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192006Volume 19, Issue3March 2006

Presidential Column

Michael Gazzaniga
Michael S. Gazzaniga
University of California, Santa Barbara
APS President 2005 - 2006
All columns

In this Issue:
Toward the Tipping Point

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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    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.

Up Front

  • Toward the Tipping Point

    In this issue and in the May issue, APS Members will have the opportunity to learn about new work by psychologists who are bringing their research out of the laboratory and into a variety of education settings (e.g., elementary school classrooms, Web-based tutoring systems, etc.). Their work represents some of the innovative research supported through the Cognition and Student Learning research program of the Institute of Education Sciences. The Cognition and Student Learning program was one of the Institute's first three research programs. We have received over 400 applications for this program since 2002 and funded 35 projects representing an investment of nearly $28 million. The investigators include some of the finest cognitive scientists in our country.

APS Spotlight

  • The Mountain States Conference on the Teaching of Psychology

    In October, 2005, two things came together: 1) the APS Teaching Fund which encouraged psychologists from around the country to plan conferences on the teaching of psychology, and 2) my long held conviction that an active, hands-on approach to teaching is much more effective than the traditional lecture method. After several months of planning, mailings and organizing, the Mountain States Conference on the Teaching of Psychology was held in Albuquerque on Friday and Saturday, October 21-22. It was sponsored by the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and Albuquerque TVI Community College and emphasized innovative approaches in the teaching of the introductory course plus several advanced courses.


  • Teaching Quantitative Reasoning

    How can psychology contribute to the public good? The Human Capital Initiative (HCI) report, prepared with the assistance of APS, cites an important means of doing so: helping people to improve their statistical reasoning. "The goal of learning statistical reasoning" it notes, "should be to develop better statistical 'instincts,' not just knowledge of particular statistical procedures" (Human Capital Initiative, 1998, p. 24). Those instincts are crucial to contemporary life, for, as the National Council on Education and the Disciplines (Steen, 2001, p.

More From This Issue

  • Principles of Cognitive Science in Education

    There is a long history of eminent psychologists — Woodworth, Cattell, Thorndike, G. Stanley Hall, Skinner, Bruner, Piaget — devoted to human education. Ironically, cognitive scientists — who have perhaps the most to offer through well-researched principles of learning and memory — have, only recently, felt in position to contribute. Fortunately, for students who study ineffectively, who frequently neither know what they do not know nor how to remedy it, and who end discouraged by thwarted learning aspirations, there has, recently, been a surge of involvement from cognitive scientists, spurred by the IES program.

  • Test Enhanced Learning

    The key idea underlying our research is that frequent classroom testing (and student self-testing) can greatly improve education from kindergarten through university. This is a bold claim that runs counter to current wisdom in educational circles, where many teachers and administrators decry emphasis on standardized testing in the schools and "teaching to the test" rather than encouraging creativity. Further, some argue that classroom testing takes away valuable class time that could be used for instruction or discussion. However, in a system of test enhanced learning, we emphasize testing as an aid to learning, a practice that should be part and parcel of a good educational system.

  • The Science of Learning and the Learning of Science

    Students' performance during instruction is commonly viewed as a measure of learning and a basis for evaluating and selecting instructional practices. Laboratory findings question that view: Conditions of practice that appear optimal during instruction can fail to support long-term retention and transfer of knowledge and, remarkably, conditions that introduce difficulties for the learner — and appear to slow the rate of the learning — can enhance long-term retention and transfer.

  • Temporal Spacing and Learning

    Studies going back a century and more have found that spacing learning episodes across time sometimes enhances memory. The so-called spacing effect is the topic of hundreds of articles, and one might assume that we know all we need to know about it. However, the subtitle of an article on spacing effects that Frank Dempster published in American Psychologist in 1988 — "A case study in the failure to apply the results of psychological research" — remains appropriate now. Whether one looks at classrooms, instructional design texts, or language learning software, there is little sign that people are paying attention to temporal spacing of learning.

  • Wired History

    With just a few clicks of the mouse, there they are: over 250 of the most historic works in the history of psychology. The site, Classics in the History of Psychology (, was developed by Christopher Green at Toronto's York University. It is a collection of texts ranging from Bandura's famous Bobo doll studies to Broca's initial write-up about his patient, Tan (in the original French), and even William James' Principles of Psychology, reproduced in its entirety. Green and his colleagues have collected works spanning the entire history of psychology, and they have made them available in one easily searchable online resource.

