Picture the cliques and dyads linking, disbanding, and reforming as a tour group walks across a college campus. Watch as a leader, suddenly reminded of her authority, decides to cut an outspoken but competent outlier from her team. Put yourself in the place of a person who has a strongly positive attitude about protecting the environment, yet does little to turn that value into action. Observe the interchanges among a half-dozen men and women who have just discovered their team has made a costly error. Watch as a student who is confident and self-assured reacts when the teacher hands him a test marked with a D. Look inside the mind of a social perceiver who is meeting someone for the first time and tries size up that person’s strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. Imagine how you would react when you are offered $2.50 to tell a lie to an innocent other.
These are the kinds of questions that intrigue me as a social psychologist. Social psychologists, who are most lilkely to be found in psychology and sociology departments (or, as in my case, in Schools of Leadership!), concentrate on how people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions are influenced by the people around them. We humans are a social species. We spend our lives in the company of other people. We work together, relax together, sleep together, and worship together. The people around us influence us in innumerable subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Social psychologists strive to understand these interpersonal influences. The field, as defined by Gordon W. Allport, is “an attempt to understand and explain how the thought, feeling, and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presences of others” (1985, p. 3).
As a social psychologist I study group dynamics, ethics, leadership, social factors that influence performance, and a variety of related interpersonal processes. Some of that work is described here.
For a more detailed listing of published books and papers, please visit the following areas of my profile page at the University of Richmond: