Imagine folding clothes in your New York apartment anxiously awaiting the vote regarding your promotion and tenure at Stanford University. Dr. Steven O. Roberts was on sabbatical this past year and recalls seeing a missed call from the Chair of the department of psychology. In this podcast, Dr. Roberts shares his academic and professional journey leading up to the point where he recently received the news that he was granted tenure and promoted to Associate Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.
When recalling how he found the field of psychology, Dr. Roberts states “the field of psychology just resonated with me” and “I’ve always loved just human behavior and, you know, why people do the things they do? Why do I do the things that I do?” During our discussion, Dr. Roberts shares his experiences at Borough of Manhattan Community College and how he received a scholarship to attend New York University where he received his bachelor’s degree in applied psychology. Interestingly, he wasn’t planning on applying for the scholarship, however, a good mentor of his kept encouraging him to apply. Throughout this podcast interview, Dr. Roberts reveals that if it wasn’t for all of his friends and mentors, he wouldn’t be where he is now. During his senior year at NYU, he participated in a research program at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill called Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (MURAP) which gave him an opportunity to work with Enrique Neblett who received his PhD from Michigan. He explains that while he was working with Dr. Neblett for 2-3 months, he had a taste of the “Blue Michigan Kool-Aid” and realized that all of the research he wanted to do was coming out of Michigan. He also recalls that Michigan produces more black PhDs than any university in the country, except for Howard University, which is an HBCU. Therefore, our discussion transitioned to how he ended up at the University of Michigan.
After sharing some fond memories of attending the University of Michigan and advice for those interested in the field of psychology, he shares how he found the opportunity to work as an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford University immediately following graduation. Among other things, he shared a resource that he looked at and refreshed every day called Psychology Job Wiki which is a crowdsourced site that provides information to potential applicants about the open academic job opportunities in the field of psychology.
Throughout our discussion, Dr. Roberts shared useful suggestions and advice for students interested in psychology and as well as advice for those beginning their professional career in the field of psychology including making it a priority to spend time writing every day. He also shares what a “typical” day looks like as an Associate Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Though his days may vary, he admits that the thing that is consistent across all of his days is that he writes every day, typically in the morning. He states “before all the other stuff that I have to do that’s going to take away my time, I know that for me, writing is the most important, and my favorite part of the job.”
When asked what his favorite term, principle, or theory was, he stated that the fundamental attribution error, which was coined by Lee Ross who was in his department and who passed away last year, applies to many aspects of life. Later in the podcast, Dr. Roberts also said that he enjoys and values a principle called “The Overview Effect” which is the phenomenon which describes the psychological effects astronauts experience after traveling in space. Dr. Roberts is a unique individual with an interesting journey to share. I hope you enjoy the podcast and I can’t help but think that the world would be a better place if all of us experienced “The Overview Effect.”
Connect with Dr. Steven O. Roberts: Faculty Page
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Interests and Specializations
Dr. Steven Roberts has always been interested in race and racism. Therefore, much of his research revolves around these topics by looking at the psychological bases of racism and also how to dismantle them. He has examined how people think about groups, stereotypes, and group boundaries and hierarchies in children and adults.
Associate of Arts (AA), Liberal Arts (2009); Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York City, NY.
Bachelor of Science (BS), Applied Psychology (2012); New York University, New York City, NY.
Master of Science (MS), Psychology (2014); University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Psychology (2017); University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
Other Sources and Links of Interest
Dr. Steven O. Roberts at Google Scholar
Dr. Steven O. Roberts at ResearchGate
Dr. Steven O. Roberts Social Concepts Lab at Stanford University
Dr. Steven O. Roberts interview at mindCORE
Welcome to the Master’s in Psychology Podcast, where psychology students can learn from psychologists, educators, and practitioners to better understand what they do, how they got there, and hear the advice they have for those interested in getting a graduate degree in psychology. I’m your host, Brad Schumacher, and today we welcome Dr. Steven Roberts to the show. Dr. Roberts is an Associate Professor of psychology at Stanford University. He received his bachelor’s degree in applied psychology from New York University and his doctorate from the University of Michigan. Today, we will learn more about his academic and professional journey and discuss what it’s actually like to be an Associate Professor at Stanford University, as well as hear his advice for those interested in the field of psychology. Dr. Roberts, welcome to our podcast.
