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Psychology Newsletter Fall 2015

Professor Wilbert (Bill) J. McKeachie Auditorium

We are proud to announce that East Hall Auditorium 1324 will now be officially named the “Professor Wilbert (Bill) J. McKeachie Auditorium”, in honor of the most well-known researcher, teacher, and administrator in the field of teaching science, and one of the key architects of the University of Michigan Psychology department. The auditorium is the largest classroom in East Hall, with over 300 seats. Today, the University of Michigan has the largest Psychology department in the country and is overwhelmingly acknowledged as the best and most comprehensive department in the world. Much of the credit goes to Dr. Wilbert J. (Bill) McKeachie, who chaired the department from 1961 to 1971.  In 1949, Bill earned his PhD from the University of Michigan, where he joined the faculty for the rest of his career. During this time, he grew the department to over 100 faculty members. At the end of his term as chair, the department was the largest department within the College of LSA and Rackham Graduate School.

In this issue, you will find...

A Letter From Our New Chair: Patricia Reuter-Lorenz

I'm deeply honored to be the new chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan! I joined our illustrious faculty 23 years ago (my first, and only, faculty job) and by now have had the privilege of teaching thousands of students and working on research projects with dozens more.

These rewarding experiences have made me deeply committed to Michigan Psychology and its mission as a world-class teaching and research department.With the caliber of our research and the hundreds of psychology degrees we grant annually, our impact on the world truly is astounding. I look forward to working with you to maintain our stature as one of the best Psychology departments in the world and to find ways to get even better as we meet the many challenges that lie ahead. I wish you all a wonderful year filled with exciting new discoveries about our human nature and the mechanisms that give rise to our cognitive, emotional and social lives.


Blunt Family Childhood Trauma Research Fund Supports Hannah Clark's Research

Hannah Clark, a third year doctoral student in clinical psychology, received support for her research from the Blunt Family Childhood Trauma Research Fund. Hannah works with groups of Spanish-speaking children ages five to twelve in a program called the Latino Kids’ Club. She helps children who have experienced trauma at home begin to thrive through a ten week intervention of individual attention. The work helps the children use art to cope with their trauma and look forward to a better future. Hannah says the experience, “ignited anew my passion to serve children who have experienced traumatic events in their lives.”


While her work with the Latino Kids’ Club is ongoing, Hannah sought to broaden the scope of her work by developing an adaptation of her intervention appropriate for other cultural populations. The Blunt Family Childhood Trauma Research Fund, which provides support for students studying factors affecting the psychological well-being of children, has been instrumental in allowing Hannah to expand her work. A randomized control trial of the adapted intervention is underway, made a reality thanks to the funding provided by the Blunt Family endowment.


Examining how children think about race

Amber Williams, 5th Year Developmental Psychology PhD Candidate

“I went to a school with a large White population and that helped shape my perceptions of my personal racial identity, how other people viewed me as a Black girl, and what it generally meant to be Black. It wasn’t a negative experience; I received a great deal of encouragement and mentoring from amazing friends and teachers who were extremely supportive, many of whom I am still in touch with today. But it was an interesting, and sometimes difficult experience being in the minority in the school, but I didn’t think until college about how that affected me and my identity.” To learn more about Amber’s experience and her research, click here.

Richard E. NisbettTheodore M. Newcomb Distinguished

Professor, University of Michigan, Social Psychology

What questions have you been tackling in your research?
I study how people reason in everyday life. I find that people’s reasoning (including mine!) is flawed in many ways. For example, we very commonly violate statistical rules like the Law of Large Numbers. In hiring employees we give too little weight to copious records of past performance and far too much weight to a brief interview. We have only a dim recognition of the force of many crucial principles of statistics, scientific methodology, logic, economics, and psychology – and we pay dearly for those failings.

What are some of the most important findings from your work?
The bad news is that college courses – even at UM – don’t do a terribly good job of helping people apply their basic principles to everyday life problems we present in the lab. That surprised me. The good news, which surprised me even more, is that it’s possible to teach those same principles in a few minutes. And the lessons stick. The trick is to present concepts in everyday language and show people how to frame everyday events so that the concepts can make contact with them.


Can you tell us about your new book that just came out? What is it about?
The book, Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking, marches through 100 or so crucial scientific and logical concepts and shows how to use them in business and in life, written in what people tell me is an engaging style.

“The most influential thinker, in my life, has been the psychologist Richard Nisbett. He basically gave me my view of the world.” Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times Book Review

Dr. Nisbett will be hosting a public lecture October 15, at the Rackham Building that is open to the community. This will be the first in a series of community talks by UM Psychology faculty.

Susan GelmanHeinz Werner Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan

For a long time, psychologists assumed that babies and young children thought about the world in a superficial way. But former Interim Dean Susan Gelman’s pioneering research has opened up an entirely new understanding of how sophisticated children’s thoughts really are. Click here for the full story.

Sari van AndersAssociate Professor of Psychology & Women’s Studies, University of Michigan


The final appeals court for global sports has ruled that a 19-year-old Indian sprinter named Dutee Chand cannot be barred from competing against other females, in spite of her high levels of natural testosterone. Chand brought her case forward to challenge the "hyperandrogenicity regulations" set up by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). These regulations have been used to keep Chand and other women from competing because of their endogenously (naturally) high testosterone.

