Announcing the Psychonomic Society’s Featured Content Section

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The academic publishing business is undergoing a revolutionary transition. Within the last few years, conventional ‘paper’ publishing modes have become nearly obsolete and most scholarly literature is now online. On the face of it, this shift is merely technological. However, the technological shift has been accompanied by substantial cultural shifts towards other forms of scientific communication, for example on blogs or on Twitter. There has been some research into those shifts cultural shifts, for example by Kouper in 2010, who concluded that “Science blogs are a virtual water cooler for graduate students, postdoctoral associates, faculty, and researchers from a variety of disciplines and areas of inquiry.” So here, then, is the virtual worldwide water cooler of the Psychonomic Society: This post is introducing the Featured Content section of the Society’s webpage which will be highlighting research by the Society’s members in frequent posts written either by me or one of the other team members, the Digital Content Associate Editors (DAEs), who are all enthusiasts for digital communication:

  • Jason Finley studies metacognition and the processes by which cognition can be offloaded onto the environment.
  • Cassandra Jacobs studies memory and implicit learning in language.
  • Gary Lupyan studies the evolution of language and the effects of language on cognition.
  • Anna Wilkinson studies cold-blooded cognition in reptiles and amphibians and animal perception and categorization.
  • Melissa Vo studies visual cognition particularly in naturalistic scenes.

In addition to being the Society’s “water cooler”—I actually prefer the analogy of an “espresso bar”—the Featured Content section is also intended to inform the public of the Society’s research, for example by drawing the attention of journalists to the posts. In addition, all content on the Society’s page is published under a ‘creative commons’ licence, which means it can be republished for free (with attribution) elsewhere without the need to request permission.

I believe that basic cognitive science, the bread-and-butter research of the Psychonomic Society, can be of considerable interest and fascination to the public at large, although those connections may often be obscured behind the veil of dry scientific discourse. To illustrate, consider basic psychophysical judgments that are described by Parducci’s range-frequency theory (RFT). The theory assumes that judgments about perceptual magnitudes—such as loudness or brightness—are based on comparison to contextual stimuli. A central idea in RFT is that the ordinal position of an item within a ranking is important. As stated, this may sound “dry” and irrelevant to the proverbial Jane Q Public. However, this psychophysical theory can explain other results that Jane Q Public might find to be quite important: Gordon Brown and colleagues recently showed that RFT can also explain workers’ retention and job turnover in the British economy. RFT captures people’s wage satisfaction, based on the distribution of wages within an organization, and wage satisfaction in turn determines the likelihood of people quitting their job. Based on a sample of 16,000 workers, Brown and colleagues conclude that to “understand what makes human beings content it is … necessary to look at the whole distribution of incomes.”

From basic psychophysics to describing the costly job turnover in the British economy: Who would argue that Psychonomic research is unimportant or of no interest to the public? I look forward to exploring the implications of our research together with the DAEs in this forum.

How can you follow this discussion without having to check the Society’s webpage every so often?

The easiest way to stay abreast of developments is by subscribing to an RSS feed now, and by following the Society on Twitter. I will have more to say on Twitter in a future post, but for now I encourage you to click on the button at the top right of the Featured Content section that says “RSS Posts”. Or you can click here. By subscribing to our RSS feed, you will automatically receive the Society’s posts in your inbox in Outlook, for example, or in some other news aggregator app.

Rather than having to check the Society’s webpage, you simply monitor your inbox for our posts once you have subscribed.

If you want to read our posts on your iPad, just enter “rss reader” into the search box in the iTunes store, and you will find a whole ensemble of apps to choose from that will automatically place the Psychonomics content onto your iPad.

I look forward to the conversation.

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