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Volume 22, Issue6July/August 2009

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.’

First Person


  • In Search of Funding

    It goes without saying that graduate school is a busy time for students. Research, training, and manuscript writing occupy many hours due to the emphasis that many programs place on producing original research. One activity that many graduate students tend to overlook, however, is grant seeking: the process of finding and applying for funding to defray the expenses of research and training. Although some graduate students are aware of funding opportunities, many do not take the time to investigate them in-depth because they rely on their faculty advisor or department to secure funding. Given the competitiveness of the job market in psychological science — especially in academia — graduate students should strive to develop grant seeking skills in order to demonstrate initiative and independence, traits highly prized by employers.

More From This Issue


  • Student Events at APS 21st Annual Convention

    Past APSSC President Kelli Vaughn-Blount leads the Students Teaching Students panel. Each convention, the APS Student Caucus (APSSC) delivers a full slate of student-oriented events for undergraduates and graduate students alike. This year’s program included symposia that recognized outstanding student research, as well as innovative workshops and panels. Student affiliates who attended the APS 21st Annual Convention received valuable information about graduate school, keys to publishing, and practical teaching tips. In addition to supplying indispensible information, these events provide excellent opportunities to connect and network with esteemed researchers and fellow students.

  • Members in the News

    Dan Ariely, Duke University, NPR (Marketplace), May 4, 2009: Predictably Irrational. Ozlem N. Ayduk, University of California, Berkeley, The New Yorker, May 18, 2009: Don't! The secret of self-control Emily Balcetis, Ohio University, Scientific American Mind, Oct 1, 2009: Illusions of steepness and height. Jay Belsky, Birkbeck College, University of London, Newsweek, Apr 17, 2009: Kids, Genes, and Daycare. Marc G. Berman, University of Michigan, The New Yorker, May 18, 2009: Don't! The secret of self-control George A. Bonanno, Columbia University, New York Times, Jan 10, 2009: The Loss Response: Down and Out - or Up.

  • Gender Differences in Space

    Gender stereotypes were put to the test in APS Fellow and Charter Member Nora S. Newcombe's Psi Chi Distinguished Lecture at the APS 21st Annual Convention, entitled "Women Hate Maps, Men Won't Ask for Directions: Fact or Myth?" Newcombe, a Professor of Psychology and the James H. Glackin Distinguished Faculty Fellow at Temple University, contends that any difference between the sexes in navigation ability has been overblown and is not supported by research.

  • ‘Tis the Season

    For APS Fellow Irving Zucker, there really is a reason for the seasons — or at least the seasonal rhythms of mammals — and it's melatonin. Zucker studies biological and behavioral rhythms generated by an internal timer set by environmental changes in day length. "The first reason [to study seasonal rhythms] is that behavioral phenotypes change markedly as a function of the seasons," said Zucker. "And if you stop and think about it, an organism having to cope with spring and summer conditions has to engage in different kinds of behaviors than it would in the middle of winter.

  • Feeling the Road: Tactile Warning Systems for Drivers

    Robert Gray How is it even possible to text behind the wheel? But people do, adding one more activity to the growing list of driver distractions, along with shaving, reading the newspaper, putting on makeup, eating, watching movies (yes, even in the front seat), using the GPS, and of course, talking on the cell phone. Then of course there's also driving under the influence, whether it's alcohol, drugs, fatigue, or anger; cognitive decline; or some other temporary or permanent impairment that reduces response time.

  • Faith in a Higher Power: The Study of Religion in Psychology

    Azim Shariff Michael Inzlicht, University of Toronto, opened the "Toward a Cognitive Science of Religion: Insights From Personality and Social Psychology" symposium in a somewhat unorthodox fashion: "By show of hands, who in this room would say they have a personal belief in God or religious affiliation." After noting that roughly 10 – 20 percent of the standing-room-only crowd had raised their hands, he commented, "That's about right in terms of degree of religious belief among psychologists." Although religious belief is a cornerstone for roughly 85 percent of the world's population, it has never been the most popular subject of study among psychologists.

  • Sugar, Stress, and Sex

    Christa McIntyre "So, apparently, putting 'sex' in the title really brings people out," Ewan McNay, University at Albany, the State University of New York, joked as he opened the symposium "Sugar, Stress, and Sex: How Hormones Affect Cognition." He was right — the room was packed, and everyone was there to hear the latest research on the effects of sugar (as in glucose), stress (as in glucocorticoids), and sex (as in estrogens) on the hippocampus and other regions of the brain. McNay, who co-chaired the symposium, discussed his own work on sugar — or rather, on the sugar-governing hormone insulin.

  • New Interventions for Productive Aging

    Cindy Lustig A very special guest was in attendance at the APS Convention symposium on "New Interventions for Productive Aging," sponsored by the National Institute on Aging: Angela Little, an Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. At the age of 89, she exercises every day and learns new languages. As her nephew, symposium speaker and APS Fellow Arthur Kramer (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), bragged, "she is the perfect example of productive aging." How does she do it? And can we be like her?

  • The Neuroscience of Social Interaction

    The neurological bases for social interaction are the focus of a growing interdisciplinary research enterprise involving psychologists and neuroscientists who are hard at work unravelling the mysteries of human social behavior. At the APS 21st Annual Convention, Kevin Ochsner of Columbia University chaired the symposium "The Neuroscience of Social Interaction" featuring findings from research into how we perceive others and how we use those perceptions to evaluate or empathize with them. Ralph Adolphs of the California Institute of Technology explores which areas of the face we use to distinguish subtle differences in facial expressions.

