A Magnetic Field: Psychological Scientists Lead fMRI Labs

Once the domain of medical schools, brain imaging labs are increasingly interdisciplinary and thriving under the leadership of psychology departments.

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Volume 30, Issue8October 2017

Presidential Column

Suparna Rajaram
Suparna Rajaram
Stony Brook University, The State University of New York
APS President 2017 - 2018
All columns

In this Issue:
Science Is Not a Spectator Sport

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

  • Science Is Not a Spectator Sport

    Be the change that you wish to see in the world. -Attributed to Mahatma Gandhi It was a late August morning, but I could feel the crisp air of autumn already setting in as I stood in the starting corral of a race in Central Park. Having traveled much of the summer (and armed with a few other excuses), I had little to no preparation for even a short run that day. Yet, as I began to put one foot in front of the other I could feel my belief return, slowly but surely, in being able to cross the finish line. The journey of becoming a scientist and of practicing science can often bring such tough patches. In this column, I focus on a particular aspect of this journey that goes hand in hand with our central goal of producing rigorous science — that of cultivating an appreciation for science in others. As I noted in my September column, the need to communicate the value of our science is more important and more urgent than ever. How can we all do our part to serve this goal? We are fortunate to have high-profile figures communicating science to millions. But each of us has a responsibility, too.

  • Preregistered Direct Replications: A New Article Type in Psychological Science

    Psychological Science has launched a new category of articles called Preregistered Direct Replications (PDRs) — replications of studies published previously in the APS flagship journal. PDRs aim to employ — as closely as possible — the same methods and procedures as the original study to determine if the original effects are reproduced. “The aim is to create conditions that competent experts agree test the same hypotheses in essentially the same way as the original study,” Editor in Chief D. Stephen Lindsay writes in an editorial introducing the new article type. PDRs are distinct from Registered Replication Reports (RRRs) and other multilab empirical papers, which originated in Perspectives on Psychological Science and will now transition to the newest APS journal, Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science. One of the motivations for adding PDRs, Lindsay says, is the belief that a journal is responsible for the work it publishes.


  • Teaching Current Directions in Psychological Science

    Aimed at integrating cutting-edge psychological science into the classroom, Teaching Current Directions in Psychological Science offers advice and how-to guidance about teaching a particular area of research or topic in psychological science that has been the focus of an article in the APS journal Current Directions in Psychological Science. Current Directions is a peer-reviewed bimonthly journal featuring reviews by leading experts covering all of scientific psychology and its applications and allowing readers to stay apprised of important developments across subfields beyond their areas of expertise. Its articles are written to be accessible to nonexperts, making them ideally suited for use in the classroom. Visit the column for supplementary components, including classroom activities and demonstrations. Visit David G. Myers at his blog “Talk Psych”.

First Person

  • APS Grants and Recognition for Students

    The career path for students in psychological science can seem daunting at times, with many factors influencing your decisions and choices. Is academia the best fit for you, or would you flourish in another setting? If your goal is to work in a lab, what central research questions will you focus on? What are some good ways to forge working relationships and connections with other psychological scientists? APS offers a variety of ways for budding scientists to pursue research projects and build strong CVs. The Association provides five opportunities that students can apply for in the next several months. The Student Grant Competition Application deadline: November 1, 2017. Provides small “seed grant” funding to support research in its initial development stages and to help with needs such as purchasing research materials or covering other expenses incurred prior to data collection.

More From This Issue

  • The Scientists Who Pioneered Psychology-Centered fMRI Centers

    The use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in scientific research began in earnest in the 1990s but was largely housed in radiology departments. But a few psychological scientists played leading and integral roles in establishing a model – now common – where imaging centers can be housed outside of medical centers for multidisciplinary research. These labs advanced the use of fMRI for research on cognition, behavior, clinical disorders, and more. APS Fellow Jonathan Cohen, a cognitive neuroscientist, was named director of Princeton’s Center for the Study of Brain, Mind and Behavior when it was founded in 2000 and was responsible for acquiring the center’s fMRI scanner.

  • New Books: October 2017

    Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World by Mitch Prinstein; Viking, June 6, 2017. Minding the Weather: How Expert Forecasters Think by Robert R. Hoffman, Daphne S. LaDue, H. Michael Mogil, Paul J. Roebber, and J. Gregory Trafton; The MIT Press, August 4, 2017.

  • A Conversation With Lee Anna Clark

    APS Fellow Lee Anna Clark is the lead author of a forthcoming Psychological Science in the Public Interest report on the scientific and practical challenges of classifying mental disorders. The report examines the International Classification of Diseases (for which Clark is a member of the Personality Disorders Working Group), the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (which she was actively involved in revising 4 years ago), and the National Institute of Mental Health’s Research Domain Criteria initiative. Psychological Science in the Public Interest reports are available here.

  • Gender Matters! Teaching Gender-Based Analysis in Psychology

    Over the past 10 years, the question of why women continue to be underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields has received sustained attention from researchers, educators, policy-makers, and the general public. Psychological scientists have been at the forefront of research to determine the causes of this underrepresentation, proposing and evaluating multiple possibilities ranging from outright sex discrimination (Moss-Racusin et al., 2012) to lifestyle choices and career preferences (Ceci & Williams, 2011) and the influence of gender roles on women’s educational and occupational decisions (Eccles, 1994).

  • Making the Most of University Museums

    As director of Tufts University’s Emotion, Brain, & Behavior Laboratory, Heather Urry offers courses ranging from introduction to psychology to affective neuroscience. But until last year, she never imagined incorporating an art museum into her instructional repertoire. Urry incorporated the Tufts University Art Gallery into a portion of an undergraduate emotion course that focused on coding facial movements — a step that has drawn praise from her students in their end-of-semester course evaluations. “In the past when I’ve taught this content, my lecture slides illustrated with pictures how the action units in the face map onto different expressions of emotion,” Urry explained.

  • Bridging Psychological Science and the Humanities

    Being a psychology professor at a small liberal arts college comes with certain perks. One is that I routinely have deep discussions with experts outside of my field. My office at Fontbonne University is just down the hall from colleagues who work in philosophy, sociology, history, English, and communications, and we discuss various ways that our disciplines intersect. For example, in what ways do themes from qualitative research in the humanities complement the empirical research of psychology? If we consider information stored in the physical environment as a form of external memory, as I do in my research, then what is the difference between that and history?

  • Psychological Scientists Receive Grants for Integrative Research

    How are different areas of the brain connected? And how do those connections produce the range of complex behaviors involved in everyday skills like navigating space or remembering information? These questions cannot be answered by research in one discipline alone — they require a fundamentally integrative approach. APS Fellow Franco Pestilli and psychological scientist Terry Sejnowski are two researchers taking such an interdisciplinary perspective, receiving National Science Foundation (NSF) grants specifically aimed at supporting team-based research that integrates behavioral, neural, computational, and engineering sciences.