Teaching Contentious Classics

Some of the most historic experiments in psychology used methods that today are consider unethical, if not cruel. So do they still belong in textbooks?

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Volume 27, Issue8October 2014

Presidential Column

Nancy Eisenberg
Nancy Eisenberg
Arizona State University, Tempe
APS President 2014 - 2015
All columns

In this Issue:
A New Day for Human Subjects Research Participation

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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Up Front

  • A New Day for Human Subjects Research Participation

    No, the recent Facebook mood-manipulation flap is not the reason — but more on that later. A recent government initiative will likely change human subjects protection programs for the better. When does that ever happen with new regulations? What’s coming next year, maybe, are: (a) clearer boundaries on what is “human subjects research” requiring review; (b) a new, streamlined, “excused” category not subject to institutional review board (IRB) oversight; (c) a clarification of “minimal risk”; (d) elimination of continuing review of “expedited” research; and (e) simplification of informed consent; among other innovations.


  • Teaching Current Directions in Psychological Science

    Aimed at integrating cutting-edge psychological science into the classroom, “Teaching Current Directions in Psychological Science” offers 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 bimonthly 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 nonexperts, making them ideally suited for use in the classroom. Visit David G. Myers and C.

First Person

  • Encouraging Diversity in Psychology

    October 2014 Student Notebook Announcements Student Research. Are you in the initial development stages of your research? Apply for the APS Student Research Grant Competition. Applications are due by November 16. Research on diversity should inform our actions as educators, clinicians, and members of the workplace. APS and its Student Caucus (APSSC) have an ongoing commitment to encouraging research on diversity. As part of this commitment, the RISE competition was created in 1999 by the APSSC to encourage research on socially and economically underrepresented groups. Since then, 56 students have been selected as RISE Research Award (RRA) winners. As the RISE Coordinator, I would like to expand upon what research projects would be most suited for this award. I will draw examples from my personal research, past RRA winners, and other scholarly sources.

More From This Issue

  • Different Roads, Same Reward

    When addiction research was in its infancy roughly a century ago, scientists dismissed substance abuse as a mere personality flaw. Today, addiction is widely thought to be due to complex gene–environment interactions influencing brain function, rather than a simple weakness of character. In his award address at the 2014 APS Convention, APS William James Fellow Terry E. Robinson (University of Michigan) emphasized that continued research on this interaction would enable psychological scientists and clinicians to more effectively treat those most prone to relapse.

  • Storytelling From a Three-Legged Stool

    Once upon a time, I watched Dacher Keltner on the BBC series The Human Face and Lera Boroditsky on the National Geographic series Brain Games. Both segments captured the very heart of psychological science in an admirably accessible fashion, so I asked them what advice they would give to scholars who wish to share their science with intellectually engaged laypersons. Here is what I learned. Storytelling flourishes across time and space, through oral traditions and campfire ghost stories, ritual dance and modern ballet, cave paintings and picture books, 18th-century opera and Broadway musicals, photojournalism and 3-D movies. It is ubiquitous, entertaining, and instructive.

  • James McKeen Cattell Fund Fellowships Awarded

    The 2014–2015 James McKeen Cattell Fund Fellowships have been awarded to Ara Norenzayan, Ione Fine, and Todd A. Kahan. Presented in partnership with APS, the Fellowships allow recipients to extend their sabbatical periods from one semester to a full year. Cattell, an important figure in American psychology, established the fund in 1942 by donating a majority of his holdings in the Psychological Corporation to create a fund in his name. The Fund’s core objective was to support scientific research and disseminate knowledge that would advance the development of psychological science and its functional applications. In 1974, a set of supplementary sabbatical awards were created from this fund.

  • A Sense of Family: Research in Human Kin Recognition

    In the classic Star Wars film franchise, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker kiss at least twice — before learning in a subsequent installment of George Lucas’s film franchise that they are in fact siblings. In reality, a brother and sister meeting each other — even if unaware of their genetic relationship — might sense that mating is ill-advised. Theoretically, humans, like many other organisms, possess some mechanisms for recognizing kin.

