Tuesday, March 29, 2005

One of my favorite things to do in the spring was to field a co-ed intramural (IM) volleyball team of social psychology graduate students (and also organizational psych students). We didn't have a team my first spring (1985), but did in '86, '87, '88, and '89.

Southern California is the hotbed of U.S. volleyball, where people grow up playing on the beach. Besides myself, others in the Michigan social psych program hailing from this region, who played one or more years on the IM team, included post doc Pete Ditto and grad student Kari Edwards. Org psych grad student Susan Hatter was from L.A. and had played volleyball for Swarthmore (Pennsylvania) as an undergrad. Social psych grad student Eric Lang was from even further west, Hawaii.

Some of the social psych grad students from the Midwest were also good. I remember seeing Paula Niedenthal, who went to undergrad college at Wisconsin, playing volleyball one year at the social psych program's beginning-of-the-school-year picnic and I knew I had to recruit her for the team. Steve Spencer, who came from Hope College in western Michigan, lent some height to the team; Steve's wife Shelly appeared to be an experienced, well-trained volleyball player and was a major asset the years she played.

Two additional organizational psych grad students who joined in with us were Philippe Byosiere and Helen Robillard.

(I hope I'm not omitting anyone; I'll certainly update this entry to add anyone I missed.)

Our games were played in the Intramural Building, a nice walk south several blocks from the heart of central campus on State St., then off on a side street.

Our games were always played on midweek evenings and afterwards, we frequently went to the Cottage Inn on William St. (near the Institute for Social Research, where we had our social psych offices) for pizza and whatever one's favorite beverage was.

In the early years of the team, we used to practice on weekends, but as time went on and we all got busier, we stopped doing so. I don't remember exactly what our records were in the IM competition, but I think we probably won at least as often as we lost.

Naturally, teams had to use three men and three women at all times. An additional rule was that, if a team used its full complement of three hits during a given possession (to try to dig, set, and spike the ball), a female player had to contact the ball at least once. One year, in honor of this rule, we named our team "She's Gotta Hit It," a play on a Spike Lee movie title from the same era, She's Gotta Have It.

Volleyball is probably as team-oriented a sport as any. Unlike in basketball, football, soccer, and hockey, where individual players can hold the ball (or puck) for several seconds at a time, volleyball players must perpetually and instantaneously direct the ball to a teammate (or hit it over the net). More so than in these other sports, volleyball players must have a constant awareness of their teammates' locations, creating an enhanced level of interdependence. In retrospect, it seems fitting for a team of social and organizational psychologists to gravitate to volleyball.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

According to this month's issue of the Ann Arbor Obserser, tonight is the 20th Anniversary Concert of the Chenille Sisters. The event is being held at The Ark in Ann Arbor.

The Chenille Sisters -- Cheryl Dawdy, Connie Huber, and Grace Morand -- used to play at free entertainment events in town, such as Top of the Park and the Ann Arbor Art Fairs. I first saw them play in the summer of either 1986 or '87. They were definitely a group I and a number of fellow graduate students enjoyed going to see.

The Observer characterizes the group as possessing an "unbeatable combination of breaktakingly precise and resonant vocal harmonies, a comic wit that's both corny and subversive, and a delightfully eclectic repertoire of original songs mixed with jazz, swing, folk, and blues standards."

A recent profile article in the Ann Arbor News contends that "...it would be tough to identify a local performer or group that has reached as many people or been as successful during the past 20 years as the Chenille Sisters."

That about sums it up!

I just found a pretty thorough list of funny folk songs and there's a pretty healthy-sized section on the Chenille Sisters.

Their song "Walk Like a Beautician" is a parody of the Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian." One of the Chenille Sisters' members, Grace, is indeed a hair stylist, as noted in the Ann Arbor News article linked above. The Chenilles' version uses scissors (the sound of the two blades hitting each other at the end of each cutting motion) as a percussion instrument. Further, the part that the Bangles sing "Way-Oh, Way-Oh," the Chenilles sing, "Wave-Oh, Wave-Oh... Permanent Wave-Oh."

The Chenille Sisters also did a mid-90s PBS special that I watched while living in Buffalo, New York.

I hope to be able to see the Chenilles perform again in the future, either some time when I visit Ann Arbor or in another city.

Congratulations to the ladies!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

1980s Visiting Professors in Social Psychology

During the five years (give or take) of graduate school needed to complete the Ph.D. and amass enough publications to be competitive on the job market, students in the UM social psychology program can draw upon a number of resources. These include the faculty in social psychology and other disciplines, fellow students, and the "intellectual infrastructure" on campus (e.g., research centers, libraries).

Professors from other universities who spend a semester or year at UM are additional assets to the program. Ideally, the arrival of visiting professors will initiate a mutual cross-fertilization of research ideas and skills, benefiting both the visitor and host institution.

During my five years (1984-1989) as a graduate student in the UM social psych program, we had at least six prominent social-personality psychologists serve as visiting professors. They are listed below in roughly chronological order (note, I have updated the entries, based on feedback by two of the former visiting professors; the new information is shown in italics):

Alice Isen spent the entire 1984-85 year at Michigan. For over 30 years (including the time she was at Michigan), she has studied how being in a positive mood influences an individual's behavior and cognition. Research on affect and cognition was a key part of the UM social psych program in the 1980s, with Bob Zajonc and many students working in that area. Alice's presence strengthened the program's research portfolio on affect, both by bringing in additional perspectives and increasing the opportunity for graduate students to conduct research on the topic.

