Social Psychologist Charles Graham McClintock (1929-1996)

Charles Graham (Chuck) McClintock died on Wednesday, July 24, 1996, in his home in Iowa City, succumbing, finally, after a long, courageous struggle with cancer. Chuck began his work in psychology at Oberlin College, from which he graduated in 1951. He attended the University of Michigan where he earned an MA and a PhD.

His PhD was awarded in 1956 in social psychology. Supervised by Daniel Katz, his dissertation dealt with the functional role of attitudes, and his early publications focussed on ego-defense and attitude change.

Chuck left the University of Michigan to take a job as an Assistant Professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara, where he stayed until he retired in 1992. He capped his career at UCSB by chairing the psychology department there from 1990 until 1992. He left Santa Barbara permanently to move to Evanston, Illinois, to join his wife, Terry Boles, who was a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University. Terry and Chuck moved to Iowa City when Terry took a job as an Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations in the School of Business Administration at the University of Iowa. When he arrived at UCSB, Chuck was the first social psychologist on the faculty.

When he retired, the social-personality program had grown to seven or eight positions and had earned international distinction. More than any other single person, Chuck McClintock guided and nurtured the development of this program, and those of us who were privileged to be associated with it knew that its distinctive collegiality, inclusiveness, and energy were the unique legacy of its founder.

Even though he never permanently left UCSB during his career, Chuck enjoyed many temporary stints in Europe. He spent two years (1963-64 and 1970-71) and part of another (1985-86) at the Laboratory for Experimental Social Psychology at the University of Leuven in Belgium, a year (1978-79) at the London School of Economics, and another (1967-68) at the Institute of Anthropos at the University of Athens. These European opportunities were supported by prestigious competitive fellowships from the Fulbright Program and the Ford Foundation, as well as a Cattell Fellowship.

While his work in graduate school focussed on attitude change, there were early signs that his interests were shifting toward social decision making, the domain in which Chuck McClintock made a large and permanent impact. Papers on risk-taking, deterrence, and leadership foreshadowed his germinating interest in decision processes. Moreover, he never lost his interest in understanding the role of individual differences in behavior. He began by measuring individual differences in ego-defense intensity and crowned his career with an exploration of the implications of individual differences in social orientations in interdependent decision making.

Chuck was one of psychology’s pioneers in the use of experimental games to study social interdependence. His first contribution using this methodology (McClintock, Harrison, Strand, & Gallo, 1963) vividly manifests three of Chuck’s enduring research traits: the inclusion of at least one independent variable that is an individual difference measure (in this case intemationalism-isolationism), the inclusion of at least one independent variable that is situationally manipulated (in this case the strategy of the other player), and the generous inclusion of his students in the project and in the credit for the project (in this case AI Harrison, Susan Strand, and Phil Gallo). These students, I should note, were not doctoral students because UCSB’s psychology department was not authorized to grant PhDs until 1964. Harrison and Gallo were masters students and Strand was an undergraduate. All three eventually received PhDs in social psychology, a fact that testifies to the contagiousness of Chuck’s enthusiasm for research, a quality he never lost.

Of Chuck’s many scientific contributions to social psychology, including the publication in 1972 of an innovative text, Experimental Social Psychology, the one for which he will be the most remembered will almost certainly be his explorations of what he originally called “social motives” and later called “social values.” He and his students and colleagues discovered that subjects approached interpersonal decision-making tasks, like experimental games, with what appeared to be different objectives. Sometimes they seemed to want to promote the welfare of the group (cooperativeness), sometimes they seemed to be interested in only their own welfare (individualism), and sometimes they seemed to want to excel relative to others (competitiveness). Chuck McClintock devoted much of his career to the study of these differences. He explored ways of measuring these tendencies, he examined the processes by which the tendencies were socialized in young children, and, of course, he used the opportunities afforded him by his international connections to probe for cultural differences in these social values. His work has had a profound impact in documenting the many ways in which these different social values transform simple decision problems into psychologically and behaviorally distinct phenomena.

Chuck’s impact comes from the heart as well as the mind. He was a champion of the powerless, which made him a guardian as well as a mentor to his students. This fact explains the affection and dedication that Chuck’s ex-students, now scattered across four continents, feel for him. For those of us who were fortunate to know him personally and to work with him, Chuck McClintock will be remembered for his generosity, his loyalty, and his compassion. He was a kind and loving colleague and friend who will long be remembered and missed.

References and Further Reading:


McClintock, e.G., Harrison, A.A., Strand, S., Gallo, P. (1963). Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 76, 631-636.

Observer Vol.9, No.5 September, 1996

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