If the beauty and sunshine of Honolulu haven't yet cinched your decision to attend APA's Annual Convention in Honolulu, July 28-Aug. 1, maybe a programming preview will: APA President Diane F. Halpern, PhD, has planned seven presidential-track sessions--four of them featured below--on topics ranging from day care to the psychology of fear to dolphin communication. And for culture buffs, the opening session will feature traditional Hawaiian music and dance performances. Check out these highlights:
A grand beginning
The opening session, to be held Thursday, July 29 from noon to 2 p.m., features a performance by the Kamehameha School's Children's Chorus of Oahu, fourth- though sixth-grade world performers who sang two songs in the Disney movie "Lilo and Stitch." Read more about them at http://kapalama.ksbe.edu/elementary/chorus.
Also during the session, Stanford University professor of psychology and presidential-track speaker Albert Bandura, PhD, will accept the APA Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology for his pioneering work on social modeling and human motivation. (See below for more on his speech.)
Psychologist Paul Pearsall, PhD, will top off the celebration with an address relating principles of ancient Hawaiian psychology to modern psychology. Indeed, studying and applying ancient Hawaiian principles to modern life is the mission of Ho`ala Hou, an international institute of which Pearsall is president and CEO. He will use "aha mele"--a lecture form involving Hawaiian chant and ancient and modern hula--to illustrate his points. Watch for the upcoming April Monitor or visit www.paulpearsall.com for more information on Pearsall.
Connecting social relationships and health
Presidential-track speaker Sheldon Cohen, PhD, of Carnegie Mellon University, will shed light on what he calls "oversimplification" of the connection between social relationships and physical health in psychology. Cohen, well-known for his research on psychosocial effects on common cold susceptibility, has studied the social-health connection for more than 30 years. He argues that three distinct types of social interactions ought to be considered when designing health-improvement interventions:
* Social integration and relationship participation, through, for example, friends, church, clubs or sports teams.
* Social support, or resources and counsel provided by people during adversity--giving job search help after job loss, for example, or providing a family loan during financial hard times.
* Negative social relationships, or personal interactions that cause conflict or feelings of loneliness, isolation or betrayal.
In his talk, Cohen will describe how these three factors affect people's immune system functioning and susceptibility to disease and depression. He'll also discuss whether people can change their social environments to improve their health. Cohen, who is the Robert E. Doherty Professor of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon, will also accept APA's 2004 Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award during the convention, and his talk will double as his award address.
Exploring terrorism and fear
Halpern's presidential track will also feature a talk by APA's 2002 President Philip G. Zimbardo, PhD, on the psychology of fear that has followed Sept. 11, 2001. Zimbardo, an emeritus Stanford University psychology professor and high-profile researcher (see www.zimbardo.com), will describe his theories on how terrorists--and the Bush administration--have manipulated that fear to sustain constant panic among Americans.
"Over time that fear gets morphed into generalized anxiety, a loss of confidence in authority to protect you and a sense of vulnerability," says Zimbardo, who is a co-director of the National Center on Disaster Psychology and Terrorism in Palo Alto, Calif.
Zimbardo argues that the White House has worked to maintain anxiety among the American public--through "excessive terror alerts" and "poorly conceived public warnings"--to promote an unrealistic and unhealthy state of vigilance and concern.
"You can't be alert and be worried to death by terrorism and go about your business--that's cognitive dissonance," he says. "In anticipation of the stress, they are creating a new kind of stress--what I call a sort of pre-traumatic stress syndrome."
He argues that the government has further stressed and panicked Americans by not debriefing them after terror alerts, not providing an adequate explanation of why they were warned and often providing no advice on how to protect themselves.
How social cognitive theory went global
Stanford University psychologist Albert Bandura, PhD, proved the power of observational learning in the 1960s with his now-classic Bobo doll studies on how aggression can be socially transmitted through modeling.
In his presidential-track address at APA's Annual Convention, Bandura will discuss how the principles derived from the Bobo doll experiments were transformed into a social change model that's had worldwide impact.
In particular, a genre of radio and television programs called entertainment-education taps his theoretical work (described at www.emory.edu/EDUCATION/mfp/Bandura) by modeling how people can improve their lives. These global applications in Africa, Asia and Latin America are promoting national literacy, raising the status of women in societies where they are subjugated, lowering birth rates to stem population growth and helping to curtail the spread of HIV infection.
Bandura will recount how his theory triggered Mexican television producer Miguel Sabido to translate the theory's basic principles into the entertainment-education genre, and then how the nonprofit group Population Communications International lent its expertise to train media personnel around the world on how to create entertainment-education programs appropriate to their culture.
