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Volume 29, Issue6July/August 2016

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.

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  • Before Dan Ariely launches into explaining the science behind dishonesty, he tells an amusing story: God goes to Sarah and says, “You’re going to have a child.” Sarah laughs and responds, “How can I have

  • The word “parenting” did not enter the popular lexicon until the 1950s, and when it did, said APS Fellow Alison Gopnik, it added fuel to a goal-centered perspective of how children should be raised that

  • What do I value most? It’s a question that comes up frequently in the context of big life decisions, whether we’re deciding what subject to major in, which passions we should focus our efforts on

First Person


  • A Slice of Student Activities at the APS Convention in Chicago

    APS Student Caucus (APSSC) events at the 2016 APS Annual Convention in Chicago provided students with valuable learning opportunities on topics including how to succeed in graduate school and navigate the job market and how to write for a targeted journal audience. Students also had the chance to meet and interact with APS President C. Randy Gallistel (Rutgers University) and other leaders in psychological science during the “Champions of Psychological Science” event. The programming began with three “Naked Truth” panels, which were aimed at breaking down the overwhelming and often foreboding processes of applying to, completing, and moving on from graduate school. “The Naked Truth I: Getting into Graduate School,” chaired by outgoing APSSC Undergraduate Advocate Ashley Gillmor of Pennsylvania State University, had a great turnout to kick off the series.

More From This Issue


  • The Parenting Trap

    The word “parenting” did not enter the popular lexicon until the 1950s, and when it did, said APS Fellow Alison Gopnik, it added fuel to a goal-centered perspective of how children should be raised that

  • The Heart of the Matter

    What do I value most? It’s a question that comes up frequently in the context of big life decisions, whether we’re deciding what subject to major in, which passions we should focus our efforts on

  • On One’s Own Time

    People form a life story for themselves by weaving a temporal tapestry, taking psychological fabric from their past and threading it into their present experience and the future they hope to have. That’s essentially the way APS Fellow Dan P. McAdams described the role that time plays in the human experience. A Northwestern University professor who studies autobiographic memory, McAdams was among five leading researchers who spoke during “The Meaning of Time,” a cross-cutting theme program at the 2016 APS Annual Convention in Chicago. The program explored time perception through cognitive, social, and developmental science perspectives.

  • Diversity as a Must-Have Feature of Science

    Enrique W. Neblett, Jr., issues a call to embrace a manifesto for diverse psychological science. Inspired by APS Fellow Richard McFall’s “Manifesto for a Science of Clinical Psychology” published in 1991, Neblett, an associate professor of clinical psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, suggested his own Cardinal Principle — that the only acceptable and legitimate form of psychological science is one that incorporates diversity. Neblett was among a panel of researchers who gathered at the 2016 APS Annual Convention in Chicago to discuss how psychological scientists can conduct research that recognizes and incorporates diversity in all its forms.

  • Paying Tribute to Janet Taylor Spence

    Across her groundbreaking career, Janet Taylor Spence, who died in March 2015 at the age of 91, was both an inspired researcher and an influential leader. Spence’s many contributions to the field of psychological science were honored in a special symposium organized by APS Past President Kay Deaux and Lucia Albino Gilbert at the 2016 APS Annual Convention in Chicago. Three speakers highlighted the myriad achievements of APS’s first elected president, including her pioneering work on anxiety and the multifaceted nature of gender identity, as well as her many accomplishments as an editor and science communicator.

  • Psychology and Technology: A Premium Blend

    Whether they’re conducting industrial/organization studies or analyzing brain scans, psychological scientists are proving to be anything but Luddites. In “Advancing Psychological Science Through Technology,” a cross-cutting theme program at the 2016 APS Annual Convention in Chicago, a panel of researchers demonstrated how technology can be used to strengthen data collection, track brain activity, and test groundbreaking clinical interventions.

  • Sunday’s Science Smorgasbord

    The science was bountiful right up to the last second of the convention. Symposium Sunday provided convention attendees with a feast of discovery on cognition, behavior, methodology, and more.                                          

  • Sizing Up Magnitude

    From fitness trackers that monitor our heart rates and daily steps to the number of “likes” on our latest social media update, the world is becoming an increasingly quantified place. Though we may not be aware of it, our own estimations of magnitude and scale bias our senses and decisions in a number of surprising ways, profoundly influencing everything from our social lives to our business decisions. In an interdisciplinary symposium, “The Origins and Consequences of Magnitude Estimation,” at the 2016 APS Annual Convention in Chicago, four speakers discussed a diverse sampling of new research on the basic mechanisms and biases that underlie our appraisals and approximations.

  • Are Neutral Faces Really Neutral?

    When your face is relaxed and visibly devoid of any emotional expression, do people see a neutral affect or do they perceive something else entirely? A symposium at the 2016 APS Annual Convention in Chicago featuring APS Fellow Ursula Hess, Aleix M. Martinez, D. Vaughn Becker, Daniel N. Albohn, and Reginald B. Adams examined just how unemotional our neutral faces really are and explained how people often derive meaning from these expressionless faces nonetheless.

  • Tracing the Source of Children’s Racial Attitudes

    How children learn about race, ethnicity, and religion depends largely on how their parents present information about different individuals and groups during crucial developmental periods. As part of a symposium at the 2016 APS Annual Convention in Chicago, three developmental psychological scientists examined the important role that parents play in shaping children’s developing attitudes toward individuals from other groups. Researcher Nicole M. Summers (Saint Louis University) is interested in how parents discuss Islam with their non-Islamic children.

  • Who’s to Blame?

    Although bullies, thieves, and swindlers typically draw our scorn, research suggests that the fault we assign in crimes, accidents, and altercations is far more nuanced than we realize. In the symposium “Understanding Blame and Compassion for Transgressors and Victims,” psychological scientists presented new findings about how people parse out blame — and compassion — in various situations. Janice Nadler, a professor at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, shared findings about the ways a transgressor’s minor character flaws can harden our judgments about that individual, even when the flaws have little or nothing to do with the offense at hand.