(Not so) Brief Bio

My research and teaching focuses on the Science of Human Emotion. My primarily interest is in exploring Emotion and Cognition through the lens of Evolutionary Psychology, Philosophy, and History of Science.  Most of my scholarly papers and chapters have focused on the question of whether emotions can be viewed as an evolved “design feature” of our minds. In the past two decades I have begun exploring questions regarding the intellectual history of the scientific study of emotion. My hope is that this will lead to a book project in which I describe “what we currently know about human emotion, and how we came to k now it.”

Graduate work at Purdue & Michigan. After earning my B.S. (with Honors) in Psychology at the University of Iowa in 1986, I began my graduate study at Purdue University in 1987 studying personality and emotion with Randy J. Larsen. Although I did not know it when I first applied to Purdue’s graduate program, Larsen was a rising star in Personality Psychology who would soon be awarded the Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award for Early Career Contribution to Personality Psychology from the American Psychological Association (APA). Under Larsen’s tutelage I developed an appreciation for looking at questions about personality and human nature from multiple methodological angles (a tradition that Larsen inherited from his mentor Ed Diener, who also embodied the sophisticated multi-method, multi-trait approach to Personality Research pioneered by Raymond Cattell at the University of Illinois) . When Larsen was invited to join the Personality Division in the Department of Psychology at the University Michigan I was nearing the completion of my Masters Thesis, and at the suggestion of a colleague, I inquired as to whether I could accompany him to Ann Arbor as his student. His decision to allow me to join him at Michigan was a game-changer in my career (I had two years earlier applied to Michigan but was rejected, along with many other applicants, of course). Although my education at Iowa and Purdue was at the highest calibre, the atmosphere at Michigan was nothing like what I had experienced previously. I was constantly surrounded by smart, witty, curious people who seemed to relish talking about ideas even more than they enjoyed designing studies and analyzing data. From the graduate students to the faculty, both within the Department and across the entire campus, I was inspired by, and thrived in the midst of so many creative and engaged thinkers.

Evolutionary Psychology. It was also at Michigan that I first discovered Evolutionary Psychology. Although the presence of David Buss in Michigan’s Personality Division (where I joined the graduate program) and the multi-disciplinary Evolution and Human Behavior (EHB) Program (supported by the Rackham Graduate School) would be reason enough to view Michigan (along with UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, Harvard, and McMaster University) as one of epicenters of the exciting new field of Evolutionary Psychology, it was the cohort of graduate students that Buss had recruited to join him at Michigan that had the most immediate impact on my thinking as a social scientist. Sharing an office with fellow graduate students David P. Schmitt (now director of the Centre for Culture and Evolution at Brunel University), Todd DeKay (one of the most creative evolutionary thinkers) , and participating in a weekly discussion group (as part of required Graduate Proseminar) with fellow student Bruce J. Ellis (currently the Director, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Research Network on Adaptations to Childhood Stress), allowed me to see first hand the many benefits of viewing the human condition through an adaptationist lens.

NIMH Post-Doctoral Training Program in Emotion. After receiving my PhD in Personality Psychology from the University of Michigan (1993) working with Randy J. Larsen, I participated in the first cohort of the NIMH Post-Doctoral Training Program in Emotion (1993-1996) directed by Paul Ekman (Richie Davidson joined as co-director in 1995). Along with the five other Postdoctoral Fellows, we spent the first year of the Training Program at UC Berkeley interacting with a multi-disciplinary consortium of 12 Emotion experts from 11 different universities. The second and third years of the training program were spent working under the guidance of a specific faculty member (whom we had identified in our application to the program). I spent 1994-1996 studying emotion and cognition with Jerry Clore at the University of Illinois. My two years is in the intellectual orbit of Jerry Clore, Bob Wyer and Ed Diener at the University of Illinois has shaped how I think about science as not just a profession, but as a calling, or vocation. I treasure every moment I’ve spent among these amazing thinkers. It’s hard to find intellectuals who don’t take themselves too seriously, and even rarer still, to encounter colleagues who possess that potent combination of genius, humility and a mischievous sense of humor.

