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192006Volume 19, Issue6June 2006

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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  • Thumbnail Image for Disaster Response and Recovery

    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.


  • Make Your Teaching and Your Life More Enjoyable

    This job is miserable; the workload is unbearable, there are too many students, and there are not enough hours in the day to do all the things I need to do. I am so tired and burnt out I can hardly get up to go to work in the morning! Have you ever heard anyone say something along these lines, or worse, said something like this yourself? Well, we are government employees, and we are here to help you. There are steps you can take to make your work more satisfying and your life more enjoyable. It seems like over the years many faculty members do roughly the same thing semester after semester while continually undertaking additional responsibilities— a recipe for stress and unhappiness. We are all familiar with the conditions in academia that help to siphon the joy and meaning out of our lives: things such as teaching the same classes over and over, too many needy students, too much committee work, insufficient resources, piles of paperwork, and time pressures and deadlines.

  • Dealing With Students Missing Exams and In-Class Graded Assignments

    Teachers often become more aware of students' out-of-class activities than they might wish. Announcements and memos from the dean of students inform about sporting teams and their games and tournaments, forensics, service learning conferences, community-based work, and the like. And teachers quickly become familiar with student lifestyles and illnesses ¾ mono, strep throat, hangovers, the opening of deer and fishing seasons, quilting bees, family vacations, and their family mortality statistics. The relationship between exams and mandatory in-class work and the death of students' cousins and grandparents is so high it should be a concern of the National Center for Disease Control. Given all this, it is a certainty that students will miss exams and other required activities. What is a teacher to do? If you want to hear colleagues express frustration, ask them about make-up exams and assignments. Despite knowing intellectually that such absences will occur, teachers hope and pray, even in public institutions, that all of their students will take exams as scheduled.

First Person

  • Recruiting and Retaining a Quality Research Team

    A quality research team is essential to conducting psychological research. While it is certainly possible to hand out surveys yourself, often research is far too complex for independent data collection. Perhaps you need confederates for your experiment. Perhaps you need to collect data when you are not physically available to do the work yourself. Sometimes you may need to collect so much data that it is infeasible to do it alone, or have so many components to your design that it is impossible to execute them alone. These are all common areas where a research team can be of assistance. However, quality research teams can provide valuable contributions beyond data work.

More From This Issue

  • Why Bowlers Smile

    In March 1980, Senator William Proxmire (D-Wisc) awarded the National Institute for Mental Health a Golden Fleece Award for funding research on why bowlers, hockey fans, and pedestrians smile. According to the press release accompanying the announcement, the Senator wasn't bowled over by the research, puckish though it might have been. Robert E. Johnston and I conducted this research (Kraut & Johnston, 1979). It was a serious study of the evolution of human facial expressions, inspired by a course on human ethology that we had taught in 1977, and was one of the first published experiments in what would eventually become evolutionary psychology.

  • The Golden Fleece Award: Love’s Labours Almost Lost

    In 1975, I and two of my colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, Mary Utne O'Brien and Jane Traupmann Pillemer, were collaborating on a major research program. We were attempting to determine the extent to which the major cognitive and emotional theories could tell us something about the nature of passionate love and sexual desire. We had a bit of money to work with since the National Science Foundation had awarded us a tiny grant designed to allow us to investigate the importance of social justice and equity in romantic exchanges.

  • What We Can Do

    The Golden Fleece is a thing of the past, but the threat to our field that his Award represented is very much alive. Many in the executive and legislative branches of the federal government have attacked the behavioral sciences, and this continues up to the present. And it's not just federal officials: Even our colleagues in other sciences have been known to express similar criticism of our work. Why are the behavioral sciences so widely attacked, and what can we do about it? Before addressing these questions, let me establish the experiences shaping my views. I have logged 20-plus years as a behavioral scientist and faculty member.

  • The Miller’s Tale

    George Miller, the man who launched the cognitive revolution, traces his scientific pedigree back to genesis. No, not that Genesis; the genesis of experimental psychology. The APS Fellow and Charter Member's chain of "begats" begins with Wilhelm Wundt, who started it all in his lab in Leipzig, Germany, in 1875. Wundt taught Edward Titchener, who brought experimental psychology to Cornell University and taught Edwin Boring, who in turn taught S.S. "Smitty" Stevens, who taught Miller in his laboratory at Harvard. Miller went on to rub intellectual shoulders with some of the sharpest minds in the pantheon of 20th-century psychology: Alexander Luria, Jean Piaget, J.C.R.

  • A Miser, Not an Ideologue

    On the sullied rolls of science bashers, the late William Proxmire is firmly established as a master by virtue of his Golden Fleece Awards, for government support of research projects deemed loony and wasteful by the Wisconsin Senator. But before legend surpasses reality, it might be useful to recognize that Proxmire, despite the distress he created among researchers, fired off relatively harmless potshots compared to the ideological assaults currently directed at the scientific enterprise.

  • Going the Distance Takes More Than Meets the Eye

    How do humans perceive distance? To say "with our eyes" seems obvious. But when gauging the distance to a destination one is walking or throwing something to — or performing any of the other countless daily activities that require knowing how far away things are — there's much more to it than meets the eye. New research in perceptual psychology is revealing that when we mentally judge distances, our eyes have help from the rest of our body, as well as from our emotions. There are also situations, such as when braking to avoid a collision on the highway, in which we may not actually even gauge distance at all. In his perception laboratory at the University of Virginia, Dennis R.

  • $200 Million Gift Supports New Center for Neuroscience at Columbia

    Columbia University announced in March that it received a $200 million donation to build a major new facility to host its Mind, Brain, and Behavior initiative. Although many details remain to be determined, the Jerome L. Greene Center is expected to increase opportunities for collaborative research, teaching, and community outreach across the neurosciences. The unprecedented gift, said to be the largest ever received by an American university for the creation of a single facility, was donated by Dawn M. Greene and the foundation named for her late husband, Jerome L. Greene.

  • New Prize for Cognitive Science

    APS Fellow John Anderson has been awarded the inaugural Dr. A. H. Heineken Prize for Cognitive Science by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Anderson received the honor in recognition of his decades of contributions to cognitive science, particularly his development of the Adaptive Control of Thought-Rational (ACT-R) theory, which was the first theory that integrated the assorted mechanisms underlying human behavior. According to Anderson, "It is a sign of the growing importance of cognitive science that the Heineken Prizes in science have been expanded to include an award for our field.