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282015Volume 28, Issue7September 2015

Presidential Column

C. Randy Gallistel
C. Randy Gallistel
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
APS President 2015 - 2016
All columns

In this Issue:
Bayes for Beginners: Probability and Likelihood

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.

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    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

  • Bayes for Beginners: Probability and Likelihood

    Some years ago, a postdoctoral fellow in my lab tried to publish a series of experiments with results that — to his surprise — supported a theoretically important but extremely counterintuitive null hypothesis. He got strong pushback from the reviewers. They said that all he had were insignificant results that could not be used to support his null hypothesis. I knew that Bayesian methods could provide support for null hypotheses, so I began to look into them. I ended up teaching a Bayesian-oriented graduate course in statistics and now use Bayesian methods in analyzing my own data. When I look back on the formulation of the statistical inference problem I was taught and used for many years, I am astonished that I saw no problem with it: To test our own hypothesis, we test a different hypothesis — the null hypothesis.


  • 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. Nathan DeWall’s blog “Talk Psych.” Similar to the APS Observer column, the mission of their blog is to provide weekly updates on psychological science.

First Person

  • Integrating Culture Into Psychological Research

    The study of culture has gained a noticeable presence across research, training, and practice in American psychology (American Psychological Association, 2003; Cheung, 2012). As graduate students, we have all become familiar with certain phrases: cultural competency, biculturalism, and human diversity, for example. The growing emphasis on cultural awareness is largely due to the efforts of professional and student organizations, such as APS and the APS Student Caucus, to promote research that captures the complexity of the culturally diverse society in which we live. As a bicultural individual, I am fascinated by research that examines the influence of culture on psychology using empirical research methods. Here, I delineate the need to investigate culture within the context of an integrative theoretical model of culture, psychology, and behavior. What Is Culture?

More From This Issue

  • Weisz Honored With Klaus-Grawe-Award

    APS James McKeen Fellow John Weisz, Director of the Laboratory for Youth Mental Health at Harvard University, has been awarded the 2015 Klaus-Grawe-Award for the Advancement of Innovative Research in Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy by the Klaus Grawe Foundation. First awarded in 2007, the Klaus-Grawe-Award is endowed with € 10,000 and will be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Section of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy of the German Association of Psychology in Dresden. Weisz’s distinguished work focuses on improving the mental health of children and teens through testing, implementing, and maintaining evidence-based clinical treatments.

  • Books to Check Out

    To submit a new book, email [email protected] Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking by Richard E. Nisbett; Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, August 18, 2015. The Developing Genome: An Introduction to Behavioral Epigenetics by David S. Moore; Oxford University Press, March 2, 2015. Simply Rational: Decision Making in the Real World by Gerd Gigerenzer; Oxford University Press, March 31, 2015. The Roots of Goodness and Resistance to Evil by Ervin Staub; Oxford University Press, March 31, 2015. Handbook of Biobehavioral Approaches to Self-Regulation by Guido H. E. Gendolla, Mattie Tops, and Sander L. Koole; Springer, September 23, 2014.

  • Lindsay Becomes Interim Editor of Psychological Science

    APS Fellow Eric Eich, who began serving as Editor in Chief of Psychological Science in 2013, has passed the reins to Interim Editor D. Stephen Lindsay, who began his term on July 1. Eich, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, is exiting his editorial post to serve as Vice Provost and Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs at that university. Lindsay is an APS Fellow and a professor and acting chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Victoria, Canada, and he has served as an Associate Editor for the journal since 2013.

  • Charging Up the Inner GPS

    A team of psychological scientists from Tufts University and the US Army may have found one way to improve a shaky sense of direction: applying an electric current to the brain. The research team, led by Tad T. Brunyé, found that volunteers who started the experiment with poor navigation skills showed a significant improvement after receiving a dose of low-current electricity delivered to the scalp, a technique known as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Previous studies using tDCS have shown that it can temporarily cause varying effects in people that include improved memory, creativity, and attention, and even relief from depression symptoms.

  • Meet the APS Board for 2015–2016

    Every September, the Observer highlights leaders taking on new roles on the APS Board of Directors. For the 2015–2016 academic year, C. Randy Gallistel of Rutgers University is the new APS President, while Susan Goldin-Meadow of The University of Chicago joins the Board as President-Elect. Nancy Eisenberg of Arizona State University becomes Immediate Past President. New Members-at-Large for the coming year include Dorthe Berntsen of Aarhus University, Denmark, and Cindy M. Yee-Bradbury of the University of California, Los Angeles. They join Members-at-Large Thomas Carr of Michigan State University; Sandra Graham of the University of California, Los Angeles; Michelle R.

