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Volume 25, Issue8October 2012

Presidential Column

Joseph E. Steinmetz
Joseph E. Steinmetz
The Ohio State University
APS President 2012 - 2013
All columns

In this Issue:
America’s Public Universities

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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    Myths and Misinformation

    How does misinformation spread and how do we combat it? Psychological science sheds light on the mechanisms underlying misinformation and ‘fake news.’

Up Front


  • America’s Public Universities

      These are indeed challenging financial times for our institutions of higher education — a kind of “perfect storm.” The sustained downturn in our economy has resulted in the erosion of state support for our public institutions, significant decreases in university endowments, great pressures to keep the cost of college affordable for our students and their parents by minimizing tuition increases, worries of reduced support for research at the federal level due to growing federal deficits, and mounting student debt. All of these factors have a profound effect on the funding and operations of our departments of psychology. In the following column, E.

First Person


  • Studying Sex

    Developing research with a specific focus is an important step as an early career psychologist, but choosing to specialize so soon also has its difficulties. When a researcher has an unconventional primary interest, such as human sexuality, sometimes a carefully plotted course must be navigated between mainstream and niche research. Researchers who are considering a niche approach have to weigh whether the rewards outweigh the challenges they will face, and to figure that out, it’s necessary to ask some tough questions. Will I Be Able to Collect Good Data? In every field of psychological science, barriers against collecting good data are a concern, particularly when using college students as research participants. When studying sex attitudes, demand characteristics and the social-desirability bias are major obstacles to collecting reliable data.

More From This Issue


  • Personality Dynamics Through the Lens of Cognitive Science

    With the goal of advancing a cognitive neuroscience of personality dynamics, leading researchers from the United States and Europe gathered in Trieste, Italy, on July 10, 2012, to present cutting-edge findings on the neural and evolutionary bases of intra-personal processes and structures. The event, sponsored by APS, featured Anna Abraham, Jennifer A. Bartz, Arnaud D’Argembeau, and C. Robert Cloninger, and it was organized by APS Fellow Daniel Cervone, chair of the symposium. In the beautiful framework of Trieste, the event preceded the opening of the 16th European Conference on Personality, which featured more than 500 participants from about 40 countries.

  • Recent Developments in Ideology Research

    "All people are born alike—except Republicans and Democrats." - Groucho Marx In a 2006 American Psychologist article “The end of the end of ideology,” John T. Jost argued that, “although ordinary people by no means pass the strictest tests imaginable for ideological sophistication, most of them do think, feel, and behave in ideologically meaningful and interpretable terms…the causes and consequences of left–right ideological differences await psychologists and other social and behavioral scientists.” (p. 667) He was right.

  • The Emotional Citizen

    Emotion trumps partisanship and ideology when people evaluate political candidates, Linda Isbell’s research shows.

  • Bandura Honored With Lifetime Achievement Award

    Legendary psychological scientist Albert Bandura of Stanford University was honored with the International Union of Psychological Science Lifetime Career Award on July 20, 2012. Bandura, an APS William James and James McKeen Cattell Fellow, accepted the award at the 30th International Congress of Psychology in Cape Town, South Africa, where he presented the talk “Toward an Agentic Theory for the New Millennium.” He discussed the role that self-efficacy plays in allowing people to overcome setbacks and make positive changes on an individual and social level. Solving big global challenges such as climate change, he told the audience, depends on people’s belief in their own capabilities.

  • Why Can’t We Be Friends?

    Political fervor in the United States is at its peak as the end of the 2012 Presidential Election approaches, and APS Fellow Jonathan Haidt, from New York University’s Stern School of Business, has been patiently observing the fray. Haidt investigates the psychological bases of morality across different cultures and political ideologies. He tries to understand the many teams fighting the culture wars, and with his colleagues at www.CivilPolitics.org, he hopes to find evidence-based ways to reduce discord.

  • Conquer Fear With Words

    Many people spend Halloween celebrating, and even embracing, fear. But a psychology study suggests a new way to keep fear in check.

  • OppNet Social and Behavioral Research Grant: Culture, Health, and Wellbeing

    OppNet, NIH's Opportunity Network for basic behavioral and social science research grants, announces its second FY2013 RFA: Basic social and behavioral research on culture, health, and wellbeing (R24). Application Due Date: December 17, 2012 Purpose: This RFA encourages grant applications for infrastructure support to develop, strengthen, and evaluate transdisciplinary approaches and methods for basic behavioral and/or social research on the relationships among cultural practices/beliefs, health, and wellbeing.

  • Messy Misinformation

    Childhood vaccines do not cause autism. Global warming is confirmed by science. And yet, many people believe claims to the contrary. This political season may be a good time to ponder the question, “Why does misinformation stick?” According to an upcoming report published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, perhaps the most important factor is that rejecting information is cognitively more difficult than simply accepting it. When we do take the time to thoughtfully evaluate incoming information, we tend not to evaluate all of it, preferring instead to focus on only a few general characteristics: Does the information fit with other things I believe in?