  • Emotion Regulation in Older Age

    Derek Isaacowitz speaks while James Gross and Mara Mather look on We tend to think that as we get older everything goes downhill, from backs that creak to more frequent "where did I put my keys?" moments. But, following the pioneering work of APS Fellow and Charter Member Laura Carstensen, a cadre of researchers has documented a paradoxical effect of aging — that despite physical and cognitive decline, older adults seem to be more attuned and responsive to positive emotions than are younger people.

  • Stressed-Out Genes? How Social Environment Affects Health

    Cornelius Gross The last few years have seen a veritable explosion in gene-environment interaction research. At the cutting edge of this work is a growing understanding of how environmental stress interacts with genes in ways that affect health, the topic of the "Gene-Environment Interplay in Stress and Health" Theme Program, which was chaired by Tim Strauman of Duke University, at the APS 21st Annual Convention. Ahmad R. Hariri of Duke University started off the program, by exploring the neural and genetic underpinning of human anxiety responses to threat. Correlational research has shown a connection between anxiety and increased risk for psychiatric disorders.

  • Calm, Cool, and Collected: Research on Affect and Emotion Regulation

    Alicia Grandey Sooner or later, we're all a slave to our emotions, whether we're yelling at the driver who just cut us off in traffic or crying after Bambi's mother dies. However, we are usually able to control or minimize these emotional outbursts to at least create the façade of an "even keel" for those around us. But what does this suppression cost us? And do these submerged feelings surface in other ways we may not notice? Researchers addressed these questions and others at the "Emotional Ups and Downs: Experiencing, Self-Regulating, and Capitalizing on Affect" theme program at the APS 21st Annual Convention.

  • An Architectural Tour of the Mind

    Dario Maestripieri The "The Architecture of the Mind" theme program exemplified the overall theme of this year's convention, "Crossing Boundaries: Becoming a Cumulative Science." This unique program brought together six speakers from psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, and biology to discuss recent findings about how the mind allows us to, among other things, interact with others, understand emotions, and communicate with language. Topics included how behaviors are influenced by genes and environment, how the architecture of the mind is formed, and the ways in which behavior can shape the mind.

  • The History of Women in Psychology

    Ann Johnson The "History of Women in Psychology" symposium at the APS 21st Annual Convention provided a glimpse into the history and challenges women psychologists have faced, through the eyes of both historical researchers and two pioneering women who lived that history. Ann Johnson of the University of St.

  • Psychological Science and Health Care Policy

    Gerd Gigerenzer There are many areas of psychological research that inform the public, but few are more crucial than health care.  Enter two reports — one about experimentally supported treatments in mental and behavioral health care and another about the proper interpretation of health statistics — published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest (PSPI) and discussed during the annual Psychological Science in the Public Interest symposium at the APS 21st Annual Convention.

  • Inside the Psychologist’s Studio: Gordon Bower

    National Medal of Science winner Gordon Bower sat down with APS President Walter Mischel for the annual "Inside the Psychologist's Studio" event at the APS 21st Annual Convention. The two long-time friends and colleagues discussed Bower's ascent as one of the world's most influential psychologists. Bower was born in a small town named Bowerston, OH, where, he noted, "three-fourths of the people were named Bower; one-quarter were named Gordon." At a young age, Bower felt driven to succeed, a motivation he now attributes to his father. Bower's father had sacrificed a career as an international traveling businessman to return home to take care of his ailing parents and the family business.

  • Science is the Story in ‘Lie to Me’

    Robert Levenson (left), Paul Ekman and Josh Singer A bit of Hollywood came to the APS 21st Annual Convention. APS Past President Robert Levenson moderated a fascinating discussion of how science becomes television by APS Fellow and Charter Member Paul Ekman, whose work on emotion and facial expression is the basis of the Fox TV show 'Lie to Me,' and Josh Singer, a writer/producer from the show. From Science to Scintillating Although clinical psychologists and psychiatrists have been featured on television for decades, 'Lie to Me' is the first fictional show (at least in Levenson's memory) to feature a lead character who is a psychological scientist – Dr.

  • Measuring Magnitude

    Linda Bartoshuk My entire family loves pickles — except me. At our family reunion there are several large jars of pickles on the table, and when the day is done, one of my uncles drinks the pickle juice from each jar. The only time I have eaten a pickle was for a contest that I was determined to win, and let's just say it didn't sit so well. I am not a pickle fan, a character flaw generously overlooked by my relatives, at least so far. My family and I clearly differ immensely when it comes to taste. Who's to say that the saltiness or sweetness that I hate about pickles isn't the very reason that my cousins love them?

  • Intelligence and How to Get It

    Richard Nisbett It's a truism most people don't have too much trouble with, at least on the surface: Some folks are smarter than others. But patterns of intelligence-test scores and academic achievement also reveal pretty clearly that some groups are smarter than others, too, and that's a fact that makes socially progressive people (including many psychologists) uneasy. How do we explain group differences in intelligence? Is it nature, nurture, or some combination? Over the years, many researchers have been persuaded that there is a sizable genetic component. The Bell Curve, a 1996 book on the subject by Richard J.

  • The New Genetics

    Frances Champagne Back in the day, when you learned about genetics and evolution in school, it was all about Mendel and Darwin or more recent refinements of their basic ideas. As a bit of historical amusement, they also taught you about that other guy, Lamarck, who had oh-so-foolishly believed that traits acquired during an individual's lifetime could be passed on to offspring. They led you to think that silly notion was at the bottom of the dustbin of old, discredited science, right down there with the theory of bodily humors or an Earth-centered cosmos. Who would have thunk it, that we are finally seeing the rehabilitation of poor old Lamarck in the new era of epigenetics?