Thank you very much for having me and it’s gonna be fun.
I appreciate it. I’m looking forward to it. So, tell me, kind of high level, what influenced you to pursue a major, first a major, in psychology and then, secondly, a career in psychology?
Yeah, so, uh, step back a little bit because before I got my bachelors at NYU, I got an associate’s degree from the Borough of Manhattan Community College and which is in the CUNY system in the city, City University of New York. And they had a program at the time. I don’t know if it’s still around, but it’s a program called CCTOP with the Community College Transfer Opportunity Program. And basically, what it was is if you’re a Community College student with a GPA of at least 3.5, then they would give you a scholarship to go to NYU, to transfer to NYU and major in one of six majors. Skipping over so many details, I was not going to apply to it, and I had a really great, a really great mentor who encouraged me to apply and I ended up applying. Was fortunately admitted and the majors were like, uhm, I think English, sociology, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, psychology. I thought psychology seemed interesting. So, I chose psychology, and that’s how I ended up there.
Isn’t it interesting how just one little change in direction of your life, uh, you find your niche so to speak? And so, thank you for that background. I did see that I didn’t include that in the introduction, but I didn’t know that they gave you a scholarship to go to NYU. So, you ended up going to NYU you for your bachelor’s in applied psychology and tell us a little bit more about why you, you said you chose psychology, but tell me why you elected to go that route instead of a different route.
Yeah, I think honestly, I think I have uhm, even at the Community College and beforehand, I think I had often been really interested by psychology. And I’ve always loved just human behavior and, you know, why people do the things they do? Why do I do the things that I do. And actually, you know the, the further I go along and the further I go down my career, the more I realize why I am here that it’s always kind of been there, I just wasn’t always aware of it. Uhm, but uhm, when I was at NYU and when I started there, I think the field of psychology just resonated with me more by virtue of my just kind of interest in humans. And I was also really specifically interested in inequality and racism that some of the other major opportunities that I had like English, which of course is very relevant. But at the time. I just didn’t. Psychology just spoke to me a bit more directly, so that’s how I ended up in that path.
And we’re going to talk a little bit more about your topics of research later on, but it was evident when I looked at your Vita that you were definitely looking at inequality and racism and now in into groups and how people perceive different groups and, and, and that sort of stuff. So, we’ll get to that in a second, but kind of following your chronological, you know, journey, a bachelor’s degree and then you went to receive a master’s and your PhD and I, I think it’s just the master’s of science and en passant, in passing, on your way to receive that PhD and you went to the University of Michigan. How did you decide after going to NYU, how did you end up going to U of M?
OK, so the back story, another very fortunate moment. There are actually two reasons, but in my, in my senior year at NYU, I participated in this research program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and it’s this program called MURAP, which is kind of like McNair or SRAP is another one Summer Research Opportunity Program where you go to university for two to three months. You work very closely with a professor and do a research project with them. Uhm, and I worked with this really great guy who’s now still a really good mentor and friend, Enrique Neblett, and he has a Michigan PhD. So, I think that while I was there in North Carolina for 2-3 months, he was having me sift the, the Blue Michigan Kool-Aid and, and to me at the time, the research that I wanted to do, and that I was most familiar with, was all coming out of Michigan. So, I thought that that’s kind of why I wanted to go there and the reason why a lot of the work was coming out of the that I cared about was coming out of Michigan was because Michigan, uhm, I think this is still the case within psychology, but across the university as a whole, that Michigan produces more black PhDs than any university in the country except Howard, which is an HBCU. So, Michigan had a great history of, and psychology had a great history of doing research on the psychological experiences of African Americans, racial identity, experiences with racial discrimination, socialization and so I thought that you know if these are the, the, the folks who I’m reading about, and the literature that I’m kind of consumed by, that I want to be as close to that place as possible. And I was very so lucky that I was that I was able to get there.
