John Cacioppo (1958-2018)
Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago
John Cacioppo was always fascinated by the links between body and mind, and he spent his entire career studying it in one form or another. From his early research in social psychophysiology linking attitudes to facial expressions to his founding of the field of social neuroscience and his pioneering studies on loneliness, his mark on the field is deep and long lasting. His academic career began at the University of Missouri where he received a B.S. in economics in 1973. He then entered graduate school at Ohio State University that same year with a cohort that included Richard Petty and Gary Wells. He was mentored initially at OSU by Timothy Brock and Bob Cialdini, but then by Anthony Greenwald and Curt Sandman.
Following receipt of his Ph.D. in 1977, John took an initial faculty position at the University of Notre Dame. Two years later, he moved to the University of Iowa where he moved up the ranks to full Professor. Subsequently, in 1989 he returned to Ohio State to join the faculty. In 1999, he moved to the University of Chicago where he became the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor of psychology until his untimely death in 2018. Over the course of his career, John wrote more than 500 scientific papers and was author or editor of more than 20 books. As of 2018, his work had been cited nearly 150,000 times according to Google Scholar. Remarkably, his research program was funded continuously throughout his career from federal grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
John’s most important early research within social and personality psychology were contributions in collaboration with Richard Petty and included development of the elaboration likelihood model (ELM) of persuasion and introduction of the widely used need for cognition scale. Subsequently, he developed the evaluative space model with Gary Berntson and ultimately came to focus on the psychology and neuroscience of loneliness, collaborating with numerous colleagues from diverse fields including his wife, Stephanie Cacioppo. In addition to his notable works in social and personality psychology, he produced many other important contributions to psychophysiology and neuroscience, both conceptual and empirical.
Throughout his career, John received many of the top awards that the field has to offer including the APS William James Fellow Award and the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Career Contribution Award. He also won prestigious awards from organizations such as the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), Society of Experimental Social Psychology (SESP), Society for Psychophysiological Research (SPR), Society for Consumer Psychology (SCP), Society for Social Neuroscience, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. John was not just the recipient of accolades, he also served the profession in critical ways. For example, John served on many journal editorial boards and is a past editor of Psychophysiology and a former associate editor of the Psychological Review, Perspectives on Psychological Science, and Social Neuroscience. He was elected president of numerous societies including APS, SPSP, SPR, and SCP. While President of SPSP, he started what became the leading theoretical journal in the field, the Personality and Social Psychology Review. As president of SCP, he founded their flagship outlet, the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
“Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.” He was younger than 30 when he came, a bit of a lonely soul at the time. Yet Iowa is a beautiful place, Iowa City a small, lovely university town, and there was family. His parents lived about 20 miles away in Swisher, where they had retired early to open the Honey Creek Apple Haus. There were grandparents, aunts, and uncles in nearby Cedar Rapids, and he shared his Iowa City apartment with his brother Bob, who was in graduate school. His interests in psychophysiology were strong then and growing by the day. He made the case to the National Science Foundation that training in this new area of study would be vital to the field. Amazingly, NSF funded a series of four summer “boot camps” for established investigators interested in learning “social psychophysiology.” The training was intensive for 3 weeks. He was half dead by the time one ended, but he perked up 2 days after the 1986 one when beautiful Christina was born. There were always greater sights on the horizon, however, and in 1988 he became the “spousal hire” (target of opportunity) for the advertised position in clinical that I was offered at OSU. All told, this was a very clever maneuver by the social area and enabled John to continue working with Rich Petty and move more intensely into psychobiology with colleague Gary Berntson. Our small family expanded in 1991 with the birth of Anthony. To me, Anthony and Christina are his finest contributions.
