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Volume 25, Issue9November 2012

Presidential Column

Joseph E. Steinmetz
Joseph E. Steinmetz
The Ohio State University
APS President 2012 - 2013
All columns

In this Issue:
The Fabric of Psychology Departments in Europe Is Intricate and Wonderful

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 Fabric of Psychology Departments in Europe Is Intricate and Wonderful

    The divine architect who laid the grounds of psychology departments in Europe must have cherished diversity and condemned anybody who, per chance, was commissioned to describe them in 1000 words. So, whatever comes next will fail to capture this complexity — yet this is my mission and act of self-flagellation. Let me start with the most obvious distinction between universities in the Old and New Worlds. From the beginning, universities in the Old (Western) World, starting with the University of Bologna in 1088, were designed for teaching and research as joint activities expected of scholars. You learned, you knew, you practiced, and you taught. That is the pattern that was replicated in diverse forms to support the existence of universities — a service that was supported by institutions such as the church or currently the state. And so, what about the New World?

APS Spotlight


  • Taking Science to Court

    Ever since the celebrated submissions to the US Supreme Court regarding segregated education, psychological scientists have made important contributions to legal decision making and public policy development. Recently, psychological scientists have been key witnesses in federal and state courts that are considering challenges to laws restricting the rights of gay and lesbian Americans to raise, foster, and adopt children as well as their rights to have their relationships recognized as marriages. I became involved in such litigation more than a decade ago, when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked me to testify in a case challenging Florida regulations prohibiting gay and lesbian adults from adopting children.

First Person


  • Putting Pen to Paper

    One key to surviving graduate school is writing. A recent analysis of job ads published in the APS Observer found that, on average, PhD students who go straight into a tenure-track position have six publications (Valla, 2010). The average varied by discipline: for cognitive psychology, it was an average of 6; for developmental psychology, it was an average of 3; and for social psychology, it was an average of 12. In addition to manuscripts intended for publication, you will likely write a master’s thesis, research proposals and papers for classes, IRB applications, grant proposals, talks at conferences, poster presentations, award applications, and the all-important dissertation. Clearly, writing prodigiously is an important skill to master.

More From This Issue


  • Reflections on Five Years as Editor

    Editing Psychological Science is a uniquely challenging and rewarding editorial gig. My predecessor, James Cutting, likened the experience to riding a thoroughbred race horse, “You hold on with all your might for some equilibrium, go as fast as you can, your pulse races, you don’t chance to look back and rarely to the side, and the felt rewards are great” (2007, p. 1). This metaphor captures much of my editorial experience at Psychological Science, as do two others.

  • Changing the Way Child Abuse Is Investigated

    Decades of investigating how children remember traumatic experiences could make a scientist bitter and cynical. But James McKeen Cattell Fellow Gail S. Goodman is optimistic her research will change children’s lives for the better. During her award address at the 24th APS Annual Convention in Chicago, the University of California, Davis researcher demonstrated how psychological scientists can positively influence the way child-abuse cases are investigated. Goodman began her talk with the case of a 2-year-old girl in Lewes, Delaware.

  • The Golden Years of Emotion

    Are you a working parent who constantly feels stressed and irritated? Do even little events make you angry, causing you to snap at your partner or colleagues? Do you rarely get a moment of relaxation and peace? It does get better — eventually — you just have to wait until you get older. Although aging may bring various undesirable changes — forgetfulness, vision and hearing loss, declining health — the emotional changes tend to be positive. You will probably feel happier, calmer, and more balanced when reaching 60 and 70 than you did earlier in life — and lifespan researchers are making headway in understanding why.

  • What’s Good, When, and Why?

    Promising new work in emotion regulation suggests that the means by which we decide how to regulate what we feel — and even recognize our own emotions — might be the most productive areas for examining the intricacies of mood. Prominent psychological scientists came together at the 24th APS Annual Convention to discuss the latest paradigm-shifting research in the field. APS Fellow George A. Bonanno, Columbia University, who has worked with trauma victims for years to examine coping strategies, opened the panel by talking about normal resilience.

  • Too Soon? Too Late? Psychological Distance Matters When It Comes to Humor

    Joking around can land us in hot water. Comedian Jeffrey Ross’s routine at a roast of Roseanne Barr was censored when he joked about the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. “Too soon!” everyone said. In an upcoming article in Psychological Science, Peter McGraw and his colleagues at the Humor Research Lab (HuRL) at the University of Colorado Boulder explore how violation severity (how “bad” it is) and psychological distance (how removed we are) work together to facilitate humor. In their first study, participants were asked to describe an event from their lives that became either more funny or less funny as time passed. Participants then rated the event’s severity.

  • Gelfand Receives Anneliese Maier Research Award

    APS Fellow Michele J. Gelfand, who studies conflict and conducts comparative cultural research, accepted the Anneliese Maier Research Award at a ceremony at Heidelberg University in Germany. The award is granted by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and includes a €250,000 prize, which will fund Gelfand’s collaboration with Klaus Boehnke and other colleagues at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany. Gelfand has been recognized for her work contrasting “tight” societies, which have little tolerance for deviation from their strict social norms, with “loose” societies, which have a higher tolerance for deviation from their weaker social norms.

  • When it Comes to Department Name, ‘Psychology’ Is #1

    The continuing commentary on the article on psychology departments’ changing their names in the September 2011 Observer led me to wonder about the current distribution of departmental monikers. I therefore mined the data of the APS membership rosters — specifically, the contact affiliations volunteered by members (kindly provided by APS).

  • At The Intersection of Culture and Mental Health

    When it comes to mental health issues, Joseph P. Gone of the University of Michigan says that many American Indians prefer traditional therapies over therapies with European roots. This is a concern because US tribes rely on federal funding to meet community health needs — and as things stand, funding agencies favor scientifically vetted treatments (i.e., treatments with European roots). In his Invited Address at the 24th APS Annual Convention, Gone explained why scientific evaluation remains a sensitive and complicated issue among American Indians.