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Volume 26, Issue7September 2013

Presidential Column

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

In this Issue:
Looking Beyond the ‘Neuro’ Revolution in Psychological Science

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


  • Looking Beyond the ‘Neuro’ Revolution in Psychological Science

    There are generations of scientists in every discipline that share similar sensibilities. Much like there are Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, and Millennials who are shaped by the cultural trends and societal opportunities that helped define their likes, dislikes, and lifestyles, there are also eras within a scientific discipline that shape its scientists. For me, I am a “tweener” on both fronts. That is, based on the year I was born, I am somewhere between a Baby Boomer and a Gen X’er, depending on who is setting the cut-off date. As an early hip-hop fan, I identify more with the Gen X’ers culturally, but I have my Boomer tendencies too. In terms of science, I was trained in cognitive psychology at a time that might be considered the end of the cognitive revolution and the beginning of the neuroscience revolution. As an early member of the “neuroscience” generation of psychological scientists, I am proud to say I attended the first Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience, and got one of the first fellowships from the James S. McDonnell Foundation to train cognitive psychologists in neuroscience techniques.

  • Journal Impact Factors

    Every summer my e-mail is enlivened by people and organizations writing about the latest journal impact factors (IF). Because I chair the APS Publications Committee, I have always done my best to feign deep interest about IFs. I know many people take them very seriously, but the truth is, I have never cared about them too much, although I do look at them. I certainly take citations seriously; they indicate at least to some degree the impact and worth of a paper. But journal impact factors seem to have been created by people who were a bit shaky on both arithmetic and descriptive statistics (the kind you learn in the first two weeks of baby stats classes in psychology). First, the arithmetic problem. IFs always go to three decimal places, to thousandths of a citation, giving a spurious impression of precision. The most recent IF for Psychological Science  (PS) is 4.543. Consider, however, its derivation: The number of citations in 2012 to articles published in the previous two years (a whole number, of course — it was 2344 for PS), divided by the number of articles published in PS in those two prior years (another whole number — 516). So dividing 2344 by 516 gives the IF.

APS Spotlight


  • Citation-Based Indices of Scholarly Impact: Databases and Norms

    Scholarly impact has long been an intriguing research topic (Nosek et al., 2010; Sternberg, 2003) as well as a crucial factor in making consequential decisions (e.g., hiring, tenure, promotion, research support, professional honors).  As decision makers ramp up their reliance on objective measures (Abbott, Cyranoski, Jones, Maher, Schiermeier, & Van Noorden, 2010), quantifying scholarly impact effectively has never been more important.  Conventional measures such as the number of articles published remain popular, but modern citation-based indices offer many advantages (Ruscio, Seaman, D’Oriano, Stremlo, & Mahalchik, 2012).  We discuss two attractive indices, show that PsycINFO or Web of Science searches yield comparable results, and provide norms for psychological scientists on these indices.

Practice


  • Journal Impact Factors

    Every summer my e-mail is enlivened by people and organizations writing about the latest journal impact factors (IF). Because I chair the APS Publications Committee, I have always done my best to feign deep interest about IFs. I know many people take them very seriously, but the truth is, I have never cared about them too much, although I do look at them. I certainly take citations seriously; they indicate at least to some degree the impact and worth of a paper. But journal impact factors seem to have been created by people who were a bit shaky on both arithmetic and descriptive statistics (the kind you learn in the first two weeks of baby stats classes in psychology). First, the arithmetic problem. IFs always go to three decimal places, to thousandths of a citation, giving a spurious impression of precision. The most recent IF for Psychological Science  (PS) is 4.543. Consider, however, its derivation: The number of citations in 2012 to articles published in the previous two years (a whole number, of course — it was 2344 for PS), divided by the number of articles published in PS in those two prior years (another whole number — 516). So dividing 2344 by 516 gives the IF.

  • 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 new 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. The Hidden Key to Virtuous Behavior The Upside of Being Down The Hidden Key to Virtuous Behavior: We're All on the Same Side by C. Nathan DeWall McFarland, S., Brown, D., & Webb, M. (2013). Identification with all humanity as a moral concept and psychological construct. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22, 194–198.

First Person


  • Stepping Into the Mentor Role

    The mentorship relationship that graduate students are usually most concerned with is the relationship with their own advisor. However, there is another mentorship relationship available in graduate school that many may not have thought about — mentoring undergraduates. Many graduate students supervise undergraduates as research assistants, but taking on an undergraduate as a mentee involves a higher level of commitment, and also the possibility for greater rewards. Why mentor an undergraduate? Most often this situation comes about when an undergraduate who already has experience as a research assistant in a lab wants to move up to the next level of learning and responsibility by completing an honors thesis.

