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272014Volume 27, Issue1January 2014

Presidential Column

Elizabeth A. Phelps
Elizabeth A. Phelps
New York University
APS President 2013 - 2014
All columns

In this Issue:
Applying Psychology to Public Policy

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

  • Applying Psychology to Public Policy

      This month’s guest columnist is David Halpern, Director of the United Kingdom’s Behavioural Insights Team.  This innovative team provides a model for other countries demonstrating how psychological science can be utilized to inform government policy decisions. -Elizabeth A. Phelps When governments want advice on the likely impact of their policies, they traditionally turn to economists. Psychologists have been less in demand. The reasons are understandable: Economists have seemed to offer relatively clear and well developed models for predicting behavior, notably “expected utility theory.”  In contrast, the lessons from psychology have often seemed less clear-cut, no matter how interesting or suggestive they may have been. This situation is now changing.


  • 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 bi-monthly 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 non-experts, making them ideally suited for use in the classroom. Shopping for Relationships: Two Sides of the Same Coin? Does Low Self-Esteem Feed Depression? Shopping for Relationships: Two Sides of the Same Coin? by C.

First Person

  • The Many Benefits of an APS Student Membership

    January 2014 Student Notebook Announcements The Student Notebook is seeking advanced graduate students to contribute articles on the following topics: (1) developing a programmatic line of research and (2) establishing a research lab. To find out more information or submit an article, contact the Student Notebook editor, Allison Skinner, at [email protected]. Students submitting to the convention can also have their submission considered for the Student Research Award and RISE Award; apply for the awards when you complete your convention submission online. Please note, you can only be considered for one APS award per year. My journey with APS began as a second-year undergraduate at Penn State University, Erie, when I presented a project at the 19th APS Annual Convention in Washington, DC.

More From This Issue

  • Books to Check Out: January 2014

    Starting this month, the Observer will be publishing a list of recent books by APS members. To submit a new book, email [email protected]. Depression and Drugs: The Neurobehavioral Structure of a Psychological Storm by Martin M.

  • Reenvisioning Clinical Science Training

    A group of eminent psychological scientists articulate a cutting-edge model for training in clinical science in a new special series of articles in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The model — known as the Delaware Project — reenvisions the way in which clinical scientists are trained, and proposes a new way of developing and implementing clinical interventions that integrates clinical practice with the latest scientific research.

  • Clinical Psychological Science: The First Year

    *In 2014, the journal will transition from quarterly to bimonthly. The manuscript submission portal for Clinical Psychological Science (CPS) opened in April 2012, and the first articles were published online in September 2012. Four issues of the journal were published in 2013, completing the first volume year.* I am pleased to note that in September 2013, CPS was accepted for indexing in SCOPUS, the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature. To quote the SCOPUS reviewers: This relatively recent journal published by the Association for Psychological Science is an outstanding publication with high quality articles that are extremely well cited.

  • How to Make Online Learning Effective

    *APS and the Psychonomic Society jointly oversee the William K. & Katherine W. Estes Fund, established in honor of Estes and his wife. The fund supports the development of new programs to support mathematical issues critical to psychological science. According to an article published in The New York Times, 2012 was “The Year of the MOOC” — that is, the massive open online course. These giant classes, offered for free by companies such as Coursera, Udacity, and edX, have generated a stir among researchers and educators.

  • Advances in Integrative Psychological Science

    Increasingly, the excitement in psychological science is in integrative science —  research that spans disciplinary boundaries and geographic boundaries, and that combines different levels of analysis of the same phenomena. At the same time, it is increasingly clear that progress on the big questions involving behavior — whether in health, education, economic productivity, human rights, or other areas — requires multiple scientific perspectives and cross-cutting research that is not rooted in one particular subdiscipline.

  • Naturally Nasty

    An impatient commuter shoves us out of the way to get onto the subway train. The bullying boss enjoys berating us in front of colleagues. The grouch next door yells at the neighborhood kids whenever a kickball accidentally ends up in his yard. We routinely deal with people who seem socially reckless, quick to retaliate at any perceived slight, and unremorseful if not downright sadistic. In truth, though, the modern mantra “mean people suck” fails to capture many underlying drivers of aggression, cruelty, and hostility. Recent work in social neuroscience indicates that the brains of hotheaded people seem to work extra hard to control their outbursts, but for some reason fail.

  • The Elevator Talk

    “So tell me what you do.” A common enough request from a potential colleague who missed a job talk, the leader of an interdisciplinary grant team, a new member of upper administration, a development officer. But despite our best intentions in our response, our listeners often hear: “I am neither able nor willing to communicate effectively about what I do and why it matters, except to people in my own narrow discipline.” Out come the jargon, acronyms, minutiae, and esoterica. What should come out, instead, is the Elevator Talk — a 1–2 minute abstract of “what you do.” It is the quick sell, the 2-minute drill, the abstract of the abstract, the unique DNA of each scholar’s work.

  • The Remarkable Human Self

    Roy F. Baumeister acknowledges that some researchers who ground their work in molecules, genes, or the neural architecture of the brain may not believe in the concept of the self. Scientists have learned enough about the brain to know that no central processing unit controls the numerous, simultaneous cerebral activities that help humans navigate their environments. If the brain operates as “an orchestra without a conductor,” as APS Past President and legendary neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga has put it — can we really believe in the unifying concept of self?

  • ‘Seeing’ Without Seeing

    Close the doors, cover the windows, seal any cracks — the room is now pitch black. You can’t see anything…or can you? New research from psychological scientists at the University of Rochester, Vanderbilt University, and Seoul National University in South Korea suggests that body movements, like waving your hand, can trigger visual sensations, even in the absence of visual information. That is, we may be able to “see” without actually seeing. To conduct the study, the researchers recruited participants with and without synesthesia, a condition in which a stimulus generates an automatic response in more than one sensory system.

  • Damasio Receives Grawemeyer Award

    The Grawemeyer Foundation has named APS Fellow Antonio Damasio, whose research suggested emotions have a critical effect on reasoning and decision-making, the recipient of the prestigious 2014 Grawemeyer Award for Psychology. Damasio, David Dornsife Professor and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California, won the prize for his somatic marker hypothesis, which scholars have since cited more than 30,000 times. He will receive a $100,000 award.

  • Ethical Violations: When One Thing Leads to Another

    Not everyone is destined to follow one ethical transgression with another, but a new study reveals what type of person is likely to be a “repeat offender.” In a series of experiments, behavioral researcher Shu Zhang of Columbia Business School and her colleagues found that people who derive a sense of security from the status quo (prevention focused) are significantly more likely to follow one ethical lapse with another than are people who are comfortable with change (promotion focused).

  • Robert W. Levenson on Unraveling Emotional Mysteries

    Emotion, physiology, and the interaction between them enthrall APS Past President Robert W. Levenson. A 2013 APS Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement and 2014 APS William James Fellow Award recipient, Levenson will deliver an award address, “Unraveling Emotional Mysteries: Insights From Studies of Couples, Cultures, Aging, and Patients,” at the 26th APS Annual Convention in San Francisco, May 22–25, 2014. Levenson’s current research program includes a 20-year longitudinal study focused on how couples in first marriages relate to each other through middle and old age.