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172004Volume 17, Issue3March 2004

Presidential Column

Henry L. Roediger, III
Henry L. Roediger, III
Washington University in St. Louis
APS President 2003 - 2004
All columns

In this Issue:
What Happened to Behaviorism

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.

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    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.

Up Front

  • What Happened to Behaviorism

    The year 2004 marks the centenary of B. F. Skinner's birth. I doubt that most members of the American Psychological Society (and even a smaller proportion of all psychologists) will pay much attention. After all, hasn't behaviorism passed from the scene? Don't we live in the age of the cognitive revolution, which still roars along and dominates most subfields within psychology? Doesn't the field of animal learning psychology, the spawning ground of behaviorism, belong to the 1950s, the same era as black and white television, three TV channels, and antennas on the house? Many readers in APS would probably answer yes to all three questions. If this is the right answer - and as you'll see, I don't necessarily think it is - then we can ask what happened. Let's go back a hundred years when psychology was a new field.

APS Spotlight

  • Affect Valuation: Theory, Measurement, and Cultural Variation

    Most people want to feel good. What people actually do to feel good, however, varies considerably. For example, some people surf, while other people sunbathe. Differences in people's behavioral choices may be in part due to differences in affect valuation [or the affective states that people value and would ideally like to feel]. People who surf may value excitement, while those who sunbathe may value calmness. Surprisingly, little research has been conducted on affect valuation. The notion of affect valuation could potentially account for inconsistencies between the psychological and anthropological literatures. On one hand, empirical studies in psychology suggest that affective experience has a high degree of heritability, and therefore, is biologically influenced. On the other hand, ethnographic accounts in anthropology suggest that affective experience is culturally constructed.


  • Faculty-Librarian Collaboration

    Some folks come to the college library fully expecting the experience be excruciatingly dull, and we are not necessarily referring to students. If truth be told, as a faculty member, I (first person throughout refers Sharon Hollander) probably would not have partnered with a librarian or even made my way across campus for a visit. However, one of my courses, "Psychological Basis of Education," mandates a library orientation session for students. Once in the session, I was impressed with the bibliographic instruction, or BI. I also realized that the majority of my students did not know how to navigate the library and make the best use of its resources. The era of the library as a quiet, orderly repository for scholarly knowledge is gone.

First Person

  • Psychology All-Stars with Paul Ekman

    RECENTLY, PAUL EKMAN shared words of wisdom on pathways to success for graduate students. Ekman is a professor of psychology in the department of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School, and is renowned for his work on emotion and interpersonal deception. APSSC: Why did you choose psychology? PAUL EKMAN: I was studying Freud in a course on rhetoric and was very intrigued. My goal then was to be a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. I didn't change that goal until after I got my PhD. I was drafted in the army where there weren't a lot of opportunities to do psychotherapy, but there were many research opportunities where I could change how the army did things for the better. APSSC: How did you select your graduate program?

More From This Issue

  • Why Did You Study Psychology?

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  • Silver to Advise Homeland Security

    APS Fellow and Charter Member Roxane Cohen Silver was recently named to a new nine-member national advisory panel on homeland security, the Academe and Policy Research Senior Advisory Committee. Silver, a University of California, Irvine psychology professor and the only psychologist on the committee, is a nationally recognized expert in stress and coping. She is the principle investigator in an ongoing national study of psychological responses to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, funded by the National Science Foundation.

  • Designing for Dissemination: For Rimer, Driving Application Means Using a New Map

    IN PERHAPS THE SPIRIT of Frank Lloyd Wright, master architect, urging a client to accept the stylistic dialogue between his building and its surrounding environment, Barbara K. Rimer is urging the scientific community to identify dissemination as inextricable from the research process, and therefore a fundamental part of the landscape. "What I'm doing is really trying to build [dissemination] into studies from the start," Rimer said.

  • Our Beastly Selves: Exorcising the Ghosts of Anthropomorphism

    In his classic 1872 book, The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals, Darwin wrestled with the challenges associated with interpreting animal behavior. Can we use psychological attributes to refer to animals in the same way we use them to describe other humans? When Darwin argued that emotions exist in both human and nonhuman animals, his work was branded as anthropomorphic, inappropriately projecting human characteristics onto animals. Ever since, many scientists have been reluctant to attribute mental states to animals, a trend that was exacerbated by the rise of behaviorism with its emphasis on external, directly observable behavior.

  • Jamesland a Delightful Visit

    A FEW YEARS AGO, my husband Richard L. Rapson, an American historian, and I were having breakfast with the great Henry James biographer, Leon Edel, and his younger brother, Abe, a philosopher at the University of Pennsylvania. We'd invited them to meet Tim Naftali, who'd just finished a book called One Hell of a Gamble, in which he discussed (among other things), the complex relationship that had existed between the brothers Fidel and Raúl Castro at the time of the Bay of Pigs invasion. As breakfast progressed, all these friends were arguing and talking at once. They discoursed about complex sibling relationships, particularly those of the Castro and the James brothers.

  • The Secret Vita

    A flurry of correspondence came to me after my January 2004 presidential column, "Vita Voyeur." It turns out that when I listed several types of vitae toward the end of the column, I missed one: The Secret Vita. Or, if one prefers a less sinister name, The Nonacademic Vita. Such vitae leave off all the usual academic claptrap that I wrote about last time and instead list items from the individual's other passion (or perhaps his/her real passion). Just such a Secret Vita has come to my attention, which belongs to Arthur Reber. He is noted for studying processes involved in implicit learning, but his Nonacademic Vita, below, indicates that his other passion is poker. ARTHUR S.

  • Expressing Genetic Information

    Last April, scientists announced the completion, with greater than 99.99 percent accuracy, of the Human Genome Project, the culmination of a publicly funded, 13-year international effort to sequence the three billion DNA letters contained in the human genome. Now behavioral and social scientists are being tapped to address the issues that arise when we learn the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of our genetic profiles. What will be the Human Genome Project's payoff in lives saved and suffering spared? How will this unprecedented access to our genetic blueprint - and to our individual genetic quirks - affect people's health behaviors, medical decisions, and family-planning choices?

  • ‘Highly Cited,’ Highly Controversial

    The "Highly Cited" list of psychologists that the Institute for Scientific Information posted on the Internet has unleashed a squall of controversy about the list's relevance and, more broadly, the use of citations as an indicator of influence in the field. Following the summer 2003 Internet publication of the list of 242 psychology and psychiatry researchers who had, according to the ISI databank, toted up the most citations from 1981 to 1999, messages began flashing across cyberspace like lightning.