Sari van Anders (and a number of other scholars) was able to put her expertise in testosterone, gender/sex, intersexualities, and feminist science to work all in one place as she served as an expert witness in Chand’s case, arguing for Chand's side. As a result, the regulations have been suspended. You can read more in the New York Times article.


Life after Graduation: Putting Psychology to Work with William Burgess

William T. BurgessCEO of Dickinson Wright
University of Michigan, A.B., 1981 with High Honors & High Distinction, Phi Beta Kappa

What are you doing today in your career?
After receiving my Psychology degree I attended law school and have been a practicing attorney for 30 years at Dickinson Wright in Detroit.  Since January 1, 2010, I have served as CEO of the firm.  In that capacity, I lead a highly-energetic management team that supervises the business strategy and operations for nearly 400 lawyers and 350 staff members serving clients from 15 offices across North America.  We’re proud to include the University of Michigan among the nearly 4,000 clients served by our firm.

What inspires you?
Inspiration can come in many varied forms that can shift and evolve over time, and I think it’s important to recognize and celebrate that inspiration is highly individualistic and not static.  For me right now, inspiration is derived from the balanced and cumulative effect of individual, family, professional and community activities.  At any given moment, I can gain an inspirational boost from learning of an achievement by a family member or a colleague, listening to music (E Street Radio is a staple), witnessing firsthand the resurgence of the Detroit business community (in recent months we’ve seen the most notable influx of young professionals in downtown Detroit in at least the past 30 years), gaining satisfaction when a client’s business strategy (or one of our own) comes to fruition, or nailing a Saturday morning 10-miler with my running/triathlon group.

What impact has your Psychology degree at UM had on your career or life?
A successful legal career requires (among other attributes) sound analytical and communication skills.  An early defining moment for me was Professor J. Frank Yates’ honors statistics course; I have no doubt that it initiated what is now a nearly 40-year path of analytical discipline.  I also was fortunate to serve as a research assistant in several of Professor John Jonides’ behavioral and cognitive projects and for a number of professionals at what was then known as the Highway Safety Research Institute on North Campus (running experiments in old, beat-up – the more polite term would be “vintage” – station wagons on the 2-lane roads South of town near Saline and Milan).  These projects, but particularly the direct interaction with several skilled research scientists within the Department, further sharpened my analytical and communications skills.  As a practicing attorney and business leader, do I use my UM Psychology substantive training and analytical foundation every day?  The honest answer is “yes” -- the analytical foundation most of all.

What do you remember most about your time at UM?
Most of the memories are quite vivid.  One that stands out is my good fortune to spend three consecutive summers living and working in Ann Arbor.  Although I didn’t take classes during the Spring/Summer sessions, the learning and enjoyment of the community was fabulous during those periods.

What advice would you give to aspiring Psychology students?
Choose your classes and your activities not merely as an exercise in resume-building, but with an acute self-awareness of your strengths and level of interest in the topic.  If you build a strong foundation with some early success based upon your excitement toward the subject matter, you later can broaden your opportunities – whether in psychology or some other field.

Top 30 Thinkers Under 30

Pacific Standard Magazine canvassed the world of social and behavioral sciences, looking for rising stars whose careers promise to make a lasting mark. They came up with a list of 30 top thinkers under 30. Four University of Michigan, Department of Psychology of Alumni made their list. Check out their full stories here:

Alumni Highlights

Michelle SegarUM Psychology PhD 2006
The story, Working Out Why We Don't Exercise, features the work and new book of Psych alum (and SHARPdirector), Michelle Segar. The book, released 6/10/15, is generating a significant amount of press in prominent places: NPR, Forbes, Dr. Oz, Real Simple, and the NY Times among others. Read the full story.

Luis Fuentes-Rohwer, UM Psychology BA, 1990

Freedom Summer and the March on Washington were shining achievements of the civil rights movement, but the Voting Rights Act is arguably the movement’s crown jewel. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the act to stop racial discrimination from limiting individuals’ access to voting, saying, “This act flows from a clear and simple wrong. Its only purpose is to right that wrong.” The Supreme Court curtailed the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and many people, including Alumnus Luis Fuentes-Rohwer, wonder if that clear and simple wrong has actually been righted. Click here to read more.

Recent Addition to Our Faculty

David Dunning comes to us as Professor of Psychology from Cornell University. As an experimental social psychologist, Dr. Dunning is a fellow of both the American Psychological Society and the American Psychological Association. He has published over 80 scholarly journal articles, book chapter, and commentaries, and has also served as an associate editor of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. He is currently the Executive Officer of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, an international organization with over 5,600 members, as well as the Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology. He has also spent time as a visiting scholar at Yale University, the University of Mannheim (Germany), and the University of Cologne (Germany).

In Memoriam

Remembering those we have lost

  • Stanley Berent, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, Department of Neurology, and Department of Environmental Health Sciences
  • Joshua Brigham, Psychology Undergraduate Student
  • Lois Hoffman, Professor Emerita of Psychology
  • John Holland, Professor of Psychology and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • William (Bill) Stebbins, Professor Emeritus of Otorhinolaryngology and Professor Emeritus of Psychology



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