Well, that’s a good summary. I’m going to share my screen real quick and I believe this is the MURAP that you were talking about at UNC.
The Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (MURAP) and they actually still have that, and so you could visit their website and look at their MURAP summer. This is last year, I just picked it up real quickly while we were talking, though.
And to see how, how things kind of come full circle, since I’ve been at Stanford, I’ve had two of my own undergrads have ended up in MURAP. So, you know, you pay it forward.
Oh, OK. Well, that’s good to know. And, and, and thank you for sharing that. I wasn’t even aware of the MURAP program there. So, I’ll definitely highlight that for our audience members as well. Were you considering other universities other than the University of Michigan or?
Yeah, there were…I know UNC, North Carolina, DePaul University, I think Santa Cruz, Penn State. There were few that I was considering.
Yeah, the main reason why you went to University of Michigan, as you said you wanted to be where it was at and, and that’s kind of a high-level summary. Any other reasons? Did you make a visit there? Some people don’t even visit the colleges or universities and, and they make a decision and then they get there and find out, oh, this isn’t for me. Were you able to visit before you went?
Yeah, well, you’re bringing a lot of memories back. Uhm, so when I was at NYU, I was a commuter student. I lived on Staten Island with my grandmother, and I would commute in an hour and a half in and then an hour and a half back. I would do that every day. And so, I never had the college experience and NYU is a weird campus where it’s kind of, it’s built, it’s a part of the city so it’s not really. Yeah, so I participated, actually, this was after, I think after me or at. Michigan has this diversity recruitment weekend where they bring in underrepresented students for things like 2 days and you come into Michigan, and you meet all the faculty and the students and the social event. At the time it was in order to participate in this weekend, you had to be nominated by a Michigan PhD so there’s a little nepotism going on. I think they changed that. Uhm, but I remember the bus bringing us into campus and just seeing the M block and the frat houses, it was my, it was like my first time experiencing that and then meeting all the faculty. And Michigan has this huge psychology department and the students. I was just completely bought in immediately, so I think that’s kind of I was like, yeah, this is the place I want to be.
That’s cool. So, it almost rung a bell for you. The light came on. Yeah, this is it. It feels good. It’s where it’s at, where the, you know, the information is and the topics that I want to study. Uh, you wanted to be in the middle of it, it sounds like. So, I, my next question, you kind of already answered it. I actually had what is important to you when selecting a graduate psychology program. You mentioned a couple things already. Anything else you’d like to add?
Yeah, so I think one thing I’ll add is, uhm, and you know all programs are different, so. You know, the, the Michigan program, I was very fortunate that was fully funded so I didn’t have to pay anything for it. And not only was it fully funded, but the funding came from the department rather than coming from a particular, particular faculty member. So, if I had come in through a particular faculty member. I’m essentially beholden to that faculty member. Now I didn’t know all this, all the politics about this coming in. Now on the faculty, and I understand the, the, the situation. But when I came to Michigan, actually, the reason I mentioned this being a benefit of if the if you’re funded and if the funding comes from the department, it gives you more flexibility in how you can navigate the department. So, for me, when I start at Michigan. I just not necessarily my what I wanted to happen. But my first semester, I was, we had a seminar series, developmental seminar, so where we meet all the faculty and developmental site every week as a different faculty and I, I came in working with one person. Now I’m in the seminar. And one person comes in, and she uhm, Susan Gelman was/is her name, and she starts talking about her research on essentialism. Uhm, believing in essences and all this stuff and at NYU, I minored in philosophy and was really fascinated by essentialism and Plato and The Allegory of the Cave. And really, I’ll super love that stuff. I had never thought about really applying it to psychology, and I’ve never thought about applying it really to race and racism. But when she was talking about it and then I scheduled a meeting with her, I was like, wow, I wonder, you know, I’m really interested in essentialism and how it applies to race and racism and how do we essentialize racial categories? And we really just hit it off and I came to her with a project idea, and we put some tasks together, an experiment, and started, just started, I think a really beautiful relationship and I left my lab. I didn’t understand, you know, all the politics involved, but I’m thankful that I had the freedom to do that, and the department was very flexible in allowing that and had it not been for, for that flexibility, uhm, I’ll be somewhere completely different right now. So, a program that’s funded, funding comes through the department, and that gives you flexibility in how you can navigate the department. That served me very well.
