Today was the first full day of APS in Boston. Well, sort of. The main APS program began this evening, but starting last night and continuing through the rest of today was the pre-conference APS-STP (Society for the Teaching of Psychology) Teaching Institute, which I attended, and during which I presented a poster.

Here's a review and recap for the conference thus far.

Last night there were only two concurrent sessions, I went to a session on teaching about the chemical senses presented by Debra Zellner and Scott Parker. Demos abound for teaching about visual and auditory sensation and perception, but in-class demos or labs for smell and taste are less well known or well utilized. So this was a session giving ideas for easy and cheap demos for olfaction and gustation, and it was AWESOME. I live-tweeted the session. Here are the tweets. Note that times reflect Pacific time, though I'm on Eastern time. And I've added links:

  • Teaching Institute: vision, audition demos easy. What about smell or taste? #apsconv 3:09 PM May 26th via txt
  • Genetic variation in taste perception - I'm a "taster", not a non-taster or a supertaster. #apsconv 3:10 PM May 26th via txt
  • Use strips of paper with phenylthiocarbamide on them. Very bitter. Supertasters don't eat as many veggies bc of this compound. Why? #apsconv 3:13 PM May 26th via

  • Supertasters have more taste receptors - paint tongue w/ blue food coloring to see! #apsconv 3:14 PM May 26th via txt
  • Saliva is saline, mouth has slight saline adaptation, so less sensitive to salt. #apsconv 3:19 PM May 26th via txt
  • Use gymnema sylvestre (african, asian leaf) to block sweet perception, can make tea (but why would you want to block sweetness?) #apsconv 3:30 PM May 26th via txt
  • Taste inhibits trigeminal nerve. Block sweet, release of inhibition in trigeminal. Tactile sensations heightened. #apsconv 3:46 PM May 26th via txt
  • Miracle fruits make lemons taste sweet! Sour receptors are converted into sweet. #apsconv 3:56 PM May 26th via txt

A few key points from this morning's session on how to teach complex topics in Introductory Psychology, presented by Chris Hakala:

  • How to teach complex topics in intro psych? Tell stories, but *explicitly* tie to concepts. #apsconv
  • Attention is highest in 1st and last few min of class. Lowest 40 min in JUST when you're getting to the point. Need to re-engage! #apsconv


Figure 1: Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to check out many of the other posters at the teaching institute poster session, but had some great conversations with people who came by my poster.

After lunch with my labmate and advisor (New England clam chowder, obviously, at Legal Sea Foods), I went to a workshop on scientific writing, and live-tweeted this session as well (I should note that at a workshop on writing, I expected tables, wireless, outlets for laptops...no such luck, so I tweeted by SMS):

  • Maryanne Garry - consistent small chunks of time, keep yourself in your chair, learn to write anywhere. Don't binge-write #apsconv about 9 hours ago via txt
  • People are bad at predicting how others will respond to their writing. How to avoid this? Find the story. #apsconv about 9 hours ago via txt
  • Options: (a) the story you planned when you designed the study, (b) the story that makes the most sense for the results. Use (b). #apsconv about 9 hours ago via txt
  • Daniel Schacter - writing is learnable, not innate talent. Key: experience, effort, practice. // this is why I blog. #apsconv about 9 hours ago via txt
  • Writing is specific - diff rules depending on audience. Not everything you know abt an issue needs to get onto the page. #apsconv about 9 hours ago via txt
  • Assume early efforts won't be your best. People of equal skill can be very helpful, don't need masters. Also, writing=rewriting. #apsconv about 9 hours ago via txt
  • Morton Gernsbacher - don't tell story chronologically, tell coherent narrative. Don't write til you know your story. #apsconv about 9 hours ago via txt
  • Open with a statement about people or behavior, not researchers or research. #apsconv about 9 hours ago via txt
  • Randall Engle - Goal is not to be published, it's to get someone to want to read it. #apsconv about 8 hours ago via txt

I also had an interesting conversation with Daniel Schacter, who does a lot of popular writing, about popular writing (i.e. blogs). Since the key point that kept coming up during the session was to craft your writing into a narrative - tell a story - even for an empirical research article - I asked his opinion on how to figure out where the story begins and ends when writing a blog post for popular consumption. This is something I've thought a lot about. (I think I stumped him...we agreed it was a tough thing to figure out, and probably needs to be addressed on a case by case basis. Sometimes hard to gauge who your audience is.)


Figure 2: Stage in grand ballroom, just before opening ceremonies and keynote address.

Jeremy Wolfe's keynote, "Visual Search Gets Real" was awesome and hilarious. He talked about taking the visual search research conducted in the lab and applying it to the real life situations where visual search becomes critical: airport screening and in the radiology lab. His best line was: "I know it's not responsible, this is science."