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Volume 25, Issue7September 2012

Presidential Column

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

In this Issue:
Psychology Departments in Context

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


  • Psychology Departments in Context

    I remember standing in the mailroom of the psychology department at Indiana University about 25 years ago, opening an envelope and then reading a letter that described a new organization  to promote the science of psychology. An application for membership was included in the letter, which I dutifully filled out, thus joining what was known at the time as the American Psychological Society as a charter member. Now, 25 years later, I find myself President of that organization, which is now known as the Association for Psychological Science. While the name has changed, the basic mission of APS has not.

APS Spotlight


  • Knowing Others and Being Known

    My mom thinks she can read me like a book. And, as moms are apt to be, she’s right. When we’re on the phone, she knows what mood I’m in before I finish my first sentence. She knows if I like someone (or don’t) before I know it myself. It’s great to grow up with parents who understand your quirks, who can anticipate your moods, and who know what really matters to your happiness. The danger is that you’ll grow up to spend your life studying how people can know you better than you know yourself. Maybe my childhood is to blame, but I am fascinated by these kinds of questions. If Laura says she’s shy, but her friends and family say she’s not, who should we believe? When I entered graduate school, the standard operating procedure in the field of personality psychology was to trust self-reports. If you wanted to know what people were like, you were supposed to just ask them. But early on in graduate school, I stumbled upon [Willem] Hofstee’s 1994 paper “Who Should Own the Definition of Personality?” More than any other, that paper changed my research career.

  • When Profs Get Graded

    As the popularity of teaching evaluation websites is growing, so is concern over whether ratings on such sites provide an accurate representation of instructors’ performance. Because many students rely on such websites such as Ratemyprofessors.com (RMP) when making course decisions, it is important that we examine how these ratings compare to student evaluations of teaching (SET). Founded in 1999 by John Swapceinski after a particularly bad experience with a faculty member, RMP is a free website that allows students to anonymously rate an instructor’s “easiness,” “helpfulness,” and “clarity” on a 5-point scale and leave a comment of up to 350 characters. The website generates an “overall quality” rating by averaging an instructor’s helpfulness and clarity scores. Students can also rate an instructor’s physical appearance (hot or not) by assigning him/her a “chili pepper.” Fairly recently, the website began asking students about the attendance policy and textbook used in the class. Students can now also rate and comment on their college as a whole.

First Person


  • Ten Tips for Applying to the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

    The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships (www.nsfgrfp.org) are a fabulous external funding source for graduate students in psychology. These fellowships provide generous funding for three years, are prestigious early career honors that can bolster future grant applications, and provide an escape from teaching obligations (if desired). But these fellowships are also extremely competitive, and it is critical to submit a polished proposal. To that end, I will share some key strategies for drafting a competitive application. Although these tips are specifically tailored for NSF, many of these suggestions may help with other grant applications. 1. Carefully research the application process Be sure to know all of the ins and outs of the application process. Scour the funding announcement and the website, paying close attention to the evaluation criteria.

More From This Issue


  • Introducing the 2012-13 APS Board

    Your APS leaders for 2012-13: Joseph E. Steinmetz, of The Ohio State University, takes the helm as APS President. Douglas L. Medin, Northwestern University, becomes Immediate Past President and Elizabeth A. Phelps, New York University, joins the Board as President-Elect. Wendy Berry Mendes, University of California, San Francisco, and Suparna Rajaram, Stony Brook University, begin their three-year terms as APS Board Members. APS offers a warm thanks to outgoing Immediate Past President Mahzarin R. Banaji and Board Member Jennifer A. Richeson for their outstanding work and dedicated service to the Board and APS. Special gratitude is extended to Edward E.

  • Learning Through Testing

    Testing memory not only assesses what we know but changes it,” said Henry L. Roediger, III, as he summed up his most recent years of research in his William James Fellow Award Address at the 24th APS Annual Convention in Chicago. Roediger’s discovery is a new concept for teachers, researchers, and students, who tend to assume that people learn while studying and that tests measure what they learned. However, Roediger’s research shows that testing is a valuable, but under-used, tool. The traditional academic model of a few tests a year, interspersed with lots of opportunities to study, could go by the wayside if teachers and students follow Roediger’s recommendations.

  • Clinical Science Training and Beyond

    Two sessions in the Clinical Science Forum at the 24th APS Annual Convention explored critical issues facing clinical psychologists. One session focused on education and the efforts that training programs are making to equip future clinicians with the skills they need to evaluate  and implement evidence-based interventions. During the second session, which will be featured in an upcoming issue of the Observer, psychological scientists shared the benefits, and challenges, of implementing evidence-based treatments in large organizations — in this case, the military.

  • Employee Interests Predict How They Will Perform on the Job

    When evaluating job applicants, employers want to be sure that they choose the right person for the job. Many employers, from consulting firms to federal agencies, will ask prospective employees to complete extensive tests and questionnaires to get a better sense of what those employees might be like in an office setting. But new research published in Perspectives on Psychological Science suggests that a different factor — employee interests — may be a better way to predict who will perform well on the job.

  • APS Journal Named ‘Rising Star’

    The APS journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, edited by APS Fellow Barbara A. Spellman, was recently named a Rising Star in psychiatry and psychology based on data from Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge’s Essential Science Indicators. Between its founding in 2006 and February 29, 2012, Perspectives has received over 2,000 citations of 227 papers. Spellman, who is a professor of psychology and a professor of law at the University of Virginia, began serving as Editor in 2011. She has contributed significantly to the journal’s interdisciplinary appeal by welcoming the publication of both invited and unsolicited manuscripts and by promoting discussion and collaboration between authors.

  • Remembering Edward E. Smith

    On behalf of the APS Board, we have the sad duty to report that recent Board member and APS William James Fellow Edward E. Smith died on August 17, 2012, at the age of 72. Smith was the William B. Ransford Professor of Psychology at Columbia University and the Ransford Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. At Columbia, Smith directed the Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab, which is part of a collaborative effort to understand the psychological and neural basis of thought and behavior. He served on the APS Board of Directors from 2009 through this past May.

  • Bjork, Nosofsky Recognized with Awards

    In an award ceremony at Rice University, two notable APS members accepted the most prestigious awards given by the Society of Experimental Psychologists. APS Past President Robert A. Bjork received the Norman Anderson Lifetime Achievement Award, and APS Fellow Robert M. Nosofsky was awarded the Howard Crosby Warren Medal. Bjork, from University of California, Los Angeles, was recognized for his pioneering contributions to learning and memory research, especially the development of the directed forgetting paradigm. In this experimental setup, participants were shown items, and were instructed either to remember or to forget the item.