As opposed to, and I’m following you, as opposed to having it funded through a grant that would run out, as opposed to maybe a different professor? And then what happens if that professor is close to retirement or, or decides to leave?
Yeah, yeah, it gets tricky, or if or if the relationship doesn’t work out, uhm, for whatever reason, and again, all departments have different funding structures, so. Yeah, something to be mindful of though.
So, you started, I started to bring you down memory lane a little bit. So, open up that a little bit more and tell me what some of your fondest memories of attending the University of Michigan were.
My fondest memories. Well, the first thing that came to mind was just sitting in my office with my cohort mates. So just sitting there and, you know, I’m sitting in the room with four other. Or 4 brilliant people in the room plus me. And they’re all doing work on just really interesting topics that I have never really thought about from like attachment and sexual abuse and the effects of poverty on child development. And these are things that I don’t work on, but just being around my cohorts, learning from them, was just really rewarding from an intellectual point of view. But also, you know, we all had our struggles through the five years. You know, it’s a long time and a lot happens so. So, it’s really just the people that I met and also my advisors and the undergrads I work with, it’s really just the, the people, of course the work, but really the people that I and my cohorts specifically.
OK, well, good. What advice would you offer those seeking a graduate degree in psychology?
And just any graduate degree or.
Uh, yeah, any, any. I mean, specific to psychology, but you don’t have to get into the branches or the different topic areas within psychology, but just any advice that you’d have for somebody an undergrad and they’re listening to this podcast or watching this and saying, you know, psychology, I’ve never considered it. And then they get turned on by it. Any, any advice to those who are interested in getting a graduate degree in psychology?
Yeah, I would say. Take, take some time to look at, I won’t talk about the different paths, but take some time to look at the different paths, not only the different topic areas and sub disciplines, but also the different types of degrees from a master’s to a PhD to a PsyD. I often, uhm, meet students who really want to be counselors or therapists? Uhm, and I’m not a clinician, but you know, you don’t technically need a PhD for that. There are many different paths and many different opportunities. So, I think that people often think that, oh, if they have to get a PhD in order to do XYZ. That’s not necessarily the case, and unless you really enjoy research and, and depending on your topic of interest, really enjoy time away from human beings. Then maybe the research route is not the best strategy, so be sure to look up the different paths and branches, uh, because there’s, there are many different opportunities.
You’re not the only one that emphasizes that, other guests and other audience members have asked how do I select? How do I decide between a PhD or PsyD or just going the master’s route and getting my licensure? So, you, you bring up a good point. After you graduated with your doctorate, you begin your academic career right away, I believe, at Stanford University. So, tell us how you found that opportunity.
Well, there’s uhm, to be concrete, there’s a web page called Psych. I think it’s Psych Wiki, maybe? Something like that if you Google Psych wiki. And basically, they have all the jobs listed for that cycle. And not only active not only for professors, but also postdocs, post backs, lab manager positions which are very important these days and useful. So anyway, so I was it was my time to be on the job market cycle. Yeah, there it is. And I would just basically refresh that page every single day. And this was like around September, December, my fifth year, I think. Uh, because when the jobs start coming out and if I ever I saw a job that was relevant. Uhm, I would put together an application and apply. I saw the Stanford the Stanford offer and. And given the size of my belief in myself, I told myself that I’m going to get that, that job and if they were looking for someone who does, who did work on race and racism specifically? And I thought that I had a really good shot. So that was, that was my target.
