image description
252012Volume 25, Issue3March 2012

Presidential Column

Douglas L. Medin
Douglas L. Medin
Northwestern University
APS President 2011 - 2012
All columns

In this Issue:
A Dangerous Dichotomy: Basic and Applied Research

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.

Read more

Latest Under the Cortex Podcast

Trending Topics >

  • 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

  • APS Lab Profile: George Mason University Arch Lab

    Meet the Scientists! Watch video clips of lab personnel including Raja Parasuraman, Carryl Baldwin, Debbie Boehm-Davis, Matt Peterson, Tyler Shaw, Jim Thompson, and Robert Youmans, as they explain their role and research in the Arch Lab. APS provides an overview of the George Mason University Arch Laboratory located in Fairfax, Virginia, USA.

  • A Dangerous Dichotomy: Basic and Applied Research

    How can I be so confused by a simple distinction like the difference between basic and applied research? I did an initial draft of a column on this topic months ago, and honestly, it was mostly gibberish. In his 1997 book, Pasteur’s Quadrant, Donald Stokes reviewed a good deal of the history and political significance of different ideas about the relation between basic and applied research. It may be worth examining our own ideas on the topic. Many of us in academia may be walking around with an implicit or explicit “basic is better” attitude.

APS Spotlight

  • APS Award Address

    APS Fellow Gary Latham had many goals when he left graduate school, but returning to academia was not one of them. “I made the decision that I did not want to be an academic,” said Latham in his 2011 James McKeen Catell Fellow Award Address. “At the time, I wanted to go directly into industry and have a positive effect on the lives of employees.” Many years later, Latham is what he never predicted he would be — an academic at the University of Toronto. But before returning to the ivory tower, Latham spent decades as a staff psychologist in industry, and at the 23rd APS Annual Convention, Latham gave attendees a “bird’s-eye perspective” of the practical theories he developed over his many decades of field work. One of the theories Latham is most proud of, and best known for, is goal-setting theory. Latham developed the theory with Edwin Locke (who received the James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award in 2005) in the late 1960s. The gist of the theory, said Latham, is that a specific high-level goal leads to higher performance than no goal or an abstract goal such as encouraging people to try hard. “Goals affect choice, goals affect effort,” said Latham.

  • Champions of Psychological Science: David Funder

    APS Fellow David Funder is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at University of California at Riverside. Funder is best known for his research in the field of personality psychology. He has authored numerous textbooks on personality and is a past editor of the Journal of Research and Personality. Currently, he is working on a long-term investigation into human personality called the Riverside Accuracy Project. Funder took some time to speak with the APS Student Caucus (APSSC) about his career path and to share his wisdom with current graduate students. APSSC: How did you develop your current research interests, and how have they influenced you as a person and a professional? DF: I started out as an undergraduate major in Political Science at Berkeley, but at some point an assistant dean said to me, "it says here you are a Political Science major. Don't you think you should take some courses in Political Science?" It was a good question. Nearly every course I had taken was in psychology. Thus, I followed the exact sequence described by the self-perception theory of Daryl Bem, my future graduate advisor. First you do something. Then you match your attitude to what you’ve done.


  • APS Lab Profile: George Mason University Arch Lab

    Meet the Scientists! Watch video clips of lab personnel including Raja Parasuraman, Carryl Baldwin, Debbie Boehm-Davis, Matt Peterson, Tyler Shaw, Jim Thompson, and Robert Youmans, as they explain their role and research in the Arch Lab. APS provides an overview of the George Mason University Arch Laboratory located in Fairfax, Virginia, USA.

  • Sticky Teaching

    As teachers we rely on the fact that human beings are fundamentally curious creatures. Additionally, people tend to have a natural curiosity about themselves and those around them, which gives psychology teachers an excellent advantage in the classroom. Despite this advantage, many of us see our students again in higher-level classes and wonder why the lessons we know we taught them did not stay with them. We wonder, why didn’t my teaching stick? We all know that it’s far easier to recall the contents of a Discovery Channel program than a two-hour topical lecture, but few of us understand why this is the case.

First Person

  • Student Notebook Announcements

    Travel Assistance! Need help going to the APS 24th Annual Convention in Chicago? Become a volunteer to defray the cost of travel! We are looking for friendly, outgoing, and enthusiastic people to assist APS staff. Assistance recipients will be required to volunteer for approximately six hours. Travel assistance is only offered to students who are presenting research. The degree of financial hardship associated with attending the conference is also taken into account. International students will receive special consideration. To apply online, please visit: Decisions will be announced in April. The Student Notebook is looking for authors! If you are interested in writing an article, please contact Nicholas Eaton, the Student Notebook Editor ([email protected]), to brainstorm ideas or to get more information. You may also find out more by visiting:

  • Transfer or Transition?

