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262013Volume 26, Issue6July/August 2013

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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    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.

First Person

  • Students Chart a Career in Psychological Science

    The APS Student Caucus (APSSC) held a host of events designed to get aspiring psychological scientists engaged and connected. It began with the Student Social held at Uptown Tap House in Washington, DC, during which students enjoyed drinks, music, dancing, and an opportunity to mingle with their peers before the start of the 25th APS Annual Convention. Despite the heavy rain, it was a great sensation with a turnout of more than 350 students. The following morning, APSSC Membership and Volunteers Officer Andrew S. Sage (University of Missouri, Columbia) led a productive meeting with Campus Representatives. In an effort to increase communication with student affiliates and to “put a face” on APSSC, the APS Campus Representatives create a network of liaisons at many colleges.

More From This Issue

  • Orchestras Without a Conductor

    A conductor standing with hands at his sides while the orchestra performs a flawless symphony — that’s how the brain works. At least, that was the metaphor offered by Michael S. Gazzaniga of the University of California, Santa Barbara, in his keynote address at the 25th APS Annual Convention. Gazzaniga argued that the brain’s specialized regions may converse with each other rather than take direction from one primary leader. “Maybe the brain is full of local interactions that are simply coordinated in some way,” he said. Gazzaniga has been studying the distinct roles of the brain’s left and right sides for half a century.

  • From Molecules to the Mind

    How fitting that memory was the topic of this year’s presidential symposium, as APS looks back in celebration of its first 25 years. Fitting, too, because the theme echoed that of a symposium at the very first APS convention held in Arlington, Virginia, in 1989. The 2013 panel of speakers — much like their predecessors — toured the science of memories, from the cells that encode them to the brain areas that retrieve them to the social experiences that spark them in the first place.

  • Brain Differences Are Not Always Deficits

    The public can’t seem to learn enough about the brain, judging by the abundance of popular articles, books, and TV programs that seek variously to demystify its inner workings, prevent its decline with aging, or train it to be smarter. But often lost is the fact that not all brains are the same. APS Past President Morton Ann Gernsbacher challenges us to think about how we view differences in brain structure and function. While some researchers have used neuroimaging to identify common phenomena, Gernsbacher and others have turned their sights toward identifying atypical neural function and structure.

  • Biological Bases of Social Behavior

    The outcomes of our social behavior are clear and present just about every minute of every day — in fact, many of us publish them online rather obsessively (thanks, Facebook; thanks, Twitter). But the biological sources guiding these interactions remain hidden from plain view. An interdisciplinary theme program at the 25th APS Annual Convention burrowed into the brain for a look at these underlying social roots. Shinobu Kitayama of the University of Michigan has documented signs of cultural differences embedded in the brain.

  • Mastering Our Passions

    The pursuit of emotion regulation is as timeless as it is universal. It was apparent to whoever wrote the age-old Hindu proverb, “Conquer your passions and you conquer the world.” And it was equally clear to the philosopher Descartes, who once advised, “The principal use of prudence or self-control is that it teaches us to be masters of our passions.” Wherever and whenever people have had strong feelings, they have also been struggling to keep them in check. “Although emotions are often functional, they’re not always functional,” said James J. Gross of Stanford University, during a theme program on emotion regulation at the 25th APS Annual Convention.

  • Psychological Scientists Call for Paradigm Shift in Data Practices

    Fabricating data to support an a priori hypothesis is the ultimate sin in scientific research. But what about throwing out an “outlier” or two? Or reporting some, but not all, of the measures you tested? These questionable research practices tend to fly under the radar, but they present a real challenge to the rigor and replicability of science. Scientists discussed these practices and the steps that can be taken to combat them during the “Good Data Practices” symposium at the 25th APS Annual Convention. The symposium was part of the “Building a Better Psychological Science: Good Data Practices and Replicability” theme program.

  • Multitasking in the Automobile

    David L. Strayer has spent more than a decade studying the fundamental factors that impair drivers and lead to automobile accidents. Some distractions — like talking or texting on a smartphone — are already widely recognized as dangerous. But much of Strayer’s work focuses on cognitive distractions that occur even when people keep both hands on the steering wheel and their eyes on the road. In June, Strayer made national headlines with a report on cognitive distractions behind the wheel.

