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Volume 22, Issue3March 2009

Presidential Column

Walter Mischel
Columbia University
APS President 2008 - 2009
All columns

In this Issue:
Academic Career Values and Choices: Two Perspectives

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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Up Front

  • Academic Career Values and Choices: Two Perspectives

    Two contributions that follow in this issue — speaking clearly but in very different voices and emerging from contrasting professional and life stages — provide distinctive but complementary perspectives on core issues raised in my presidential columns on academic life, values, and career choices faced on the road to tenure and beyond in our science. A View From The Chancellor’s Office: Nancy Cantor At the height of a stellar psychological science academic career, Nancy Cantor morphed into leadership roles at the highest levels of university administration, and she currently is Chancellor and President of Syracuse University. In this interview she discusses with me (her mentor at Stanford University 30 years ago) her views and feelings about the state and mission of academic psychological science in today’s world, and in the future.


  • From Psychobabble and Gobbledygook to Improved Vocabularies and Substantial Lexis

    vo·cab·u·lary: 1 : a list or collection of words or of words and phrases usually alphabetically arranged and explained or defined 2 : a sum or stock of words employed by a language, group, individual, or work or in a field of knowledge (retrieved from In academic disciplines, teaching students the vocabulary of that field is essential to their understanding of the discipline. In psychology, there are literally thousands of terms and definitions that are necessary to understand the field. The APA Dictionary of Psychology is a weighty tome (4.5 lbs!) containing some 25,000 terms and phrases. And flip to the back of any psychology textbook and peruse the length of the glossary — it is no wonder students sometimes feel as if they are taking a foreign language when enrolled in a psychology course.

First Person

  • Non-Academic Careers: Plan A, Plan B, or Simply Curious

    Few graduate students have a clear idea of what an academic career entails before they enter their programs. Eventually, some decide that they do not enjoy the prospect of remaining on an academic path (Basalla & Debelius, 2007; Johnson, 2003). Regardless of whether this decision is made before or after obtaining a degree, graduate students should be aware of career options outside of academe (Basalla & Debelius, 2007). Perhaps you already know that you do not want to pursue a career in academia, perhaps you are undecided, or maybe you are interested in learning about alternative options “just in case” (Vick & Furlong, 2005). It may be that you want a non-academic job, but do not know what exactly you would like to do and where to begin the search. Even if you know what you want to do, you still may have this nagging feeling that you are selling out. You are not.

More From This Issue

  • The Galton Whistle

    In the mid-1800s, Sir Francis Galton was presented with a dilemma. He wanted to test hearing ability for higher frequencies but did not have a piece of equipment to adequately measure them. Using some scientific ingenuity, he went about creating an object to produce the sound frequencies he wanted to study. He ended up with a small brass tube with a slit at the end of it. Air would be forced through the tube, coming out at the slit as an audible tone. Along the tube a siding piece could be maneuvered up or down the tube to create different frequencies. The sliding plug was marked so that precise notes could be recorded in research.

  • PCSAS Outreach

    As Executive Director of PCSAS (Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System), I have been conducting an active outreach campaign on two main fronts: federal recognition and support of this new accreditation system, and financial development for implementing the system. The campaign’s debut was an article in the May 27, 2008, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education announcing the birth of PCSAS.

  • Psychological Clinical Science and Accreditation: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

    A single, unified scientist-practitioner clinical psychology training model, forged 60 years ago at a conference Boulder, Colorado, tweaked and tattered over the decades, has now been torn asunder. In its wake, a new accreditation system has emerged that reaffirms a commitment to the prepotent role of science in clinical psychology training. Should We Care? We all will come into close contact with mental illness during our lives. Estimates are that one in four adults and one in five children in the U.S. have a diagnosable mental disorder that impairs normal functioning.

  • Update on the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System

    As many know, an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on May 27, 2008 (Available here), marked the public unveiling of the development of a new accreditation system for clinical science, the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS). Not surprisingly, more questions were raised than were answered by the Chronicle article. This article attempts to provide background and answer some of those questions. First, who are the players and what are the goals of the new accreditation system?

  • Nancy Cantor: A View From The Chancellor’s Office

    As a distinguished social psychologist, Nancy Cantor is revered for her work on how we perceive our social environments, pursue goals, and adapt to changing and challenging social settings. She now brings her perspective as a psychological scientist to her current role as President and Chancellor of Syracuse University. Throughout her distinguished career on both the research and administration sides of academia, Cantor has received numerous honors.

  • A Rightful Place for Science. But Where Is It?

    “We’ll restore science to its rightful place...” President Barack Obama, Inaugural Address. Where is that place? The President didn’t say, which is fair enough, given that inaugural addresses mainly consist of chapter headings for plans and hopes. But the line drew cheers from the scientific establishment, which had long and bitterly complained of disrespect and indifference throughout the Bush administration, i.e., lack of an influential perch in high places. The location of the right place for science in U.S. government affairs is difficult to establish.

  • Psi Chi’s Summer Research Grants

    Partnering with APS, Psi Chi, the National Honors Society in Psychology, offers grants for undergraduate research conducted during the summer. Winning students receive a $3,500 stipend, and faculty sponsors receive a $1,500 stipend. Winning students receive a complimentary annual membership to APS. Following are profiles of previous grant recipients. For more information on this program, see William Acklin University of Central Arkansas Faculty sponsor: APS Member Shawn R.

  • On the Newsstand

    Eyewitness Testimony Takes a Few More Hits Popular Science January 30, 2009 “According to the Innocence Project, a legal group devoted to exonerating the wrongly incarcerated, mistaken eyewitnesses account for three quarters of convictions later overturned by DNA evidence. Now two new reports in the journal Psychological Science suggest that eyewitness reports may be even more prone to inaccuracy than previously thought, even when memories are fresh in one’s mind, and especially when someone confesses. ” Coverage of “Recalling a Witnessed Event Increases Eyewitness Suggestibility: The Reversed Testing Effect” in Psychological Science (Jason C.K. Chan, Ayanna K. Thomas, and John B.

  • Observations

    Driving Under the Influence (of Stress): Regional Effects of 9/11 Attacks on Driving A number of studies have shown that people who lived closest to the sites of the 9/11 terrorist attacks experienced heightened levels of stress and anxiety in the months following the attacks. Research has also indicated that elevated levels of stress can greatly impact day-to-day behaviors such as driving. Alexander J. Rothman and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota analyzed records obtained from the U.S.

  • Psychological Research Inspires New Television Series ‘Lie to Me’

    The truth is, we all lie. That’s a basic assumption of the new television series “Lie to Me,” which follows human lie detector Dr. Cal Lightman (played by Tim Roth) as he attempts to solve criminal cases by finding the truth in suspects’ minute facial expressions and gestures.  Lightman is inspired by real-life lie detector, APS Charter Member and Fellow Paul Ekman, who has spent 50 years researching and characterizing facial expressions and body movements. In the past 30 years, his research has focused on how to detect when a person is lying merely by observing tiny, fleeting, and generally involuntary facial expressions and gestures called microexpressions.