The one student, I recall, who worked closely with Alice was Greg Diamond. The following publication is a product of this collaboration:

Isen, A.M., & Diamond, G.A. (1989). Affect and automaticity. In J. Uleman & J. Bargh (Eds.) Unintended Thought (pp. 124-152). NY: Guilford.

Alice later notified me that:

While I was at Michigan, I also worked with Paula Niedenthal and Nancy Cantor, producing the following paper:

Isen, A.M., Niedenthal, P., and Cantor, N. (1992). The influence of positive affect on social categorization. Motivation and Emotion, 16, 65-78.

Susan Fiske spent the Fall '84 semester at UM. I remember Susan appearing before our little informal first-year social psych grad-student seminar to talk about her research (I was also part of the team to meet with Susan in advance of her presentation). Her book (with Shelley Taylor) Social Cognition came out that year.

After 20 years, it's hard for me to remember the details of what Susan discussed (both at the preparatory meeting and with the full group), but I recall some type of "piecemeal" processing model she was working on (see the list of publications from that era on her vita, which is linked to the beginning of the previous paragraph). I can't remember if this was related or not, but Susan discussed primacy effects in person perception, including Asch's "change of meaning" theory. Susan also studied political psychology, publishing some articles with UM's Don Kinder.

Suzanne Thompson visited in the Winter 1985 semester. She is probably most identified with health psychology, stress and coping, and perceptions of control. Suzanne's vita (see link at beginning of this paragraph) contains the following publication:

Davis, C. G., Lehman, D. R., Wortman, C. B., Silver, R. C., & Thompson, S. C. (1995). The undoing of traumatic life events. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 109-124.

Although the publication date of this article is a decade after Suzanne's semester as a visiting professor, it's at least conceivable that this collaboration stems from her time in Ann Arbor (Camille Wortman was a UM professor at the time and Darrin Lehman was a graduate student; Roxy Silver, a student of Camille's from back at Northwestern, later was a visiting researcher at UM's Institute for Social Research).

Suzanne received her Ph.D. at UCLA, working with Hal Kelley and Shelley Taylor (it's hard to get better training than that!). Suzanne gave a Group Dynamics Seminar at UM on attributions of intentionality, which may have derived from her work with Kelley. In fact, I still have the handout from that talk, which took place on March 26, 1985.

Bill Graziano, whose academic interests fall at the intersection of social, personality, and developmental psychology, was a visiting professor of developmental psych during at least the Winter 1985 semester, if not the full 1984-85 academic year. Based at the University of Georgia at the time, Bill later spent many years on the faculty at Texas A&M University. After my arrival in 1997 as a faculty member at Texas Tech University, Bill and I were able to renew our acquaintanceship at SPIT (Social Psychologists in Texas) conferences.

As can be seen from the link to Bill's current homepage at the beginning of the previous paragraph, he now chairs the Department of Child Development and Family Studies at Purdue University. I am in a similar department at Texas Tech, Human Development and Family Studies. Largely as a result of our being in the same kind of department, I have been seeing Bill increasingly at conferences of organizations such as the Society for Research in Child Development, National Council on Family Relations, and International Association for Relationship Research.

Bernie Weiner, himself a UM Ph.D. and for many years a professor at UCLA, came back to his graduate alma mater as a visitor during the Winter 1987 semester. Since I had received my bachelor's degree from UCLA, I quickly introduced myself to Bernie upon his return to Michigan. I always visit UCLA when I go home to see my family in Los Angeles and often run into Bernie, either in the UCLA psychology department (Franz Hall) or at Pauley Pavilion, home of Bruin basketball.

Reuben Baron, now a Professor Emeritus at the University of Connecticut, visited UM in Fall 1988 (as he updated me). Reuben received his Ph.D. from NYU (not at Michigan, as I originally wrote). However, he spent a post-doctoral year with Herb Kelman at Michigan in 1962-63. Reuben's son Michael was in school at UM in 1988; I had Michael in the small section of intro psych that I taught.

I remember that Reuben, who described himself as a "neo-Gibsonian," and James Hilton, a traditional person-perception/self-fulfilling prophecy scholar, had some extended talks about perception and the nature of stimuli; they even gave a joint presentation on this topic.

In recent years, Reuben has applied his interest in perception in another direction, namely art. He is a curator and art critic. As seen in this art review that he co-wrote, Reuben continues to draw upon social psychological research.

He also manages to keep a hand in social psychology. He is carrying out NSF-sponsored research on cooperation as well as being a co-editor (with Eagly and Hamilton) and chapter author of a Festscrift volume dedicated to the work of Herb Kelman, The Social Psychology of Group Identity and Social Conflict (2004, APA Press).

All told, the six visiting professors all brought their considerable expertise to UM and complemented existing research areas. There is no question they enriched the students' graduate education. I hope the visitors feel they benefited, as well, from their Michigan experiences. I continue to stay in touch with many of these professors, at least via occasional exchanges of e-mail or by running into them at conferences.