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Volume 19, Issue5May 2006

Presidential Column

Michael Gazzaniga
Michael S. Gazzaniga
University of California, Santa Barbara
APS President 2005 - 2006
All columns

In this Issue:
All Clones Are Not the Same

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


  • All Clones Are Not the Same

    It has been weeks since President Bush's State of the Union speech, and I have not heard any outcry over his policy statement on cloning: "Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms." I can only guess that this means the public doesn't care, or doesn't understand what Mr. Bush means by this, or agrees with his nonsensical concept of what "human" means, or that somehow the stem cell scandal in South Korea has led to widespread agreement that we should just give up on such research. Any of these possibilities would be a mistake, not just for American science, but for the very human life the president seeks to protect. Calling human cloning in all its forms an "egregious abuse" is a serious mischaracterization.

APS Spotlight


  • When 007 Meets PhD

    Describing the work I do can be as challenging as the work itself. I envy people who can glibly describe their career field in three words or less: cardiologist, high school teacher, taxi cab driver. Mine is not so easy. Even within psychology, I find that the nature of my work is an enigma. For the past 15 years, I have applied my degrees in experimental psychology to the stuff James Bond movies are made of. At Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I have assessed the quality of surveillance and reconnaissance imagery in Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles. I have evaluated eyeglass inserts for Air Force gas masks. I have helped B-2 pilots schedule sleep and wake periods to counter fatigue during missions, which often last more than 24 hours.

Practice


  • Building a Sense of Community in Undergraduate Psychology Departments

    Imagine you are a student sitting among 300 others in your psychology class. You look around and wonder, "How am I going to fit in? Will I ever make friends in this department? Will my professors ever know my name?" Although feelings of disconnectedness are common among students, these experiences do not have to occur. Building a sense of community within a department can accomplish a great deal: decrease the number of students who feel lost; ameliorate students' feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness; and improve personal growth, motivation, and retention rates (Bailey, Bauman, & Lata, 1998; Cartland, Ruch-Ross, & Henry, 2003; Lounsbury & DeNeui, 1996). In addition, students who feel connected to their department exhibit a decline in classroom disruptiveness and an increase in remorse when they are not prepared for class (Royal & Rossi, 1996).

First Person


  • Seven Habits of Highly Effective Convention Attendees

    Planning your first attendance at a large national convention? The experience is unquestionably exciting. However, without a little advanced preparation, excitement can rapidly turn to over stimulation. People can only tolerate so much sensory input, and conventions have visual and auditory stimulation in spades. To top it off, there's little time to adjust to the level of activity. To ensure that enjoyment trumps exhaustion, following these tips. Review the Schedule Early Identifying which presentations you most want to attend will help save time when you arrive at the convention. For added convenience, the APS Web site offers convention scheduling, where you can search topics and develop your own itinerary. Ultimately, you don't want to spend too much time at the convention with your nose buried in the program book. Be Decisive Follow the sage advice of Yogi Berra (appropriate for a convention in New York City!): "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." If two or more desirable events are scheduled simultaneously, don't spend too much time dithering over which to attend. Just pick one and go.

  • Champions of Psychology: Elizabeth Loftus

    In an ongoing series in which the APS Student Caucus talks with highly recognized professors, Elizabeth Loftus recently shared her advice for facing challenges in graduate school and achieving professional success. Loftus is a Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Irvine. Her research examines how memory can be influenced by things we are told. Specifically, she investigates how facts, ideas, suggestions, and other forms of post-event information can modify our memories. Loftus has been called to testify about eyewitness testimony in many trials. She is an APS Past-President and has received both APS lifetime achievement awards: William James Fellow Award for contributions to basic science and the James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award for outstanding achievements in applied research. APSSC: Your research concerns the malleability of memory. It seems that the influence of outside information can change — either positively or negatively — how we believe events transpired or alter our attitudes about healthy and dangerous things. What can we do in our lives to minimize the negative impact?

More From This Issue


  • Basic Behavioral Science at NIH: A Chronology

    This is a long and complicated story, so we thought a chronology of major milestones might help. Remember that what you have here is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the hours of work — the meetings, discussions, drafting, negotiating — behind each of these events. 1998 February APS Executive Director Alan Kraut testifies on national training needs in the behavioral sciences before the Committee on National Needs for Biomedical and Behavioral Scientists of the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

  • NIMH Might Be (Partly) Right

    Tom Insel has a point. As director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), he is charged with developing effective treatments for severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia and major depression. Insel knows that basic behavioral research is extremely important. He understands that such research may one day contribute to effective treatments. But given limited funds and more grant applications than his institute can afford, he has come to the conclusion that proposals that directly explore the basis of mental illness or, better yet, cures, should take precedence over applications that promise to advance our understanding of mind, memory, and social processes.