    Selecting the best research advisor and securing the opportunity to work with that person are two of the biggest hurdles of graduate study. Once students find an advisor and secure funding, they tend to focus all their energy on research, imagining that there’s nothing else but a few years of hard work between them and their degree. But many students, including the three authors (who all began the same graduate program simultaneously), have had to face another unexpected challenge — a moving advisor. In this situation, students are faced with a difficult choice: transfer or transition. Transfer: Moving With Your Mentor The biggest question that comes up when an advisor is moving is whether one should — or even can — transfer to the advisor’s new institution. When considering a transfer, there are a number of things students should be aware of. First, students who move with an advisor will probably need to formally transfer to the new program, which typically involves reapplying to graduate school.

More From This Issue

  • Advancing New Frontiers with Clinical Psychological Science: Editorial

    The Association for Psychological Science has launched a new journal, Clinical Psychological Science (CPS)¸ to publish advances in clinical science and provide a venue for cutting-edge research across a wide range of conceptual views, approaches, and topics. The journal encompasses core domains that define clinical psychological science, but also developments from all disciplines and areas of science that enhance our understanding of clinical dysfunction broadly conceived.

  • Meet the Clinical Psychological Science Associate Editors

    Tyrone D. Cannon APS Fellow Tyrone D. Cannon is the Staglin Family Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as Director of the Staglin Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. Since receiving his PhD from the University of Southern California in 1990, Cannon has been investigating the causes of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and developing early detection and prevention strategies based on understanding the genetic and neural mechanisms that give rise to these disorders. Emily A. Holmes Emily A. Holmes is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

  • Advancing New Frontiers with Clinical Psychological Science: Interview

    Founding Clinical Psychological Science Editor Alan E. Kazdin is the John M. Musser Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University and Director of the Yale Parenting Center, a clinical-research service for children and families. He received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois). Kazdin is a world-renowned researcher and methodologist who has developed, rigorously tested, and implemented effective cognitive-behavioral treatments, including parent-management training and problem-solving skills training, for children with severe aggressive and antisocial behavior.

  • Everybody’s Talking About Online Dating

    According to the latest Psychological Science in the Public Interest study, the matchmaking algorithms used by online sites aren’t necessarily based on good science. So leading up to Valentine’s Day, the hottest topic wasn’t chocolates this year — it was psychological science. The Washington Post’s Ellen McCarthy reported on February 5, 2012 that “Online Dating Has Its Pros and Cons.” Then, in the “langue d’amour,” Slate France’s Michel Albergante declared “The Virtual Romance, It Works!” On February 11, 2012, PSPI authors Eli J. Finkel and Benjamin R.

  • Rising Stars

    Brian D'Onofrio Nigel Gopie Daniel Oppenheimer Shannon Wiltsey Stirman Simine Vazire Hanna Zagefka Brian D'Onofrio Indiana University, USA What does your research focus on? My research focuses on identifying the mechanisms through which environmental factors, such as pregnancy-related, parental, and neighborhood risks, are associated with child and adolescent psychopathology. I am currently utilizing three approaches to specify these developmental processes: (1) quasi-experimental designs, including the comparison of differentially exposed siblings, twins, and offspring of twins; (2) longitudinal analyses; and (3) randomized-control, intervention studies.

  • Biases and Brackets

    Americans typically prepare for the month-long basketball frenzy known as March Madness by filling out a bracket and placing a bet on the accuracy of their predictions. But deciding which of the 68 teams in the single-elimination tournament will reach the “Sweet Sixteen” and eventually the “Final Four” is no easy task. Many people will look at the team’s statistics, while others might make decisions based on the team’s new players. Yet, psychological science research suggests there may be other biases people aren’t thinking about when they’re putting together their brackets.

  • Small Articles Fuel Big Debate

    In the January 2012 issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, two articles were published in which the authors argued that the trend of increasingly shorter journal articles could have a negative impact on research efforts. Two of the authors, Marco Bertamini and Marcus Munafò, reiterated their arguments in an editorial published in The New York Times on January 28. Their column is reprinted below along with a response from the current Editor and four former Editors of Psychological Science. We invite you to read their points and determine for yourself what “bite-sized” science means for psychological science.

  • The Price of Perfectionism

    Perfectionism research began to grow exponentially in 1991 with the creation of two measures bearing the same name – the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale. Twenty years later, empirical work on perfectionism continues to yield important findings. For instance, at the APS Convention last May, there were 12 presentations on diverse topics such as the developmental antecedents of perfectionism, the link between perfectionism and body dissatisfaction, the role of perfectionism in social phobia, and the tendency for perfectionistic new mothers to suffer from excessive worry. Recent studies continue to suggest that the costs of perfectionism outweigh the benefits.