More From This Issue


  • Kahneman Honored With Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Nobel Laureate and APS Fellow Daniel Kahneman, a pioneer in the field of behavioral economics, is one of 16 people who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom later this year from President Barack Obama, the White House announced August 8. The Medal of Freedom, awarded for meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors, is the highest civilian honor in the United States. The citation for Kahneman lauds him as a “pioneering scholar of psychology” and credits him with laying the foundation for applying cognitive psychology to economic analysis.

  • US House Urges Recognition of Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System

    In a visible acknowledgement of clinical psychological science, the US House of Representatives has asked the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to facilitate the recognition of the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS). In 2012, PCSAS received recognition and accreditation authority from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to provide accreditation of PhD programs in psychological clinical science. The VHA is in the process of modifying its regulations to permit graduates of PCSAS-accredited programs to train and be employed within the Veteran Administration’s (VA) healthcare system.

  • APS Welcomes President Phelps, President-Elect Eisenberg

    APS welcomes the 2013-2014 APS Board. Elizabeth A. Phelps is President, Nancy Eisenberg is President-Elect, and Joseph E. Steinmetz is Immediate Past President. A heartfelt thank you to outgoing Immediate Past President Douglas L. Medin and outgoing Board Members Morris Moscovitch and Janet Polivy for their dedicated service to APS. Newly elected Board Members Annette Karmiloff-Smith and Varda Shoham are beginning their three-year terms on the Board. Elizabeth A. Phelps New York University President, 2013-2014 APS Fellow Elizabeth A. Phelps is APS Board President.

  • Growing Up With APS

    This article is part of a series commemorating APS's 25th anniversary in 2013. Many student affiliates who were just embarking on their careers at the founding of APS in 1988 would, over the next 25 years, become luminaries in the field of psychological science; in this retrospective, some of APS’s former student affiliates, who are now APS Fellows, reflect on their careers and involvement with APS since the organization’s early days. Rebecca Bigler Professor of psychology The University of Texas at Austin My own career in psychological science developed during the same era that APS developed as the premiere organization for psychological scientists.

  • 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. The remaining 17 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: Marilynn B. Brewer, Carol S.

  • Ageism: Alive and Kicking

    When APS Fellow Becca Levy, associate professor of epidemiology and psychology at Yale School of Public Health, and her colleagues searched on Facebook for groups that concentrate on older people, the results gave some unsettling insight into younger people’s perception of older folks. They found 84 groups, with a total of nearly 25,500 members, created primarily by 20- to 29-year-olds. Almost 75 percent of the descriptors of the groups excoriated older people, 27 percent infantilized them, and 37 percent advocated banning them from public activities, such as shopping, the team reports in a 2013 issue of The Gerontologist. But bias against the elderly is often more subtle.

  • The Link Between Personality and Immunity

    It’s easy to see how personality could influence a person’s health in general. An impulsive person might head to a party instead of getting a good night’s sleep. A careless person might not wash the hand that just held onto a subway pole during flu season. A responsible person might grab that wool hat before heading out into the cold. But when it comes to how the body handles an illness, you probably expect your antibodies to stir into action with complete objectivity — all character traits aside. In other words, it’s a lot harder to see how personality could influence a person’s immune function in particular.

  • How to Fix a Fractured Nation

    2013 APS Award Address: Diane F. Halpern from Psych Science on Vimeo. If you’re a staunch conservative, make friends with an MSNBC fan. If you’re a liberal, watch Sean Hannity once in a while. These were among several solutions that psychological scientist Diane Halpern of Claremont McKenna College recommends as remedies for the great wall of partisanship that divides the American political system. Halpern spoke about how to fix a broken government May 24 in her James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award address at the 25th APS Annual Convention in Washington, D.C. Polarization has brought congressional productivity to a literal halt, leading to record-low public opinions of government.

  • Four APS Fellows Elected to NAS

    Five psychological scientists, including four APS Fellows, are among the 84 new members and 21 foreign associates elected to the National Academy of Sciences, in recognition of their contributions and achievements in original research. Among the newly elected members, announced April 30, are Richard Aslin, professor of brain and cognitive sciences , University of Rochester; Susan Fiske, professor of psychology at Princeton University; Joseph LeDoux, professor of neuroscience and psychology, New York University (NYU); and Daniel Schacter, professor of psychology at Harvard University. All are APS Fellows.