  • Early Development of Estimation Skills

    Approximately how much is 192 times 12? About how much will each teammate have to pay to buy a $50 present for the coach? Roughly how many marbles are in this jar? Learning how to estimate is important, not only because estimating is something we need to do all the time, but also because proficiency at estimation is substantially correlated with many aspects of numerical understanding and with overall math-achievement-test scores (Booth & Siegler, 2006; Siegler & Booth, 2005). Yet little is known about the development of estimation skills. To obtain a more detailed understanding, we conducted a series of studies on number-line estimation.

  • Learning From Symbolic Objects

    Perhaps the most important challenge of early-childhood education is helping children to master a variety of symbol systems. Within a few short years, children must learn to understand and use letters, numbers, mathematical symbols, maps, and other symbol systems. Parents, educators, and researchers naturally want to find the most effective educational techniques and tools to help them learn. A variety of objects have been designed to help young children learn letters and numbers. For example, letter and number magnets and blocks are found in the homes of many American preschoolers.

  • Physical Traits Affect Death Sentence Decisions

    Numerous studies of our legal system have found race to be a powerful factor in who is arrested and charged for crimes, who is found guilty or innocent, and how defendants are punished. The links between race and the death penalty are particularly notorious: Murderers of white victims are more likely to be sentenced to death than are murderers of black victims, and other things being equal, black defendants are more likely to receive the death penalty than are white defendants. But the effects of race in the courtroom are turning out to be even subtler than black versus white.

  • Real-Life Total Recall

    The silver stirring pot of memories, known as a "Pensieve" to fans of Harry Potter, contains Professor Dumbledore's overflow memories. When his brain becomes too full, he physically pulls out a memory and swirls it into the Pensieve for safekeeping. While the concept is one of fantasy and imagination, a seemingly endless capacity for memory may not be so implausible. A 40-year-old woman, "AJ" — also known as "the human calendar" — is being studied for her seemingly limitless memory. For the past five years, University of California, Irvine researchers Elizabeth Parker, an APS Fellow, Larry Cahill, and James L. McGaugh, an APS Past President, have studied AJ extensively.

  • Basic Behavioral Research in Flux at NIH

    Basic behavioral research — which in the case of health means the study of fundamental psychological and social processes not aimed at a specific illness or condition — may be about to enter a new era at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In early May, Congress was expecting NIH to deliver a plan for (1) diversifying support for basic behavioral science research and training across several NIH institutes and (2) establishing an infrastructure, including a home base, for basic behavioral research not related to the disease missions of specific institutes.

  • Better Together

    Many things are just better in pairs. Can you imagine Strunk without White? Baskin without Robbins? Liz Taylor without [insert favorite ex hubby here]? But new research shows that people work better as a duo even when they think they don't, at least when it comes to coordinating tasks involving motor control. Results from a study led by Kyle Reed (Northwestern University) indicate that in such instances, performance improves when working with a partner. The study also isolated the role of haptic, or tactile, interactions as a form of communication involved in coordinating movements with others.

  • Fellowship to Honor Thayer

    The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) Foundation has announced an annual fellowship, which honors former long-time APS Treasurer Paul Thayer. Beginning in 2007, the Leslie W. Joyce and Paul W. Thayer Graduate Fellowship in Industrial and Organizational Psychology will assist a doctoral I/O student each academic year. The fellowship awards $10,000 to students whose studies specialize in selection and placement and/or training and development. Joyce, vice president and learning officer for Home Depot, makes the contribution in appreciation of her longstanding mentoring relationship with Thayer.

  • Students Benefit From Ethnic Diversity

    Fifty-two years after the Supreme Court ruling on Brown v. Board of Education, psychological science measures just how far we've come. The decision that opened the door for classroom diversity has also yielded feelings of safety and social satisfaction among American middle schoolers, a recent study shows. Janna Juvonen, Adrienne Nishiana, and Sandra Graham (University of California, Los Angeles) investigated students' perceptions of safety and vulnerability in 11 Los Angeles public middle schools that varied in ethnic diversity.