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282015Volume 28, Issue3March 2015

Presidential Column

Nancy Eisenberg
Nancy Eisenberg
Arizona State University, Tempe
APS President 2014 - 2015
All columns

In this Issue:
Magritte’s Mystery and the DSM’s Disorders

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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    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

  • Magritte’s Mystery and the DSM’s Disorders

    The fields of psychology and psychiatry are now truly international. Thus, ideas emerging in English-speaking countries often have a large effect on psychological work in non-English-speaking countries. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM–5) is the 2013 update to the American Psychiatric Association’s classification system; it is commonly used by psychologists as well as psychiatrists for the diagnosis of psychological disorders, especially in the United States. Although there has been intense discussion among some psychologists about the strengths and weaknesses of the DSM in its various versions, the views of our colleagues in other countries who are also influenced by the DSM tend to receive less attention.


  • 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. Visit David G. Myers and C. Nathan DeWall’s new blog “Talk Psych” at

First Person

  • Work the Network

    Attention Undergrads and Grad Students: Authors Needed The Undergraduate Update is an online forum for undergraduates providing helpful tips on a variety of topics, including designing posters for conferences, taking the GREs, etc. If you think you could offer helpful advice to your fellow students on any topics related to research, graduate school, psychology-related careers, etc., please email the APS Student Caucus (APSSC) Undergraduate Advocate, Staci Weiss, at  or visit the Update online. Mentorship Program 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. We are currently accepting applications for both graduate student mentors and undergraduate student mentees.

More From This Issue

  • Measurement on the Move

    When a team of psychological scientists sought a fresh way to study people’s good deeds and transgressions, they found a tool that was literally within anyone’s grasp — the mobile phone. In a study published in September in Science, researchers led by University of Cologne professor Wilhelm Hofmann recruited more than 1,200 study participants through various online social networks. They sent each participant five surveys daily via text over a 3-day period. The texts included hyperlinks to online surveys, which prompted the participants to report and describe any moral or immoral acts that they had encountered or performed within the previous hour.

  • APS Recognizes Wilson for Self-Knowledge Research

    APS Fellow Timothy D. Wilson has been awarded a 2015 William James Fellow Award in recognition of his lifetime contributions to the field of psychological science. Wilson has gained international renown for his groundbreaking research exploring the limits and biases of self-knowledge, happiness, and social cognition. He will deliver his award address at the 27th APS Annual Convention, which will be held May 21–24 in New York City. Known for combining elegance and rigor in his innovative methodology, Wilson has documented and explored the many ways in which people understand their past actions and feelings and their ability to predict their future emotions.

  • Big Data and the World of Social Media

    “Big Data” eventually will fall out of the hype cycle — but for now, it’s everywhere. In a high-profile manifesto in Science, social scientists were asked to step up and “leverage the capacity to collect and analyze data with an unprecedented breadth and depth,” be it through Tweets, Facebook statuses, or cell phone records. We can understand individuals through thousands of data points, and society-scale processes through millions of individuals, institutional review boards permitting. The Harvard Business Review famously declared “data scientist” to be the sexiest job of the 21st century, suggesting that data science is the way of the future.

  • ‘Baby Talk’ Is Less Clear Than Normal Speech

    People tend to speak more slowly, use a sing-song voice, and use cutesy words like “tummy” when speaking to babies and small children. While we might be inclined to think that this kind of “baby talk” is easier for children to understand, new research suggests that mothers may actually speak less clearly to their infants than they do to adults. In a truly collaborative effort, two research teams — one in Paris, France, and the other in Tokyo, Japan — recorded 22 Japanese mothers talking to their 18- to 24-month-old children and to an experimenter.

  • Software to Sharpen Your Stats

    The last few decades have witnessed the growth of SPSS as the statistical software of choice across a wide range of academic disciplines. Its pedigree reaches back as far as the 1960s, when SPSS was first programmed with punch cards. As computing advanced, SPSS continued to keep pace; next, it became available for mainframe environments, and then, with the rise of the “personal computer,” SPSS became available for command-based DOS environments. Finally, with the ascent of Microsoft Windows and other graphical operating systems, SPSS became equipped with a graphical user interface.

  • Strengthening Public Policy With Science

    It is rare for a psychological scientist to be able to present his or her research to the president of the United States. Coreen Farris got that opportunity when she and her colleagues delivered a report to the White House in December as part of the Department of Defense Report to the President on Sexual Assault. A behavioral scientist at RAND Corporation, Farris, along with her colleagues, recently completed the large epidemiological study of military service members to estimate the annual prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment of men and women in all service branches.

  • ‘Facts, Fantasies, and the Future of Child Care’ Revisited

    Throughout 2015, the Observer is commemorating the silver anniversary of APS’s flagship journal. In addition to research reports, the first issue of Psychological Science, released in January 1990, included four general articles covering specific lines of study. Among those articles was “Facts, Fantasies, and the Future of Child Care in the United States,” authored by developmental psychologists Sandra Scarr (a University of Virginia professor who would later become an APS President), Deborah A.

  • Countering ‘Neuromyths’ in the Movies

    After a head injury sustained in a plane crash, CIA assassin Jason Bourne wakes up floating in the Mediterranean Sea with two bullets in his back, a Swiss bank account code implanted in his hip, and no memory of who he is or how he ended up in the open ocean. Bourne has no memory whatsoever of his identity or life before the accident. Even with the severe retrograde amnesia Bourne experiences in the movie The Bourne Identity, it’s dubious that he would also lose all sense of his identity. In fact, complete memory loss after a head injury — often reversed after another blow to the head — is a common but rather preposterous representation of brain damage or amnesia.

  • Blocks and Puzzles May Help Children Learn Spatial Skills

    Children who play frequently with puzzles, blocks, and board games tend to have better spatial reasoning abilities than those who don’t, according to data from a nationally representative study published in Psychological Science. “Our findings show that spatial play specifically is related to children’s spatial reasoning skills,” says psychological scientist and lead researcher Jamie Jirout of Rhodes College. Although previous research indicated that spatial play activities might foster children’s spatial reasoning, relevant data from a large and diverse sample were lacking, says Jirout.

  • Anger Linked With Better Health in Some Cultures

    “Many of us in Western societies naively believe that anger is bad for health, and beliefs like these appear to be bolstered by recent scientific findings,” says APS Fellow Shinobu Kitayama of the University of Michigan. But a recent Psychological Science study led by Kitayama suggests that “the truism linking anger to ill health may be valid only within the cultural boundary of the ‘West,’ where anger functions as an index of frustration, poverty, low status, and everything else that potentially compromises health.” In other words, it’s the circumstances that elicit anger, and not anger itself, that seem to be bad for health.

  • Perspective-Tracking Brain Response Could Help Diagnose Autism

    Using brain imaging to examine neural activity associated with our ability to distinguish the self from others may offer scientists a relatively accurate tool for identifying children with autism spectrum disorder. Although further research and evaluation will be needed before the imaging strategy can be used as a standard part of clinical assessment, preliminary findings published in Clinical Psychological Science indicate that it has diagnostic potential. “Our brains have a perspective-tracking response that monitors, for example, whether it’s your turn or my turn,” lead researcher Read Montague, professor at Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, said in a statement.