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Volume 24, Issue9November 2011

Presidential Column

Douglas L. Medin
Douglas L. Medin
Northwestern University
APS President 2011 - 2012
All columns

In this Issue:
The Value(s) of IRBs

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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Up Front

  • The Value(s) of IRBs

    Let me say at the onset that institutional review boards (IRBs) serve an important role and generally do a pretty good job at it. To be sure, everyone engaged in research has their IRB stories, such as being told that their recruitment poster must put the payment amount in smaller font or remove it altogether so that it won’t be “coercive,” being asked to tape record the verbal assent of illiterate Tzeltal Maya adults, having the very same consent form that has sailed through the review process many times rejected, and so on. But these are minor issues that can be remedied with a little patience and understanding. The situation could be far more challenging. What if IRBs were to decide that undergraduates could no longer be recruited for research studies because social pressure made it very awkward for students to decline to participate?

APS Spotlight

  • Champions of Psychology: Dante Cicchetti

    APS Fellow Dante Cicchetti is Presidential Chair and William Harris Professor of Child Development and Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota. Cicchetti has received numerous awards for his work in developmental science as well as his work on policy and practice related to child maltreatment, depression, and mental retardation. In 1984, he joined Mt. Hope Family Center — a research and treatment center for children and their families — where he served as Director until 2005. Cicchetti took some time to speak with the APS Student Caucus (APSSC) about his career and to provide some advice for current graduate students. APSSC: How did you develop your current research interests, and how have they influenced you as a person and a professional? DC: Much of my research has been influenced by my own experiences.


  • Teaching, Advising, and Mentoring the Non-Traditional Graduate Student

    Although university classrooms are traditionally populated by recent high school graduates and their peers, the number of non-traditional students entering college has increased in recent years. As changing technology and economic fluctuations affect the job market, many people are returning to school, both undergraduate and graduate, in pursuit of advanced degrees. According to the Council of Graduate Schools (2009), there has been a substantial increase in the number of non-traditional graduate students, and the trend is predicted to continue. By 2018, approximately 3.4 million graduate students will be age 35 and older. These students are likely to encounter different obstacles in completing advanced degrees than traditional students who move from undergraduate programs directly into graduate school.

First Person

  • Teaching in Graduate School: Another Avenue for Research

    In a recent Student Notebook article, Simpson and Varga (2011) stated, “As graduate students, we are indoctrinated to value those three little words: research, teaching, and service”. Wouldn’t it be great if you could combine two of those areas in a “two birds, one stone” kind of way? Actually, you can! Research and teaching don’t have to be compartmentalized — they can be two sides of the same coin. We all know how important publications are for our future career endeavours, and we often spend hours in the lab gathering data in our primary field of research. But teaching-related research is also important: It promotes student learning and enriches undergraduate education (see Healey, 2000, for a discussion).

More From This Issue

  • Recovering The Moral Dimension

    Barry Schwartz’s early research focused on trying to prove that B.F. Skinner’s models of human nature were wrong. But conversations with political scientists and philosophers at Swarthmore College made Schwartz, who is a professor in the psychology department at Swarthmore, realize that the behaviorist models he was studying shared many features with economic models.

  • Rising Stars

    Ehsan Arabzadeh Joshua Correll Lisa DeBruine Hal E. Hershfield Karen Gonsalkorale Yong He Aarti Iyer Wendy Johnson Jeffrey D. Karpicke Katherine Kinzler Joe Magee Betsy Levy Paluck Angelica Ronald Susanne Scheibe Ehsan Arabzadeh University of New South Wales, Australia What does your research focus on? A principal challenge of systems neuroscience is to quantify brain activity underlying behavior. Key questions include: How are different stimuli represented in neuronal activity? How does neuronal activity give rise to animals’ choices?

  • Neuroscience and the Law

    A few minutes into his talk at the APS 23rd Annual Convention, APS Past President Michael Gazzaniga, now a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, clicked to a slide titled “Role of Neuroscience in the Law.” Then he revealed a bullet point that read: “It is of little or no immediate use.” Several people in the audience giggled. Sometimes Gazzaniga gives this talk to lawyers, he says, and this is the part where he loses them. “Lawyers are practical people [who think] ‘I can’t use it? I’m out of here,’” says Gazzaniga. But psychological scientists can’t afford to walk away, says Gazzaniga, who was the Psi Chi distinguished speaker at the 2011 APS convention.

  • J. Frank Yates and a Decision-Making Theory for the Real World

    Early in his teaching career, one of J. Frank Yates’ students approached him for help with applying decision theory to her own real-life conundrum: Should she have an Indian marriage or an American marriage? At the time, Yates was perplexed. Decision theory was all but silent on the topic of love. In the decades between this question and his James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award Address at the 23rd APS Annual Convention, Yates found some answers. By exhaustively exploring the highs and lows of the decision-making spectrum, Yates and his colleagues developed a perspective that can account for decision making in real life, not just the choices that get studied in the laboratory.

  • Twitter Q&A on Rebooting Psychotherapy

    In the January 2011 issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, Yale University psychological scientists Alan Kazdin and Stacey Blase have called for drastic changes to the approach for treating mental illness in the United States. Comments to this article were published in the September issue of Perspectives. APS asked our Twitter and Facebook followers to Tweet Kazdin questions about his research using the hashtag #AskKazdin. Responses to 20 questions are published below . Read about Kazdin’s research and watch a video from the 2010 APS Annual Convention here. Below is part 1 of Kazdin’s Q & A: 1. Is there really an established evidence base for what works in psychotherapy?

  • APS Fellow Selected to Deliver Prestigious Lectures

    APS Fellow Bruce Hood has been selected to present the 2011 Royal Institution of Great Britain Christmas Lectures. Hood will deliver a series of lectures called “Meet Your Brain” in which he will explain how the external world is represented in different parts of the brain, the role of executive control, and social specialization of the brain. The RI Christmas lectures were started in 1825 and target a teenage audience. Many prominent scientists, including Nobel Laureates, have delivered the lectures. Gail Cardew, Director of Science and Education at the Royal Institution, expects Hood’s lectures to resonate with young people.