image description
262013Volume 26, Issue8October 2013

Presidential Column

Elizabeth A. Phelps
Elizabeth A. Phelps
New York University
APS President 2013 - 2014
All columns

In this Issue:
From Inconvenient Truth to Urgent Opportunity

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.

Read more

Latest Under the Cortex Podcast

Trending Topics >

  • Thumbnail Image for Disaster Response and Recovery

    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

  • From Inconvenient Truth to Urgent Opportunity

    In my first Observer column as President of APS, I wrote about the maturation of neuroscience and explored what’s next in psychological science. This month’s guest columnist is Thomas R. Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health. Below, Insel outlines the novel approach NIMH is adopting in its efforts to understand and treat mental illness, and highlights the importance of psychological science in this endeavor. –Elizabeth A. Phelps Over the past decade, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has sharpened its focus on serious mental illness as diverse brain disorders. For some, this suggests a trend away from psychological science. In fact, psychological science has never been more important.

APS Spotlight

  • Reflecting on a Lifetime of Achievement

    As part of APS’s 25th Anniversary celebration, the Board of Directors is honoring 25 distinguished scientists who have had a profound impact on the field of psychological science over the past quarter-century. Eight individuals have been selected to receive the James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award, honoring a lifetime of significant contributions to applied psychological research; seventeen scientists are receiving the William James Fellow Award, which recognizes their significant intellectual contributions to the basic science of psychology. In this issue of the Observer, APS continues the series by profiling four of these eminent scientists: Chris Argyris, Uta Frith, Ed Diener, and Allan R. Wagner. Chris Argyris Harvard University James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award Chris Argyris is one of the world’s most respected management thinkers.


  • Teaching Current Directions in Psychological Science

    C. Nathan DeWall, University of Kentucky, and renowned textbook author and APS Fellow David G. Myers, Hope College, have teamed up to create a series of Observer columns aimed at integrating cutting-edge psychological science into the classroom. Each column will offer advice and how-to guidance about teaching a particular area of research or topic in psychological science that has been the focus of an article in the APS journal Current Directions in Psychological Science. Current Directions is a peer-reviewed bi-monthly journal featuring reviews by leading experts covering all of scientific psychology and its applications, and allowing readers to stay apprised of important developments across subfields beyond their areas of expertise. Its articles are written to be accessible to non-experts, making them ideally suited for use in the classroom.

First Person

  • Not So Lazy Days: Psychology Summer Institutes

    This year I was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in the Summer Institute in Social and Personality Psychology (SISPP), one of the many summer institutes in psychology that have emerged in recent years. As graduate students, many of us look forward to a relatively commitment-free summer, allowing us to catch up on writing and tie up loose ends before we dive back into another semester. But as the spring term was coming to a close, I began the task of reading and digesting a lengthy reading list in preparation for my intensive two-week summer institute course. Given the lustrous appeal of a summer free of the typical academic responsibilities, many graduate students may cringe at the idea of taking on additional responsibilities. However, the freedom offered by summer also provides a great opportunity to engage in some valuable enrichment.

More From This Issue

  • Brain Development and Neuroplasticity

    Recent advances in neuroscience have effectively put an end to the “nature or nurture” debate. Instead, the focus of discussion has switched to mechanisms and brain-based interventions — in what ways are neural circuits changed by experience? When is the brain most receptive to education and learning? And what effects does high versus low socioeconomic status (SES) have on the development of neurocognition? Perhaps no one is more intrigued or committed to answering these questions than 2013 APS William James Fellow Helen Neville, director of the Brain Development Lab at the University of Oregon.

  • James McKeen Cattell Fund Fellowships Awarded

    The James McKeen Cattell Fund has awarded its 2013-2014 Fellowships. Presented in partnership with APS, the Fellowships are awarded yearly to North American university faculty committed to developing scientific research in psychology and its applications to improving human welfare. The award provides financial support that allows recipients to extend their sabbatical period from one semester to a full year. The fund was established in 1942, when Cattell, a renowned pioneer of American psychology, donated the majority of his holdings in the Psychological Corporation to create a fund in his name.

  • The Emerging Field of Affective Science

    This article is part of a series commemorating APS's 25th anniversary in 2013. By all accounts, one of the major events in 20th-century psychology was the birth of cognitive science. Prior to this time, the study of cognitive processes was siloed. Philosophers, linguists, computer scientists, neuroscientists, psychologists, and anthropologists rarely interacted. Mid-century, however, several universities and foundations, such as the National Science Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Sloan Foundation, set out to change all this. They funded centers, conferences, symposia, graduate training programs, and research.

