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202007Volume 20, Issue9October 2007

Presidential Column

John Cacioppo
John Cacioppo
University of Chicago
APS President 2007 - 2008
All columns

In this Issue:
The Rise in Collaborative Psychological Science

About the Observer

The Observer is the online magazine of the Association for Psychological Science and covers matters affecting the research, academic, and applied disciplines of psychology. The magazine reports on issues of interest to psychologist scientists worldwide and disseminates information about the activities, policies, and scientific values of APS.

APS members receive a monthly Observer newsletter that covers the latest content in the magazine. Members also may access the online archive of Observer articles going back to 1988.

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    Disaster Response and Recovery

    Disasters like Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut draw massive media coverage, trauma interventions, and financial donations to victims. But psychological research shows the efforts don’t always yield the intended benefits.

Up Front

  • The Rise in Collaborative Psychological Science

    Scientific knowledge has traditionally been advanced by individuals, and the reward structure in science reflects this tradition. Graduate students and junior faculty are admonished to establish their independence to show their genius, while avoiding any attributional ambiguity by collaborating with others. When a candidate for tenure fails to heed this advice and publishes instead as a member of a scientific team, faculty review committees and university administrators are inclined to raise questions about the candidate's contributions and scientific merit. Reading the work, speaking to the candidate, and attending carefully to their knowledge, methodological sophistication, innovativeness, and perspicacity is apparently not enough. This emphasis in academe on the solitary production of knowledge does not stop with tenure, either.

APS Spotlight

  • When We’re 64

    Even the most discerning reader of the heavens would not have foreseen any conjunction in our natal stars. Rochel grew up in a tightly knit Jewish suburb of Toronto. Custom dictated that she live at home when she went to the University of Toronto. Her parents' dire circumstances in Eastern Europe allowed them little time for advanced schooling, but they shared their community's emphasis on education and respect for teachers — even to the extent that Rochel's father honored her teachers' advice and allowed her to go away to graduate school. Otherwise, she might still be in Toronto living a very different life. Still, her parents were perplexed by her commitment to an academic career. When she called home to report that she had been granted tenure at the University of Pennsylvania, her mother asked if this meant she finally would stop studying and get her "mother's degree." Randy grew up in a small town in Minnesota. Insofar as he thought about it at all when he was in high school, he was under the vague impression that Judaism was another of the small Protestant sects that abound in the Midwest. In his household, university life was an open book.

  • Postcard from a Summer Science Writing Workshop

    This past summer, two renowned science journalists, Sandra Blakeslee and George Johnson, perhaps best known for their work at The New York Times, held the 12th annual Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop at Ghost Ranch Santa Fe, the sister ranch to Georgia O'Keefe's New Mexico home. This six-day event promotes communication of science in all media. The 40 participants included scientists — chemists, physicians, and molecular biologists — as well as science writers, editors, and public communications professionals. As a developmental psychologist, I was the only researcher from a behavioral or social science field. In a place reminiscent of summer camp, veteran journalists and editors described how they select and put together science stories. They detailed their interactions with researchers, analyzed pros and cons of the stories they'd written, and even told of the occasional fallout from stories they'd published. Participants, in turn, labored over original pieces for the journalists to critique. The exploration of ideas continued over breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


  • Putting Social Justice into Practice in Psychology Courses

    People who advocate for social justice believe all members of society should have equal rights and access to opportunities. Although its values, assumptions, and approaches may differ from traditional psychology, social justice has an impact on our discipline. For example, psychologists have studied many topics related to social justice (e.g., prejudice, discrimination, and conformity), and several subfields have coalesced around these issues, including community psychology, multicultural psychology, and the psychology of women. Moreover, the ethical principles of the American Psychological Association (2002) even require psychologists to ensure that their work benefits and respects the rights of all people, regardless of age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, or socioeconomic status.

First Person

  • Exploring the Pages of Psychology’s Past: Archival Research in the History of Psychology

    "If you would understand anything, understand its beginning and its development." -Aristotle Everyone has heard the cliches about why we should study history. History helps us avoid the mistakes of the past. It gives us a better understanding of the present. It makes us more critical of contemporary work. These clichés are indeed true. However, there is another good reason for studying the history of psychology: good old-fashioned curiosity and enjoyment. There is nothing quite like finding out where that particular personality test came from, how a particular specialty was established, or how your own psychology department came to be. The history of psychology is full of odd, interesting, and unexpected facts. Did you know that one of the first large corporations to fund psychological research was Coca-Cola? Or that William James practiced spiritualism and attended séances?

