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Volume 22, Issue9November 2009

Presidential Column

Linda Bartoshuk
Linda Bartoshuk
University of Florida
APS President 2009 - 2010
All columns

In this Issue:
Addicted to Food: An Interview With Bart Hoebel

About the Observer

Published 6 times per year by the Association for Psychological Science, the Observer educates and informs on matters affecting the research, academic, and applied disciplines of psychology; promotes the scientific values of APS members; reports on issues of international interest to the psychological science community; and provides a vehicle for the dissemination on information about APS.

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    Myths and Misinformation

    How does misinformation spread and how do we combat it? Psychological science sheds light on the mechanisms underlying misinformation and ‘fake news.’

Up Front


  • Addicted to Food: An Interview With Bart Hoebel

    Continuing with my exploration of the intersection of psychology, health, and dietary choices in these columns, this month I present an interview with ground-breaking food researcher Bart Hoebel, a Professor of Psychology at Princeton University. Hoebel is one of the pioneers who first stimulated brain areas involved in feeding. His work illustrates the power of animal models to elucidate human behavior and shows the central role of feeding in all species. His work on the brain mechanisms controlling the pleasure evoked by feeding has contributed critical insights to our understanding of food choice and drug addiction. Bartoshuk: What were the early years of brain stimulation research like? Hoebel: In my graduate student days, stimulation of the lateral hypothalamus (LH) of the brain was the 8th wonder of the world to me.

Practice


  • Grading Student Papers: Reducing Faculty Workload While Improving Feedback to Students

    Most professors believe that clear and effective writing is important in all levels of psychology and in most of the professions for which we are training our students. And most professors give their students writing assignments because they believe that practice will improve students’ writing. And as part of this process, most professors (and their teaching assistants) believe that their feedback will improve the quality of students’ writing, so they spend countless hours providing written comments on these papers (after all, psychologists have long known that practice without feedback is futile, right?). Of these three assumptions, probably only the first one is true. Developing effective writing skills is one of the top goals for undergraduate psychology education identified by the APA’s Task Force on Undergraduate Major Competencies (2002).

First Person


  • Playing Guitar Hero to Understand Statistics

    One day in my statistics class, a fellow student asked, “Can we play Guitar Hero in class? I think we could use it to teach something in stats.” This pitch did not immediately sell Michelle Verges, an Assistant Professor of psychology at Indiana University, South Bend, and professor of our course. So she responded, “We can play Guitar Hero if someone will write a brief proposal that explains how this game relates to your learning of statistics.” At this point, my mind was devoid of anything but designing this project. At first blush, playing Guitar Hero, a video game in which players strum a guitar-shaped controller in time with real rock songs, seems like a student’s way of wasting time.

More From This Issue


  • NIH: Grant Competition Brings Age Friction

    Nobody wants to face up to this, but we’ve got too many well-qualified health-related researchers relative to the amount of money available to keep them at work. And every year, more of them enter a cash-strapped grant market that guarantees waste of talent and disappointment. The scarcity economy in science has long manifested itself in serial postdoc appointments that are really holding patterns for young scientists who would otherwise be unemployed. It also shows up in the surfeit of well-trained applicants for entry research posts in universities, industry, and government.

  • Members in the News

    David M. Amodio, New York University, New York Times, Oct 12, 2009: The Young and the Neuro. Eugene Arnold, Ohio State University, Science, Sep 25, 2009: The Theory? Diet Causes Violence. The Lab? Prison. Timothy B. Baker, University of Wisconsin, Newsweek, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Science, Oct 2, 2009; Los Angeles Times, Oct 8, 2009; Psychology Today, Oct 9, 2009; Nature, Oct 15, 2009: Ignoring the Evidence: Why Do Psychologists Reject Science? Thomas J. Bouchard, University of Minnesota, Science, Jul 3, 2009: Behavioral Geneticist Celebrates Twins, Scorns PC Science. Kelly D. Brownell, Yale University, NPR, Morning Edition, Oct 14, 2009: Soda Tax.

  • Basic Behavioral Research at NIH: A Timeline

    1994: The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommends an increase in training grants for behavioral scientists in recognition of the central role of behavior in health. NIH rejects the NAS recommendation. January 1998: APS Executive Director Alan Kraut testifies in the U.S. House of Representatives on the 1999 NIH budget, raising the issue of behavioral science training at NIH and the lack of support for basic behavioral science. A conversation ensues with Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) on this issue, marking the start of what would turn out to be a decade-long effort by Kennedy.

  • Scientifically Scary

    Just when you thought you were safe from the ghoulish ghosts of Halloween until next year, here comes emotion researcher Lisa Feldman Barrett with another dose of fright! Feldman Barrett, an APS Fellow, uses her knowledge of emotion in an annual haunted house charity fundraiser she and her family have put on in their basement for the last five years. With postdocs, RAs, and graduate students dressed up as skeletons and monsters, Feldman Barrett and her creepy colleagues “use body postures, changes in eye contact, the timing of noises, and movements to increase startle,” she reports.

  • APS Journals Now on JSTOR

    The APS journals Psychological Science, Current Directions in Psychological Science, and Psychological Science in the Public Interest were recently added to the JSTOR database, opening them up to a multitude of researchers, students, and professionals around the globe. Material from the newest APS journal, Perspectives on Psychological Science, will be added once it reaches five years of publication. Since its founding by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in the late 1990s, JSTOR has been providing scholarship to a truly astounding number of users.

  • On the Newsstand: Special Edition

    This special edition of On the Newsstand features quotes from media coverage of “Current Status and Future Prospects of Clinical Psychology: Toward a Scientifically Principled Approach to Mental and Behavioral Health Care, ” a Psychological Science in the Public Interest report (Volume 9, Issue 2) by Timothy B. Baker, Richard M. McFall, and Varda Shoham.

  • Trust Your Gut? Study Explores Religion, Morality and Trust in Authority

    Most of us strive to do what’s right,  but we differ on how we get  to the definition of right, with some basing their beliefs on religious teaching and others on a secular moral code. Psychologists Daniel C. Wisneski, Brad L. Lytle, and Linda J. Skitka from the University of Illinois at Chicago explored this interplay of moral convictions and religious beliefs as it relates to our trust in authority.  Specifically, the researchers provided a nationally-represented sample of adults — 53 percent female, 72 percent White, 12 percent Black, and 11 percent Hispanic — with an online survey about the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on physician-assisted suicide.

  • Mad Genius: Study Suggests Link Between Psychosis and Creativity

    History teems with examples of great artists acting in very peculiar ways. Were these artists simply mad or brilliant? According to new research reported in Psychological Science, maybe both. In order to examine the link between psychosis and creativity, psychiatrist Szabolcs Kéri of Semmelweis University in Hungary focused his research on neuregulin 1, a gene that normally plays a role in a variety of brain processes, including development and strengthening communication between neurons. However, a variant of this gene (or genotype) is associated with a greater risk of developing mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

  • Use It or Lose It? Study Suggests the Brain Can Remember a “Forgotten” Language

    Many of us learn a foreign language when we are young, but in some cases, exposure to that language is brief and we never get to hear or practice it again. Our subjective impression is often that the neglected language completely fades away from our memory. But does “use it or lose it” apply to foreign languages? Although it may seem we have absolutely no memory of the neglected language, new research suggests this “forgotten” language may be more deeply engraved in our minds than we realize. Psychologists Jeffrey Bowers, Sven L.