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272014Volume 27, Issue3March 2014

Presidential Column

Elizabeth A. Phelps
Elizabeth A. Phelps
New York University
APS President 2013 - 2014
All columns

In this Issue:
Igniting the BRAIN Initiative

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

  • Igniting the BRAIN Initiative

    My guest columnist this month is Miyoung Chun, the Executive Vice President of Science Programs at the Kavli Foundation. Dr. Chun was instrumental in the launching of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative first announced by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address. The BRAIN initiative seeks to enhance psychological science by bringing together diverse groups of scholars to discover groundbreaking techniques that will facilitate our understanding of brain function and human behavior. In this column, I asked Dr. Chun to reflect on the path that took her from having a good idea to starting a major research initiative. Below is her story. -Elizabeth A. Phelps (Author note: This column is my personal experience and perspective on the how the BRAIN Initiative came to be.) It’s February 12, 2013.


  • Teaching Current Directions in Psychological Science

    Aimed at integrating cutting-edge psychological science into the classroom, Teaching Current Directions in Psychological Science offers advice and how-to guidance about teaching a particular area of research or topic in psychological science that has been the focus of an article in the APS journal Current Directions in Psychological Science. Current Directions is a peer-reviewed bimonthly journal featuring reviews by leading experts covering all of scientific psychology and its applications, and allowing readers to stay apprised of important developments across subfields beyond their areas of expertise. Its articles are written to be accessible to nonexperts, making them ideally suited for use in the classroom. The Cost of Happiness: Teaching Students It Costs Less Than They Think Can Brief Psychological Interventions Really Work?

First Person

  • Collecting Data in the Field

    March 2014 Student Notebook Announcements Become an APSSC Campus Representative to promote psychological science on your campus. The APSSC Undergraduate Update, a biannual online publication intended for undergraduate student affiliates, is in need of students interested in writing articles about the following topics: creating and presenting research posters at conferences, the “dos and don’ts” of writing graduate school application essays, living on a graduate student stipend, and other topics relevant to students. Visit or contact Jessica Schubert at [email protected]. The APSSC Mentorship Program is designed to connect undergraduate student affiliates with graduate mentors who are willing to share their experiences and expertise on all issues related to research and graduate school.

More From This Issue

  • Books to Check Out: March 2014

    To submit a new book, email [email protected]. The Human Brand: How We Relate to People, Products, and Companies by Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske; Jossey-Bass, September 30, 2013. The Rise of Consciousness and the Development of Emotional Life by Michael Lewis; Guilford Press, October 31, 2013. Head Strong: How Psychology is Revolutionizing War by Michael D. Matthews; Oxford University Press, January 1, 2014. Behavioral Genetics of the Mouse: Volume 1, Genetics of Behavioral Phenotypes by Wim E. Crusio, Frans Sluyter, Robert T. Gerlai, and Susanna Pietropaolo (eds.); Cambridge University Press, June 10, 2013.

  • Well-Being May Influence Altruism

    Exceptionally altruistic acts — such as donating a kidney to a stranger — are more common in areas where people report higher levels of well-being, according to a study led by Georgetown University researchers. Kristin Brethel-Haurwitz, Abigail Marsh, and their colleagues found that the rates at which people say they’re willing to donate and the actual rates of donation differ sizably, and speculate that some people’s high level of well-being may help “nudge” them into actually donating.

  • McClelland, Spelke Honored by NAS

    APS William James Fellows James L. McClelland and Elizabeth S. Spelke are the recipients of the inaugural National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Prize in Psychological and Cognitive Sciences. This prize, to be given biennially, recognizes “significant advances in the psychological and cognitive sciences with important implications for formal and systematic theory in these fields.” Spelke is Marshall L. Berkman Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. She heads a lab at Harvard’s Laboratory for Developmental Studies, where her research focuses on the developmental psychology of infants, toddlers, and children.

  • Giving Psychological Science Away Online

    APS is dedicated to giving psychological science away. Science writer Jason Goldman offers advice for sharing psychological science online. The most urgent problems of our world today are the problems we have made for ourselves. They have not been caused by some heedless or malicious inanimate Nature, nor have they been imposed on us as punishment by the will of God.

  • Stanford SPARQ Sparks Change

    When Nalini Ambady joined the Stanford University Department of Psychology in 2011, she successfully lobbied for seed funding to start a new center. She wanted not just a think tank, but a “do tank” that would help policymakers, educators, and nonprofit leaders apply social psychology’s insights and methods to their work. She enlisted social psychologists and APS Fellows Hazel Rose Markus and Jennifer Eberhardt as her associate directors, and hired me to guide strategy and communications. For a year, we worked with Stanford’s Social Area faculty to hone our mission, vision, and goals and to prototype our programs.

