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232010Volume 23, Issue1January 2010

Presidential Column

Linda Bartoshuk
Linda Bartoshuk
University of Florida
APS President 2009 - 2010
All columns

In this Issue:
The “Obesity Epidemic”

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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  • Thumbnail Image for Disaster Response and Recovery

    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 “Obesity Epidemic”

    Understanding food behavior and the “obesity epidemic” requires accurate data on weight.  This month Katherine Flegal tells us about how these data are collected and what they show.  Flegal is a Distinguished Consultant at the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She is also an adjunct professor at the School of Public Health, University of North Carolina. Her primary research interests are in the epidemiology of obesity and related conditions, and she has published widely in this area (see the reference list for representative publications).

APS Spotlight

  • Second and Third Chances: An Unusual Psychological Career Path

    I have a fairly unusual job for a psychologist, and I took a very unusual path to get here. Currently, I serve as a Professor in the Section of Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine. The mentorship, institutional support, and collegial stimulation that I have received during the 16 years I have been at Indiana University have enabled me to develop a successful research career. In particular, I have been able to pursue two of my long-standing interests: cross-disciplinary research and health psychology research. When I arrived at IU in 1993, at the urging of colleague Dennis Fortenberry, I began to study attitudes about HIV vaccination.

  • Detainee Deradicalization

    A key dimension of psychological science has been its potential to address major societal issues. A troubling problem that has occupied center stage since 2001 concerns the terrorism suspects detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Gitmo for short). U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered his advisors to find a way to dismantle the facility, and heart wrenching discussio­­ns have revolved about the ethical treatment of the detainees, their legal rights, their political status, and the repercussions of their detainment for America’s image abroad. However, the key question is whether they will re-integrate peacefully into society or return to violence and pose renewed danger.

  • Perspectives on Perspectives from the New Editor

    I am delighted to have been selected as the next Editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science. Under Ed Diener’s leadership, the journal has gotten off to a terrific start. It has published high-quality articles across the range of our discipline, including reviews, biographies, special issues reflecting on our science past and future, controversial target pieces with replies, and even a bit of humor. The quality has been rewarded both internally and externally. Many people recently have told me that PPS is their favorite psychology journal (okay, maybe that is not an unbiased sample).


  • Helping Failing Students: Part 2

    In Part 1 of this essay (Buskist & Howard, 2009), we made a broad distinction between two types of failing students — those students who actively fail our classes and those students who passively fail them. Actively failing students, despite their efforts to pass our classes, nonetheless perform poorly in them. In contrast, passively failing students exert little or no effort to pass our classes, and unsurprisingly they perform poorly. Because actively failing students attend class regularly and often respond to our attempts to contact and help them (electronically or in person), our attempts to assist them to improve their grades is often met with gladness. However, the story is often quite different with passively failing students: They don’t come to class and quite often do not respond to our prompts to drop by our offices and discuss their performance in our classes.

First Person

  • State of the APS Student Caucus

    The APS Student Caucus Executive Board held its annual Fall Meeting at APS headquarters October 2- 4, 2009 to discuss how to best serve student affiliates and advance the mission of APS. After much deliberation, we went forth from Washington, D.C. with renewed energy and increased focus upon our initiatives for the year. I would like to share with you four highlights from our annual meeting. The Value of APS Membership As of November 2009, 4,123 graduate and undergraduate students maintain current APS memberships. Student membership has held relatively steady from 2007-2009 at approximately 4,000 student affiliates. Consistent with past years, nearly 75 percent of these members are graduate students and 25 percent are undergraduates. To retain our student members and strengthen our Caucus, APSSC programs and resources must be available for all students of psychological science.

More From This Issue

  • Miller Wins National Teaching Award

    APS Fellow Richard L. Miller of the University of Nebraska-Kearney has been named Outstanding Master’s Universities and Colleges Professor of the Year in a joint award by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Each year, just four professors in the United States are selected as national level winners of this prestigious prize. Miller was singled out for his focus on research in the classroom.

  • Parents Gone Wild? The Link Between Working Memory and Reactive Parenting

    We’ve all been in situations before where we get so frustrated or angry about something, we will lash out at someone without thinking. This lashing out — reactive negativity — happens when we can’t control our emotions. Luckily, most people are pretty good at self-regulating and controlling their emotions and behaviors. Working memory is crucial for this cognitive control: It allows us to consider information we have and reason quickly when deciding what to do as opposed to reacting automatically, without thinking.  For parents, it is particularly important to maintain a cool head around their misbehaving children. This can be challenging (see the previous Observation).

  • A Case for the Distractible Toddler

    Toddlers are distractible. They might be fascinated by a colorful new toy, but only until the next best toy comes along. This can be maddening for parents or teachers, who often try to rein in a toddler’s impulsivity. But should we really be trying to teach self-control? Psychologists are beginning to raise this question, and some are even suggesting that it may be detrimental to the developing brain to push it toward maturity too soon. University of Pennsylvania neuropsychologist Sharon Thompson-Schill and her colleagues study the prefrontal cortex, or PFC, the part of the brain that filters out irrelevant information and allows us to focus.