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242011Volume 24, Issue8October 2011

Presidential Column

Douglas L. Medin
Douglas L. Medin
Northwestern University
APS President 2011 - 2012
All columns

In this Issue:
The Case of the Invisible Experimenter(s)

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.

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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 Case of the Invisible Experimenter(s)

    When our story left off last month, we had considered three cases of classic field studies: (1) the Festinger, Riecken, and Schachter (1956) “When Prophecy Fails” study of cognitive dissonance, where Festinger et al. joined a group that was expecting the world to end in a flood on December 21, 1954; (2) Richard LaPiere’s (1934) observations on the mismatch between motel, hotel, and restaurant owners’ stated attitudes toward potential Chinese travelers and their behaviors toward actual ones; and (3) the “Robbers Cave” studies of a summer camp for boys, where Sherif et al. (1961), disguised as camp staff, created a competitive environment that led to group conflict and then implemented measures to restore intergroup cooperation.


  • ‘Teacher, I May Not Do Well on the Test Next Week Because I May Have to Babysit My Sister’

    After reminding students about an upcoming Introduction to Psychology exam a student approached me and asked, “Teacher, I may not do well on the test next week because I may have to babysit my sister.” I didn’t miss the opportunity to problem solve with the student and I responded with: “Do you have a calendar? How many days will you have to take care of her? We can get you help in student services. Do you have a study buddy to help you? What can I do to help?” You’ve heard the phrase, deer-caught-in-the-headlights, right? He stammered, sweat broke out on his forehead, then he mumbled that he had to go. This young man was memorably the first student, but not the last to follow that similar pattern. Most faculty are likely to work with students who provide ample evidence of explanatory and behavioral self-handicapping.

First Person

  • Eating To Fit Into Your Genes

    When was the last time you thought about what you eat? Although we rarely stop to think about our food, our dietary choices significantly influence our health, which is a necessary component of proper function in graduate school. When classes are in session, stress levels are high, hours of sleep are low, eating is generally sporadic, and exercise may be nonexistent. For years, we have been told by authorities such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that a healthy diet focuses on grains as the optimal energy source and that fat, particularly saturated fat, is generally to be avoided due to its negative health effects (see People have followed these guidelines, eating fewer calories and exercising more. Still, obesity and chronic cardiovascular diseases are highly prevalent in the United States (Joyce, 2010).

More From This Issue

  • Online Exclusive: The Obedience Experiments at 50

    This year is the 50th anniversary of the start of Stanley Milgram’s groundbreaking experiments on obedience to destructive orders — the most famous, controversial and, arguably, most important psychological research of our times. To commemorate this milestone, in this article I present the key elements comprising the legacy of those experiments. Milgram was a 28-year-old junior faculty member at Yale University when he began his program of research on obedience, supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which lasted from August 7, 1961 through May 27, 1962.

  • Research on Hearing Communication and Health Gets Center Stage at NIDCD

    Behavioral Research at NIDCD by William Yost Examples of Funding for Behavioral Science Research at NIDCD Harnessing the Human Factor in Hearing Assistance by David G. Myers Addressing the 'Cultural Inertia' by Caroline M. Kobek Pezzarossi Behavioral Research at NIDCD NIDCD supports hearing, communication, and health research in multiple disciplines By William Yost The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) supports research and research training on a large and diverse range of topics dealing with human communication and health.

  • Imagining Eating Can Reduce How Much We Eat

    It’s Halloween and your kid has returned from trick-or-treating with a haul of epic proportions. You have a sweet tooth that is hard to deny. How can you fend off your inner candy glutton? Although we might believe that focusing on a food only will only make us crave it more, a study from researchers at Carnegie Mellon, published in the journal Science, suggests that imagining eating the candy may actually help you to eat less of it. In the study, participants imagined performing 33 repetitive actions, one at a time. A control group imagined inserting 33 quarters into a laundry machine.

  • Fighting Germs With More Than White Blood Cells

    The month of October brings many things: turning leaves, crisp autumn air, Halloween…and the beginning of the cold and flu season. While the human body has developed remarkable defenses against these insidious infections, it turns out our defenses are more than just physiological. APS Fellow Mark Schaller, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, has been studying what he calls our “behavioral immune system” — an array of psychological mechanisms that helps us identify and respond to the pathogens that surround us.

  • Nock Receives McArthur ‘Genius Award’ Fellowship

    Matthew Nock of Harvard University was awarded the 2011 MacArthur Fellowship for his research on suicide and self-injury among adolescents and adults. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death and the third leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the United States. Nock, a leader in the study of self-injurious behavior, has developed computer-based tests to predict the risk of suicide.

  • Emotion-Related Self-Regulation

    If you’re watching a horror movie and it gets too scary, there’s an easy way to deal with it: Cover your eyes. It’s an example of how to regulate your emotions. In her Award Address at the APS 23rd Annual Convention, Nancy Eisenberg, of Arizona State University, talked about how she came to study emotional regulation and what she has learned. She was the recipient of the William James Fellow Award for her lifetime of significant intellectual contributions to psychological science. In Eisenberg’s case, many of those contributions have been in understanding emotional regulation in children.

  • Letter to the Editor: Identity Shift

    I read the well-researched September 2011 Observer cover story “Identity Shift,” with decidedly mixed feelings. On the one hand, I appreciate the fact that some psychology departments are changing their names (e.g., to “Department of Psychological Science”) to underscore their commitment to a scientific approach to behavior. I have no particular objection to this labeling change, especially in light of the skepticism with which many of our non-psychology academic colleagues perceive our field’s scientific basis (Lilienfeld, in press).

  • What Keeps Adults Well?

    The puzzle of human well-being has occupied scientists for centuries. How do we define well-being? What factors contribute to it? How does it change over the lifespan? And, most importantly, what can we do to maximize it? Today, large survey studies are allowing researchers to delve deep into these very questions by providing access to mountains of data, collected from thousands of people.

  • Wikipedia Entries

    In the spring of 2009, I first assigned students in my graduate research methods class to either write a new Wikipedia entry or revise an existing one. My rationale was, like it or not, many use Wikipedia for psychology information. In a search, it is often the entry that comes up first, and even if you do not select that link, you eventually get forwarded to it. It is a fact of life online that Wikipedia has become a key source of information. I felt it would be a valuable exercise to have students write or revise an entry. Students had to submit their topic proposals to me. I required that it not be a person, but should be a concept.

  • Rising Stars

    In case there was any doubt, the future of psychological science is in good hands. In its continuing series, the Observer presents more Rising Stars, exemplars of today's young psychological scientists. Although they may not be advanced in years, they are already making great advancements in science. Modupe Akinola Steve Balsis Lindsay Malloy Matthias R. Mehl Amie Grills-Taquechel Véronique Izard Kimberly Noble Chris Sibley Eddie Tong Lisa Zadro Modupe Akinola Columbia Business School, USA What does your research focus on? I study how stress affects performance.

  • In His Own Words

    Interview with Eric Eich Psychological Science Editorial Policy Interview with Eric Eich Eric Eich (pronounced IKE) received his doctorate in cognitive psychology from the University of Toronto in 1979, under the research supervision of Endel Tulving, Fergus Craik, and Robert Lockhart. Later that year he became Director of the Behavioral Studies Laboratory at the University of California, Irvine; in the early 1980s, he also developed close ties with the Departments of Psychology and Anesthesiology at UCLA. Eich moved to the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1983, initially as an NSERC University Research Fellow and more recently as Head of the Psychology Department (2004-2011).