

    Each fall, the APS Student Caucus (APSSC) Executive Board meets at APS headquarters in Washington, DC to discuss student engagement and convention programming. This annual meeting gives us a chance to reflect as a group on the progress we have made as an organization and the path forward during the upcoming year. In this article, I want to highlight some talking points from this meeting, particularly the existing opportunities and future directions for student members of APS. The APSSC works to fund and recognize excellence in student research. Year after year, we are surprised at the number of students who do not know about these funding and award opportunities.

More From This Issue

  • Robinson and Berridge Receive Grawemeyer Award for Addiction Research

    APS William James Fellow Terry Robinson and APS Fellow Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan have won the 2019 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award For Psychology for their research on the role of neural sensitization in drug addiction. Robinson and Berridge’s Incentive-Sensitization Theory of Addiction focuses on how our brains process “liking” verses “wanting.” The theory suggests that the dopamine system in the brains of people struggling with addiction may become hypersensitive to drugs and drug-related cues, producing an excessive desire for drugs that can last for years to come.

  • Eleanor E. Maccoby, 1917-2018

    APS William James Fellow Eleanor E. Maccoby, widely considered to be one of the most influential psychological scientists of the 20th century, passed away December 11 at the age of 101. She is recognized worldwide for her research on gender development and differentiation and parent-child relationships. Maccoby was the first woman to serve as chair of Stanford University’s Department of Psychology, holding that position from 1973 to 1976. At Stanford, she was associated with the university’s Center for the Study of Families, Children and Youth, where she became known for research on the social and intellectual development in children.

  • PSPI Report Examines Collaborative Problem-Solving

    From companies trying to resolve data security risks to coastal communities preparing for rising sea levels, solving modern problems requires teamwork that draws on a broad range of expertise and life experiences. Yet individuals receive little formal training to develop the skills that are vital to these collaborations. In a new report in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, an interdisciplinary team of researchers identifies the essential cognitive and social components of collaborative problem solving (CPS) and shows how integrating existing knowledge from a variety of fields can lead to new ways of assessing and training these abilities.

  • Replications Don’t Hinge on Sample and Setting Differences, Multilab Project Shows

    Failures to reproduce psychological research findings are often attributed to differences in the study population being examined. But results from a massive research project have upended that claim. A report on the international project, which involved replications of 28 classic and contemporary findings in psychological science, appears in Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science. A team of 190 researchers involved in the effort found that population characteristics had little to no bearing on the failure of a finding to replicate.

  • Newcombe Takes the Helm at PSPI

    APS William James Fellow Nora S. Newcombe has begun her 4-year term as Editor of Psychological Science in the Public Interest. Newcombe is the Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology at Temple University. She researches

  • Back Page: Smell Talk

    APS Fellow Asifa Majid, a psycholinguistics researcher at the University of York in the United Kingdom, is uncovering cultural differences in the way people talk about odors, aromas, and scents. How did you become interested in the way we identify and talk about smells? In my research, I try to understand the relationship between language and thought. One way to do that is to examine what things are more or less easy to express in language. Is everything that you can think equally expressible in language? Or expressible at all? Or are there experiences that defy verbalization? Smell was interesting to me because there is a long-standing assumption that it is impossible to talk about odors.