  • Behavioral Science at the Speed of Light

    Scientists have long studied the brain as a way of connecting mind to behavior, of linking a person’s inner life to the outer world. And they have used many different methods to explore this connection, including lesion studies and neuroimaging. But even sophisticated tools like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) are somewhat blunt instruments when it comes to understanding just how the goings-on in the brain contribute to our ability to think, feel, and act. But now an emerging field called optogenetics is providing researchers with an unprecedented opportunity to control brain cells with the push of a button.

  • Feedback From the Whole World

    I have been teaching graduate seminars in social psychology for 15 years, and in every one the final project was the same: write a 15-page paper on whatever you are working on right now. At the end of the course, I would read it. Eventually, the student’s advisor saw it. And then, unless the paper got published, that was the end of it. The term paper for all of those years was either a private matter between the student and myself, or a step on a road to publication that the student would have traveled with or without my course. The APS Wikipedia Initiative offered me a new option, and one that seemed quite consistent with the social psychology that I try to teach.

  • Take Your Pick! March Madness Reading List

    Bring your A game this season. APS journals offer the latest research on sports — for competitors and fans. Psychological Science Your favorite team’s loss might not be as heartbreaking as you anticipated. The Accuracy or Inaccuracy of Affective Forecasts Depends on How Accuracy Is Indexed: A Meta-Analysis of Past Studies Psychological Science A lucky charm — like the old college basketball jersey Michael Jordan used to wear under his NBA uniform — may boost game-time performance. Keep Your Fingers Crossed! How Superstition Improves Performance Psychological Science Forgoing the office pool this March won’t necessarily stifle your excitement for the NCAA basketball tournament.

  • Evoking Emotion in the Lab

    At the 24th APS Annual Convention, Iris Mauss will host a workshop called Studying Emotions in the Laboratory. Mauss is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. Her own emotion research focuses on emotion regulation and how emotion regulation affects wellbeing. She has given the Observer a preview of what she will cover in her workshop. What methods for studying emotion are you going to discuss in your workshop? For inducing emotion, we will discuss advantages and disadvantages of various approaches, including pictures, film clips, and naturalistic interactions.

  • Mixing Methods

    At the 24th APS Annual Convention, Rebecca Campbell will host a workshop called Integrating Qualitative and Quantitative Methods: Mixed-Methods Designs for Psychological Research. Campbell is a professor of community psychology and program evaluation at Michigan State University. Her own mixed-methods research focuses on violence against women and how the legal, medical, and mental health systems respond to rape survivors. She took a few minutes to give the Observer a sneak peek of her upcoming workshop. What are some examples of the quantitative and qualitative methods you’ll be highlighting in your workshop?

  • Intramural Research and Virtual Reality at the NIH

    Most psychological scientists are well aware of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) role as a major grant funding institution, but few know the details of the major research effort that goes on within its walls. The NIH Intramural Research Program directly employs and funds thousands of scientists and fellows to conduct research that contributes to health enhancement and disease reduction. Psychological and behavioral scientists are among these intramural researchers; they are distributed across several of the 27 institutes and centers that comprise the NIH.

  • Psychological Science Needs A Seat at the Informatics Table

    Scientific progress depends on our ability to harness and apply modern information technology. Many advances in the biological and social sciences now emerge directly from advances in the large-scale acquisition, management, and synthesis of scientific data. The application of information technology to science isn’t just a happy accident; it’s also a field in its own right — one commonly referred to as informatics. Prefix that term with a Greek root or two and you get other terms like bioinformatics, neuroinformatics, and ecoinformatics — all well-established fields responsible for many of the most exciting recent discoveries in their parent disciplines.

  • Network Analysis

    Do you remember when you first kissed? Probably. I am pretty sure you can’t think about it without feeling something. Maybe you’re reliving the joy of it, or the awkwardness, or the excitement. It’s possible that, in addition, my question will trigger some behavioral response on your part. Perhaps you’ll talk about it with your spouse when you get home from work. If your spouse happens to be the person you first kissed, you may together recall the event with a smile. Alternatively, my question may painfully expose that whatever you shared isn’t there anymore.

  • Crossing Borders to Build a Better Robot

    Roberta Klatzky has spent much of her career getting to know robots. Thanks to the Humboldt Research Award, Klatzky, who serves as APS Treasurer, got to experience a new aspect of robotics during her stay at the Institute of Automatic Control Engineering (LSR) at the Technical University of Munich in Germany. Klatzky, a professor of psychology and human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University, studies human perceptions and cognition with an emphasis on haptic perception and spatial cognition. She is interested in designing robots that can respond to humans in a way that is convincing and personal.