Communicating Psychological Science with the Public: Interview Series

Communicating psychological science beyond scientists in the field is essential, both to foster an informed public and to demonstrate the inherent value that psychological research offers. This four-part interview series provides first-hand experiences and tips from experts in the field and media communication on ways to communicate psychological science more effectively at different scales through opinion pieces, podcasts, and blogs.

Interviewers

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June Gruber, University of Colorado, Boulder

June Gruber is an associate professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and director of the Positive Emotion and Psychopathology Laboratory; She has authored numerous articles and books that focus on mental health and positive emotion in adolescents and adults, with a focus on bipolar and related mood disorders. June teaches courses on emotion, abnormal psychology, and the science of happiness and has created a free online course in Human Emotion available through YouTube, and has given a public TEDx talk on the “dark side” of happiness. She is also engaged in outreach and dissemination on mental well-being for students and the broader public, with a recent focus on the mental health crisis sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

David A. DeSteno, Northeastern University

David studies the ways in which emotions guide decisions and behaviors fundamental to social living. By examining moral and economic behaviors such as compassion and trust, cooperation and resilience, and dishonesty and prejudice, his work tries to illuminate how emotions can optimize our actions in favor of the greater good or, by virtue of bugs in the system, lead to suboptimal or biased outcomes. His research continually shows that human character is highly influenced by forces outside awareness and is much more variable than we tend to think. Recognizing how those forces actually operate guides his efforts to work with public and private sector partners to design scalable nudges to enhance well-being.

Speakers:

Dave Nussbaum, University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

Dave Nussbaum is an adjunct associate professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. For the past several years Dave has been working to help psychologists and the media bridge their gaps in understanding. With the mission of sharing research with the public, ideally in the researchers’ own words, he works with dozens of researchers each year to help them pitch their writing to news outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Scientific American, and many others. He is also a founder and Senior Science Advisor for the Behavioral Scientist and communications director for the Behavioral Science and Policy Association. In this conversation with David DeSteno, Dave discusses how best to approach editorial writing and tactics to get the attention of an editor.   

James Ryerson, Senior Editor, The New York Times

James Ryerson has been an editor at The New York Times since 2003, first at the Sunday magazine and now at the Op-Ed page. Before that, he was an editor at Legal Affairs, Lingua Franca, and Feed. In 2018, he was given the Excellence in Science Journalism Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.  In this conversation with David DeSteno, James discusses what topics most interest editors and how to stand out among competing voices when reaching out to the media.

James A. Coan, The University of Virginia

James Coan is a professor of psychology and director of the Virginia Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Virginia. His work emphasizes the social regulation of risk and effort, and has been covered in Science, Nature, the New York Times, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, the New Yorker, The Atlantic, NPR and other media outlets. Coan is an inaugural recipient of the Association for Psychological Science Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions, and the Award for Distinguished Early Career Contributions from the Society for Psychophysiological Research. His science communication work includes hosting the podcast “Circle of Willis,” writing for popular audiences, and leveraging science in the service of political activism. James will discuss his experiences as a podcast host in this conversation with June Gruber. 

Tania Lombrozo, Princeton University

Tania Lombrozo is a professor of psychology at Princeton University.  Her research aims to address foundational questions about cognition using the empirical tools of cognitive psychology and the conceptual tools of analytic philosophy. Her work focuses on explanation and understanding, conceptual representation, categorization, social cognition, causal reasoning, and folk epistemology. She is the recipient of numerous early-career awards, including the Association for Psychological Science Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions and a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. She has blogged about psychology, philosophy, and cognitive science at Psychology Today and for NPR’s 13.7: Cosmos & Culture. In this conversation with June Gruber, Tania will discuss her experiences writing for these blogs.