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192006Volume 19, Issue7July 2006

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.


  • Getting the Most Out of Your Student Ratings of Instruction

    How do you react after reading your student ratings of instruction? How is it that professionals with advanced degrees who have taught for decades can be devastated or elated based on a comment or two from an 18-year-old student? But we are. We are because it is difficult to discover, or be reminded, that what we do in the classroom does not always work or is not always appreciated by ALL of our students. Well, get over it. Rather than fret, stew, deny, blame, curse, or whine, we can accept student ratings as valuable feedback and consider how we can use them to improve our teaching. We offer the following suggestions for getting the most out of your student ratings. Choosing Rating Content. We begin by reminding you that what is put into ratings at the start influences what you can get out of them. We are referring to both the content of the rating forms and their administration.

First Person

  • APSSC Board – 2006-2007

    President Andrew Butler Washington University in St. Louis Andrew Butler is a fourth-year doctoral student at Washington University in St. Louis in working with Henry L. (Roddy) Roediger, III. Butler's research primarily focuses on how cognitive psychology can be applied to enhance educational practice. This work revolves around the idea of using testing as a learning tool (as opposed to a means of assessment) to promote comprehension and long-term retention of classroom material. Other research interests include the influence of attitudes on memory in social contexts (e.g., politics, culture), encoding and retrieval processes, prospective memory, false memories, collective memory, and memory systems. He served previously on the APSSC Board as the Graduate Advocate during 2005-2006.

More From This Issue

  • How Many Seconds to a First Impression?

    You’ll never get a second chance to make a great first impression.” We’ve all heard that an interviewer, or a stranger at a party, will form an impression of you, your character, your personality —

  • Chun Wins Troland Research Award

    APS Member Marvin Chun, Yale University, received the Troland Research Award from the National Academy of Sciences. The $50,000 prize is awarded every year since 1984 to two young (under 40 years old) researchers in recognition of unusual achievement in empirical psychological research.

  • AAAS Elects 2006 Fellows

    In recognition of their contributions to the advancement of science, five APS Members were recently elected Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences: APS William James Award recipient and APS Fellow, William Greenough, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; APS Fellow Reid Hastie, University of Chicago; APS Fellow and Charter Member Rachel Keen, University of Massachusetts-Amherst; APS Fellow and Charter Member Nora Newcombe, Temple University; and Richard Aslin, University of Rochester. The 2006 Class of Fellows consists of 175 leaders in all disciplines ranging from economics to poetry and biochemistry to journalism.

  • Une petit yogurt, s’il vous plait

    Americans typically eat yogurt out of 8-ounce containers. By contrast, the typical yogurt in a French market weighs just more than half that, about 125 grams. This seemingly pointless fact may hide a fundamental psychological truth about how humans make all sorts of choices in life. That at least is the theory of University of Pennsylvania psychologist Andrew Geier and his colleagues, who are studying what they label "unit bias." The number one, they argue, is a "natural unit," and in the realm of food and diet that means one serving. The French don't double up on their tiny yogurts to get the same volume of food or caloric intake as Americans.

  • Happy in Spite of Ourselves

    Fans of the long-running TV sitcom Seinfeld will remember the episode in which Jerry realizes he is "Even-Steven." Everything in his universe balances out. He has an important work gig cancelled, but before he can wallow in his disappointment a different opportunity unexpectedly presents itself. He loses a $20 bill, and the same amount of cash somehow finds its way back to him. The episode ends with his girlfriend breaking up with him. She expects hand-wringing, but instead she gets an unfazed shrug: "That's fine," he says cheerfully. "Someone else will come along." He likes being Even-Steven. And who wouldn't like such certainty?