Ohio State University
I first met John at OSU in Curt Sandman’s lab, just after I was hired as an assistant professor in what was then called the Comparative and Physiological division of Experimental Psychology (now Behavioral Neuroscience). He was wearing a farmer-style bib/overall jeans outfit, with no shirt. I was wearing a sports coat and tie (I have since lost the tie — and he subsequently abandoned the overalls). But we had an interesting exchange, and it was clear that he was not a typical graduate student. I next engaged with him when we at OSU were trying to recruit him from the University of Iowa. The rest is history — we collaborated well and I think significantly contributed to the (at least partial) rapprochement between the social and biological perspectives, and we formalized the discipline of social neuroscience. That was no small feat back then. These days, everyone is a neuro-something. But at that time, there was a tremendous stovepipe animus between social and biological psychologists. John and I recognized the value added by an integrated approach. And it served us well. He would often win arguments between us, at least for the interim, because he could always think faster and speak longer than I could. But I could usually wear him down to reason over time. He was a great colleague.
Ohio State University
I first met John in 1994 during my postdoctoral training at Ohio State. His lab was big — with three postdocs, four doctoral students, and dozens of undergraduates during much of my stay — and it was brilliant and full of energy, just like John himself. I was very fortunate to join that community. It was intellectually exhilarating and I made lifelong friends. Even among social neuroscientists, John was unusual in being a genuine expert on both autonomic and central nervous system functioning. During my 3 years, we were fully engaged in programmatic research spanning both domains. We spent days, nights, and months scoring EEG and ECG data. There were so many computers in the lab (16 at one point) that we gave them proper names like “Amygdala” and “Left Ventricle” so we could keep straight where our datasets were located.
John practically radiated brainpower. His capacity to integrate diverse information from multiple domains and theorize meaningfully at amazing speed — even during spontaneous conversations — was legendary and awe-inspiring. Yet he was generous with his ideas and thrived on collaboration with both colleagues and students. While I was there, John was a coprincipal investigator on nine federal grants, and based on his CV, he was actively coauthoring at least 42 articles. He was exceedingly busy, expected a lot from his trainees, and did not micromanage, so we learned. John was also exceptionally fair in giving professional credit for the work we accomplished. He had so many compelling ideas. I wish he were still here.
Mary H. Burleson
Arizona State University
John would be deeply humbled to be listed on this “Heritage Wall of Fame” among some of his heroes in the field of personality and social psychology. He had an immense respect for human nature, its complexity, and the potential for its improvement. As a pioneer, John inspired (and will continue to inspire) generations of scholars – John was (and continue to be) also the greatest source of inspiration in our family, and the love of my life. John’s legacy and positive energy will live on through all of us whose minds had the privilege of his influence and through our eternal love. John’s rigorous thinking contributed to his genius. His mastery was a byproduct of focused dedication, practice, and passion for the fields of social psychology, mathematics, and neuroscience. While he knew the importance of rational processes in causal thinking, he decided to pave the way for a more sophisticated mathematical reasoning of social connections and he showed us empirical evidence that a meaningful life is a life connected to others. I am forever grateful to him. I could not have wished for a better husband and role model.
University of Chicago
Early in my career, I accepted a visiting faculty position in Ohio State’s social psychology program, where I was assigned to supervise John Cacioppo, who had recently arrived to join a truly impressive assemblage of doctoral students. (I remember calling a colleague at my home university, Arizona State, and saying, “My God, they have good graduate students here. My God!”) But even among such remarkably able contemporaries, John stood out as possessing a pair of traits that rarely go together. The first was eagle-eyed attention to detail in all sorts of things. For instance, I was about to send to a key editor an important letter (in which I had abbreviated my professional title) until I showed it to John, who noticed that signing the letter “Robert B. Cialdini, Visiting Ass. Professor” might not be best. I am still grateful to him for that.
The second noteworthy trait was a strong sense of personal confidence that had been built not on an exaggerated self-view but, instead, on a recognition that, when he put his mind to something, he would get it right. He once visited me and wanted to drive my car — a 1967 Mustang with a tricky clutch. After he stalled it twice and I volunteered to take over, he laughed quietly and said, “No, I got this,” whereupon he drove that car for the rest of the day, smooth as silk. That was John. He could do almost anything.