  • Panel Calls for Explicit Rules on Human Subjects Research

    Some significant updates are in store for the federal rules governing human subjects research, and the National Research Council (NRC) is trying to ensure those changes include clear, sensible requirements for social and behavioral studies. A special NRC committee, chaired by APS Past President Susan Fiske, has completed a report recommending more clarity in the regulatory updates to the so-called Common Rule, the baseline standard of ethics for government-funded research involving human subjects. “We need more explicit definitions,” Fiske explained during a January 30 public briefing on the NRC committee’s report. “Regulations have to be clear.

  • Achieving ‘Good Article’ Status in Wikipedia

    In a senior seminar on language acquisition, a group of seven students successfully edited two Wikipedia articles and achieved Good Article status. A Good Article meets a basic set of criteria that indicate the material is well written, neutral, and appropriately sourced. It is not a particularly high bar, but is an external assessment of quality. Good Articles receive their designation from the Wikipedia community and are marked by a small green button in the title bar. Psychology currently has 44 entries that qualify as Good Articles (from a total of 8,380 entries). My students wrote two of them. I had used Wikipedia in a previous seminar class, so I had some familiarity with the process.

  • Improving My Lab, My Science With the Open Science Framework

    Brian A. Nosek will be featured in two symposia at the 2014 APS Annual Convention, May 22–25 in San Francisco, California. He will also be conducting a workshop on “Open Science Framework: Tools for Your Workflow” at the convention. My lab has a problem. We do research, time goes by, and some research materials and data get lost. I forget why we did the study; we can’t find the final version of the materials that we used. Data just disappears. Gremlins are not stealing it. Machines break; people leave; organizational strategies break down. We presume that we will just remember what, where, and why. Then, we don’t. This loss of data wastes resources and makes our work less reproducible.

  • Advancing Our Methods and Practices

    A forthcoming special section of Perspectives on Psychological Science offers researchers concrete suggestions for navigating changing standards and improving the informational value of their research. Psychological science is in the midst of a sea change.

  • Registered Replication Reports

    Reproducibility is central to science, but direct replication studies rarely appear in psychology journals because publishing incentives tend to favor novelty over reliability. That is changing. The Registered Replication Report (RRR) is a new type of article introduced last year by Perspectives on Psychological Science. Like several other new APS initiatives, RRRs are designed to help stabilize the foundations of our science by providing more definitive estimates of the reliability of important findings in the psychology literature.

  • Replication Education

    Replications are not only one key component of the scientific method, they are also an effective pedagogical tool. With this in mind, we recently launched the Collaboration Replications and Education Project (CREP; rhymes with grape) to facilitate student research training while at the same time solidifying psychological research findings. Ideally, replication projects will give students the opportunity to learn how to do research by replicating important findings in psychology, while also immediately contributing to a database of results surrounding what the field thinks is important in explaining the human psyche.

  • There’s Life Beyond .05

    As part of a comprehensive effort to promote sound research practices in psychological science, the field’s leading journal has introduced new innovative guidelines for authors submitting articles on their findings. The new guidelines for Psychological Science are aimed at enhancing the reporting of research methods and promoting robust research practices, says Editor in Chief Eric Eich of the University of British Columbia. Submitting authors are now required to state that they have disclosed all important methodological details, including excluded variables and additional manipulations and measures, as a way of encouraging methodological transparency.

  • The Sounds of Social Life

    Among laypersons, psychologists are infamous for two things: their couches and the fact that they always observe people. In many of psychology’s neighboring disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, and primatology, the observation of subjects in their natural habitat is common practice and is held in high methodological regard. It is ironic, then, that naturalistic observation has a remarkably thin history in psychology. Roger Barker and Herbert Wright spearheaded a series of ecological observational studies on “behavior settings,” including the famous case study One Boy’s Day (1952).

  • Cicchetti Discusses Multilevel Studies on Neglected Children

    APS Fellow Dante Cicchetti has been awarded a 2014 James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award for his lifetime contributions to the field of applied psychological science. Cicchetti, William Harris Professor of Child Development and Psychiatry and McKnight Presidential Chair at the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, will deliver his award address at the 26th APS Annual Convention, which will be held May 22–25, in San Francisco. Cicchetti’s work focuses on the formulation of an integrative developmental theory that can account for both normal and abnormal forms of development.

  • Inside the Psychologist’s Studio: Albert Bandura

    Albert Bandura, who has received both the APS William James Fellow Award and the APS James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award, is one of the most influential psychological scientists in history. Bandura was trained as a learning theorist, but when he arrived at Stanford University in 1953, a year after receiving his PhD from the University of Iowa, something bothered him.