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312018Volume 31, Issue3March 2018

Presidential Column

Suparna Rajaram
Suparna Rajaram
Stony Brook University, The State University of New York
APS President 2017 - 2018
All columns

In this Issue:
On Collaborations: The Opportunities

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.


  • In his editorial for the opening issue of APS’s newest journal, Editor Daniel J. Simons discusses the unique role the publication will serve in making advances in scientific methods and practices accessible to a broad audience.

  • A large international network of laboratories aims to combine resources and accumulate reliable and generalizable evidence in psychological science.

  • Could replicability issues in psychological science stem in part from problems with measurement? Two scientists explain why strong methods cannot save research from weak measures.

Up Front

  • On Collaborations: The Opportunities

    No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you. -Althea Gibson, 11-time Grand Slam Champion That brings me to the practice of science, and my conversations in these columns with early investigators in particular. There is an important tension when collaborating in teams to leverage greater resources — intellectual and material on the one hand, and establishing one’s individual identity and contributions on the other. How do you navigate these competing goals across the span of your career, especially if you are just starting out?In sports, collaborations are indispensable.

More From This Issue

  • 2018 APS Mentor Awards

    The APS Mentor Award recognizes psychology researchers and educators who have made an extraordinary effort to shape the future of the discipline by influencing the career paths of the next generation of scientists. Three psychological scientists have been selected to receive the 2018 APS Mentor Award. Beyond their personal contributions to our understanding of memory, emotion, and learning, these educators’ unique commitments to their students will continue to shape the field of psychological science for decades to come.

  • AMPPS Makes Its Entrance

    The first issue of APS’s newest journal Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science (AMPPS) debuts this month. This one-of-a-kind journal publishes new types of empirical work and articles and tutorials that reflect the various approaches to research across the field. The journal’s editorial scope encompasses the breadth of psychological science, with editors, reviewers, and articles representing a balance among diverse disciplinary perspectives and methodological approaches. Many of the articles are already online. In his editorial for the opening issue, AMPPS Editor Daniel J.

  • Run All the Models! Dealing With Data Analytic Flexibility

    Imagine you are trying to figure out whether the personality traits of firstborns systematically differ from those of younger siblings. You set about planning your analyses, a seemingly straightforward task that quickly raises a multitude of questions. Is there any need to control for third variables? How do you handle the fact that the number of siblings varies? What exactly does “firstborn” mean when some people have half- or step-siblings? And what about the age gaps between siblings — does it make a difference if the firstborn is barely a year older than the younger sibling compared with siblings who are separated by a gap of 10 years?

  • The Psychological Science Accelerator

    The goal of psychological science is to generate reliable and generalizable knowledge about human thought and behavior. Researchers have traditionally conducted studies in independent, localized teams, which often result in relatively small samples collected at a single site. While this traditional approach has been quite effective for understanding some aspects of human psychology, it is often akin to stargazers trying to detect distant astronomical objects with weakly powered telescopes (e.g., Simonsohn, 2015) due to limited resources and access to participants.

  • Measurement Matters

    After a long and cold journey of 286 days, the Mars Climate Orbiter reached its destination on 23 September 1999. Rather than beginning its mission, however, the satellite disintegrated upon entering the atmosphere because one software module made calculations in US customary units and fed them into a second module that assumed metric units. Four years later, two halves of a large bridge being constructed across the Rhine came together to connect Germany and Switzerland. To the surprise of the engineers, there was a height difference of 54 cm (21 in) between the two sides: Different measurements of sea level had been used (the North Sea vs. the Mediterranean Sea).

  • Optimizing Psychological Science’s Impact on Public Health

    Researchers can spend decades building evidence to support behavioral treatments without ever seeing their work produce noticeable benefit to public health. The Institute of Medicine refers to this gap as the “Quality Chasm.” The field of dissemination and implementation (D&I) science emerged to bridge this chasm, with the express purpose of translating discoveries from lab to practice. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), dissemination research is the study of targeted distribution and packaging of intervention materials.

  • 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.

  • Studying Underrepresented Groups

    Across disciplines, there has been renewed attention to the experiences of stigmatized group members within social, educational, healthcare, and law enforcement contexts. Basic and applied research in psychological science can increase the quality of intergroup relations and improve the experiences of underrepresented group members. Specifically, research on both majority and underrepresented groups benefits psychological science by fully illuminating the interpersonal dynamics that shape these interactions (see Shelton, 2000).

  • Back Page: Redefining ‘Academic Superstardom’

    Your work advances our understanding of mental disorders from a network perspective — how did you come to this line of research? (Did you start with an interest in clinical issues? Or did the interest begin with statistical modeling?) I started with an interest in clinical issues, forensic psychology in particular. During my Research Master I did my internship in a forensic psychiatric hospital, comparing low versus high psychopathic patients on their performance in the Iowa Gambling Task, a measure of how people process risk and emotion.

  • Anne Treisman, 1935-2018

    APS Past Secretary Anne Treisman, considered one of the world’s most influential cognitive psychologists, died February 10, 2018. An APS William James Fellow, Treisman developed a classic psychological model of human visual attention. Her pioneering research led President Barack Obama to award her the National Medal of Science in 2013. Treisman’s research focuses on how humans perceive the world around them and turn those perceptions into meaningful thoughts, memories, and actions. One of her most noteworthy achievements is the Feature Integration Theory (FIT), which has been enormously influential in psychological science and related disciplines.

  • Experimenters’ Expectations May Shape Priming Results

    In a lab setting, experimenter expectations are already known to influence experiment outcomes — that is, researchers who hope to find significant effects may be more likely to find them. Understanding how these expectations may affect participant behavior is especially critical when observing social constructs. For example, social priming is a common construct in social psychology research. Studies have shown that activating a particular social concept, such as social status or age, can influence participants’ behavior on a subsequent, unrelated task. But some studies, including double-blind experiments, have failed to replicate such priming effects.

  • Preregistration Becoming the Norm in Psychological Science

    A methodological revolution is underway in psychology, with preregistration at the forefront. Methodologists have made the case for the value of preregistration — the specification of a research design, hypotheses, and analysis plan prior to observing the outcomes of a study. And indeed, it is hardly radical to hold that predictions should be specified before looking at the data. Preregistration improves research in two ways. First, preregistration provides a clear distinction between confirmatory research that uses data to test hypotheses and exploratory research that uses data to generate hypotheses.