  • Measuring Humility and Its Positive Effects

    Over a decade ago, the positive psychology movement encouraged the discipline to examine the possibility that it had focused too much on problem-focused stories and research questions, while ignoring the positive features that made life worth living. This shift in attention catalyzed the study of human flourishing, strengths, and virtues. Whereas the study of some virtues has thrived in this context — for example, subjective well-being and forgiveness — the study of humility has advanced relatively slowly. The problem does not appear to be a lack of interest. Constructs related to low humility — such as narcissism and self-enhancement — are some of the most robust in social psychology.

  • How to Write a Research Statement

    Task #1: Understand the Purpose of the Research Statement The primary mistake people make when writing a research statement is that they fail to appreciate its purpose. The purpose isn’t simply to list and briefly describe all the projects that you’ve completed, as though you’re a museum docent and your research publications are the exhibits. “Here, we see a pen and watercolor self-portrait of the artist. This painting is the earliest known likeness of the artist. It captures the artist’s melancholic temperament … Next, we see a steel engraving.

  • Callous-Unemotional Traits in Children

    I first met Tom, a 13-year-old boy at a school for children with emotional and behavioral difficulties, when first starting out on my PhD research. Tom was a charming and effusive pupil and I instantly warmed to him. One day, over a cup of tea in the staff room, I mentioned to two of the teachers how delightful I found Tom. One of them simply gave me a wry smile; the other was not so reserved. He shared his rather frank view that Tom was the “devil incarnate.” Over the following months I began to see a very different young person.

  • Remembering R. Duncan Luce

    R. Duncan Luce died on August 11, 2012. He was one of the most prominent mathematical psychologists of the 20th century, one who was very good at experiments as well. Luce was born May 16, 1925, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He received a bachelor of science degree in 1945 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Aeronautical Engineering and a PhD in 1950 from the same institution in mathematics. During his lifetime he held a large number of academic positions. From 1950 to 1953 he continued to be at MIT as director of the Group Network Laboratory, which was a research laboratory of electronics.

  • Entwining Teaching and Research: Creating a Collaborative Review Paper

    Two of the many shared goals professors and graduate students have are (a) taking and teaching courses that are integrated with our research and (b) contributing to the field through publications. At the University of Virginia, we recently implemented a model that satisfied both of those goals. A seminar on a laboratory’s main research interests was offered to graduate students, and the group from this course produced a major review paper published in Psychological Bulletin (Lillard et al., 2013a). In this article, we describe the process from both a professor’s and a student’s perspective and focus on what was learned and the model’s possible replication.

  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences Welcomes Six Psychological Scientists

    Congratulations to six APS Fellows recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Some of the world’s most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists, and civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders make up this year’s class of 198, including: Robert A. Bjork, a University of California, Los Angeles, psychology professor and APS Past President has made fundamental contributions to the science of learning and memory; Alison Gopnik, University of California, Berkeley, is a prominent scholar of learning and child development; Charles A.

  • Lamb Wins G. Stanley Hall Award

    APS James McKeen Cattell Fellow Michael E. Lamb, University of Cambridge, has won the 2014 G. Stanley Hall Award for Distinguished Contribution to Developmental Psychology and the 2013 Award for Distinguished Contribution to Psychology and Law, from the American Psychology-Law Society. Lamb, whose research focuses on developmental psychology as well as forensic interviewing and factors affecting children’s adjustment, is head of the Applied Developmental Psychology Research Group at Cambridge University, and editor of the journal Psychology, Public Policy, and Law.

  • Jeffrey Sherman Receives the Anneliese Maier Research Award

    APS Fellow Jeffrey Sherman, who studies stereotyping and prejudice at the University of California, Davis, has been awarded the Anneliese Maier Research Award. Presented by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and valued at €250,000, the award is given annually to outstanding researchers from other countries with the aim of advancing the internationalization of academic research in Germany. Sherman is a leading social psychologist who uses innovative methods to develop mathematical models to measure and analyze prejudice and stereotyping that people are unwilling or unable to reveal.

  • Giving Teeth to Psychological Science

    “The NIH Dental Institute has a psychological science program?” We’re accustomed to hearing that question from our behavioral science colleagues when we describe the behavioral science programs we oversee at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), part of the National Institutes of Health. The answer is an enthusiastic “Yes!” NIDCR’s mission is to improve oral, dental, and craniofacial health through research, research training, and the dissemination of health information. As many of the conditions of interest to the institute have strong behavioral and social components, psychological research is essential to achieving our mission.