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Volume 21, Issue1January 2008

Presidential Column

John Cacioppo
John Cacioppo
University of Chicago
APS President 2007 - 2008
All columns

In this Issue:
Metrics of Science

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


  • Twelve Tips for Editors, and One Suggestion

    In previous issues, I have written columns featuring tips for authors and tips for reviewers. Do readers of the Observer really need tips for editors, too? After all, we deal with only a few of them, right? Yes and no. Although any one author deals with relatively few editors in his or her little corner of the field, psychology and its numerous subfields have a huge number of journals. How many psychology journals are there? How many editors? These are almost unanswerable questions, or, more accurately, the answers will depend on definitions of what counts as “psychology” and how broadly one casts the net. Nonetheless, Jane McConnell and Barbie Huelser in my lab undertook the task of counting all the editors of psychology journals. They counted only editors-in-chief and associate editors, but not those listed as consulting editors (a much larger set), nor managing editors, book review editors, and some other categories. I won’t detail the methodology, except to say that they looked over the world for psychology journals and were not too inclusive of neuroscience journals or those of other related fields.

  • Metrics of Science

    Assessments of science are important for many different reasons. For individuals early in their careers, metrics of scientific work can provide valuable feedback about where they stand and the progress they have made. For faculty seeking to hire another member of their department, such metrics can simplify the task of wading through hundreds of applications to identify a subset of applicants to interview. For departmental chairs, these metrics may influence annual raises and the allocation of scarce departmental resources. For university administrators, these metrics help identify faculty who warrant promotion and tenure. For scientific societies, these metrics influence the selection of award recipients across the course of careers. For funding agencies, both public and private, assessments of science help identify areas of progress and vitality that may warrant additional resources. For legislative bodies and boards of directors, measures of science provide a means of documenting performance, ensuring accountability, and evaluating the return on their research investment.

APS Spotlight


  • Bloom and Grow: My View of Psychological Research in China

    Thirty years ago in China, there were only a few people called psychologists, and no college students had the opportunity to obtain a degree in psychology because no Chinese universities had psychology departments at that time. Today, however, there are more than 180 psychology departments and teaching units in Chinese universities and research institutes that award students bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in psychology. And the Conference of the Chinese Psychological Society received more than 2,000 abstracts in 2007. How did all this come to be true in such a short time? During the 1960s and 1970s in China, psychology was criticized as a pseudoscience and almost no psychological research was conducted during that time. It was not until the late 1970s that psychology was accepted as an independent discipline in Chinese universities and research institutes.

Practice


  • Twelve Tips for Editors, and One Suggestion

    In previous issues, I have written columns featuring tips for authors and tips for reviewers. Do readers of the Observer really need tips for editors, too? After all, we deal with only a few of them, right? Yes and no. Although any one author deals with relatively few editors in his or her little corner of the field, psychology and its numerous subfields have a huge number of journals. How many psychology journals are there? How many editors? These are almost unanswerable questions, or, more accurately, the answers will depend on definitions of what counts as “psychology” and how broadly one casts the net. Nonetheless, Jane McConnell and Barbie Huelser in my lab undertook the task of counting all the editors of psychology journals. They counted only editors-in-chief and associate editors, but not those listed as consulting editors (a much larger set), nor managing editors, book review editors, and some other categories. I won’t detail the methodology, except to say that they looked over the world for psychology journals and were not too inclusive of neuroscience journals or those of other related fields.

  • Enhancing Learning and Exam Preparation

    Exams often are anxiety provoking; the first exam of a course even more so, as students do not know exactly how the professor tests. For many students, an exam review session is the magic balm that can alleviate exam woes and stress. Many courses favor breadth over depth, and students may be left with only a quick introduction to terms, topics, and theories without the time to properly digest the material, let alone analyze, evaluate, synthesize, or apply it. Worse, students are pressured to study to do well on the exam instead of studying to gain a thorough understanding of the material. This problem is particularly evident in introductory psychology where voluminous material is covered and assessment is primarily in the form of multiple-choice exams. It is no wonder that many students clamor for review sessions. Arguments Against Review Sessions Many instructors avoid holding review sessions because they take time away from valuable lecture or discussion if held during regular class time, and they are a time consuming additional burden if held outside class time.

First Person


  • Understanding Media Psychology

    When I first enrolled in a media psychology program, I had a limited concept of the field. I had stumbled across the distributed learning program online, and the combination of media and psychology fascinated me. My undergraduate degree is in journalism and mass communications, but my family is involved in the mental health field, so the crossing of media and psychology seemed natural. On top of that, only one university in the United States offered a degree in media psychology and having an opportunity to be part of a new area held a personal fascination of its own. Media psychology seemed clear and simple: It’s a specialized field of psychology revolving around the scholarly research of media. Giles’ (2003) book Media Psychology primarily defined my original concept of the field. Giles covered the development of media psychology within psychology and communications research over the past century, concentrating on media effects, media violence, advertising, media representations, and other research topics related to mass media. Many of these topics about the media also have been featured in the media and are a part of the public awareness of the field of media psychology.

