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Volume 24, Issue1January 2011

Presidential Column

Mahzarin R. Banaji
Mahzarin R. Banaji
Harvard University
APS President 2010 - 2011
All columns

In this Issue:
What’s New at Perspectives

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

  • What’s New at Perspectives

    We’re starting off the year with a guest column from Bobbie Spellman, incoming Editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science. She describes a number of innovations being launched under the auspices of the journal that will encourage stronger connections among our field’s diverse research interests and will help ensure that psychological science continues to be a collaborative, self-correcting enterprise. With her January line-up Spellman has hit the ground running; her energy and vision are inspiring. Perspectives, which is in its first year in ISI rankings is 4th in impact factor, is in good hands. -Mahzarin R. Banaji APS President “I want Perspectives on Psychological Science to help change the way we communicate Psychology research,” I wrote when I agreed to be the Editor ofPerspectives.

APS Spotlight

  • Gotcha Moment

    In 2010, my colleagues and I published a study on the treatment of depression in a high-visibility journal. It was covered in hundreds of news outlets including countless blogs. Many physicians told me that it was the topic of conversation and debate in the week if not the month after it appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). What follows is a brief chronicle of our experience with the publication of the paper, and the aftermath. On November 18, 2009, while working in my de facto sabbatical office, the Genius Bar in an Apple store in Sydney, Australia, an email arrived from JAMA’s editor, Richard Glass. He was letting my colleagues and me know that our paper would be published if, within four days, we could submit a revised manuscript that addressed the 29 issues raised by reviewers. Was being 18 hours out of sync with then-graduate student and the paper’s first author, Jay Fournier, an advantage or a disadvantage?

  • Mortal Magnates

    Kelly Shaver likes to play a game with his audience each time he gives a lecture.The Professor of Entrepreneurial Psychology at the College of Charleston, Shaver begins by placing a $100 bill on the table in front of him. The game has two stages, and in order to win, an individual has to complete both successfully. “Write down the name of the first entrepreneur you can think of,” Shaver instructs. When everyone has finished writing, he turns on a small projector, and on the wall in front of the room appear 20 names. Most are well-known entrepreneurs — Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs — and the 20th entry on the list just says someone you know. “If the name you wrote down is NOT on this list,” Shaver says to the audience, “then you’re still in the pool to win the $100, and you can move on to Part Two. Everyone else is out.” Most people are normally eliminated in Part One. For those who remain, Part Two is a brief quiz. To win the $100, someone just has to listen to these five statements about entrepreneurs, as Kelly reads them, and correctly mark them as true or false.


  • Creating the Foundation for a Warm Classroom Climate

    Although the course syllabus is often overlooked or undervalued as the first form of communication between students and their instructors, it plays an important role for both. For students, the syllabus communicates information about the course that they require throughout the semester. For instructors, it assists with planning and demonstrates to students the instructor’s concerns for the course and for them (Hammons & Shock, 1994). Importantly, the syllabus creates a first impression about the instructor and his or her attitudes toward teaching (Grunert, 1997). In this column, we identify six characteristics that contribute to a warm syllabus tone, whereby instructors create a classroom environment in which they are seen as approachable and in which students become engaged.

First Person

  • The State of the APS Student Caucus

    The Executive Board of the APS Student Caucus (APSSC) met in Washington, DC for its annual Fall Meeting. We received the results of the annual member survey and discussed the progress and challenges affecting the many APSSC run programs and APSSC. Membership I am pleased to announce that, as of December 2010, APSSC boasts a total membership of 4,930 graduate and undergraduate students from over 1,000 institutions. While our member retention is down 7 percent from last year, I speculate that this is at least partially the result of the recession and its effect on students’ stipends and employment and that we can expect these numbers to increase as the world economy begins to recover. The academic level of these members is roughly consistent with prior years: 33 percent are undergraduate students and 67 percent are students at the graduate level.

More From This Issue

  • Surely You Gesture

    Some people keep their hands to themselves when they talk, while others “talk with their hands.” The latter occasionally results in knocked-over beverages, but research shows that gesturing while talking actually helps us think, and even aids learning. Research by University of Chicago psychologists Susan Goldin-Meadow and Sian L. Beilock shows that gestures people produce when they talk aren’t just random hand movements, or solely made for the purpose of emphasis. They actually convey representations of real-world actions that complement and even add to what is being said.

  • Oprah Acknowledges Jessie Gruman and the Center for Advancing Health

    On December 16, 2010 APS Member Jessie Gruman, founder and president of the Center for Advancing Health (CFAH), was recognized by Oprah Winfrey “for her commitment to help Americans when they or their loved ones face the challenges of a serious illness.” Since 1992, the Center for Advancing Health has had the vision that all Americans would be prepared to make good choices about health and health care. This non-profit conducts research, communicates findings and advocates for policies that support everyone’s ability to benefit from advances in health science. Gruman received a personal letter from Oprah acknowledging her exceptional contributions to society.

  • Bartoshuk on ‘What Makes Food Good’

    The Nobel Conference is the first ongoing academic conference in the United States to have the official authorization from the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden. Since 1965, the annual meetings, held at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, have linked a general audience with the world’s foremost scholars and researchers in conversations centered on contemporary issues related to the natural and social sciences. The Nobel Conference aims to bring cutting-edge science issues to the attention of an audience of students and interested adults; and to engage the panelists and the audience in a discussion of the moral and societal impact of these issues.

  • Aha! The 23-Across Phenomenon

    For decades now, I have spent a chunk of my Sunday mornings puzzling over The New York Times crossword. Anyone who shares in this particular diversion knows that, while puzzlers do in fact “puzzle” out some of the answers painstakingly, many others pop into mind in a flash of insight. Dedicated puzzlers savor these eureka moments — they’re effortless and mysterious and they come with an absolute sense of certainty. They are also — there’s no other word for it — joyful. I’m describing my subjective experience, of course, but new evidence is suggesting that I’m not alone in this sensation.