I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, but I looked up your history and everything. I think you were brought in under what they were calling the Faculty Development Initiative. Is that right or was it under a different one? They had a couple actually there, so I, I think that was it.
Yeah, so Stanford, we call them, their FDI hires and basically the idea is, you know, Stanford was really committed to the, yeah, great, really submitted. So, uhm, committed to the diversification of their faculty, both in terms of the identities of the professors, but also the content of their scholarship. And I was very fortunate and thankful to, to come in through that, that program.
And since I’m sharing the screen, I’ll go to your main profile at, at Stanford and it lists your bio and academic appointments and honors and awards. You don’t have one on here that actually just happened. I believe this year you got promoted from assistant to associate professor, if I’m not correct, mistaken, right?
That is correct, yeah.
Congratulations! I know how much that means to you and, and moving forward like that. And so, I wanted to bring that up. So, you need to update this profile. Come on, Steven.
Yeah, I don’t know if I’m.
You gotta, you gotta update that.
I do. I don’t know if I’m supposed to do that or if someone else does that, but I’ll, I’ll look into that.
Yeah, definitely. So, do you remember where you were and when they finally told you, hey, you got it, you got that promotion?
Yeah, I was a uhm, so this past year I was in New York on sabbatical, and I was in my little New York apartment in the bedroom. I think I was folding clothes and I got a call from the chair of my department who told me, well, I saw, I saw a missed call from the chair, my apartment, and then I called her back and told me that the vote just happened.
Congratulations. That’s uh, that’s exciting. After your, your folding clothes and you see the missed call and you go oh, I don’t know if I want to call her back. Should I finish folding clothes, or should I call her back right away?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That was a good it was a. Yeah, it still hasn’t fully sunk in. But I’m very thankful.
Well, congratulations and, and for most of our audience members, you know, I, I sometimes forget to ask my guests what’s a typical day look like being an associate professor at Stanford.
Yeah, so it’s interesting because so right now. Technically, I’m on sabbatical and it’s the summer, so my days are looking quite relaxed these days uh.
When you return. When you return, give us a typical day.
When I return so this upcoming quarter. Well, I don’t want to overthink this because my days always look a little different and, and it’s interesting because we live in weird times now where we’re kind of rethinking of, you know, do I go back into the office every day? How often am I, am I remote? So, at this point I think I’m going to have kind of a split between half remote, half in person. But, uhm, on average, uhm, I would say there’s a decent amount of meetings with PhD students. Uhm, now that I’m tenured, I’ve, I’ve taken on a, a bigger at administrative role, so I’ll be the Academic Director of our Center for Race and Ethnic Studies. That’s going to take up a decent amount of time and curriculum planning, so I have a few hours dedicated to this, to that. I’ll then hop in and out of the classroom for about an hour and a half, teach uhm, and I’m in and out of different colloquium sessions. We have a brown bag where we go listen to speakers talk. Uhm, that’s it. Uhm. Yeah, it’s yeah, I really, I should have, I should have planned for this question a little better, but every day looks so different. But on average, I’m in, I, I, I’m, I’m on duty. Yeah, that’s. Now, I’ll leave it at that…every day is a new adventure.
All right. OK. All right. And I, I get where you’re coming from. It’s hard to answer that question, but I know that people who are wondering, hey, what does it typical day look like? I’m trying to give them a taste of what it is that you do on a day-to-day basis, and it may be different, as you said, from day-to-day. But generally speaking, if I can kind of add my two cents and you can agree, disagree or, or add some commentary to it, but typically you have some course, course load, you know that you have to take care of instruction teaching. And then you have the meetings, then you have the other administrative and then you have your research. Depending on what type of institution you’re working at, research one, two or three institutions, there are certain requirements or that are expected of you to have POP, you know, Publish or Perish and, and have so much out there. So that’s kind of my two cents on it. Anything else that you’d like to add or?