More From This Issue

  • Rising Stars

    In case there was any doubt, the future of psychological science is in good hands. Here we present exemplars of today's young psychological scientists; researchers who, although they may not be very advanced in years, have already made great advancements in science. This is the first of a two-part series profiling some of the field's Rising Stars. Virginia Kwan Virginia Kwan Princeton University PhD 2002, University of California, Berkeley Area of research: Social perception Publication most proud of: Kwan, V.S.Y., Bond, M.H., & Singelis, T.S. (1997).

  • Models of Memory: Award Address by Richard M. Shiffrin

    In his William James Fellow Award address at the APS 19th Annual Convention, APS Fellow and Charter Member Richard M. Shiffrin spoke about the development of models of memory throughout his career and the research he and his colleagues conducted that allowed these models to become increasingly comprehensive. "Progress has been signposted," Shiffrin said, "by a continually evolving series of models designed to capture the essence of the most important processes involved in storage and retrieval." The William James Fellow Award honors APS Members for their lifetime of significant intellectual contributions to the basic science of psychology.

  • Learning Beyond the Classroom

    Learning doesn't stop when we leave the classroom; it's something we do throughout our lives. Researchers know a fair amount about how we learn in educational settings, but a whole lot less is known about the learning we do on the job, at home, and at play. Now, a group of eminent scientists is addressing this disparity through an initiative known as the Life Long Learning at Work and at Home (L3).

  • When Harry Met Psychology: A Profile of Harry Bahrick

    Because he was born and spent his formative years in Vienna, you might assume that Harry Bahrick's academic "family tree" reaches back to his hometown's Sigmund Freud, or perhaps to neighboring Switzerland's Carl Jung, or even to Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig. You'd be wrong on all counts. His intellectual roots are planted firmly in U.S. soil. A leading expert on human memory, Bahrick has been on the faculty of the psychology department at Ohio Wesleyan University since 1949 and has been a full professor since 1956.  He is also a beloved colleague and mentor, and is widely recognized for his accomplishments as a teacher. Bahrick's family fled Vienna in 1940, when he was 14.

  • APS Charter Member Memories

    The Observer recently invited our charter members to share their memories of APS. What was happening at the founding of the Association? What prompted them to join and remain loyal members for 20 years. Here is a selection of their responses with more to come in the Observer and online at

  • Racism’s Cognitive Toll

    I grew up in an era of fairly blatant racism. Neighborhoods on the Jersey shore were either Black or White, not yet mixed, and very few Black kids were "tracked" into my academically advanced high school classes. I only had one Black teacher that I recall, and rarely encountered Blacks in local diners or department stores. This kind of de facto segregation is largely gone from the world my kids are growing up in. So that's good. But you don't have to look very hard to know that more subtle forms of racism persist in schools and workplaces and elsewhere. How do victims experience these more ambiguous racist messages? Are they less damaging than overt hostility?

  • The Science of Cramming

    I went to a very nerdy college. This school was so nerdy that the “mascot” was an engineer, and at football games students would chant: “Tangent, secant, cosine, sine. Three point one four one five nine. Go Engineers!” I’m not kidding. So how is it possible that today I do not even know what a secant is? Or a sine. To be truthful, I don’t think I really know what trigonometry is, though I’m pretty sure I did back then. My recollection is that I studied all the time, but I seem to have retained almost nothing from my early immersion in math and science. Was I studying the wrong way during all those wee hours? Well, as it turns out I may have been.

  • Baby Talk Is Universal

    A  major function of speech is the communication of intentions. In everyday conversation between adults, intentions are conveyed through multiple channels, including the syntax and semantics of the language, but also through nonverbal vocal cues such as pitch, loudness, and rate of speech. The same thing occurs when we talk to infants. Regardless of the language we speak, most adults, for example, raise their voices to elicit the infant’s attention and talk at a much slower rate to communicate effectively. In the scientific community, this baby talk is termed “infant-directed speech.” There are direct relationships between the way we speak and what we wish to convey.

  • Highs and Lows on the Fraud Frontier

    Whatever happened to scientific fraud? Be assured that it remains ineradicable, and even as you read this, an ethically deprived member of the great scientific enterprise is attempting mischief. In the official lexicon of scientific crime, the proper term is “misconduct,” defined as “fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.” Nonetheless, the eternal campaign against certain types of misbehavior in science deserves to be rated a qualified success. The miscreant seeking glory or advancement via fakery or plagiarism faces considerable peril.