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222009Volume 22, Issue5May/June 2009

Presidential Column

Walter Mischel
Columbia University
APS President 2008 - 2009
All columns

In this Issue:
On the Future of APS Journals

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

  • On the Future of APS Journals

    In these Presidential Columns, from September 2008 to January 2009, I discussed the implicit understandings and misunderstandings — the urban legends of our field — about our roles in the publication process as researchers, contributors, reviewers, and editors. I looked at how these legends may influence what we do, sometimes in ways that undermine building an increasingly integrative and cumulative psychological science. Today's column, my last as APS President, turns from our legends to the future of our journals and the ever-growing challenges they must face to assure that they in fact continue to facilitate the progress of our rapidly evolving science as effectively and wisely as possible.


  • Ethics in the Introduction to Psychology Course

    The introductory psychology course is usually the students' first formal introduction to the field, and for some it is the only formal academic view of psychology they will ever have. As students start to structure their lives and prepare for a career, faculty should begin to instill into their minds the expectations they will face as professionals. One of the goals of an undergraduate education is to prepare students to act ethically. In introductory courses there are many occasions to discuss ethical issues. Some are more appropriate in small classrooms for group discussions; however, most of the ideas may well be presented in a formal setting, like a lecture. Introduction of the Course The beginning of the course is one of the opportunities to discuss ethics from different perspectives.

First Person

  • 2009 Student Research Award Winners

    Please join APSSC in congratulating the winners of this year's research award competition, who will be speaking at the upcoming APS 21st Annual Convention in San Francisco. We would like to thank all of the students who submitted entries, and those who volunteered their time as reviewers. Erin Maloney Erin Maloney is a graduate student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Her study, entitled, "Math Anxiety Affects Counting but Not Subitizing on an Enumeration Task," examined numerical processing in math anxious students. Study participants performed an enumeration task. Although math anxiety did not have an effect on subitizing (quickly determining the amount when shown 1-4 items), math anxious individuals performed worse in the counting range (determining the amount when shown 5-9 items).

More From This Issue

  • Recalling Psychology’s Past: The Memory Drum

    In 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850-1909) published Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology. The work has stood the test of time and earned Ebbinghaus a place of distinction in the study of memory. In order to study memory free from the effects of prior learning, Ebbinghaus constructed his now famous "nonsense syllables." All together, he created about 2,300 nonsense syllables that he grouped into and subsequently tried to memorize. Using a metronome to pace himself, he would measure how long memorization took. Ebbinghaus' work inspired a new generation of early psychologists intent on researching memory.

  • The National Cancer Institute: A Hub for Psychological and Behavioral Sciences

    Psychology and other behavioral sciences have long helped address important social issues. Health — specifically cancer — is no exception. Psychological research elucidates the way in which people make health decisions, the effects of stress and other psychosocial factors on the development of disease, and the role that communication plays in the adoption of health behaviors. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is at the forefront of funding and promoting research in these and many other related areas. NCI is committed to advancing basic and applied research in the behavioral sciences that, independently or in combination with biomedical approaches, reduces the burden of cancer.

  • Playing God

    The annals of academic hubris have recently been enriched by a renowned Harvard psychiatrist, who, upon being asked to identify the next rank above his full professorship, replied: "God." An arrogant wisecrack? Yes. But this pecking-order assertion merits notice for the explanatory light it sheds on an old and stubborn problem: the persistence of covert financial gains and other conflicts of interest in the conduct and reporting of research. When these unwholesome practices come to light, as so many have for many years, the commonly offered alibi is that there's no connection between the money and the science.

  • Cattell Sabbatical Awardee Announced

    James McKeen Cattell was one of the foremost pioneers of psychological science, striving throughout his career to establish psychology as an experimental science through the use of statistical methods and quantification of data.

  • Hey, You’re Wearing Me Out!

    I used to jog a fair bit, and when I did I loved having a regular running partner. It's not that I'm undisciplined, but his company nudged me to run just a bit farther or faster than I might on my own. And some days it worked the other way. It's like we drew motivation and stamina from each other's presence. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever enlisted a friend to go on a diet or joined a group to quit smoking or drinking. We have this intuitive sense that our minds and bodies are intertwined with those of others, that we can use these deep neural connections to improve discipline and enhance performance. And it often appears to work.

  • Observations

    What I Was Doing Versus What I Did If you want to perform at your peak, you should carefully consider how you discuss your past actions. In a new study in Psychological Science, William Hart of the University of Florida and Dolores Albarraca­n from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reveal that the way a statement is phrased (and specifically, how the verbs are used) affects our memory of an event being described and may also influence our behavior.