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Volume 23, Issue3March 2010

Presidential Column

Linda Bartoshuk
Linda Bartoshuk
University of Florida
APS President 2009 - 2010
All columns

In this Issue:
Learning to Like Foods

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

  • Learning to Like Foods

    In previous columns, we have distinguished between the hard-wired affect associated with taste (especially our love of sweet and salty tastes and dislike of bitter tastes) and the learned affect associated with flavor (i.e., retronasal olfaction). APS Fellow Anthony Sclafani has played a major role in our understanding of the mechanisms that result in learned preferences for food flavors.  In this interview, he and I discuss conditioned food preferences and the interaction of these preferences with hard-wired affect for taste. In addition, we examine the status of fat. Fat obviously has textural properties (e.g, greasy, oily, creamy, viscous, thick). But, does it have a taste as well? Are we born loving fat, do we have to learn to like it, or is our love of fat some combination of the two?

APS Spotlight

  • Champions of Psychology: Cynthia García Coll

    Cynthia García Coll is the Charles Pitts Robinson and John Palmer Barstow Professor of Education, Psychology and Pediatrics at Brown University. Her research focuses on  sociocultural and biological influences on child development, with particular emphasis on at-risk and minority populations. García Coll has served on the editorial boards of leading academic journals, including Child Development, Development and Psychopathology, Infant Behavior and Development, Infancy and Human Development, and is the current Editor of Developmental Psychology. She was a member of the MacArthur Foundation Network “Successful Pathways Through Middle Childhood” from 1994-2002. García Coll has co-edited several books: The Psychosocial Development of Puerto Rican Women; Puerto Rican Women and Children: Issues in Health, Growth and Development; Mothering Against the Odds: Diverse Voices of Contemporary Mothers; and Nature and Nurture: The Complex Interplay of Genetic and Environmental Influences on Human Behavior and Development.     APSSC: What led you to choose psychology as a career?   C.G.C.: I have always been interested in understanding people better.

  • Making the Grade: Psychological Science at the Institute of Education Sciences

    Before I came to Washington, DC, to head the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) nine months ago, I spent my entire career analyzing data, researching reform and school improvement efforts, and working with members of Chicago’s education community to make those findings useful. My experiences convinced me of this: Effective education research must be guided by the voices and interests of practitioners and policymakers. If researchers want their work to be relevant, they need to spend time in schools talking with administrators and teachers about the challenges they face; they need to collaborate with researchers outside their expertise. It is this commitment — supporting top-notch education research that matters to schools and improves educational outcomes for children — that will drive our work at the Institute of Education Sciences over the next six years. IES has done a fabulous job since its inception in increasing the scientific rigor of education by demanding stronger methodologies and a greater capacity to make causal inferences, as well as by training researchers across the nation in these rigorous standards.


  • Distance Learning The Old Fashioned Way: Taking Class Outside the Classroom

    Psychology classes have little trouble attracting the attention of students as evidenced by the fact that general psychology courses are typically the largest classes in the curriculum. General psychology has strong appeal because the course has direct relevance to students’ lives, and it is probably the single best recruiting tool for psychology departments across all colleges and universities. We are able to show intriguing video clips, present mesmerizing PowerPoint-assisted lectures, and structure engaging experiential learning situations in the lab or on campus that demonstrate (or replicate) learned concepts from the text. These methods usually maintain students’ curiosity through several more years of the curriculum and may propel them into practicum/internship, community-service, or part-time/summer employment experiences that take classroom learning out into the “real” world.

First Person

  • Psychophysiology: Daunting or Doable?

    Physiological responses are an integral part of our emotions and experiences, and we all exhibit physically detectable signs of our emotional and experiential state.  For example, at your thesis or dissertation defense, you will most likely feel anxious and nervous; these feelings are accompanied by an increase in your heart rate, respiration rate, and galvanic skin response (sweat gland activity). Despite the existence of these physiological markers, a majority of graduate program curricula focus on learning to measure behaviors, emotions, and cognitions rather than on measuring bodily changes. Although these more traditional psychological measures are informative, the study of psychophysiology adds an additional piece of information by allowing one to measure the relationship between psychological and physiological response.