  • ‘Significance and Remembrance’ Revisited

    Throughout 2015, the Observer is commemorating the silver anniversary of APS’s flagship journal. In addition to research reports, the first issue of Psychological Science, published in January 1990, included a general article, “Significance and Remembrance: The Role of Neuromodulatory Systems,” written by neurobiologist James L. McGaugh. In that article, McGaugh — who at that time was President of APS — addressed how stress hormones interact with the brain to consolidate memories. Twenty-five years later, McGaugh, now a research professor at the University of California, Irvine, looks back on how our understanding of memory consolidation has evolved since his article was published.

  • Janet Taylor Spence: A Life in Science

    August 29, 1923: Janet Taylor is born in Toledo, Ohio 1945: Taylor receives an undergraduate degree in psychology and political science at Oberlin College 1949: Taylor graduates from the University of Iowa with a PhD in psychology.

  • Walter Mischel and Collaborators Receive 2015 Golden Goose Award

    Walter Mischel’s classic studies in childhood self-control, known popularly as the marshmallow tests, are among the most famous and impactful experiments in psychological science. Now, this research is earning special recognition from scientific, academic, and business organizations and federal lawmakers for having survived initial doubts to spawn major scientific breakthroughs.

  • The Media as Research Collaborators

    Traditionally, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) have been the leaders not only in interviewing psychological scientists as part of their news coverage, but also in actually collaborating with them on stories and documentaries about findings on an array of topics — including memory, motivation, and the origins of morality. Anderson Cooper and his team at CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360° (AC360) are venturing further by collaborating with psychological scientists on actually designing and executing empirical research studies as part of the program’s coverage of current issues in the news.

  • Data ‘Salvation’ for Suicide Research

    A psychological scientist renowned for developing evidence-based treatment for suicidality warns that standard interventions for suicidal behavioral — including hospitalization — are largely unsupported by science.

  • How Poverty Affects the Brain and Behavior

    Poverty holds a seemingly unbreakable grip on families, neighborhoods, cities, and entire countries. It stretches from one generation to the next, trapping individuals in a socioeconomic pit that is nearly impossible to ascend. Part of the fuel for poverty’s unending cycle is its suppressing effects on individuals’ cognitive development, executive functioning, and attention, as four scientists demonstrated during the inaugural International Convention of Psychological Science, held March 12–14 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

  • A Milestone in Federally Funded Behavioral Science

    In the United States, medicine functions too much like a “repair shop,” believes David R. Williams of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health: People only seek medical advice when something goes wrong. This dysfunctional approach may explain why the United States shells out 50% of the world’s health care expenditures even though it represents only 5% of the world’s population. The nation also rank near the bottom of industrialized countries on health measures, according to Williams. In recognition of the need to approach health holistically, the US Congress established the National Institutes of Health Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research (OBSSR) in 1995.

  • Being Choosy About Choosing

    From grocery store shelves to investment offerings, the modern world offers an ever-increasing number of choices — and these options are leading to stress, said Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University at the 2015 APS Annual Convention. In a talk sponsored by the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, Iyengar noted that when there are too many bundles of information to track and compare, making an optimal choice can be computationally overwhelming. Iyengar opened her talk with a set of assumptions she uses in her research: We all have beliefs about others; we are convinced of our own uniqueness; and we are more alike than we think.

  • Leveraging Psychological Science

    Despite substantial advances in medical science, patients often do not get the full benefit of health care: They fail to seek medical attention when they need it, neglect to finish prescriptions, seek unnecessary (and expensive) second opinions, or are persuaded to use services that are not supported by good evidence. Researchers have long studied patient cognition and behavior with an eye to improving health-care outcomes. However, clinicians are susceptible to the same kinds of psychological forces that influence patients: They do not act solely based on rationality, and their vast medical knowledge is influenced by cognitive and emotional factors.

  • Defining Dysfunction: Clinical Psychology’s New Frontier

    Diagnosing physical ailments used to depend exclusively on symptoms and observations, but a prodigious surge in new technology has provided 21st century medicine with an array of precision diagnostic tools — from biomarkers to genetic testing — that have fueled astounding progress in defining and treating illness. Over the past decade, comparable breakthroughs in cognitive science, neuroimaging, and genomics have led to unprecedented headway in the understanding of mental illness, but these new biologically based findings do not always fit neatly within the current symptom-based diagnostic categories.

  • The ADHD Explosion

    Professional baseball in the United States has seen a dramatic escalation in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses over the past decade. There are now more than 100 players, about 10% of the active Major League Baseball (MLB) roster, who have clearance to take stimulant drugs for the treatment of ADHD — more than twice the estimated prevalence in the general adult population. Without a therapeutic use exemption, the powerful stimulants used to treat ADHD are banned from professional sports, including baseball, as performance enhancing drugs.