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212008Volume 21, Issue10November 2008

Presidential Column

Walter Mischel
Columbia University
APS President 2008 - 2009
All columns

In this Issue:
Our Urban Legends: Grants

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

  • Our Urban Legends: Grants

    My first column on our “urban legends” discussed implicit understandings and misunderstandings about what it takes to get published in different kinds of psychology journals. My second column turned to legends about the policies and behavior of journal reviewers and editors, including a wish list of what they should not do (e.g., micro-managing other peoples’ research). This column discusses grant-giving and getting and the headache-producing decisions process that faces both peer reviewers and applicants in the competition for research support, so that ultimately something might be discovered that could be published.


  • Civility in the College Classroom

    You are teaching an upper-level undergraduate course of about 90 students. Each day, one particular student arrives to class late, sits front and center in the class, and proceeds to send text messages on her cell phone. Instead of trying to make her texting less obvious by holding the phone where you can’t see it, she boldly holds it above desk level, practically right in front of your face. Deciding that this behavior is not too detrimental to the learning environment, but determined to address it when you get a chance, you let the behavior continue until one day another student takes matters into her own hands and during your lecture whispers to her texting neighbor that her behavior is distracting and asks her to stop. Shockingly, the neighbor responds by loudly cursing out the other student for daring to impinge on her “right” to do as she pleases in class.

More From This Issue

  • Stereoscopes: Straddling the Line Between Life and Lab

    Stereoscope A stereoscope is a device used to simulate processes of binocular vision. There are two basic types of stereoscopes: reflecting stereoscopes, which use mirrors; and refracting stereoscopes, which use prisms or, more commonly, lenses. But regardless of the type of stereoscope, all function to expose two separate images, one to each eye. Although widely known as a popular device for amusement, stereoscopes were a mainstay in early psychology laboratories involved in research on vision. In 1838, Sir Charles Wheatstone described his design of the first stereoscope he had built as early as 1833.

  • The Role of Emotional Literacy in Public Health

    Lisa Feldman Barrett (left) and John B. Jammott III (second from left) testify on research relating to health policy. APS Fellow Lisa Feldman Barrett recently testified on Capitol Hill about her research on emotional granularity — the ability to experience distinctly different emotional states — and the importance of emotional literacy training programs to health and even the economy.

  • The New SAT: A Work in Progress

    It used to be that an acceptance letter from a good college was simply a pleasant prelude to the game of life. No more. In 21st century America, getting into the best universities has become a ferociously competitive, high-stakes game. This year, the University of California received 340,000 applications for 40,000 places. There are many more qualified students than selective schools can accommodate, and the hunt is on for the best students at public and private institutions alike. But who are the best students?

  • Beads of Memory

    Born with an “academic silver spoon” in his mouth and an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time, APS William James Fellow Award recipient Morris Moscovitch honed his interest in memory as an undergraduate at McGill University. Moscovitch was born in Bucharest but grew up in Israel and Montreal. In 1971, he began teaching at the University of Toronto and credits much of his success in the field to his early years of uninterrupted research. “I was too playful to do anything else but research. They didn’t trust me with a pencil, let alone the department’s budget,” Moscovitch joked during his award address at the APS 20th Annual Convention in Chicago.

  • On the Newsstand

    A Cold Stare Can Make You Crave Some Heat The New York Times September 16, 2008 “And even if the thermometer doesn’t register the difference, people do: social iciness feels so cold to those on the receiving end that they will crave a hot drink, a new study has found. The paper, appearing in the current issue of Psychological Science, is the latest finding from the field of embodied cognition, in which researchers have shown that the language of metaphor can activate physical sensations, and vice versa.” Coverage of “Cold and Lonely: Does Social Exclusion Literally Feel Cold?” in Psychological Science (Chen-Bo Zhong and Geoffrey J. Leonardelli, Volume 19(9), 838-842).

  • New NIH “Transformative Research” Program Focuses on Behavior

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has just given a big boost for behavioral science funding: A new Transformative R01 Program (T-R01) will support exceptionally innovative, original, or unconventional research that encourages researchers to seize unexpected opportunities and cultivate bold ideas regardless of the anticipated risk. The program, supported by the NIH Common Fund — which pools funds from all NIH institutes — aims to transform current paradigms by supporting inventive research.

  • Science’s Plea to New President: Make Good Use of Science

    For the good of the nation, the government’s top scientific jobs and issues must not be neglected in the transitional rush from Election Day to the official start of a new administration and beyond. Of course not. But, in fact, incoming government officials have often considered science-related matters to be of second-tier importance. Which is why a plea for prompt attention was issued by the scientific establishment during the presidential election campaign.

  • Creative Leadership: A Profile of New PSPI Editor Elaine Walker

    Walker Creativity has long been an important part of APS Fellow Elaine Walker’s life. Interested in art since elementary school, she received a scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis with an intended major in the fine arts. Little did she know that when she began working part-time in a psychiatric hospital’s art therapy program it would be a life-changing experience. Although she expected the therapy aspect of the program to be secondary, her interests shifted quickly from the art toward the direction of psychopathology.