Arizona State University
John could be hard. He demanded a lot of people. But he was also wonderfully compassionate and gentle. I felt blessed to work and argue and just spend time with him, hoping to absorb some of that sparkle. To me, he was a patient guide and constant, formidable guardian. Two examples. In my first year on the faculty at Chicago, I walked into John’s office one afternoon hoping for advice. He said he had an important meeting in 30 minutes but could talk until then. We sat down. I think he could see I was upset. Before I knew it, the time was up. John walked to his desk, made a call and an excuse, and came right back. We talked for 2 more hours. It was dark outside. I apologized for ruining his meeting, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Our conversation was more important, he said. In my last year at Chicago, I told him that I had received an offer from the University of Colorado (my home) and that I thought I had to leave. I knew he had been counting on me to be around, and I saw disappointment flash in his face — but only for a moment. Immediately, his thoughts and feelings turned to what was best for me. He, as always, would handle things. He counseled me to go. I know others will describe his shockingly agile mind. It is a huge part of who he was. But more important to me was his heart.
University of Colorado
“I’ll never ask you to work harder than I do.” I can still vividly remember John saying those words on my recruiting visit to Ohio State nearly 30 years ago. What I did not know at the time was how hard he worked. An example of this was a training visit from an individual installing a system for EEG/ERP research. John met and worked with him Friday night and then took him to a hotel. The next morning John picked him up to continue working, and the individual realized that John was wearing the same clothes because he had spent the entire night in the lab reviewing and working with the system to be better prepared for the training. There were also the countless times when I or one of my peers left the lab around 2:00 a.m. and saw John’s office light on because he had returned to work and the instances when we sent him an e-mail at midnight and received a response 5 minutes later. As I sit here now, I cannot recall a single time when John asked any of us to work harder (and he certainly never asked us to work as hard as he did). What I recall was his passion for science, dedication, and high standards. It was these values and drives that he nurtured and helped to instill in everyone who worked with him.
University of Texas at El Paso
I was in John’s lab as a postdoc in the mid-1990s at Ohio State. We all worked long hours, but no matter how late my lab mates and I left the lab in Townshend Hall, that damn light was still on in his second-floor corner office of Lazenby Hall. It took us a while to figure out that while he was indeed almost always there, sometimes he just left the light on. When I joined his lab I was excited to meet the author, with Lou Tassinary (1990), of “Inferring psychological significance from physiological signals.” I didn’t know then that it would be the foundation for my thinking on teaching research methods for 20 years. My favorite instantiation of John Cacioppo is in a picture of our lab: The lab members are standing in a row, and John had put up with us hoisting him into our arms and was lounging Cleopatra style. Smiling.
Thomas More College
John was not a foodie until later in his life (a development credited to Stephanie). Indeed, both in his grad school and bachelor days, a common meal consisted of a box of wheat thins and a jar of “Goobers” (peanut butter premixed with neon purple stripes of jelly). I once even caught him happily munching on a bowl of homemade dog food he had mistaken for dip, a running joke against which all future food was compared. The usual academic reward of a meal at a high-end restaurant with visiting scholars was thus clearly less rewarding for John. Fortunately, he was always intellectually (even if not culinarily) omnivorous. Whether their expertise was Buddhist tradition or evolutionary biology, John was as delighted with his table partners’ ideas as he was disinterested in dinner. I can recall an interesting conversation about the subjectivity of assigning style points in racing with a decision-making scholar (John’s son belonged to a street-racing league in high school) and chatting about the rise of crowd-sourced stories with a publisher (his daughter was involved in the fan-fiction community) and once, and quite memorably, a very animated discussion with a developmental psychologist about the language perception skills of his pug puppy. I too hate stuffy restaurants, but I recall those many dinners fondly, watching John excitedly connect with people regardless of expertise, extending their ideas to encompass the day-to-day life of those he most adored. He was, in those moments, a personal exemplar of his belief in psychology as a hub discipline, weaving together far-flung scientific concepts and connecting them, always, back to human experience.