Yeah, and then there’s, there’s a lot of other stuff that just end up filling up the day. But I so I will say the hard the hard-set things in my week are and this is the way I structure it, is Monday for me as meeting days. That’s why I like to meet with everybody in my team and we start the week off strong, so Monday I just really meet with people all day. Tuesday and Thursdays are the days that I teach, and then everything outside of that is kind of wiggle room. Grading here, a talk here. But one thing that is consistent across all of my days is I write every day, typically first thing in the morning. Before all the other stuff that I have to do that’s going to take away my time, I know that for me, writing is the most important, and my favorite part of the job. I do that first thing in the morning. At least that’s what I did pre tenure. We’ll see if that continues. But that’s one thing that stays constant across, across, uhm my days and I will say this is advice for any, especially if anyone wants a PhD in research, writing is the most important thing. You write every day even if it’s 30 minutes a day, 60 minutes a day, you constantly do that, and for me the reason I like to start their way in the morning is because I kind of take some time with the ideas that I’m working on. So, for the rest of the day, it’s still in the back of my mind, so I’m always constantly there. I don’t save it all until Friday. So consistent writing and then everything else is you go with the flow.
Very good advice. That’s uh, that’s good. Consistent, uh, forward progress. Just even if it’s 10-20-30 minutes a day. I’m going to share my screen again. And this is another page that I wanted to share with everybody, and this has some good information, background information on you. Uh, there’s your AA. When we talked, started talking about that at that liberal arts college and then a little bit more about you and then some of your topics that you look into as well. And this was actually the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. I, I think when I was doing a lot of research I found out, you know, so many different aspects of, of Stanford that I didn’t even touch on all of them that you probably can talk about a little bit more. I found an old Vita, and then I and then I found a newer one, so this is more up-to-date as well.
Oh, wow. Oh, wow. Oh, wow.
So, we have all of that, and then I know that you had been working in a lab and you’re going through a time period of kind of updating that and restructuring that as well. But generally speaking, you know, a lot of, of our guests say that you need to have that research experience or that lab experience and stuff. So, can you talk a little bit more about from your perspective, you know, kind of add your two cents on how important is research or lab experience for those who do want to go into the graduate, you know, career of psychology?
Yeah, uhm, so one in the in terms of the PhD path, without research experience, you’re not going to get into a program. It’s that’s just the PhD is about. It’s a research degree, so you have to show that you have experience with it. I think the research experience is useful. Also, but brought more broadly for any of the paths, because what it does is it shows that you’re able to engage with the science and the research on whatever issues you’re concerned with, that you can evaluate it critically, if not even conduct it and contribute to that literature and move it forward. So, you can take it in, digest it, but also move it forward. Uhm, so yeah, so research experience is key. Uhm, typically you need 3 letters of recommendation for Graduate School. The more time you have for with a, the director of a lab, for instance. If you’ve been in a lab for two years and that person knows you very well, then they can write you a very strong letter of recommendation. It’s all, it’s also quality over quantity. So, so yeah, research is key. Very important. I’m assuming it’s not necessary for all paths. But definitely the PhD and if you want to go the research route, research experiences is key. And I can imagine also, if you want to go the clinical route, even if you’re on the research end of a clinical lab, that’s also important because again, it shows that you can engage with the literature, you know what’s out there and that, even better, you can contribute to it. And a lab experience is also a really great way to get your name on some publications, which is going to really increase your chances of getting into a Graduate School.
And speaking of research, I’m sharing Google Scholar. I always love going to this website because 9 times out of 10, I can sort by year and I can see what you’re currently, you know, researching and what you’re currently studying. So, tell us kind of in general, what drew you to your current areas of study and I can highlight a couple of these, but you know, diversity and, and racism and, and group, as I mentioned earlier, you were you were starting to look at how people respond to different people in different groups identifying, and on your website you said identifying and dismantling the psychological basis of racial inequality and how people think about group boundaries. So, tell me a little bit more about what drew you to these areas of study.
