the contributions of psychology to public policy, gives me the chance to continue my long-standing habit of trying to make the climate that surrounds me more positive. I believe that psychology has much to offer, and I feel obligated to work on projects that seem likely to make a difference.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to work with many wonderful students, at the undergraduate and more often in recent years at the graduate level. At Purdue, the graduate students included Nyla Branscombe, Frances Cherry, Elizabeth Farris, Mary Kite, Laurie Lewis, James Martin, Brenda Major, Arie Nadler, and Janet Taynor. Since coming to the Graduate Center, Yael Bat-Chava, Kathleen Ethier, Barton Poulson, and Anne Reid have earned their degrees with me, and many, many other students have been part of my intellectual life. At the Graduate Center, in particular, the interchange between faculty and students is constant, and a community of scholars takes on real meaning in our day-to-day life.
I've also had the benefit, in more than 30 years as a professor in the field, of seeing some exciting changes in the discipline of psychology. Psychology has grown from a fledgling and tentative discipline to a major contributor of knowledge. For social psychology in particular, the beginning of the 21st century is a period of increased breadth and greater sophistication. What was in the 1960s a rather narrow field, both in methodological preference and in domain of applicability, has now become a discipline more willing to recognize complexity and diversity and more ready and able to use a variety of methodological tools to analyze the issues. For me, social psychology's unique contribution to knowledge is its ability to link the individual to the social context and the broader realm of social representations that shape our understanding. We are now, I believe, closer than ever to meeting the challenge of that goal.
As for lessons that I have learned, I offer only one guideline with absolute certainty: the importance of addressing questions that are meaningful and important to you, whether or not they are intellectually fashionable at the time. It is difficult at best to predict the course of scientific discovery. Rather than attempt to predict where others will go, I have found it far more rewarding to carve out my own path—and often, quite happily, to find others going the same way on a shared intellectual journey.
Aronson, E., Willerman, B., & Floyd, J. (1966). The effect of a pratfall on increasing Interpersonal attractiveness. Psychonomic Science, 4, 227–228.