  • New Perspectives Coming this Month

    The inaugural issue of APS's new journal, Perspectives on Psychological Science, arrives in mailboxes this month. This much awaited, new addition to APS's journals will be distributed to all current APS members as a benefit of membership at no additional charge. Look for an extensive selection of articles this quarterly journal offers. Perspectives on Psychological Science will provide substantial reading of standard reviews, theoretical articles, interrelated articles, articles accompanied by author commentary, overviews of distinguished research programs, empirical studies, biographies and autobiographies, opinion articles, commissioned articles, book reviews, and even humor.

  • Textbooks: Not just for your syllabus anymore

    While the idea of a "favorite textbook" may be an oxymoron for students, a good one can affect more than just a grade. Spurred by a New York Times writer who claimed that no one remembered a favorite text or curriculum, John Kihlstrom (University of California, Berkeley) set about exploring the favorite textbooks of today's psychologists. Kihlstrom, an APS Fellow and Charter Member, conducted an informal poll of the members of three psychological societies: the Society of Experimental Psychologists, the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology, and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. The respondents mentioned over 130 books, and several were resounding favorites.

  • Just Published

    "Just Published" announces new books by APS Members. If you have published a book within the past year, e-mail a brief description of the book to [email protected]. Brain Gender Melissa Hines 2005 Oxford University Press ISBN: 019518836-5 307 pages How important are biological factors, such as sex hormones, in shaping sexual destinies? Do they make men aggressive and women nurturing? Do they explain sex differences in intellectual interests or occupational choices?

  • Opening Skinner’s Box Causes Controversy

    A team of behavioral researchers has published a study that questions the authenticity of a chapter from Lauren Slater's book, Opening Skinner's Box, in which the author resurrects a volatile experiment that for years damaged the public's faith in psychiatric assessment. In the November 2005 issue of the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Robert Spitzer and his co-authors were unable to confirm Slater's re-creation of David Rosenhan's 1973 experiment, in which people feigned psychosis to get into mental hospitals. A rebuttal written by Slater argues that the researchers are inappropriately using academic research to criticize a book from the popular press.

  • Test-enhanced Learning

    Every student hates tests, and teachers often aren't fond of them either. A pain to study for and a pain to take, they are also time-consuming to give and to grade. No wonder then, that many college professors give tests so infrequently, sometimes just twice or three times in a semester-long course. But new research by Henry L. Roediger, III and Jeffrey D. Karpicke of Washington University in St. Louis shows that not giving tests may be bad educational practice — and not just for the obvious reason that tests make students study. In two experiments, the researchers showed that being tested — even without additional studying — improved long-term retention of material.

  • Putting Psychology Out to Pasture

    Later this month the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association's annual School for Successful Ranching will include a session on "Cow Sense — Understanding Bovine Psychology." Fourth-generation rancher and career cowboy Joel Ham of Big Lake, Texas, will lead a session on the key to successful low-stress cattle handling. Ham will detail the basic behavioral instincts of cattle and explain why handling results are directly related to an understanding of how cattle think and react. While no science apparently was harmed (or used) in preparation for this presentation, obviously there's more than one way to milk psychology.

  • Disaster Relief

    Six months after Hurricane Katrina displaced residents of the Gulf Coast areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, relief efforts are still underway. By now, most of the thousands of faculty and students have returned to their home institutions — despite the reality that it still may be some time before they are completely settled. After the August hurricane struck, APS Members and universities from across the United States opened their homes and labs to those in need. In a continued effort to lend a hand to colleagues in the affected areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, APS Members are offering them a complimentary membership for 2006.

  • Malcolm in the Middle

    It takes Malcolm Gladwell exactly one sentence into the first chapter of his book, Blink, to mention a psychologist. That's not counting the three others he already mentioned in the book's introduction. In Blink, Gladwell discusses the power of first impressions, so one's attention is drawn to these early psychological references for a revealing glance into the author's own essence. "I don't really have a formal intellectual agenda," he says, "because I depend on psychologists to come up with new things for me to think about." (Observer photo by Sari Goodfriend) Gladwell, who is primarily a writer for The New Yorker, goes on to cite nearly two dozen more psychologists in Blink.