Gazzaniga Is APS President

Michael S. Gazzaniga, Dartmouth College, is APS President for 2005-06. His term began at the end of the 2005 Convention and will continue through the 2006 Convention. Gazzaniga was elected in 2004 to a three-year presidential term, which includes one year each as President-elect, President, and Immediate Past President.

APS Members also chose Morton Ann Gernsbacher as President-elect and Patricia Devine and Douglas Medin as at-large members of the APS Board of Directors. Their terms are from 2005-08. Devine and Medin fill vacancies left by departing Board members John Cacioppo, University of Chicago, and Denise Park, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

A world-renowned scientist and author, Gazzaniga is widely recognized for his ground-breaking work in brain research and his ground breaking research that led to the discovery of human “split-brain” phenomenon, which revealed that the human brain is divided into two hemispheres, each with its own specialization and area of control over the body.

“Nothing is more important in the 21st century than to expand the scientific foundations of studying the mind and society. APS has this as its core mission and every effort should be made to build upon this great tradition,” Gazzaniga said. “I hope to bring a sense of urgency to our mission. I am not a ‘business as usual’ person.”

True to form, Gazzaniga initiated a review of the structure of the APS Annual Convention [“Big Changes for the Big Apple,” Observer, May 2005] to find ways to unite various lines of inquiry in the field and increase discussion of big-picture issues involving psychological science. The 2006 Annual Convention will feature three thematic lines of programming on Terrorism, Plasticity and Change, and Memory and Consciousness. (See Gazzaniga’s “Presidential Column” or more details about next year’s exciting convention program.)

Gazzaniga is currently one of 17 selected members of the President’s Council on Bioethics. In that capacity, he has been a central figure in the debate on stem cell research.

He also is the Director of the Center for Cognitive and Educational Neuroscience (CCEN) at Dartmouth. In March, the National Science Foundation awarded $21.8 million to establish this program at the annual meeting of the Science of Learning Centers.

CCEN was created to foster long-term advancements in learning research through a multidisciplinary approach. The initiative will examine how education changes the brain and to develop techniques for educators at the K-12 and undergraduate levels. Similar programs also funded by NSF are at the University of Washington, Carnegie Mellon University and Boston University. Gazzaniga’s team employs a technique called diffusion tensor imaging, which allows them to determine how different parts of the brain are linked together, by analyzing MRI data.

“Our approach turns the whole issue of how people learn on its head,” Gazzaniga said. “We ask what are the optimal ways in which the human brain learns, when are the optimal periods of learning in development, and what types of changes occur in the brain that facilitate and promote learning?”

Gazzaniga succeeds Robert W. Levenson, University of California, Berkeley, who now becomes Immediate Past President. Henry L. Roediger III, Washington University in St. Louis, concluded his presidential term.

Gernsbacher is President-Elect

With a background in human development, language and experimental psychology, Gernsbacher brings an extensive array of knowledge about our field to her position as APS President-elect. She also has a history of involvement with APS, having served as chair of the APS Program Committee and the APS Publications Committee, and currently is co-editor of Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

“I feel very fortunate to have already had many excellent opportunities to get to know APS, its membership, leadership, and staff,” said Gernsbacher, an APS Fellow and Charter Member. “Each of my experiences has impressed upon me how passionately committed APS is to advancing psychological science.”

One of the foremost experimental psychologists in the country, Gernsbacher is currently the Vilas Research Professor and Sir Frederic C. Bartlett Professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

“My first career was in public school teaching, which was considered a ‘proper’ career for a young Southern woman in the early 1970s,” Gernsbacher said. “While teaching high school English literature and Spanish, I marveled at how the freshman were small enough to hide in their lockers, whereas the seniors were old enough to drink legally (at the time) and be sent to war.” Amazed at the various levels of development she witnessed inside school walls, Gernsbacher enrolled in an evening course at a University of Texas campus. “It was then that I fell in love with psychology,” she said.

