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272014Volume 27, Issue5May/June 2014

Presidential Column

Elizabeth A. Phelps
Elizabeth A. Phelps
New York University
APS President 2013 - 2014
All columns

In this Issue:
Achieving Diversity

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

  • Achieving Diversity

    Psychological research has shown the value of diversity in improving the quality of decisions while also promoting social and cultural goals of providing equal opportunity regardless of social-group membership. Although we generally think of diversity goals as assuring that every person of equal talent has an equal chance of being represented, psychological research also shows that diversity helps diminish the invisible but persistent psychological barriers that emerge from being a member of an underrepresented group. For example, social psychological research finds that female students in science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines who have more female professors show more self-efficacy and commitment to pursue STEM disciplines themselves (Stout et al., 2011).

APS Spotlight

  • Champions of Psychological Science: Brian Nosek

    This is the full, unedited version of an interview in the May/June edition of the Observer. APS Fellow Brian Nosek received a PhD in from Yale University in 2002 and is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Virginia. In 2007, he received early career awards from the International Social Cognition Network (ISCON) and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI). He cofounded Project Implicit (, an Internet-based multiuniversity collaboration of research and education about implicit cognition — thoughts and feelings that exist outside of awareness or control. Nosek investigates the gap between values and practices — such as when behavior is influenced by factors other than one's intentions and goals.


  • 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.

First Person

  • The Importance of Divergent Thinking for Research in Graduate School and Beyond

    As undergraduates, we are generally encouraged to practice concrete thought. Our goal is to find the “right” answers. In the context of undergraduate education, our success is often determined by our ability to spit back the information provided in textbooks and lectures; taking new divergent approaches to problems is rarely rewarded. This unidirectional flow of information from professors to students makes sense given that we all begin our studies as novice scientists. This arrangement promotes convergent thinking (Guilford, 1967), the concept that there is one correct answer to a problem. However, when we make the transition to graduate school we find that the relationship between students and professors becomes bidirectional. In other words, both students and professors are expected to contribute original information to courses and research projects, promoting divergent thinking.

More From This Issue

  • Books to Check Out: May/June 2014

    To submit a new book, email [email protected]. Clueless: Coaching People Who Just Don’t Get It (2nd ed.) by Sandra Mashihi and Kenneth Nowack; Envisia Learning Inc., 2013. Coming to Our Senses: Perceiving Complexity to Avoid Catastrophes by Viki McCabe; Oxford University Press, March 3, 2014. The SAGE Handbook of Applied Memory coedited by Tim Perfect and Stephen Lindsay; Sage Publications Ltd., December 29, 2013. Capturing Social and Behavioral Domains in Electronic Health Records from the National Research Council; The National Academies Press, 2014.

  • Step Up to the Mic

    If knowledge is power, then psychological scientists have enormous untapped power to change the world. Psychologists study something of interest to everyone on the planet — namely, people.  We try to understand why people behave as they do and how we can encourage them to change their behavior to improve their well-being. The knowledge psychological scientists gain has direct relevance to the daily lives of individuals, families, and communities around the world. As things stand now, the power of our knowledge is largely unrealized.

  • Calling for a Change in the STEM Climate

    What accounts for women’s lower participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) compared to men? Discussion of this important topic has moved beyond the notion of gender differences in ability, and to some extent beyond women’s “lack of interest” in or “choice” to avoid STEM. Instead, the conversation (and psychological research) has increasingly focused on external factors, including societal stereotypes about who has STEM ability and who doesn’t. Of interest, these stereotypes are found to be heightened by features of the environment — the STEM settings in which women work and learn.

  • Snap-Judgment Science

    You've spent hours preparing for the job interview. You’ve tried to anticipate everything your potential new employers may ask you. You think hard about every detail: Remember to sit up straight, look them in the eye, give a firm handshake, tell them what they want to hear. But despite all the effort you spend trying to make a good impression, the interview might be over the second the recruiters first lay eyes on you. Before we can finish blinking our eyes, we’ve already decided whether we want to hire, date, hate, or make friends with a person we’re encountering for the first time. These first impressions color the way we interact with other people from that point forward.

  • Making the Most of Science, In and Out of the Classroom

    In 1995, a man named Ronald Cotton provided a blood sample intended to prove his guilt. By all accounts, he was culpable for breaking into the homes of two young women, stealing their belongings, and raping them on a humid July night in 1984. One of the victims, Jennifer Thompson, was sure he was the attacker. She identified him in a photograph. She picked him out of a police lineup. She was sure he was the man. Except that he wasn’t the man. Someone named Bobby Poole was the true offender. He was proven guilty by a DNA test and was subsequently shut away under lock and key. After more than a decade behind bars, an innocent man was finally released.

