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Volume 9, Issue4July/August 1996

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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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Up Front

  • Psychological Science at the Grass Roots

    I was a graduate student in the psychology department at the University of Wisconsin in the 1950s. My first experiences with the larger field of psychology beyond my own graduate program were at the Midwestern Psychological Association (MPA) meetings. It was a most exciting time---the heyday of Hull-Spence theory, operationism, and the explosion of empirical research in psychology. The MPA programs were the science of psychology at the time. Even more exciting for a student were the sometimes heated, but always entertaining, all-night debates among scientists such as Kenneth Spence, Judson Brown, and Harry Harlow. Last year I had the honor of serving as President of the Western Psychological Association (WPA). The scientific programs at the WP A today are every bit as good as they were at the regional meetings in the "good old days." The subject matter may have changed, but the quality of science remains very high. Indeed, in my activities as President of the WPA and of APS, it is very clear that the regional psychological associations have much more in common with APS than with the American Psychological Association (APA).

  • Behavioral Research at NICHD

    Historically, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) has always supported research on behavior and psychological growth as fundamental to understanding both normal development, as well as a myriad of diseases. But while behavioral research was seen as important even at the time of NICHD's establishment in 1962, the ensuing three decades have seen an increasingly critical emphasis on understanding the effects of behavior on health and development. From unintended pregnancy and infertility, to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the list of conditions that may, in some cases, be affected by individual psychology and behavioral choices is growing exponentially. We all know, too, that the way in which people seek and/or adopt interventions largely determines the outcome of a disorder. For example, we now know that the prevention of unintended pregnancy is an area in which behavioral research is absolutely critical. Currently, unintended pregnancies account for approximately 60 percent of all pregnancies in the United States. Although not all unintended pregnancies are unwanted, they still may hold certain implications, which may be dire, for the child.


  • On Critical Thinking

    Several years ago some teaching colleagues were talking about the real value of teaching psychology students to think critically. After some heated discussion, the last word was had by a colleague from North Carolina. "The real value of being a good critical thinker in psychology is so you won't be a jerk," he said with a smile. That observation remains one of my favorites in justifying why teaching critical thinking skills should be an important goal in psychology. However, I believe it captures only a fraction of the real value of teaching students to think critically about behavior. What Is Critical Thinking?