Social cognitive theory is also a strong example, says Bandura, of how some Western theories can be applied to non-Western cultures: While each entertainment-education program is culturally adapted, the basic principles of human learning operate in much the same way in any culture.
"Humans have an evolved and advanced capacity for observational learning that serves them well regardless of the culture in which they reside," Bandura explains.
Do dolphins behave rationally?
When Louis M. Herman, PhD, a University of Hawaii psychology professor, founded the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory (www.dolphin-institute.org) thirty years ago, scientists knew very little about the cognitive abilities of dolphins. While many contended that the exceptional size and rich cortical development of the dolphin brain stemmed from their honed auditory skills, others said the development indicated advanced cognitive potential. In the thee decades since, Herman's studies have revealed that dolphins do in fact have rich cognitive potential.
During his presidential-track address, Herman plans to use video clips of the dolphins at his laboratory to illustrate his team's research into three domains of dolphin intelligence:
* Social domain. Herman's studies included joint attention, behavioral synchrony and behavioral imitation. For example, pairs of dolphins can follow trainers' instructions to perform complex behaviors in synchrony, including behaviors of their own choosing. His laboratory also demonstrated that dolphins can easily imitate human's physical movement, seen either in-person or on a television screen.
* Domain of self-knowledge or self-awareness. Herman's studies have revealed that dolphins are aware of their own recent behaviors. For example, Herman and colleagues asked dolphins through hand gestures to perform one of five possible actions, such as leaping over a ball. Next, they either asked dolphins to repeat that behavior or perform any of the remaining four. The dolphins were able to keep a running tab of what they have last done.
* Domain of declarative and procedural knowledge--behavior that shows dolphins know what things are and how they are may be used. For example, by pressing "yes" or "no" paddles in the water, dolphins can correctly answer whether an object is present in their pool. In one instance, when researchers asked a dolphin to bring a Frisbee to a hoop, but no hoop was present, the dolphin spontaneously brought the Frisbee to the "no" paddle--something no one had trained it to do or anticipated. This is another indicator of higher-level cognition.
Other presidential speakers
Keep an eye out for the April Monitor to read about the other presidential-track convention speakers:
* Pumla Gobodo Madizekala, PhD, a former member of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who developed the commission's first outreach program to give victims of human rights violations a chance to speak out.
* Lois Wladis Hoffman, PhD, Sandra Scarr, PhD, and Nora S. Newcombe, PhD, who will participate in a session titled "The Day Care Scare." The session will be moderated by Stewart Friedman, PhD.
* Norma Hotaling, a former prostitute who founded the SAGE Project Inc., which offers prostitutes peer education, job training, counseling and health care.
* Cohen, S., Gottlieb, B., & Underwood, L. (2000). Social relationships and health. In S. Cohen, L. Underwood, & B. Gottlieb (Eds.), Measuring and intervening in social support. New York: Oxford University Press.
* Cohen, S., Doyle, W.J., Skoner, D.P., Rabin, B.S., and Gwaltney, J.M., Jr. (1997). Social ties and susceptibility to the common cold. Journal of the American Medical Association, 277, 1940-1944.
* For background information on his talk, visit www.vodium.com/MediapodLibrary/index.asp?library=stanford_psychology or www.psychologytoday.com/htdocs/prod/ptoarticle/pto-20030724-000001.asp.
* Bandura, A. (2002). Environmental sustainability by sociocognitive deceleration of population growth. In P. Schmuck & W. Schultz (Eds.), The psychology of sustainable development. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer.
* Bandura, A. (2002). Social cognitive theory in cultural context. Journal of Applied Psychology: An International Review, 51, 269-290.
* Smith, D. (2002). The theory heard 'round the word. Monitor on Psychology, 33(9), 30-32. On the Web: www.apa.org/monitor/oct02/theory.html.
* Herman, L.M., Morrel-Samuels, P., & Pack, A.A. (1990). Bottlenosed dolphin and human recognition of veridical and degraded video displays of an artificial gestural language. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 119, 215-230.
* Herman, L.M., Pack A.A., & Morrel-Samuels, P. (1993). Representational and conceptual skills of dolphins. In H.R. Roitblat, L.M. Herman, & P. Nachtigall (Eds.), Language and Communication: Comparative Perspectives (pp. 273-298). Hillside, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
* Mercado, E., III, Uyeyama, R.K., Pack, A.A., & Herman, L.M. (1999). Memory for action events in the bottlenosed dolphin. Animal Cognition, 2, 17-25.