image description
Volume 27, Issue6July/August 2014

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.

APS members receive the Observer newsletter and may access the online archive going back to 1988.

Looking to connect with the Observer? Visit the About page to learn about writing for us, advertising, reprints, and more. We’d love to hear from you. If you have questions about your subscription, please email APS@psychologicalscience.org.

Latest Under the Cortex Podcast

Trending Topics >


  • 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


  • Student Events at the 2014 APS Convention

    The APS Student Caucus (APSSC) hosted a number of exciting events at the APS Annual Convention in San Francisco. Students enjoyed complimentary food and drinks at the APSSC Convention Kickoff and Student Social held at Jillian’s, a sports bar and lounge in lively downtown San Francisco. The social provided an opportunity for students to mingle and chat with their peers before the convention began in full force. More than 300 students made an appearance and kept the party going until midnight. APSSC programming began the next morning with the Campus Representatives Meeting.

More From This Issue


  • Old cracked concrete surface.

    The Roots of Stress

    You probably don’t need statistics to appreciate the pervasive role of stress in American life, but the numbers are there if you do. A recent Stress in America survey found that a quarter of adults

  • Extreme Memory

    On the stage, memory researcher Henry L. Roediger, III, spoke random digits at a rate of one every 2 seconds. A few feet to his left, memory athlete Nelson Dellis sat in a chair absorbing each one. Dellis hunched over, his hands pressed over his eyes, his face a bit red with intensity. After Roediger announced the 100th digit, Dellis leaned back and asked for a moment to let it all sink in. He was going to recite the digits — all 100 — back to the audience, in order. A crowd never sat so silent in anticipation. Roediger and Dellis had spent the past hour revealing the secrets of mnemonic memory as part of the Bring the Family Address at the 2014 APS Annual Convention.

  • Both Ends of the Developmental Continuum

    Most people carry two copies of chromosome 21, but people with Down syndrome carry three copies. This chromosome is the location of the amyloid precursor protein (APP), which produces the beta-amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Beta-amyloid plaques accumulate in the brains of all people with Down syndrome, said APS Board Member Annette D. Karmiloff-Smith, Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom, in an invited address at the APS Annual Convention.

  • Using Technology to Scale the Scientific Mountain

    S. Alexandra Burt likes to compare science to a hike up a mountain. The physical exercise might be refreshing, and the wind in your face might be invigorating. But the journey as a whole is long and slow and filled with very deliberate steps. The result is that many scientists often restrict their sights to hills or low peaks. “What technology allows you to do is take that to the next level,” said Burt, an associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University. “You can really go for Everest-style mountains.” The metaphor made a fitting introduction to a day-long theme program about science and technology at the 2014 APS Annual Convention in San Francisco.

  • Exploring the Psychological Science of Violence

    Violence is one of the most widespread, if oftentimes inexplicable, forms of human behavior. From motive to method to outcome, violence spans all demographic boundaries and is the subject of widespread study by psychological scientists. Four eminent researchers at the 2014 APS Annual Convention examined factors that might shed light on the violence that humans encounter on a daily basis. APS Fellow Adrian Raine of the University of Pennsylvania focused on prenatal circumstances that may influence violent behavior. He cited a Dutch study showing that children whose mothers have poor nutrition during pregnancy are 2.5 times more likely to develop antisocial personality disorder.

  • From Principles of Cognitive Science to MOOCs

    For more on MOOCs, see video of this symposium and coverage of the earlier Estes Symposium on MOOCs held at the annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society in November 2013. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home,” said Ken Olsen in 1977. Olsen founded Digital Equipment Corporation, a major player in the computer industry between the 1960s and 1990s — but even as an expert intimately involved in technology, Olsen couldn’t foresee that in 2014 consumers around the world would want smart machines in their homes and in their pockets, as APS Past President Henry L. Roediger, III, joked during the Psychonomic Society–APS William K.