  • A Legend in the Study of Rumination

    Susan Nolen-Hoeksema of Yale University, a pioneer in the field of rumination, died in January at the age of 53 following heart surgery. A half dozen speakers — many of them scientific and academic protégés, and many of them choking up at times — gathered at the 25th APS Annual Convention to remember her life and work. Her husband, Richard, was on hand to receive the James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award on her behalf. “Susan would be highly honored to receive this award,” he said in a statement. “She has held high regard for APS since its beginning in 1988.

  • Paul Meehl: A Legend of Clinical Psychological Science

    When Paul Meehl died 10 years ago, he left behind a rich legacy of scientific thought. He was not only professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota; he also taught psychiatry, philosophy, neurology, and law.  Meehl influenced research in a range of areas, from psychiatric classification to psychometric assessment, and his publications have been cited more than 25,000 times. Above all, he urged clinical psychologists to align themselves with scientific principles. “Paul Meehl was the most influential clinical psychologist of the second half of the 20th century,” said Scott O.

  • Organizational Researchers Honor J. Richard Hackman’s Legacy

    J. Richard Hackman spent nearly a half century exploring the dynamics of teamwork and effective leadership, leaving an indelible mark on the field of organizational psychology. Hackman, a 2013 APS James McKeen Cattell Fellow, passed away in January, and a few of his former students and collaborators gathered at the 25th APS Annual Convention to honor his legacy. Hackman’s research identified the conditions and leadership styles that foster effective team performance.  His findings emerged from fieldwork involving sports teams, corporate boards, musical groups, hospital staffs, and others.

  • New Frontiers in the Science of Positive Emotions

    The notion that positive emotions play a critical role in our well-being is not new. By studying the evolutionary origins of emotions and emotions’ specific effects on our health, scientists are discovering that positive emotions don’t just make you feel good — they have an impact on our social interactions and health outcomes that may become written in our genes. At a symposium during the 25th APS Annual Convention, psychologist Sara B. Algoe offered an overview of her work on the adaptive advantages of gratitude. Algoe studies the role of emotions in social interactions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

  • Beyond the Guild

    Despite the recent national focus on increased access to health care, 55 percent of counties in the United States still have no practicing psychiatrists, psychologists, or social workers. It is clear from such arresting statistics that mental health-care delivery needs radical change. Clinicians and researchers are beginning to think beyond the guild — the federation of psychologists and psychiatrists who provide traditional mental health services — to find new and innovative ways to reach underserved populations in rural and urban communities.

  • NIMH’s New Framework for Classifying and Researching Psychopathology

    For years, practitioners and researchers alike have been anticipating the completion of the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the DSM-5. Those following the creation and release of this new manual have surely heard the controversy and conflict surrounding the changes and revisions included in this new issue. Among the many criticisms of the manual are arguments that DSM lacks validity because the diagnoses are based on clusters of symptoms rather than on objective laboratory measures. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recognized this weakness inherent in the DSM diagnosis system and felt that mental health patients deserved better.

  • Uncovering Neurodevelopmental Origins of Psychosis and Adolescent Mental Health: A Tribute to Elaine F. Walker

    Elaine F. Walker’s influence can be measured in her stellar publishing records, her many awards, and the number of her former students who have gone on to acclaimed research careers of their own. At the 25th APS Annual Convention, Walker received the 2013 APS James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award. In a symposium at the Convention, three of her students discussed their research interests and how they were inspired by Walker, the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Emory University.

  • PSPI Reports: Effective Study Techniques, Power of Misinformation

    While effective learning strategies are integral to improving student outcomes, many students’ favored learning techniques flunk the test. That was the verdict from Elizabeth J. Marsh of Duke University, as she presented her research team’s findings at the fifth annual Psychological Science in the Public Interest (PSPI) Symposium at this year’s Annual Convention. The event was hosted by James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award recipient and PSPI editor Elaine F. Walker. Another recent PSPI author presenting at the symposium was Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Western Australia and Bristol University in the United Kingdom.

  • Undergraduate Education at NSF

    While a passion for scientific and technological innovation and the promise of a career with above-average job prospects may lead many undergraduate students to declare a major in a scientific field, fewer than half of them will actually complete their degree in one of these areas, according to a 2012 report by the National Center for Education Statistics. There are several organizations committed to better understanding and addressing these gaps in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and retention, including the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF’s Division of Undergraduate Education manages a host of programs in teaching and education research.