When John was a PhD student in 1975 at Ohio State, he asked me to play racquetball. Because he hadn’t played before, I won easily. Within less than a year, however, John was regularly trouncing not only me but everyone else he could talk into playing. That was the first time I became aware of John being unready to stop short of excellence. A year later, John proposed studying the effect of varying heart rate on counterarguing to persuasive messages. I was taken aback by the plan. John wanted to adjust the pacemakers of patients at OSU Hospital’s Cardiology clinic. It wouldn’t have occurred to me that a cardiologist could be talked into this, but John did it — making for a great dissertation. That was my first view of John’s readiness to aim high and persevere where others (including me) would have given up before starting. While still at OSU, John joined Rich Petty in starting one of psychology’s all-time successful collaborations. Their model influenced many others, including me. I last saw John in 2017 when he and Stephanie showed me their laboratory. I saw once again what many others have had the pleasure of witnessing — John’s smiling enthusiasm as he explained how the latest EEG technology was achieving never-before-possible understanding of the brain’s operation. Combined with the many imprints John left in publication form, the memory imprints he left in the minds of colleagues and students, as he did in mine, will long survive.
University of Washington
When I met John as an incoming graduate student at Ohio State, what struck me was his intensity. From his penetrating and challenging gaze to his perpetual motion (thumb habitually adjusting a real or remembered ring on his finger between key strokes; tongue tracking his key strokes with quick darts to the left and right), John exuded a force that was both energizing and exhausting. He became my mentor, critic, and advocate. Over the years, I would move from being his student to his lab and project manager to his colleague and collaborator. These were probably the most stimulating years of my life — he opened vistas I was not able to imagine. From John, I learned many lessons about being a scientist — one of the most frequently repeated being the admonition to work from a theoretical foundation so that the bricks (individual studies) would, as stated by Platt (1964), contribute to the temple of science and not be left lying in the brick yard. But probably the most important lesson was what he taught me about perseverance. John did not tolerate “I can’t do that.” Taking his example, I learned to channel fear for productive scientific ends. Now, when others claim “I could never do that,” I say only, “Not if you don’t try.” Perseverance without fear: It’s a lesson he leaves with each of us. I can’t help but think of his intense gaze still watching, daring, criticizing, and encouraging us as we persevere in building the temple of science.
NORC at the University of Chicago
One thing I appreciated about John was that even with all his accomplishments and his large and busy lab, he was focused outward on the vitality of the field as a whole. This included mentoring junior scientists. John had a huge lab when I worked with him as a postdoc at Ohio State (probably at least 30 people when you counted grad students, postdocs, research staff, and undergrads). I had a hard time imagining he would remember what it was like to be starting out, but the advice he gave me in my final year in his lab proved very accurate when I became a new assistant professor. There was also nothing like a research meeting with John, who had the ability to think about an issue from every angle simultaneously. You get a glimpse of this in the comprehensiveness of his written work, but that does not do justice to what it was like to watch it unfold before you within a few short minutes.
University of Colorado
John Cacioppo took in a stray. Within weeks of moving, I realized that going to Ohio State to study industrial–organizational psychology had been a terrible idea. An undergraduate advisor kept telling me: Talk to Cacioppo, talk to Cacioppo. I hesitated for months, in part because he had a reputation for being intimidating (and maybe even terrifying). I eventually read John’s articles in which he explored how brainwaves could shed light on attitudes. I found them fascinating and finally got up the nerve to talk to him. He was intimidating. But he was also warm and he had that big smile and that even bigger passion for science. He invited me to do a trial period in the lab and it stuck. We ended up doing research on ambivalence together, so it is fitting that our relationship was marked by its share of ambivalence. We yelled at each other on occasion, but it was always about ideas. A week after he died, I listened to a podcast interview with John. I heard the passion and the brilliance and I could almost see that big smile. I will admit that I yelled at him once or twice as I listened to the podcast. I wish he could have yelled back. Our 8-year-old was confused and taken aback when my partner tried to explain that John was something of a father to me, but that’s how it is. Or how it was. He took in a stray and turned me into a scientist.
