In high school, Leonard took every mathematics and statistics class offered, and aced any standardized tests involving quantitative skills. So when he enrolled at Cornell University, he declared as a math major. It took him a year to discover that math was probably not his future…
Since then, for close to 40 years, he whas been conducting research in social psychology, and can’t imagine a career that would have been a better fit for him. To a great extent, his job involves identifying aspects of human behavior that seem interesting to him, learning whatever there is to know about those kinds of behaviors, coming up with new questions to ask about them, and conducting research to answer those questions. As a result, he has studied and published papers on (among other things) stereotyping and prejudice, self-esteem, conformity, personality differences associated with birth order, the psychology of genocide, and even why people come to believe that they have been abducted by space aliens.
Many of the highlights of his research career have involved mentoring students and training them as researchers as a professor and popular instructor a prestigious universities. He has guided those students though the process of generating hypotheses, collecting data to test those hypotheses, writing up their results, presenting their findings at conferences, and submitting their work for publication. Many of them have gone on to graduate school for advanced degrees in psychology, and he is always delighted to learn that he played an important role in their personal, academic, and professional development.
Is there something that people do and say that has always intrigued you? Do you have questions about how our minds work? You can do more than just puzzle over those things; you can find ways to shed light on them. He would love nothing more than to show you how. Anyone can apply to college and claim to be motivated to be a researcher and scholar; you have the potential to demonstrate that you already are one.
Fun Fact: I once came in third place in the Suffolk County high school table tennis championships. I then got a chance to play the US national champion—with predictable results.
“Be excellent to each other.” – Bill and Ted.