One of Gernsbacher’s main research interests involves the investigation of the general, cognitive processes and mechanisms that underlie language comprehension. Her recent research is focused on the identification of language patterns among autistic children. “I’ve become very interested in autism and in particular the cognitive, emotional, and perceptual strengths found in autism,” Gernsbacher explains, who is the mother of a 9-year-old autistic son, Drew. “This is a novel perspective and one that I would like to see flourish.”

One of her most recent articles regarding autism, “Three Reasons Not to Believe in an Autism Epidemic,” was published in the April 2005 issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science. In the review, Gernsbacher and her co-authors, Michelle Dawson and H. Hill Goldsmith, indicate that today’s less restrictive diagnostic criteria, a serious flaw in a study claiming that the broader criteria didn’t contribute to more diagnoses, and US Department of Education child count data used to support the motion of an epidemic didn’t report on autism until the 1991-1992 school year.

Devine, Medin are Members-at-Large

APS Fellow and Charter Member Patricia Devine’s research interests focus on the current and complex topic of prejudice in our contemporary society. “I am interested in how people manage the intrapersonal and interpersonal challenges associated with prejudice,” said Devine on her faculty website at University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Not one to limit her research interests, Devine’s curiosity extends to exploring “the qualitative nature of the tension between majority and minority group members that may create obstacles for harmonious intergroup relations,” she said. Devine also conducts research on dissonance-related phenomena and the processes involved in resisting persuasion.

“One main focus for recent work focused on the sources of motivation for responding without prejudice, and the unique challenges these alternate sources of motivation create for managing the interpersonal aspects of intergroup relations,” Devine said.

Currently serving on the executive committee for the Society of Experimental Social Psychology, Devine also serves as editor for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition.

Curiosity also drew APS Fellow Douglas Medin to psychological science. He first became interested in the field because, “I wanted to understand why my friends, who were so inquisitive and insightful outside of school, were getting poor grades in school.”

While we have all had friends like that, most of us did not plunge into the field of psychological science because of it. Medin decided to turn this curiosity into a career, and now is a professor in the department of psychology and the Director of Program in Culture, Language and Cognition, at Northwestern University. His areas of interest include culture and cognition, decision making, and learning and memory.

With respect to culture and cognition, Medin and other members of his lab conducted research on biological concepts among three groups in Petan, Guatemala, and among Native American, Amish, and majority culture people in north-central Wisconsin. Medin also conducts research to better understand the role of protected or moral values and decision-making, as well as the role of emotions in decision-making.

In May of 2005, Medin was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors that a US scientist can receive. (Editor’s note: We like to think of APS as a stepping stone, since we elected him first.)

Baird Is Appointed Secretary

Abigail Baird was appointed by APS President Michael Gazzaniga as Secretary of the American Psychological Society.

Baird is a developmental neuroscientist at Dartmouth College where she is an assistant professor and director of the Laboratory for Adolescent Studies in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences. She specializes in the application of neuroimaging techniques to the study of the developing brain, with a particular focus on adolescence.

Currently, Baird is examining structural and physiological changes in the limbic system of adolescents. The goal of this research is to better understand how these changes relate to the emergence of specific cognitive and emotional behaviors that are unique to adolescence. Baird received her PhD from Harvard University in 2001.

Baird is particularly looking forward to the opportunity in to help advance two of APS’s longstanding goals — enhancing interdisciplinary communication within psychology and among allied fields such as psychiatry, education, health psychology, and biology and improving how psychology as a field communicates with the general public.

“I think we can be instrumental in improving the way that new advances are made accessible to the general public, and to this end I believe that we can help people become more informed and savvy consumers of psychological science,” Baird said.

She takes over for APS Fellow Barbara Spellman, University of Virginia, who stepped down as Secretary after five years of distinguished service.

APS officers are elected annually by APS Members. Learn more about the APS Board.

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