January 2002
Volume 15, Number 1


Consume Science - Anywhere

I disagree with Robert Perloff's suggestion (Letters to the Editor, Observer, November 2001) that "department heads, deans ... should be encouraged to reward professors to read articles, no matter where they are published, by giving (them) some kind of credit ... a modest reduction in course load for every 25 or so ... articles they read in their entirety and evaluated faithfully and fully. ..."

Hopefully with the same characteristic "candor, defiance and unsullied integrity" that Perloff attributes (justifiably) to Robert Sternberg who initially raised concern about the importance of where an article is published (Observer, October 2001), may I state categorically that anyone who dismisses pertinent literature because it is not published in a "prestigious" journal should not be teaching or doing research.
You go where your subject matter of interest takes you, be it top rank or lowest rank journals in your field or other fields, newspaper articles, popular science magazines, radio talk shows, comments by colleagues you detest, or whatever. As a teacher and/or researcher you go through life with a long list of key words in your mind and ANYTHING that triggers any of those key words is of interest. Anything less is cheating yourself, those for whom you work and those who depend upon you as a resource and inspiration.

Bernard J. Fine
Weston, MA

Doing a Number on Memory

Code Overload graphic

The Observer article and interviews with the "experts" on memory implied that there are too many numbers to have to learn in "everyday life of phone number, code words" and automated banking ["Code Overload: Doing a Number on Memory," September 2001].

Readers may be interested in a paper presented at the "Practical Aspects of Memory Conference" in 1994 by White, Anderson, and Johnson that reported College students and older adults had a very large memory base of numbers. When asked to recall as many personal numbers as they could, with or without category cues, telephone numbers were most frequently recalled (40 percent) with dates and other personal numbers next (20 percent). The mean number of telephone numbers recalled during a one-hour period was 14 with one individual recalling 51 telephone numbers. The largest mean of all different types of numbers recalled with cues over four one half-hour periods was 219, the minimum was 137 and the maximum was 342. Thus, many people have a very large database of numbers available to them with category cues to help them retrieve them.

Nancy S. Anderson
Professor Emerita
University of Maryland, College Park

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Letters to the Editor are intended to facilitate the exchange of ideas among members of the American Psychological Society. Your comments and feedback on issues discussed or mentioned in the Observer are welcome. Letters should be sent as an e-mail to or faxed to (202) 783-2083, Attn: Observer Letters.

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