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Volume 23, Issue8October 2010

Presidential Column

Mahzarin R. Banaji
Mahzarin R. Banaji
Harvard University
APS President 2010 - 2011
All columns

In this Issue:
Why We Like What We Like

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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

  • Why We Like What We Like

      Paul Bloom’s How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like provides a wonderful set of arguments for why we love what we love. In my own work I was struck that children seem to have automatic preferences toward social groups that mimic the adult state (in spite of far less experience) and have been working to understand these preferences and their origins. Paul’s book gave me several ideas that I hadn’t considered and I thought his proposals worth sharing more broadly. Enjoy! Mahzarin R. Banaji APS President I am grateful to APS President Mahzarin Banaji for giving me the opportunity to discuss the science of pleasure. One of the most exciting ideas in cognitive science is the theory that people have a default assumption that things, people, and events have invisible essences that make them what they are.

APS Spotlight

  • The Grand Challenge for Psychology

    On the way home from the 14th Annual Meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC) held in Toronto this past summer, I wondered how it can be the case today that we continue to think inside rather than outside of the box. The ASSC meetings, just like APS conventions, are profoundly interdisciplinary in nature. Each time I attend such an event I come out of it with a renewed sense that exposure to approaches different from one’s own is essential to being a creative thinker. Such cross-fertilization takes a lot of effort — an effort measured in years, if not decades, of collaborative chit-chat in the hallways of convention centers followed up by e-mail conversations, some of which eventually turn into profound novel insights. Thus, merely sticking an “interdisciplinary” label on any meeting that mixes up philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists won’t do it, and in fact, most of such events are disappointing. Genuine, engaged interdisciplinarity requires building communities that actively support, and ultimately depend on, continued, effortful dialogue among disciplines and sub-disciplines.

  • Scott O. Lilienfeld

    Emory University Scott Lilienfeld received his BA in Psychology from Cornell University in 1982 and his PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1990. He completed his clinical internship at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1986-1987. He was assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at SUNY Albany from 1990 to 1994, and has been a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Emory since 1994. APSSC: What led you to choose psychology as a career? Lilienfeld: It was a long and circuitous path, especially because my first loves were the natural sciences, paleontology and astronomy in particular (my initial declared major at Cornell University, where I did my undergraduate work, was astronomy). I’ve always loved mysteries, and I know that both of these disciplines satisfied my high score on the investigative sector of Holland’s hexagon of interests. For a brief time in college, I was also a premedical student. But — thanks in part to a high school course in psychology that sparked my interests — I decided to take a few psychology courses in my first two years in college, and I was hooked.


  • Working With Undergraduate Research Assistants: Setting Up and Maintaining a Research Laboratory

    Let us imagine two hypothetical psychology laboratories, in need of new research assistants. Dr. Eager and Dr. Careful are both new professors in psychology, and from the day they are hired, they begin receiving e-mails with headers like the one above. Dr. Eager invites the first 10 students who e-mail him to join his lab. He is excited that students want to work on research but quickly becomes overwhelmed trying to properly train them while preparing to teach a new course. Dr. Careful has a different approach. She is hesitant to take on students who do not have prior research experience and top grades, as she wants to be sure the students can work independently. Very few students meet her standards, and even once her team is assembled, she panics when she realizes she needs more time to plan her research projects for the year.

First Person

  • What We Didn’t Learn in Graduate School

    After an exhausting and protracted application and interview process, I (the Fergusson half of the author team) had been matched to an outstanding predoctoral internship with supportive faculty, outstanding clinical experience, and many opportunities for professional development. I could finally take a long sigh of relief. Yet despite my ever-growing list of predoctoral responsibilities — clients, paperwork, assessments, meetings, and training — and my half-hearted attempt to achieve some work-life balance, I could not avoid thinking about the looming prospect on the horizon: the impending search for a postdoctoral fellowship. Embarking on my search for a postdoctoral fellowship, I asked myself a number of critical questions. Is my dissertation completed and defended? When and where should I start looking?

More From This Issue

  • Mischel Honored by Hebrew University of Jerusalem

    APS Past President Walter Mischel is the first psychological scientist in 70 years to receive an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The university noted that the degree was awarded “... to acknowledge [Mischel’s] outstanding scientific contributions in the fields of cognitive, social and personality psychology. [His] pioneering work on the roles of traits and situations in the determination of human behavior has led to a reconceptualization of the notions of  ‘personality’ and ‘trait.’ This work has a tremendous, long lasting effect on our apprehension of the most basic notions in psychological science.

  • Phantom Limbs More Common Than Previously Thought

    After the loss of a limb, most patients experience the feeling of a phantom limb — the vivid illusion that the amputated arm or leg is still present. Damage to the nervous system, such as stroke, may cause similar illusions in weakened limbs, whereby an arm or leg may feel as if it is in a completely different position or may even feel as if it is moving when it is not. Cases of phantom limbs in non-amputees have previously been considered rare events, but a new study published in the October 2010 issue of Cortex reports that more than half of patients recovering from stroke may in fact experience phantom limb sensations.

  • Reporting Science: The Story Behind the Story A Q&A with Benedict Carey of The New York Times

    The New York Times, recently talked to APS’s Wray Herbert, about his approach to reporting on psychological science. Benedict Carey, science writer at Herbert: Your recent back-to-school article on myths of studying (“Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits,” September 6, 2010) certainly hit a chord with readers. Could you tell us a little about how that story developed? How you got the idea? How you reported it? Carey: The story came about in a pretty mundane, manufactured way. I had a column to do for the beginning of the month, and decided to try a back-to-school topic.