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212008Volume 21, Issue9October 2008

Presidential Column

Walter Mischel
Columbia University
APS President 2008 - 2009
All columns

In this Issue:
Our Urban Legends: Journal Reviews

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

  • Our Urban Legends: Journal Reviews

    In my last column, I discussed urban legends about journal publishing, noting that these have subtle and not so subtle influences on how research is done and presented that can inadvertently undermine the development of an increasingly cumulative and robust psychological science. I picked particularly on the legend that to be publishable in a high prestige journal a paper must meet the Newsworthy Definitive Solutions or NDS criterion: namely that the paper should include a handful of studies that “definitively test rigorous new theory-derived predictions that solve a newsworthy major problem.” In this follow-up column, I focus on legends about journal policies and practices that may influence reviewer and editor behavior in journal publications and hence further effect how research is done and presented and what our science becomes.

APS Spotlight

  • Champions of Psychology: Traci Mann

      Champions of Psychology is an ongoing series in which highly regarded professors share advice on the successes and challenges facing graduate students in the field of Psychology. APS Fellow Traci Mann is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Minnesota. She received her PhD in Psychology from Stanford University. Before joining the faculty at Minnesota, she was on the faculty of the Department of Psychology at UCLA for 10 years. For a number of years, she has conducted research on the self-control of health behaviors, with a particular interest in understanding why reasonable, well-informed individuals who want to behave in healthy ways fail to do so.


  • The Value of Psychology 101 in Liberal Arts Education: A Psychocentric Theory of the University

    Most students who take the general, introductory psychology course (hereafter called Psychology 101) are not psychology majors. They take the course because they think it will be interesting, or because they see connections between psychology and their major field of study, or because it satisfies a curriculum requirement. My argument here is that we should think of Psychology 101 not as technical training for majors, but as an extraordinarily valuable liberal arts course for all. When we teach the course from a broad liberal arts perspective, we serve the real needs of the many non-majors as well as those of the majors. Psychology is today, in many ways, the core discipline in the liberal arts; it is what philosophy was 100 years ago. And Psychology 101, unlike more advanced psychology courses, presents an integrated view of the whole discipline.

First Person

  • “Show Me the Money”: Grant Writing Tips for Graduate Students

    Grant writing is an integral part of graduate training, especially for students planning to pursue a career in academia. However, psychology graduate students are too often unprepared for this task, as the majority of doctoral programs in psychology do not offer instruction on grant writing (Eissenberg, 2003). Here are some grant-writing tips based on our experience in successfully obtaining funding. Between us, we have received 6 grants (from internal and external sources) totaling over $8,000. Before You Start Writing The first task in the grant writing process is to identify the organization that is most appropriate for your proposal. Often, students can find grants within their own university, as there tends to be less competition there than in external agencies. University research offices are a good source of information about funding opportunities.

More From This Issue

  • The Lie Detector

    Since the birth of scientific psychology some 130 years ago, psychologists have grappled with the best ways to collect and interpret data. And although the field has made incremental progress over the past century or so, APS Fellow & Charter Member Frank Schmidt, an industrial/organizational psychologist at the University of Iowa, believes there is much more room for improvement. Schmidt described how data can easily mislead researchers during his James McKeen Cattell Award Address “How to Detect and Correct the Lies That Data Tell” at the APS 20th Annual Convention. Schmidt is quite serious when he says that data lie.

  • More Psychological Science, More Often

    APS is launching a new Members-only online publication, “This Week in Psychological Science,” that will bring the Association’s flagship journal to APS Members as much as a month, or even more, before the hard copy is available. “This Week” will arrive via email with summaries of the research and links to the articles, all in a lively and convenient electronic format. The new publication will allow APS Members to get their hands on — or more accurately, their minds on — the latest psychological research findings from all areas in the field even sooner. Psychological Science is one of the most influential journals in the field.

  • Laggards in Paying for Science: Universities and Industry

    Agreed that it’s bad manners, presumptuous, and probably futile to offer unsolicited advice on how other people should spend their money. But let’s do it anyway. Industry should spend more money on research in universities, and the rich universities — 76 of them at last count with over $1billion in endowments — should dig deeper into their own resources to make up for the falloff in federal support of research. If a vibrant scientific research enterprise is as important as they frequently say it is, they should come to its assistance at a time when federal support is faltering.

  • Statistical Literacy: A Prerequisite for Evidence-Based Medicine

    Currently in the United States, a prostate cancer drug is being touted in a novel way: The claimed primary benefit of the drug is not that it reduces the risk of the disease, but rather that it reduces the risk of being treated for the disease. “Men are getting screened, discovering that they have cancers that may or may not be dangerous, and opting for treatments that can leave them impotent or incontinent… Preventing the cancer can prevent treatments that can be debilitating, even if the cancers were never lethal to start with” (Kolata, 2008, p. A1).

  • Behavioral Research and AARP

    A few years ago, a watershed book, The Mature Mind by renowned health researcher Gene Cohen, challenged prevailing assumptions about mental aging. Grounded in the latest studies of the brain and behavior, The Mature Mind offered scientific proof that as we get older, our minds improve —that developmentally, our brains continue to open up new fronts of thinking. The happy consequence, of course, was that we could approach “old age” with renewed confidence that growth, positive change, and vibrancy were not only possible but likely. Basically, the book offered a template for reinventing the way we age.

  • Kelso Named a Pierre de Fermat Laureate

    APS Fellow Scott Kelso has been named a Pierre de Fermat Laureate, a prestigious French honor conferred by an international panel of scientists representing the Republic of France and the University of Toulouse.

  • Magical Memory Tour

    Earlier this year, the Observer (April 2008) highlighted a study being conducted by Catriona M. Morrison and APS Fellow Martin A. Conway at the University of Leeds that asked people to record their memories of the Beatles in an online survey at The study sought to use people’s autobiographical memories of Beatles songs, albums, movies, concerts, and news events to show how music — particularly the music of the most influential band of the rock ‘n’ roll era — can be used to retrieve memories that have been all but forgotten.

  • Trusting Your Inner Negotiator

    My wife and I recently signed a treaty to end the protracted Thermostat War. It was a hard-fought war at times. With the temperature in our apartment yo-yoing from sauna-like heat to the chill of a meat-locker, compromise seemed out of the question. Yet we did manage to come together in the end and agree on a peaceful compromise. We harbor no ill feelings. We all negotiate compromises every day, on everything from salaries to children’s bedtimes. We make proposals, weigh offers, make cold calculations and factor in feelings, and finally, somehow, settle on matters big and trivial. How do we manage this?

  • On the Newsstand

    The Geography of Personality Newsweek August 23, 2008 “Since personality is so important to both social and individual outcomes, the hunt is on for which traits vary geographically and why. According to the most extensive study yet of how personality varies across the United States, a “neuroticism belt” divides the East and West, with states from Maine to Louisiana scoring the highest and the West lowest, find Jason Rentfrow of Cambridge University and colleagues.” Coverage of “A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence, and Expression of Geographic Variation in Psychological Characteristics” in Perspectives on Psychological Science (Peter J. Rentfrow, Samuel D.