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242011Volume 24, Issue5May/June 2011

Presidential Column

Mahzarin R. Banaji
Mahzarin R. Banaji
Harvard University
APS President 2010 - 2011
All columns

In this Issue:
The Mind in the World: Culture and the Brain

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

  • The Mind in the World: Culture and the Brain

    How the “outside” affects the “inside” is at the heart of many of the deepest psychological questions. In this fast-paced survey of research on how culture shapes cognition, Nalini Ambady examines the neural evidence for socio-cultural influences on thinking, judgment, and behavior. She does this by giving us numerous examples of group differences in core human capacities that are shaped by how “one’s people” engage socially.  I’m pleased to be able to share this piece with members of APS. -Mahzarin R. Banaji APS President Guest Columnist Nalini Ambady Both the structure and function of the human brain throughout its development are shaped by the environment. The social environment, in turn, is shaped by culture.


  • What Can We Do About Student E-mails?

    You likely begin each workday by checking your professional e-mail account. The paper you assigned in your senior seminar course is due today, and you are expecting to receive some e-mails from students regarding this assignment. You relax into your desk chair with a cup of coffee and begin reading the new messages in your inbox. You feel a bit of a sinking sensation in your stomach as you read this: I’m in my dorm’s computer lab working on assignment 4. Someone who was half asleep/possibly drunk just stumbled through the room, caught their foot on the cord, and unplugged my computer. Of course, everything that I had done has completely evaporated. I’m still astounded that it even happened. How can you NOT see the cord laying against the wall? Better yet, how do you manage to catch your foot in the cord that is AGAINST THE WALL. Ha, sorry… I’m ranting now. I just don’t think I have the heart to re-do my paper tonight. I’m so sad that it is all gone. L I was so close to being done… and now it’s 3am and I have a headache. May I please have a few more days to complete it? Gah, I’m having horrible luck this week. I really hope it turns around soon.

  • Teaching the Millennials

    They were born the day before yesterday, or so it may seem. Millennials have no memory of a world without the World Wide Web, cell phones, or personal computers. They are an Internet-surfing, iPoding, texting, Googling, Facebooking, and IMing generation. They have come of age during a time of dramatic technological changes in our society. Just consider the fact that the cell phone has become the fastest-adopted invention in the history of humankind. For many of them, texting and instant messaging have become the chosen methods of communication. Perhaps most of all, they have been plugged into one or another electronic device since they were toddlers. They are our students and we need to explore ways of adapting the college classroom to reach them and teach them more effectively.                 A recent national study of 8- to 18-year-olds in the United States showed that youth today spend more time using electronic media — an average of about 7 hours per day — than they do in perhaps any other activity except sleeping (Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010).

First Person

  • A Recommended Dose of Psychopharmacology

    Despite the prominence of drugs in society, both illicit and prescribed, psychopharmacology — a hybrid discipline of psychological science and pharmacology — remains surprisingly obscure to people outside the discipline. Training in psychopharmacology is typically represented in academia either as a distinct program within a department or as an advisor-mediated research focus within a larger discipline. Although many students of psychopharmacology follow a pre-clinical track (i.e., working with animal models rather than human participants), there are programs in clinical psychopharmacology that focus more on evaluating novel pharmacotherapies in human populations. As with the wide range of training programs, the job market for a student of psychopharmacology is equally diverse. Employment can be found in research, teaching, drug development, consultation, sales, and many other fields. The history of psychopharmacology is closely tied to its parent discipline, pharmacology, which was started in America by John Jacob Abel at the University of Michigan in 1890.

  • The Master Jugglers

    As if graduate school was not challenging enough, add the additional responsibilities of children and you’ve become a master juggler. These demanding responsibilities may explain why “student parents,” as they are sometimes called, are few and far between in graduate school. Being a parent and a graduate student concurrently is no easy task and is not for everyone, but it is possible to do and is a very rewarding experience. Student parents must concentrate on their educational requirements while balancing the responsibilities of running a household. They endure such parenthood tasks as managing child care, changing diapers, engaging in potty training, overseeing their children’s education and afterschool activities, and much more. The responsibilities of parenthood are never-ending, while the duties of graduate school serve as a means to an end. I have been a parent for as long as I have been a graduate student. Through this experience, I have learned to feed a baby with one hand while typing a class report with the other. I read the latest issue of Psychological Science while playing at the park with my kids.

More From This Issue

  • New Local Network Connects High School, Community College, and University Instructors of Psychological Science

    Central Tennessee is home to 27 colleges, including three historically Black colleges/universities (HBCUs) and six community colleges. Among them is Volunteer State Community College — a thriving community college with 70 programs and an extensive distance learning program; Belmont University, a small, private religious school; Tennessee State University (TSU), a HBCU that is Nashville’s only public university; and Vanderbilt University, an Association of American Universities (AAU) research-intensive university. In addition, many public and private high schools in the region offer psychology courses.

  • Center for Vital Longevity

    The first of the United States’ 78 million baby boomers is turning 65 this year, at a rate of about one every 10 seconds. As life expectancy for older Americans increases, the impact of normal age-related cognitive decline, as well as the increased incidence of age-related neurological diseases, presents significant challenges that have economic consequences and compromise quality of life for many. For the U.S. to remain a vibrant, productive society, there is a need for our citizens to maintain cognitive health throughout life.

  • 2011-2012 James McKeen Cattell Fund Fellowships Recipients

    We are pleased to announce the 2011-2012 recipients of the James McKeen Cattell Fund Fellowships. The Fellowships are awarded yearly to North American university faculty committed to developing scientific research in psychology and its applications to improving human welfare. The award includes financial support that allows recipients to extend their sabbatical period. Patrick Davies, University of Rochester, examines the effects of interpersonal stressors, especially family stressors, on children’s socioemotional adapation and maladapation.

  • Hard Problems in Social Science

    On April 10, 2010, a dozen distinguished scholars convened at Harvard University to discuss what they thought were the “hardest problems in social science.” Over 30 problems were posed, ranging from the methodological to the theoretical to the applied. The symposium was followed by seven weeks of Web-based discussion, during which we encouraged people around the world to debate the expert problems, pose additional problems, and participate in a poll rating the problems for difficulty and importance. The poll questions and tables summarizing the results are posted on the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences Division of Social Science Web site.

  • Garb Recognized for Trainee Mental Health Screening

    APS Fellow Howard Garb was awarded the Meritorious Civilian Service Award on Feb. 24, 2011, in recognition of his contributions to mental health screening in basic military training. Garb is director of the Biographical Evaluation and Screening of Troops Program and chief of the Psychology Research Service, 559th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The Meritorious Civilian Service Award is one of the two highest awards and medals for civilian employees. The award recognizes Air Force employees who have performed their assigned duties in an exemplary manner, with a reasonable degree of command-wide mission impact.

  • Most Underappreciated

    In science, not all great ideas see the light of day. But now, thanks to Most Unappreciated, a new book edited by APS Fellow Robert Arkin, Ohio State University, we learn what a number of eminent social psychologists widely known for significantly advancing the field, think is their least appreciated – or in some cases, most misunderstood – work; hidden gems that didn’t have the anticipated impact, or in some cases were influential for the wrong reasons. “For some time, I have been asking colleagues ‘What is your most underappreciated work?’” said Arkin. “Nearly every conversation included a story, a recounting of a project or idea – often connected to some obvious emotion.