  • A Year of Reproducibility Initiatives: The Replication Revolution Forges Ahead

    Adhering faithfully to the scientific method is at the very heart of psychological inquiry. It requires scientists to be passionately dispassionate, to be intensely interested in scientific questions but not wedded to the answers. It asks that scientists not personally identify with their past work or theories — even those that bear their names — so that science as a whole can inch ever closer to illuminating elusive truths. That compliance isn’t so easy. But those who champion the so-called replication revolution in psychological science believe that it is possible — with the right structural reforms and personal incentives.

  • What Big Data Means For Psychological Science

    Major advances in computing technology, combined with the vast digital networks and the immense popularity of social media platforms, have given rise to unimaginably large troves of information about people. It’s estimated that the amount of digital data in existence today is in the thousands of exabytes — or 10 to the 18th power of bytes. This era of Big Data has enormous potential to change the way psychological scientists observe human behavior. But just as it creates new opportunities, access to huge chests of information also creates new challenges for research, said Michael N.

  • Changing Neurobiology With Behavior

    When people think about the relationship between the brain and human behavior, they generally tend to think in one direction. The brain drives behavior: end of story. However, the relationship is more complex, as conveyed at the “Changing Neurobiology With Behavior” theme program at the 2014 APS Annual Convention. Darlene D. Francis (University of California, Berkeley), R. Alison Adcock (Duke University), Daphne Bavelier (University of Geneva, Switzerland), and Amit Etkin (Stanford University and the Palo Alto VA) discussed their research demonstrating how behavior can influence and change our brain.

  • Integrating Research and Clinical Practice

    The current system for training clinical psychologists emphasizes a scientist–practitioner model, in which clinicians take best practices from the research world and integrate them into patient treatment. Although ideal in theory, the reality of clinical training and practice is a large gap between research and clinical components. Clinicians realize the integration needs to improve. This thinking led a group of researchers and practitioners to band together to form the Delaware Project, with the aims of redefining clinical science training and improving intervention design and implementation.

  • Science That Serves the Public

    Applying psychological science to promote public cooperation and the responsible use of technology in education were the themes of the Psychological Science in the Public Interest (PSPI) symposium at the 2014 APS Annual Convention. PSPI author Craig Parks of Washington State University reviewed some of the highlights from his recently published report (coauthored with Jeff Joireman of Washington State University and APS Fellow Paul A. M.

  • Butler Builds a Culture of Research

    Many faculty mentors consider the APS Convention a can’t-miss event for their students — and nowhere is that attitude more apparent than at Butler University, a small private university located in Indianapolis. Butler joined research giant University of Michigan and three California schools in the top five institutions by number of submissions to the 2014 APS Annual Convention. Forty Butler undergraduates and eight faculty members made the trek from Indiana to San Francisco this year. What’s more, Butler was also a top-five submitter in 2012 and 2013.

  • Exploratorium Harnesses the Power of Visitor Participation

    Science museums are educational playgrounds, packed with interactive, informative, and engaging exhibits that teach people about science by involving them in it. But the Exploratorium in San Francisco is taking visitor involvement to a whole new level — visitors don’t just learn by doing, they become active participants in real scientific research under way on the museum floor. This fall, a new set of exhibits based on psychological science will be making its official debut at the Exploratorium, said Hugh McDonald, principal investigator on the project. McDonald and colleagues from the Exploratorium detailed the project in a symposium presented at the 2014 APS Annual Convention.

  • Scenes From Convention

    Over 4,300 people attended the 2014 APS Convention in San Francisco, May 22–25. Browse these photos to relive the fun to or see what happened at the meeting if you were not able to attend.      

  • Remembering the Stanford Prison Experiment

    Hundreds of people gathered in the APS Exhibit Hall to meet the scientist responsible for one of the most famous psychology experiments of the 20th century. The line was long, stretching down one side of the huge room and winding around a corner, but APS Fellow Philip G. Zimbardo’s admirers were not deterred. Zimbardo’s 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment is famous in the social psychology literature and beyond.