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Volume 18, Issue3March 2005

Presidential Column

Robert W. Levenson
Robert W. Levenson
University of California, Berkeley
APS President 2004 - 2005
All columns

In this Issue:
Collaborations: Elaborations and Celebrations

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.

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    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.’

Up Front


  • The Academic Observer Responds

    Answers to letters regarding the column, 'Why Are Textbooks So Expensive?' I appreciate the many constructive comments exploring various points of view on the issue of textbook prices. Those appearing in this issue's Forum are only a small selection of e-mails received by the Observer commenting on my column "Why Are Textbooks So Expensive," published in January 2005. Yes, I was representing the author's point of view and not that of a bookstore manager, partly because I have not seen the author's perspective injected into this debate and partly because I'm not a bookstore manager. Authors and publishers often receive the blame for the price of books without the issue being examined from our vantage. Apparently some bookstore owners don't appreciate examination of their roles in the mix of factors that contribute to high textbook prices. Although I respect the writers' commentary and criticism, it does not seem to me that my essential points were addressed, much less challenged. To wit: 1) Margin of profit on new books (or the markup charged by the bookstore) has generally increased over the years.

  • Collaborations: Elaborations and Celebrations

    Befitting the season (February 14 approaches as I write this), this column is a Valentine to collaborations. I want to share some general thoughts about collaborations and to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to two people I have collaborated with over many years, both of whom have recently retired from university life. I am also hoping that this column might spawn an Observer article or series on other lasting, durable, and productive collaborations in our field. To John On Our 30th - To Paul on Our 25th Recently John Gottman and I got together in San Francisco with family and friends to celebrate a milestone. Thirty years ago, when we were both on the faculty at Indiana University, we met and started a collaboration that has now spanned three decades. Throughout professional and personal lives that have seen great changes, this collaboration has been a constant. It is surely a lot different now than it was way back when, but it is still a source of pride, and it has spawned a rich set of memories, adventures, struggles, and accomplishments that made our recent gathering a wonderful occasion.

APS Spotlight


  • Alternative Futures for Our Science

    This article is adapted from Walter Mischel's talk at the plenary session on "The Future of Social-Personality Psychology," presented at the annual conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, January 20, 2005, in New Orleans. When I think about the present and future of the field of social and personality psychology, the opening line from Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities comes to mind: “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” To start with the worst of times (as psychologists always do), when there's a session about the future of a field you know it's because people see big troubles on the horizon — usually long after the troubles have already started to hit. Of course, social and personality psychologists have had deeply insightful self-awareness of problems, and crises of identity, for a long time — it's become part of an old tradition of self-criticism without reform.

  • Advice to Social Psychology Grant Writers

    By now, all social psychologists know that our access to basic research funding at the National Institute of Mental Health has been dramatically curtailed. Many parties are working for viable long-term solutions: the American Psychological Society, the American Psychological Association, and the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences all are lobbying on our behalf. A combined (Society for Experimental Social Psychology/Society for Personality and Social Psychology) advocacy task force has launched important projects to sell the relevance of our field to society. At every institution, senior faculty need to inform chairs and deans that junior faculty may not necessarily be expected in the short run to have research grants in social psychology. Some vital information — useful both in the short term and in the long term — comes from a recent report of a working group of the Advisory Council to the Director of the National Institutes of Health. Members of the working group familiar to social psychologists include Robert Levenson, Laura Carstensen, James Jackson, Bruce McEwen, and me.

Practice


  • The Academic Observer Responds

    Answers to letters regarding the column, 'Why Are Textbooks So Expensive?' I appreciate the many constructive comments exploring various points of view on the issue of textbook prices. Those appearing in this issue's Forum are only a small selection of e-mails received by the Observer commenting on my column "Why Are Textbooks So Expensive," published in January 2005. Yes, I was representing the author's point of view and not that of a bookstore manager, partly because I have not seen the author's perspective injected into this debate and partly because I'm not a bookstore manager. Authors and publishers often receive the blame for the price of books without the issue being examined from our vantage. Apparently some bookstore owners don't appreciate examination of their roles in the mix of factors that contribute to high textbook prices. Although I respect the writers' commentary and criticism, it does not seem to me that my essential points were addressed, much less challenged. To wit: 1) Margin of profit on new books (or the markup charged by the bookstore) has generally increased over the years.