More From This Issue

  • Where Are Nearly Half of Undergraduates Initially Exposed to Psychology?

    Researchers estimate that approximately 500,000 community college students enroll in various psychology courses each year in the United States (Johnson & Rudmann, 2004). “Most students at four year schools — most people for that matter — do not understand the amount of learning that goes on in community colleges,” says APS Fellow and Charter Member Diane F. Halpern, who has directed workshops and lectures for community college faculty. “These campuses need to be a part of any conversation about education in psychology.” Halpern points to certain factors that high-quality community colleges programs have in common.

  • How Technology is Changing How We Teach Psychology

    Just as psychology is an evolving science, the conditions under which we teach our discipline are also continually changing. Effective introductory psychology teachers must not only keep  abreast of changes in their subject matter, they also must be  attuned  to changes in community, regional, national, cultural, technological, and global environments and events that have implications for how and what they teach. Of course, one of the most notable and powerful factors directly influencing how we teach centers on advances in electronic technology.

  • Major Developments in Undergraduate Psychology

    It’s a field that is misunderstood by a lot of people. Practitioners are thought to be mind-readers and researchers are thought to be practitioners. But for a subject that is so misunderstood, psychology certainly is a popular major in the United States. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) National Center for Education Statistics (2009), approximately 6 percent of the 1.5 million bachelor’s degrees earned by students in academic year 2006-07 were awarded in psychology.

  • APS/Psi Chi Summer Research Grant Winners

    In partnership with APS, Psi Chi, the National Honors Society in Psychology, offers grants for undergraduates to conduct a summer research project under the direction of an APS member. Winning students receive a $3,500 stipend and a complimentary annual membership to APS. Faculty sponsors receive a $1,500 stipend. Following are profiles of the summer 2009 recipients and their projects. For more information on this program, see Katie Von Holzen University of Wisconsin – Green Bay Faculty Sponsor: Todd F.

  • Monetary Gain and High-Risk Tactics Stimulate Activity in the Brain

    Monetary gain stimulates activity in the brain — even the mere possibility of receiving a reward is known to activate an area of the brain called the striatum. A team of Japanese researchers measured striatum activation in volunteers performing a monetary task and found that high-risk/high-gain options  caused higher levels of activation than did more conservative options. They also found levels of activation to increase with the amount of money owned.  The results of this study are reported in the January 2010 issue of Cortex.

  • Penalties for Student Research Participants Failing to Show Up for Studies?

    The Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP), a unit of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that oversees participant protections in all HHS-supported research, announced this past January that federal regulations do not allow the penalization of students who sign up for a research study as part of a course requirement and then fail to show up for the appointment without cancelling in advance. The announcement and relevant documents are posted on the OHRP website (

  • A Potential Evolutionary Role for Same-Sex Attraction

    What evolutionary value could male homosexuality have, without any discernible reproductive advantage? One possible explanation is the “kin selection hypothesis.” By acting altruistically toward nieces and nephews, homosexual men would perpetuate the family genes, including some of their own. Paul Vasey and Doug VanderLaan of the University of Lethbridge, Canada, tested this idea in Samoa with a group of  fa’afafine — a distinct  Samoa ngender category of males who prefer men as sexual partners.

  • Bilingual Babies: The Roots of Bilingualism in Newborns

    According to new findings in Psychological Science, infants born to bilingual mothers exhibit different language preferences than infants born to mothers who speak only one language. Krista Byers-Heinlein and Janet F. Werker from the University of British Columbia along with Tracey Burns of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in France investigated language preference and discrimination in newborns, testing babies with English monolingual and Tagalog-English bilingual mothers. Results of a “high-amplitude sucking-preference procedure” showed that English monolingual infants were more interested in English than Tagalog.

  • APS Members Win Troland Award

    APS Members Frank Tong of Vanderbilt University and Michael Kahana of the University of Pennsylvania have each been awarded the 2010 Troland Research Award from the National Academy of Science (NAS). This $50,000 prize is awarded annually to two young researchers (under age 40) in recognition of their exceptional achievements in empirically based psychological research.