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202007Volume 20, Issue10November 2007

Presidential Column

John Cacioppo
John Cacioppo
University of Chicago
APS President 2007 - 2008
All columns

In this Issue:
Better Interdisciplinary Research Through Psychological Science

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

  • Better Interdisciplinary Research Through Psychological Science

    Psychological science is among the most frequently cited of the sciences, and the impact of this research extends far beyond our disciplinary borders (Boyack, Klavans, & Börner, 2005). The creation of psychological science, like the creation of scientific knowledge across nearly all fields, also is increasingly the product of scientific teams, as discussed in last month’s Presidential Column (Wuchty, Jones, & Uzzi, 2007). The thesis here is twofold: (a) psychological scientists are in an ideal position to contribute to and lead interdisciplinary research teams addressing a wide range of theoretical and practical questions, and (b) psychological science can inform and contribute to the success of such interdisciplinary efforts.

APS Spotlight

  • Helping Physicians Understand Screening Tests Will Improve Health Care

    Medical doctors tend to think of psychologists as therapists, useful for emotionally disturbed patients, but not for members of their own trade. Research on transparent risk communication is beginning to change that view, however. As a young researcher, I was struck by a study conducted by David Eddy, now Senior Advisor for Health Policy and Management at Kaiser Permanente. He asked American physicians to estimate the probability that a woman had breast cancer given a positive screening mammogram and provided them with the relevant information: a base rate of 1 percent, a sensitivity of 80 percent, and a false-positive rate of 9.6 percent. Approximately 95 out of 100 physicians wrongly reckoned this probability to be around 75 percent, whereas the correct answer is 7.7 percent (Eddy, 1982).


  • Student Research in Psychology Courses

    A foundation for every undergraduate psychology program is a class on some form of research methods. Not only does this class provide students with tools to design experiments, but perhaps more importantly, it teaches them to think critically and skeptically, not only about psychology, but about being better consumers of information and hence better citizens. In this post post-modern era, where the claim is that “you have your evidence, I have mine; all are equal,” a research methods class is a critical venue for emphasizing what science is and what it is not. An effective tool to convey this information lies in having students actively conduct research as a course requirement. Currently, roughly 60 percent of methodology classes require students to engage in a research project lasting two weeks or more (Perlman & McCann, 2005).

First Person

  • Time-to-Degree: Some Suggestions for Keeping on Schedule as a PhD Student

    A key measure of both successful graduate students and successful graduate programs is whether students make timely progress through the program and receive their degrees (de Valero, 2001). Successful progress through PhD programs involves making effective use of your advisor; forming productive relationships with peers; and maintaining your own persistence, focus, and motivation. Relationships With Your Advisor Just like having a genetic resistance to disease is related to having “picked the right parents,” a great deal of your graduate school progress depends on having picked the right advisor. Our genetic resistance to disease is beyond our control; however, we can make ourselves resistant to obstacles in graduate school by choosing our advisors carefully.

More From This Issue

  • Rising Stars, Part II

    Kathleen McDermott Washington University in St. Louis PhD 1996, Rice University Specialty: Human memory Publication Most Proud of: Roediger, H. & McDermott, K. (1995). Creating false memories: Remembering words not presented in lists. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 21, 803-814. It’s difficult to pick a single paper, but this one was the starting point for some of my subsequent work and has been one of my more influential papers. What does your research focus on? My research focuses on human memory and how it interrelates with other cognitive processes (e.g., perception, imagery, and language).

  • APS is Off and Running

    The following is a reprint of the first-ever APS Presidential Column, which appeared in the inaugural October 1988 issue of the Observer. The fledgling American Psychological Society — not quite a month old as this is being written — is off to an auspicious start. Beginning with a nucleus of loyal ASAP members and swelled by several hundred other individuals who joined the Society during the APA Convention in Atlanta and immediately thereafter, the membership continues to grow at a rate that makes our aspiration of having several thousand members by the end of the fall a realistic goal.

  • On the Newsstand

    For Lonely Hearts, One Can Be an Unhealthy Number USA Today September 26, 2007 “‘There’s evidence that lonely people don’t cope well,’ says Louise Hawkley, a researcher at the University of Chicago. Hawkley and her colleague John Cacioppo, also of the University of Chicago, analyzed data from several studies and put them together in an article that appears in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

  • Why It’s Impossible for Some to ‘Just Say No’

    Drug abuse, crime, and obesity are but a few of the problems our nation faces, but they all have one thing in common — people’s failure to control their behavior in the face of temptation. Although the ability to control and restrain our impulses is one of the defining features of the human animal, its failure is one of the central problems of human society. Why do we so often lack this crucial ability? As human beings, we have limited resources to control ourselves, and all acts of control draw from this same source. Therefore, when using resources in one domain (e.g. keeping to a diet), we are more likely to run out of resources in a different domain, like studying hard.

  • Ballots and Budgets

    Can the care and feeding of science win support and votes for a politician? From the record of recent presidential campaigns, including the current marathon, the candidates don’t think so. None among the platoon of hard-running hopefuls has paid much attention, if any, to the cries of financial need coming ever louder from researchers, particularly those dependent on the National Institutes of Health. Senator Hillary Clinton pledged all good things for science in a speech in October observing the 50th anniversary of Sputnik. Technology is endorsed on Mitt Romney’s campaign website. But, these are exception to the customary campaign fare — rare exceptions.

  • A Career in Social Psychology: An Address by Morton Deutsch

    Morton Deutsch hopes that future social psychologists will be more concerned than his generation with what he called “the socially relevant properties of individuals and the psychologically relevant attributes of social structures.” “To oversimplify it,” Deutsch said during his James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award Address at the APS 19th Annual Convention in Washington, DC, “I hope that they will provide a successful  integration of the orientation of three of the intellectual heroes of my youth: Freud, Marx, and Lewin.” “We live in a highly individualistic society,” Deutsch said.

  • The Federal Budget Season

    Apple-picking, leaf piles, and pumpkins — all things that come with fall here in the East. But there’s another thing that’s synonymous with fall hereabouts: the annual Congressional scramble to pass the federal budget that keeps our government (and a good deal of research) running. In February of this year, the President released his federal budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2008. In the spring, both chambers of Congress held hearings — during which APS testified on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and behavioral science funding (see April 2007 Observer) — and debated changes to the President’s numbers.

  • APS Fellows Honored

    Feldman Barrett’s NIH Pioneer Award APS Fellow Lisa Feldman Barrett has received the prestigious NIH Director’s Pioneer Award. Feldman Barrett is one of 12 new awardees who will each receive $2.5 million to support their research over the next five years.

  • Level of Oxytocin in Pregnant Women Predicts Mother-Child Bond

    Humans are hard-wired to form enduring bonds with others. One of the primary bonds across the mammalian species is the mother-infant bond. Evolutionarily speaking, it is in a mother’s best interest to foster the well-being of her child; however, some mothers just seem a bit more maternal than do others  But why? New research points to a hormone that predicts the level of bonding between mother and child. In animals, oxytocin, dubbed “the hormone of love and bonding,” is critically important for the development of parenting. It is elicited during sexual intercourse and is involved in maintaining close relationships.