Yeah, so I think. The stuff that I’m working on there are kind of two lines. So, one for instance, if you see that paper with the 27 citations the emotional and mental health impact. So up until I guess, the George Floyd moment we’ve been doing, I’ve been doing a lot of work on racism from the perspective of the, for the lack of a better term, racist person and what inspires a person to treat other people in that way and how do systems perpetuate that? But, you know, we’ve been doing some work on how amongst black Americans, specifically in the wake of these kind of racist moments that rates of depression and anxiety and fear, they really increase up to unprecedented levels. So, in one line of work, I think we’re going to start doing some work on, you know, how do we help people? Not only the why does a person become racist? But also, how do people cope with and process racist events, especially children?
And then the other line of work that we’re engaged in is our metascience line of work on how can we make the field of psychology structured in a way where it allows people of diverse perspectives to get their research into the mainstream, how it compels the field to tackle some of these kinds of issues. Uhm because we’ve and that and that was born out of experiences with that first line of research that I mentioned of in many ways having a really hard time publishing some of that work if it’s not valued by the mainstream or by psychology as a whole. Uhm, we have a whole conversation about that. Uh, well, how can we kind of make sure that future generations of psychologists who want to do work on, you know, underrepresented populations, how do we make sure that we’re supporting that very important work to the best of our ability. So, we’re doing some work on that.
I am sharing my screen again. You have a few YouTube videos out there. One of them is “What makes a racist?” I listened to this and, and, and saw this. You basically lay out many factors that contribute to what makes a racist. And so, if you’re interested about your research on that and this is actually reflected down here, I think I saw it down. About race, yeah, “The psychology of American racism” a little bit. And then the other one is how people there you are, you’re just kind of sitting back, relax, you know, like the background there, “How people visualize God predicts who they think is fit for leadership.”
This one was interesting. It’s only a 2 1/2, you know, a little over 2 1/2 snippet here, but you referenced this in one of your publications back in 2020, and you had 37 people cite this as well. So interesting stuff in in my eyes as well. Tell me what you love most about your job and your career, Steven.
The thing I love. I’m just thinking about how much detail to share here. The thing I love most about my job. It’s not a perfect job. We don’t live in a perfect world. We never will. But the thing I love about my job is, one, I love the, the intellectual freedom of, and there are of course constraints, but overall, you know, no one really tells me what to think about or what to work on, and I can identify the issues that I think are important, uhm, and work on those. So, so, that’s very, that intellectual freedom to me, I think is the most valuable thing on, on Earth in many ways. Uhm, I also really love the learning piece, because it’s something I realized in like 3 or 4 years, like my third or fourth year at Stanford of, you know, when students come in, the freshmen they assume, some of them assume, oh, the professor knows everything and we’re here to dump knowledge on them. But actually, learning works both ways, where they have a lot of information and so much knowledge, and I learn, I think, more from my students than they learn from me. I’m really considering myself, just a facilitator, so I’m, I’m very fortunate that every quarter, every day I get to interact with people who are gonna help educate me, and my learning kind of never ends. So, so it’s, it’s, it’s. It’s deeply rewarding in that way as well.
I can relate. I was a teacher for a number of years, and I get exactly what you’re talking about. Every day you go in the classroom when somebody brings up something or a different perspective that you haven’t even considered, and then you have that open dialogue and that discussion with everybody else in the class and that leads to something else. And so, it’s always fun to do that. I have a few fun questions that I usually ask all my guests near the end here, and one of them is what is your favorite term, principle, or theory and why?
Uhm OK, my favorite theory. Uhm or principle, I think is the fundamental attribution error, which was coined by Lee Ross, who was in my department who passed away last year. And the fundamental attribution error is basically when we attribute someone behavior to something, there’s kind of a bias where we attribute it to them as an individual. And we don’t attribute it to a situation. So, if I’m in a grocery store and someone bumps me my, the error is I’ll think, oh, that’s a really mean, inconsiderate person versus that person is getting medicine because they need to rush to the hospital for a struggling relative. I don’t have access to that information, so I default to the individual. And I think that’s such a powerful theory and framework that applies to so many aspects of life, including to the thing that I care deeply about, which is racism, that we often think about individual racists and neglect the situations that lead otherwise really good, well-intentioned people to think or do mean things. So that’s a very I, I love that framework and I’m so thankful that Lee Ross gifted that to the world.