Munich & the Max Planck Institute. After the NIMH Emotion training program, I spent 1996-1997 as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Gerd Gigerenzer’s Adaptive Behavior & Cognition (ABC) group in the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Munich,Germany. With the day-to-day operations in the capable hands of Peter Todd, Gigerenzer had assembled a team of international scholars with interests ranging from behavioral economics and computational modeling to evolutionary psychology and cognitive science. The year I spent in Munich only reinforced my appreciation for the “big picture” and the value of pursuing bold ideas to their limits.

UCLA and Behavior, Evolution, & Culture Group. I returned to the U.S. in 1997 where I taught at UCLA in their Communication Studies Program. It was a UCLA that I had the opportunity to participate in the regular Friday meetings of an amazing inter-discipinary consortium of evolutionary and cultural anthropologists, social psychologists, economists, linguists and political scientists known as the Behavior, Evolution, & Culture (BEC) group. You can’t be the smartest “guy” in the room when you are surrounded by Rob Boyd, Alan Fiske, Joan Silk, Dan Fessler, Martie Haselton, Clark Barrett, Jim Sidanius, Jack Hirschleifer, Neil Malamuth, Carlos Navarette, Fransisco Gil-White, Joseph Henrich, Rob Kurzban, and Susan Lohmann, but you can come to appreciate the value of regular exposure to exceptionally clear thinking. It is hard to describe the many benefits of Ann Arbor, Berkeley, Urbana-Champaign, Munich, and Westwood, but intellectual humility has been a powerful touchstone for my own intellectual growth.

New Mexico State University. I’ve been at New Mexico State University since 2002. I’ve been fortunate to have taught a seminar on Emotion most every year for over two decades. I’ve also taught Evolutionary Psychology on regular basis. I have found it incredibly valuable to lecture in my areas of interest and expertise. My lectures, discussions, and conversations with undergraduates throughout the years have helped me to not only learn how to effectively communicate ideas but also how to think more clearly about complex and abstract ideas.

Brief Foray into the terrain of Administration. In 2009, I received the Donald C. Roush Teaching Award for Excellence. After participating in the (2010-2011) NMSU Advancing Leaders Program, I served as Faculty Senate Vice Chair (2011-2012), Faculty Senate Chair  (2012-2013), and as an interim Department Head in the Department of Criminal Justice (2015-2016). From 2015-2020, I served as Associate Dean for our Honors College where my position as Director of the Office of National Scholarships and International Education allowed me to work closely with students who successfully won Fulbright Fellowships or made it to the Finalist stage of Rhodes. A generous Provost (Dan Howard) even gave me the funding to create “Salon Discovery,” a series of campus events (including an annual grand Gala event/ Lecture held in the Fall and a Spring Speaker Series) that ran for over three years and celebrated the accomplishments of our talented faculty across the Arts & Sciences. In 2016, while serving as interim Department Head, in addition to my duties as Associate Dean, including my creation of the Salon Discovery events, I was awarded the Regents “Above and Beyond” Award with special recognition for my efforts to make the institution better by “focusing on the positive during times of great challenge.” In the summer of 2020, I briefly served as Acting Dean of the Honors College during the interregnum period between the retirement of the Dean and the hiring of our new Dean, before returning full time to the Faculty in the Department of Psychology where I currently serve as Graduate Program Director.

Current Research interests. Returning full time to research and teaching has been exciting. My reading and thinking about intellectual history has led me to explore questions at the intersection of Psychology, History, and Philosophy of Science, with the aim of understanding how (and why) the different schools of thought in Psychological approaches to Emotion arose over the past century. I am keenly interested in understanding why, for example, have many emotion scholars been quite skeptical about any claims of “universality” regarding the emotions, whereas other scholars have based their entire careers on this assumption. Recently, these questions have led me to a program of research on the Psychological under-pinnings of irrationality, especially in regard to exploring the role of emotion in various forms of irrationality such as as motivated reasoning, myside bias, the intelligence trap, and political correctness.