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202007Volume 20, Issue3March 2007

Presidential Column

Morton Ann Gernsbacher
Morton Ann Gernsbacher
University of Wisconsin, Madison
APS President 2006 - 2007
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In this Issue:
Neural Diversity

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.

Up Front

  • Neural Diversity

    Everyone knows the best way to load cutlery into a dishwasher, right? The tines, bowls, and blades (of the forks, spoons, and knives) should be pointed downward into the cutlery basket so that the handles point up. It’s safer that way, and besides, what are the handles for if not for handling the cutlery? Likewise, we all agree that the optimal way to place a roll of toilet paper on a horizontal holder is with the free end (the flap, if you will) on top. It’s prettier that way, even if you don’t fold the edges into those neat little triangles that greet you in upscale hotels. Underwear and socks always live in the top drawer of a bureau, of course, and there’s little doubt that when showering, it’s most logical to shampoo and rinse your hair before lathering and rinsing your body.


  • Going for the Gold: Using Sports Psychology to Improve Teaching and Learning

    Who can resist getting caught up in the enthusiasm of the Olympics, Super Bowl, or NBA playoffs? If you ask most of your first-year students to describe Michael Jordan, Jeff Gordon, or Serena Williams, they can do so easily. Ask the same students about B. F. Skinner, Elizabeth Loftus, or Harry Harlow, and you will likely get blank stares. Whereas students will stay up well past midnight watching their favorite sports, they often feel less driven to focus on academics. And yet, there is hope; we can apply lessons from sport psychology to increase motivation and excitement in the classroom. Theoretical approaches used in sport psychology are relevant to any area in which performance is crucial. For example, musicians in an orchestra, actors in a production, or students enrolled in a class — all experience the same group dynamics and issues as athletes striving for optimal performance.

First Person

  • Learning Disabilities in Graduate School: Closeted or Out in the Open?

    Generations ago, disabilities on campus were associated with wheelchairs and canes. Now disabilities at universities and colleges include psychological impairments, mental illnesses, medical conditions, and learning disabilities. The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) describes a learning disability (LD) as a specific kind of learning problem that can cause a person to have trouble becoming proficient at certain skills (NCLD, 2006). The skills most commonly affected by an LD are reading, writing, listening, speaking, reasoning, and arithmetic. Learning disabilities are becoming more manifest in professional and academic settings. People now have an increased awareness of what learning disabilities look like, making LDs no longer “invisible” in daily life. It is estimated that as many as 2.9 million school-age children (approximately 5 percent of the population) in the United States have a specific learning disability and receive some kind of support (NCLD, 2006). Other reports estimate that one out of every five public schoolchildren in the United States has a learning disability.

  • Champions of Psychology: Saul Kassin

    This is an ongoing series in which highly regarded professors share advice on the successes and challenges facing graduate students. APS Fellow Saul Kassin is Distinguished Professor of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Massachusetts Professor of Psychology at Williams College. After receiving his PhD from the University of Connecticut, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Kansas. He was later awarded a U.S. Supreme Court Judicial Fellowship and served as a postdoctoral fellow and visiting professor in the Psychology and Law Program at Stanford University. He is the author of numerous textbooks and has co-authored and edited various scholarly books, including: Confessions in the Courtroom, The Psychology of Evidence and Trial Procedure, and The American Jury on Trial: Psychological Perspectives. Several years ago, Kassin pioneered the scientific study of police interrogations and confessions, with an emphasis on why innocent people confess to crimes they did not commit and the impact of this evidence on juries.

More From This Issue

  • Gaining Perspectives

    The APS quarterly journal, Perspectives on Psychological Science, had a strong first year of publication. The 21 articles and two editorials featured in the first volume covered a broad range of topics, featured some of the most distinguished researchers in the field, and kept readers current with recent and exciting developments in our science as well as offering valuable historical and biographical information. The founding editor, APS Fellow Ed Diener, is a highly experienced editor, but particularly enjoys editing Perspectives because of the great ideas and articles that have come across his desk over the past year.

  • Documenting a Neuroscientific Revolution in the Making

    We tend to think of science and religion as polar opposites, even antagonistic toward one another, and for good reason: The Catholic Church spent centuries persecuting any scientist who dared to challenge theological dogma, and many modern fundamentalist Christians still have no truck with such robust scientific ideas as Darwinian evolution. But not all religions are so threatened. Buddhists embrace modern science, and none more so than the fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader. Indeed, the Dalai Lama has gone so far as to say that if rigorous science were to disprove any tenet of Buddhism, then Buddhism must change.

  • Life Long Learning at Work and at Home…and at the 19th Annual APS Convention

    Learning does not end when we receive our high school or college diplomas. It continues throughout our lives at home, at work, and in informal settings in our communities. But once we leave the school environment, there is no curriculum that structures our learning experiences. So how do we learn throughout our adulthood? Are we good at it? Do we know what, when, and how to learn? Or have we essentially flunked adult learning? This year under an initiative, Life Long Learning at Work and at Home, a task force of more than 30 members will explore ways to help people stretch learning beyond K-12 and college.

  • Mind-Set Matters

    As the commitment to our New Year’s resolutions wanes and trips to the gym become more infrequent, new findings appearing in the February issue of Psychological Science may offer us one more chance to reap the benefits of exercise through our daily routine. Harvard University psychologist Ellen Langer and her student Alia Crum found that many of the beneficial results of exercise are due to the placebo effect. The surgeon general recommends 30 minutes of daily exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle. While this may be harder for those who are required to sit behind a desk for eight hours, other jobs are inherently physical, like a hotel housekeeper.

  • Hakel Accepts Award for Bowling Green

    Milton D. Hakel, one of APS’s “founding fathers,” was in Washington recently, to accept an award that recognizes achievements in student learning on behalf of Bowling Green State University (OH). The Award for Institutional Progress in Student Learning Outcomes was given by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) at its annual conference in Washington, DC. Out of 31 applicants, Bowling Green was one of just five institutions to receive the award. Hakel, who is Regents Eminent Scholar and Professor of Psychology at BGSU, was instrumental in implementing the policies and programs that earned Bowling Green the award.

  • How Do I Hate Thee?

    Long before pop culture turned “bitchin” into a synonym for cool, “bitch” was one of the more derogatory epithets you could hurl at a woman. Indeed, man’s best friend doesn’t fare well in the human vocabulary of hate: mongrel, cur, the word dog itself — they’re all common insults. And it’s not just canines: Pig, rat, cow, mule, ape — if you want to malign your enemy, borrow freely from the animal kingdom. Why is this? If you want to suggest that someone is less than human, why take it out on the beasts of the earth?