  • State of the Caucus

    "You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’” - George Bernard Shaw The APS Student Caucus (APSSC) members make a habit out of asking “Why not?” and then finding ways to turn their dreams into reality. These dreams are about resources and programming that will enhance the experience of APSSC members. They come not only from the minds of the APSSC Executive Board, but also from APSSC members. Before delving into the content of our dreams, I would like to tell you a bit about reality. The APSSC is comprised of approximately 5,700 students, two-thirds of whom are graduate students and a third of whom are undergraduate students. Due to the benefits of being associated with APS as a whole, as well as the programming offered by the APSSC, approximately 64 percent of the graduate student members rejoin the APSSC each year, and 71 percent of the graduate students who are eligible for full membership become full members after receiving their degrees. Over the past few years, participation has increased in almost all APSSC programs, and this trend continues. The APSSC currently involves over 600 students in its diverse programs.

More From This Issue


  • APS Welcomes Rob Kail

    This month, Rob Kail, Purdue University, officially begins his term as Editor of Psychological Science, APS’s flagship journal. Although Rob has already been editing behind the scenes for months, the January 2008 issue marks the first with his name on the masthead of the journal. The start of Kail’s editorship coincides with unprecedented submissions levels for Psychological Science and a 20 percent increase in the size of the journal to accommodate more of the excellent research that is submitted to the journal on a daily basis.

  • Psychology’s “Big Ideas” in 2007

    As the new year gets underway, take a look back on the research that you started, finished, or trashed in ‘07. If you aren’t inspired, then pick up an issue of The New York Times Magazine’s “7th Annual Year in Ideas.” The magazine grouped some of the most “curious, inspired, perplexing and sometimes outright illegal innovations of the past 12 months” into a special issue published on December 9, 2007. Psychological research was well represented throughout the issue and three articles from Psychological Science received mention. Ara Norenzayan, University of British Columbia, and his student Azim F.

  • Moving Beyond the Cheshire Cat: Research in Oral Health Behavior

    In Lewis Carroll’s classic story Alice in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat appears and disappears at will, often showing up as a disembodied, grinning mouth full of teeth. This prompts Alice to say, “…a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!” One might say the same of studying oral health in isolation from general health, and in fact, many are speaking out about the importance of studying the cat as well as the grin. In 2000, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a report on oral health in America, meant to highlight to the nation the connection between oral health and general health and well-being.

  • A History of APS’s Publications

    We’re so used to the Observer and APS’s journals as mainstays in the field that it’s easy to forget that they haven’t always been around. In this month’s column, we look back at the founding of each and see that, even after two decades (give or take), they remain true to their founding vision. 1988: This Shall Be Called the APS Observer Shortly after the Assembly for Scientific and Applied Psychology voted to form APS in 1988, the inaugural APS newsletter — called, creatively enough, the APS Newsletter — issued a challenge asking members to name APS’s first publication.

  • APS Fellows Win Grawemeyer Awards

    Two APS Fellows, Albert Bandera and Philip Tetlock, have been awarded 2008 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Awards. Each year, the Grawemeyer Foundation awards $200,000 each to recipients for works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology, education, and religion. Bandura received the 2008 psychology award and Tetlock received the 2008 award for ideas improving world order. A native of Canada, Albert Bandura received his doctoral degree from the University of Iowa in 1952. He began his appointment at Stanford University in 1953, where he remains as the David Starr Jordan professor of social science in psychology.

  • The Power in Willpower

    Until recently, psychologists used to think of “willpower” as a metaphor, part of folk psychology having no relation to what actually happens in the head. The brain, seat of our decisions, wasn’t a muscle, after all. Self-control wasn’t “powered”, it was a cognitive thing, more like a computer than a car engine. But new research from a lab at Florida State University is revealing that folk psychology was right all along. Self-control takes fuel — literally — and when we exercise it, resisting this or that temptation to misbehave, our fuel tank gets depleted, making subsequent efforts at self-control more difficult. Florida State psychologist and APS Fellow Roy F.

  • No End in Sight for Budget Blues

    The long slump in government financial support for research continues into the New Year. Get used to it. Money for science rates scant attention with Congress deadlocked, military spending taking billions per month, the President wielding his veto authority, and political energies consumed by the marathon election campaign. Bipartisanship is a goner on Capitol Hill, replaced by a surly mood and an astonishingly long run of legislative inactivity. Well into the new fiscal year that began last October 1, Congress had passed only two of the 13 annual appropriation bills that finance operations of the U.S. government.

  • On the Newsstand

    Go Ahead, Rationalize. Monkeys Do It, Too The New York Times November 6, 2007 “For half a century, social psychologists have been trying to figure out the human gift for rationalizing irrational behavior. Why did we evolve with brains that salute our shrewdness for buying the neon yellow car with bad gas mileage? In a paper in Psychological Science, researchers at Yale report finding the first evidence of cognitive dissonance in monkeys and in a group in some ways even less sophisticated, four-year-old humans.” — Coverage of “The Origins of Cognitive Dissonance: Evidence From Children and Monkeys” in Psychological Science (Louisa C. Egan, Laurie R. Santos, and Paul Bloom, Vol.