  • First-of-Its-Kind Registered Replication Report Examines Verbal Overshadowing Effect

    An innovative research-replication initiative has generated results that have important implications for eyewitness memory. The project confirms earlier findings that asking witnesses to provide a verbal description of a suspect can impair their ability to select that suspect from a lineup — the so-called “verbal overshadowing” effect. This Registered Replication Report (RRR) is the first completed project from an initiative launched in 2013 by the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. In the original study, published in 1990 by APS Fellow Jonathan W. Schooler and Tonya Y.

  • NEW PSPI REPORT: Stigma as a Barrier to Mental Health Care

    Despite the availability of effective evidence-based treatment, about 40% of individuals with serious mental illness do not receive care, and many who begin an intervention fail to complete it. A new report published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest investigates stigma as a significant barrier to care for many individuals with mental illness. Although stigma is only one of many factors that may influence care seeking, it has profound effects for those who suffer from mental illness. In the report, Patrick W. Corrigan of the Illinois Institute of Technology and coauthors Benjamin G. Druss of Emory University and Deborah A.

  • Perspectives Launches ‘Forward Thinking’ Section

    Research, in the early stages, is a generative process; results can be conflicting, messy, and difficult to interpret, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t thought provoking and worthy of being shared. The editors of Perspectives on Psychological Science believe science should be strong — hence the APS journal’s initiative to replicate important psychological findings while also being supportive of new ideas. With this in mind, Perspectives has launched a new “Forward Thinking” section dedicated to publishing short, conceptual articles that focus on new ideas based on incomplete or still-developing empirical work.

  • Introduction to Meta-Analysis: A Guide for the Novice

    Free Meta-Analysis Software and Macros MetaXL (Version 2.0) RevMan (Version 5.3) Meta-Analysis Macros for SAS, SPSS, and Stata Opposing theories and disparate findings populate the field of psychology; scientists must interpret the results of any single study in the context of its limitations. Meta-analysis is a robust tool that can help researchers overcome these challenges by assimilating data across studies identified through a literature review. In other words, rather than surveying participants, a meta-analysis surveys studies. The goal is to calculate the direction and/or magnitude of an effect across all relevant studies, both published and unpublished.

  • Books to Check Out: October 2014

    To submit a new book, email apsobserver@psychologicalscience.org. Neurobiology of Social Behavior: Toward an Understanding of the Prosocial and Antisocial Brain by Michael Numan; Academic Press, July 22, 2014. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin; Dutton Adult, August 19, 2014. Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want by Nicholas Epley; Knopf, February 11, 2014. The Handbook of Developmental Psychopathology edited by Michael Lewis and Karen D. Rudolph; Springer, April 10, 2014. Human Memory: A Constructivist View by Mary B. Howes and Geoffrey O’Shea; Academic Press, January 23, 2014.

  • Undergraduates’ Thoughts About Creative Success: Anecdotes From a Creativity Seminar

    What do undergraduates think about how creative ability develops? It seems like a simple question, but it led to a sea change in my own scientific outlook. It also embodies an important example of the positive feedback loop that can exist between the laboratory and the classroom. For 4 years I taught an undergraduate seminar on creativity and problem solving at the University of Delaware. The entire semester was arranged to support a final project conducted by each student: a case study of creativity. This was not simply a biographical case-study project, but rather a chance for students to explore the validity of the variety of theories from creativity research.

  • Integrative Approach Strengthens Developmental Research

    Traditionally, researchers in different fields have banded together, leading to ever-evolving but separate lines of work. However, there is now an increasing awareness that much can be learned by combining knowledge across a wide range of psychological and biological disciplines. This new focus on integrative work is especially evident in the growing body of research showing that our brains, biology, and environments are not independent — each influences, and is influenced by, the others.

  • Milner Awarded Kavli Prize in Neuroscience

    APS William James Fellow Brenda Milner has received the 2014 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience. Milner is a neuropsychologist at McGill University, Canada, known for her work with the patient H.M., who experienced impaired memory after most of his medial temporal lobes were removed to control his severe epilepsy. After the surgery, it appeared that H.M. was not able to retain newly created memories even though he continued to remember his life prior to the operation. But Milner discovered that, despite his damaged memory, H.M. was able to acquire some new skills. For example, H.M. became proficient in a mirror drawing task that involved drawing a five-pointed star.