  • 2014 APS Mentor Awards

    The APS Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement recognizes those who have significantly fostered the careers of others, honoring APS members who masterfully help students and others find their own voices and discover their own research and career goals. Four psychological scientists have been selected to receive the 2014 APS Mentor Award. Richard E. Nisbett University of Michigan Richard E. Nisbett is one of the most distinguished social psychologists active in psychological science today, and has won virtually every major award in the field, including the APS William James Fellow Award and now the 2014 APS Mentor Award.

  • APS Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions

    The APS Board of Directors is pleased to announce the 2014 recipients of the APS Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions. The award recognizes the creativity and innovative work of promising scientists who represent the future of psychological science. This award is a fitting tribute to its namesake, Janet Taylor Spence, the first elected APS President. Spence’s distinguished career is characterized by both its empirical rigor and its innovative theoretical approach, which led her to develop widely used assessment techniques. The awards will be presented this month at the 2014 APS Annual Convention in San Francisco. Alan Anticevic Kurt Gray J.

  • ‘Sensitive’-Topics Research: Is It Really Harmful to Participants?

    One undesirable side effect of the mental hygiene movement and the overall tradition of dynamic psychiatry has been the development among educated persons of what I call the “spun-glass theory of the mind.” This is the doctrine that the human organism, adult or child, is constituted of such frail material, is of such exquisite psychological delicacy, that rather minor, garden-variety frustrations, deprivations, criticisms, rejections, or failure experiences are likely to result in major traumas. -Paul Meehl As young psychologists in our first tenure-track positions, we were eager to begin our research careers.

  • Transforming the Future of Education With Research

    Scientists across all subfields of psychology have theories and findings on how students learn and on factors within the education system that can improve student outcomes. In addition, psychological scientists have experience with a rich set of methodologies and data analysis techniques that have the potential to be useful for education research. However, much of that knowledge has not been applied to or tested in classroom or school contexts.

  • Classifying Cognitive Style Across Disciplines

    Educators have tried to boost learning by focusing on differences in learning styles. Management consultants tout the impact that different decision-making styles have on productivity.  Various fields have developed diverse approaches to understanding the way people process information. A new report from psychological scientists aims to integrate these disciplines by offering a new, integrated framework of cognitive styles that bridges different terminologies, concepts, and approaches.

  • Multiple Methods Reveal the Complexities of Neurocognitive Development

    The adult brain is often used as a model for understanding both typical and atypical development, but in reality the brain is different in infancy and is constantly changing in response to both genetic and environmental influences. The importance of understanding the timeline and nature of these interactions on neural, cognitive, and behavioral developmental trajectories is the focus of a recent article published in the APS journal Clinical Psychological Science. The authors, APS Board Member Annette Karmiloff-Smith, B. J. Casey, Esha Massand, Przemyslaw Tomalski, and Michael S. C.

  • Robinson to Speak on Motivation, Addiction

    APS Fellow Terry E. Robinson is the recipient of a 2014 William James Fellow Award. Robinson, Elliot S. Valenstein Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Michigan, will deliver his award address on “Individual Variation in Resisting Temptation: Implications for Addiction” at the 2014 APS Annual Convention, May 22–25 in San Francisco. Robinson’s research has focused on “the persistent behavioral and neurobiological consequences of drug use, and the implications of these for addiction and relapse.” He is a former editor-in-chief of Behavioral Brain Research, a journal which publishes research on behavioral neuroscience.

  • It was the best of times, the most indulgent of times

    Young Americans have gotten a fair share of criticism in recent decades. College students in particular—and those leaving college to enter the work force—have been described as self-absorbed and entitled, grandiose in their sense of their own importance. For the harshest critics, it’s a generation of narcissistic brats. I know. I know. It’s unfair and perilous to characterize an entire generation, and indeed this narcissistic trend has been disputed by some. There is also a lively debate about what might instill a grandiose self-concept in the minds of the young. Have they been spoiled by indulgent, overprotective parents, who lavished their kids with unearned praise?

  • Items From Classic Experiment on Display at the 2014 APS Convention

    Original uniforms and other artifacts from the historic Stanford Prison Experiment, in which social psychology pioneer and APS Fellow Philip G. Zimbardo examined how college students reacted to being placed in a simulated prison environment as either guards or inmates, will be on display at the 2014 APS Convention in San Francisco, California. The Center for the History of Psychology is sponsoring the exhibit and will display the uniforms from the 1971 study in the Exhibit Hall.