  • Teaching Tips from Experienced Teachers

    Teachers wanting to take their game to a new level are hungry for what this Observer page offers: tips for effective teaching, tips for teaching that informs, stimulates, energizes, and even entertains. My favorite teaching tips, presented here, have been gleaned from the collected advice of master teachers and seasoned with my own experience. Some years ago, my collection began to extend beyond Bill McKeachie's classic Teaching Tips (2002). During an extended discussion of teaching tips for new teachers, experienced teachers participating in Bill Southerly's Teaching in the Psychological Sciences listserv (http://faculty.frostburg.edu/psyc/southerly/tips) offered their secrets of success. Here, drawn from the discussion, are my 10 favorites, in italics, with my own reflections: Be positive. Correcting mistakes is important, but so is catching students doing something right and reinforcing them. Poet Jack Ridl, a revered professor on my campus and Michigan's Carnegie Professor of the Year, harnesses this principle in his teaching of writing (as I can vouch from Jack's mentoring me with his feedback on several thousand pages of my writing).

First Person


  • Champions of Psychology: Laura A. King

    As part of our ongoing series with psychology's leading professors, Laura A. King, University of Missouri-Columbia, recently shared her advice for success and challenges facing graduate students. King is a distinguished personality researcher interested in what qualities constitute "the good life." Her research concerns how our daily- and life-long goals relate to subjective well-being, physical health, personal growth, and personality development. APSSC: What were the most and least rewarding aspects of graduate school for you? KING: No question, the most rewarding aspect of graduate school was doing research. It was an amazing time of being thoroughly engrossed in the research process — every day, every moment. I was one of those insanely enthusiastic students who fell in love with the process. It was no coincidence that the work we were doing was focused on things like daily goals, daily diaries, etc. Getting to know everyday people that way was remarkably fulfilling to me. No matter what you ultimately study, any research experience is worthwhile, because you are gaining tools you'll use forever. Also rewarding for me were the quantitative classes I took.

  • If I Could Turn Back Time

    Hindsight is always 20/20, and it is the lucky few of us who can look back with a confident satisfaction that all our decisions were the best ones to make. I'm a fifth-year PhD candidate in psychology, and though I have many found successes to look back on from the past several years of my academic journey, there are also a number of decisions I would have made differently. If I could turn back time to the beginning of my graduate career, I'd whisper this friendly advice into my own novice ears: Take Time to Adjust Every student will have different paths, but regardless of whether you're making the transition from undergraduate school or work to a graduate program, take the time to adjust. While I don't suggest taking an extended length of time to adjust to a new life in graduate school, it is important to become gently immersed in the environment and to become familiar with the department's research programs and faculty, as well as with your advisor. Finding a thesis topic is very important, which is why you should take the time to formulate an idea thoroughly.

More From This Issue


  • Lost in Translation

    Within days of the earthquake that struck northwest of Sumatra, Indonesia, triggering a tsunami that barreled across the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Tsunami Warning System, or PTWS, announced plans to expand its network to the Indian Ocean and other possible trouble spots. In place since 1949, the PTWS generates data about earthquakes and potential tsunamis in the Pacific area and disseminates that information to at-risk areas. On the PTWS Web site, officials said that such a system, had it been in place, could have significantly reduced the loss of life in Asia. But one psychologist believes it would have taken more than technology to avert the tragedy.

  • Could Reality Shows Become Reality Experiments?

    See Also: Reality Check That was the question posed to APS Board Member Barbara A. Spellman, University of Virginia, who founded the APS Committee on Human Subject Protection. Spellman breaks down which reality shows would pass, which would not, and which would not even be considered. The first question is, why don't reality game shows have to get Institutional Review Board approval? The answer: They are not research. According to the Code of Federal Regulations, research studies are "systematic investigations designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge." But certainly many reality shows touch on issues that could make great questions for behavioral researchers.

  • Distinguishing Experiment and Research From Philosophy

    The American Journal of Psychology begins its 117th year of publication in 2005. At a time when psychology journals abound in great numbers and are increasingly specialized and narrow in their subject matter and target audience, AJP and a few other journals continue the tradition of general experimental psychology. AJP is the first and longest continually publishing journal in the English language devoted to experimental psychology. Since 1887, when G. Stanley Hall founded the publication, AJP has had only eight editors in chief: Hall from 1887-1921; Edward Bradford Titchener, 1921-1925; Karl M.

  • Behavioral Research at NIMH

    Several issues were raised in the Observer article ("Hitting the Bricks," February 2005) about NIMH funding for basic behavioral science that can benefit from clarification. First let me state that behavioral science is crucial to our success in meeting the very serious — and growing — challenge of reducing the burden of mental and behavioral disorders. Refining phenotypes, detecting gene-behavior-environment interactions, developing diagnostic tests and new interventions for prevention and treatment, and enhancing rehabilitation and recovery all require basic behavioral science.

  • Observations

    Gazzaniga to Direct Science of Learning Center The National Science Foundation has awarded $21.8 million to Dartmouth College to establish the Center for Cognitive and Educational Neuroscience, or CCEN. APS President-elect Michael S. Gazzaniga, who will direct the center, formally received the award at the annual meeting of the Science of Learning Centers, or SLC, in January. The project will seek to understand how education changes the brain and to develop techniques for educators at the K-12 and undergraduate levels.