That’s actually a good one. I hadn’t thought of that. I had heard of that some time ago, but now that you brought it up, bringing back memories for you, going through your, your journey and as soon as you said it, I’m like, yeah, I forgot about that. Tell us something.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tell us something unique about yourself.
Something unique about myself. Uhm, I, I guess I, as an individual, I’m just as unique as everyone else. We only have this one life. Time is fleeting, and I try to practice a life where I, uhm, before I go to bed, I, I write in my little gratitude journal three things that I’m grateful for of the day. And I try to, when I lay down and sleep, tell myself if this was my last day on Earth, was it a good day? And if it was, then I can sleep. And if I don’t wake up again and that’s OK.
Thanks for sharing. That’s, that’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. Thank you for sharing that. Do you have any other advice for those interested in the field of psychology?
Yeah, uhm, another piece of advice which is may I guess my mind is on, on Lee today because this is actually an interesting piece of advice that he gave me. We actually heard him give it to graduate students, and I’ve heard this from multiple sources before, and I think it’s so true. And there’s a lot of privilege baked into it because it doesn’t always work out. It worked out for me, and I know some people who worked out for where if you follow the things that you’re interested in. And just keep doing what you’re interested in, eventually, if you’re lucky, and I think it works out, you’ll end up in a place where you’ll, you’ll be exactly where you need to be. You know, so you know, life, there are many paths and maybe there’s a, a billion-dollar job here that maybe isn’t that rewarding or there are many different opportunities. But if we really do what you love and what brings you what is spiritually rewarding to you, you’ll end up exactly where you need to be, and it will all make sense.
That’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. I like that piece of advice. And that’s not only for people interested in the field of psychology, it’s a life lesson, almost.
There. That’s life.
Yeah, yeah. One final fun question and, and you can think about this for a second. If you had the time and the money to complete one project or go on one trip, what would you do?
If I have the time or the money to complete one project. What would I do? It was complete one project or?
Or go on…or go on one trip. Yep.
Oh, uhm, well, I, I mean can it be kind of non-academic?
Of course, it can. Anything. I didn’t say academics, yeah.
I would 100% go into space.
As far out as I can and come back.
But I would love to. I would love to do that. Yeah, also if I can mention there’s one more. A fact or principle that I really value, and it’s called The Overview Effect, and the basic idea is that for astronauts, when they go out into space and they see Earth and they have that overview, they have this kind of mind-blowing experience. Where they just realize how tiny and small we are and how big the universe is and when they come back to Earth, they really appreciate the trees, the sun, laughter and just everything becomes so deeply meaningful and rare and fragile. I would like to have that by going into space, but also finding ways to have a kind of overview effect as often as you can in your own life. Uhm, so, I think that’s why I would want to go into space to have that maybe overview.
I never thought of it that way. We see pictures of the world, you know, from space, but unless you’re out there feeling that and recognizing that, it doesn’t have as much impact. It’s just, yeah.
It doesn’t have as much impact, so I can imagine just being that far out and feeling it and seeing it. That must be like a really soul shattering, intense experience where? And then you come back down, and you think of all these political divides and anger and, oh, come on, we gotta get this together, you know?
Right, exactly right. Is there anything else that you’d like to discuss or bring, bring up on this podcast?
Uhm, I, I just want to thank you for taking the time. I’ll, I’ll also say to anyone listening if any of this resonates or if anyone wants to ever shoot me an e-mail, I’m always available and, and, and happy to discuss anything. I consider myself to have been very, very fortunate where it had it not been for mentors and advisors in my life, I would be in a very different position, so I’m always happy to talk people through this really complicated, unnecessarily complicated, world and, and discipline that we find ourselves in.
Well, I appreciate your time and willingness to share your thoughts and, and, and offering up your, your help even after this podcast airs. So, Steven thanks again for sharing your story and advice with us.
Yeah. Thank you.