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Volume 19, Issue10October 2006

Presidential Column

Morton Ann Gernsbacher
Morton Ann Gernsbacher
University of Wisconsin, Madison
APS President 2006 - 2007
All columns

In this Issue:
Presidential Column: Who’s Your Neighbor?

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


  • Presidential Column: Who’s Your Neighbor?

    My family lives on a cul-de-sac. As I often say when directing people to my house, we are at 11:00; to our right (at 2:00) lives one neighboring family, and to our left (at 9:00 and 7:00) live two other neighboring families. While pulling into our driveway one evening during the election campaign of 2000, I realized that each of our four houses represented — by virtue of political yard signs — allegiance to each of the four candidates on the U.S. Presidential ballot. Contrast that image of heterogeneity — and admittedly, local social disconnection — with that of the neighborhood in which my father grew up. In his southwest corner of Fort Worth, Texas, lived three solid blocks of Reformed (not Conservative, not Orthodox) Jews. My father’s first-cousins lived catty-corner; his third cousins lived immediately behind.

APS Spotlight


  • Dynamic Duos – Nature vs. Nurture

    Although we were invited to write about what life is like together for couples who are both psychological scientists rather than about our research, in our case, research played such an important role in bringing us together that it is difficult to avoid it. As explained below, we represent a microcosm of the longest-running controversy in psychology: nature (Robert) and nurture (Judy). Also, we probably are unrepresentative of other couples in this APS Observer series. We came together older and wiser after two previous marriages each, with our total of five children mostly grown and our careers well established.

  • Designing Minds

    When Nature her great masterpiece designed, And framed her last, best work, the human mind, Her eye intent on all the wondrous plan She formed of various stuff the various Man. -Robert Burns Many observers view the debate over intelligent design as a clash between homogeneous and non-overlapping intellectual camps: creationists and evolutionists. That these camps represent two opposing perspectives concerning the nature and value of science seems clear. But are there broader considerations that blur the sharp distinctions usually drawn between these groups?

  • Intuition or Intellect?

    Say this much for President Bush: He is not deaf to the inner whispers of his intuition. “I know there’s no evidence that shows the death penalty has a deterrent effect,” he reportedly said as Texas governor, “but I just feel in my gut it must be true.” Six years and two wars into his presidency, the president still relies on his gut instincts. His recent fly-in to Baghdad was, he explained to U.S. troops, “to look Prime Minister [Nouri] Maliki in the eyes — to determine whether or not he is as dedicated to a free Iraq as you are.” The president’s snap assessment?

Practice


  • Helping Students Do Well in Class: GAMES

    I  studied so hard for this test, and I still did badly! What can I do?I know that a few students are going to appear at my door with this lament after I return exams each semester. I am usually as distressed by their performance as they are, and often at a loss to offer sage advice on what they can do differently. Over the years I’ve tried to help students apply what they are learning in my psychology of learning class to their own behavior and I’ve found a fairly successful mnemonic for studying — GAMES — that conveys much of what we know about learning. I share it with my students at the beginning of every course so they will apply it, but also as an example of what they will be studying. For some reason, however, until recently I never thought to apply it to myself as a way of helping the students I teach and advise.

First Person


  • Passion and Strategy: Necessary Ingredients for Choosing a Thesis Topic

    One of the most valuable pieces of advice I have gleaned from my mentor over the past three years is the need to get “mileage” out of what I write.  With this in mind, I’d like to offer up some advice to graduate students contemplating topics for their master’s theses.  Since this undertaking may consume a year of your education, not to mention several credits of your master’s degree, my first piece of advice is to ask yourself, “What do I feel passionate about?”  Once you are clear on your passion, you need to consider two very important factors: current research trends and applicability to the doctoral dissertation.  Given that many of us in terminal master’s programs will go on to doctoral programs, carefully considering how your master’s thesis may extend into a dissertation can both get mileage out of your writing and develop a passion into a contribution to the field.

More From This Issue


  • ‘Bowernet’ An Intellectual Genealogy of Gordon Bower

    Ask Gordon Bower about the first great influences in his life and he’s likely to name a couple of Lous — Lou Gehrig and Louis Armstrong.  You can thank a high school teacher and the Korean War for the fact that Bower is in the pantheon of modern psychological science instead of in the Baseball Hall of Fame or playing trumpet for a jazz band. Not long ago, Stanford University’s renowned authority on learning theory and memory was asked what he would do differently if he could relive his life.

  • Capaldi Named Provost at Arizona State University

    Former APS President Elizabeth Capaldi is the new Provost and Executive Vice President at Arizona State University. Capaldi was drawn to the university because “ASU is growing, as is Arizona, and it is exciting to be in a place that is building, and to participate in that building. We are a boom town and we have a chance to create something special because of the growth.” She’s the first woman to hold the post.

  • NIDA Trains Judges in Behavioral Research and Intervention

    Behavioral science research figures prominently in an effort by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to inform the criminal justice system about the effectiveness of sustained, comprehensive treatment for incarcerated or paroled offenders. A particularly innovative aspect of this project involves training judges about the neurological and behavioral underpinnings of substance abuse and treatment. The hope is that they will be better equipped to decide the types of treatment and services needed for addicted defendants. Among the most vexing problems in this country are the rising tide of prison populations and the rate at which ex-felons return to prison.

  • Rubin Named Chair of NAS Behavioral Board

    APS Fellow Phillip Rubin, who is chief executive officer of Haskins Laboratories, is the new Chair of the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BBCSS) at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Rubin is best known for taking an interdisciplinary approach to speech production that encompasses cognitive psychology, linguistics, ecological acoustics, physiology, and computer modeling. NAS was chartered by Congress and approved by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to advise the federal government and the public on new scientific breakthroughs.

  • Not the Same Old Post-Doc

    Big Psychology Grants Big Psychology Grants is an occasional series featuring large-scale studies and other notable programs in psychological science. This month, we look at a new training program in developmental research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Writing a grant proposal is a little like designing your own house, says Morton Ann Gernsbacher. It helps if you’ve been able to see other people’s successes and failures before you begin. Gernsbacher, who is currently president of APS, has had ample opportunity to do just that in the course of performing an essential service to the field: volunteering on peer review committees for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).