Diane F. Halpern is professor of psychology and director of the Berger Institute for Work, Family, and Children at Claremont McKenna College. She has won many awards for her teaching and research, including the Psi Chi Distinguished Member Award in 2005, the 2002 Outstanding Professor Award from the Western Psychological Association, the 1999 American Psychological Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching, the 1996 Distinguished Career Award for Contributions to Education given by the American Psychological Association, the California State University’s State-Wide Outstanding Professor Award, the Outstanding Alumna Award from the University of Cincinnati, the Silver Medal Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Wang Family Excellence Award, and the G. Stanley Hall Lecture Award from the American Psychological Association. Halpern is the author of over 350 journal articles and book chapters. She has authored many books including Thought and Knowledge: An Introduction to Critical Thinking (4th ed., 2003), and Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities (3rd ed., 2000). She coedited States of Mind: American and Post-Soviet Perspectives on Contemporary Issues in Psychology (1997) with Alexander Voiskounsky, From Work-Family Balance to Work-Family Interaction: Changing the Metaphor (2004) with Susan Murphy and a special double issue of American Behavioral Scientist on Current Issues at the Intersection of Work & Family (2006) with Heidi Riggio. Her most recent books are Women at the Top: Powerful Leaders Tell Us How to Combine Work and Family, which she coauthored with Fanny Cheung (2009), and an introduction to psychology textbook, Psychological Science, (3rd edition) which is she coauthoring with Michael Gazzaniga and Todd Heatherton. Dr. Halpern has served as president of the American Psychological Association, the Western Psychological Association, the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, and the Division of General Psychology of the American Psychological Association. She participated in the panel discussion "Women in Science: Are They Being Held Back?" sponsored by the EST/Sloan project in partnership with the Women Investigators Network at the New York Academy of Sciences and provided testimony to the U.S. Senate about the under-representation of women in some areas of science.
How did you become interested in psychology?
I was a mechanical engineering major during my freshman year at University of Pennsylvania. My boyfriend at that time (who later became my husband) was taking Intro Psych with the legendary Henry Gleitman. He told me I would love it and invited me to class. I fell in love with psychology and with the person who told me I would love it.
Who was your mentor?
In graduate school at University of Cincinnati, Bill Dember, who is now deceased, and Joel Warm, who is retiring this year after 42 years and 8,777 students (I calculated this number) were my dear mentors.
What did they do that was particularly meaningful for your development as a psychologist?
They told me that I could be a successful psychologist, and over time I came to believe them. They held me to the highest standards.
How much of your academic lineage or “family tree” do you know?
As a class project, a student once plotted this for me. According to this student, I can trace my lineage back to Wundt!
Do you have any advice for maximizing one’s graduate school experience?
Work hard, find a mentor, and keep your eye on your personal goal. If you want to go into academia, for example, read the job advertisements and see what requirements are needed. If academia is your goal, you will need to build a vitae with empirical publications. If you have a different goal, perhaps applied work, you will need to prepare by finding out what you need to know to enter that field.
What is your source or inspiration for research ideas?
This is a tough question. Research ideas come from everywhere, especially from my students. But many studies are the next step in a line of research or stem from something in the news.
Do you have any tips for developing a successful research program?
You have to love the research process, which includes writing. Too many people have great ideas and get discouraged when the results are not exactly what they had predicted (they almost never are) and then they fail to follow through with writing up the results to share with your fellow professionals. Persistence is probably the best answer.
What is psychology’s biggest problem today?
Can I make that plural? There is a lot of wasted effort as various subdisciplines fight with each other. Research and practice need each other, but far too often the relationship is more like a war than a marriage. Psychology also suffers from low self-esteem. We have not done a good job in convincing others that all of the BIG problems are behavioral in nature and we are the discipline that best knows about behavior.
Where is psychology as field headed? What will be the most important area(s) of psychological research in the future?
There is an undeniable biological revolution in psychology. If you are a student, study neuroscience along with psychology because the fields are coming together.
What is the biggest area(s) of application for the psychology?
There are many—health in general, education, industry and organizations, and in the military.
Are there any social issues that psychology should address?
Too many to list—We can help to reduce prejudice; we can help students succeed in school; we can help reduce international conflicts; and we can even help with mental illness. We can do all this and more, but will we choose to? I hope that some of the students reading this interview will pick a social issue and diligently apply the know ledge and methods of psychology to improve it.
Copyright 2008 by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Vol. 13, No. 3, 107–108 / ISSN 1089-4136).