Jeff T. Larsen
University of Tennessee
Throughout graduate school at Ohio State, I heard so many stories about John’s intelligence and intensity that he almost sounded mythological, so when I joined his lab as a postdoc at Chicago, I was unsure what to expect. I quickly discovered that John was as advertised; his mind moved lightning fast and this was coupled with an extreme work ethic. John was routinely the first person in the office and the last one to leave, and he still always had the energy to have a conversation about any topic related to science. My time working with John was without question the most intense intellectual experience of my career, and it had a positive influence on nearly every aspect of my life. Although I witnessed countless examples where John’s almost superhuman brilliance was on display, I was equally impressed by his willingness to do the most menial of tasks if that was what a project called for. For example, while traveling for a project with the US Army, John came past my hotel room while I was organizing paperwork for the next day of data collection. Without hesitation, he canceled his dinner plans and sat in the room with me for hours placing stickers on documents and licking envelopes. That was John, one of the most brilliant minds in all of science who was not above sitting on the floor and stuffing envelopes if he thought it would help progress the science.
University of Chicago
I first met John at a prospective students’ dinner at the University of Chicago. He held me rapt for at least an hour, crouching by my side as I sat on a couch, my plate untouched. I left knowing that I wanted to work with someone who had that kind of passion and love for research.
At the University of Chicago, I was the first student to go through comprehensive exams in the social program. I was nervous going into the oral defense, knowing that some of my written responses were not as strong as I had hoped. The defense went on … and on … and on … well over the hour that I had been told to expect. By the time it ended and I was asked to leave the room, I was convinced I had failed and they were going to ask me to leave the program. Almost immediately I was welcomed back in with a smile and a firm handshake from John. “Congratulations!” he said. “Do you want to know why we kept you so long? You were doing so well, we wanted to see how far we could push you.” I’ve come back to this moment often lately, and after tough meetings have told my own students that I push them because John pushed me — and it made me better.
Anyone who talked to John Cacioppo was impressed by the breadth and depth of his knowledge and personal intensity. When John joined the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago in 1999, he found himself at home in the intellectual intensity of the university. When he joined us, our goal was to rebuild the department of social psychology at Chicago, which had not existed for decades. John came to build an exemplary program in experimental social psychology from scratch. From the outset, we agreed that the program needed to provide graduate training in the fundamental methods, findings, and theories of social psychology, not just social neuroscience. He understood the importance of this for our department in terms of increasing the breadth of scientific training for graduate students but also for the future of the field —advances in social neuroscience depend on a foundation of social psychology. John was an effective and tireless advocate for social psychology and for psychology within the university and in science more broadly. As one of the first pioneers to advocate for the importance of studying the brain and biology in understanding social psychology, he wanted to connect social neuroscience beyond his lab. We started the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, bringing together the psychological sciences with the biological sciences, political science, sociology, and philosophy. Working with John was constantly educational, thrilling, and challenging. John was a unique scientist and psychologist whose impact on the field and on the people who knew him continues today.
University of Chicago
I had the good fortune of taking John’s undergraduate attitudes class at the University of Iowa. The enthusiasm with which he presented the history of attitudes, persuasion, influence, and other areas that he believed should be understood from an attitudes perspective (viz., all of social psychology) was inspiring. The final week of class, during which he integrated everything presented thus far into the elaboration likelihood model, was breathtaking, transfixing, and transformative. I left the class with a love for attitudes and social psychology, but it was John’s kindness and generosity that fundamentally changed my life. I was one of perhaps 100 students in the class, and I had avowed, quite vocally, that I would never pursue an advanced degree. It is inconceivable to me when I think back to those days in 1985, but John would meet with me for 15 to 30 minutes after most classes, discussing how the theories and research covered in class that day related to my position as a director of social services for a local Head Start program. John graciously took time to talk with me, even though there was nothing in it for him other than a distraction from his research. John’s influence continued throughout my life, from his advice to apply to Ohio State for grad school, to our work together on motor processes, continuing through warm and thoughtful emails and conversations until the end. I am grateful and blessed to have known John.
University of Southern California
I first met John at age 22 when we were both starting graduate school in social psychology at Ohio State University. At the time, I had no idea how lucky I was or how important John would become to me and to the field in general. Our very first meeting was at the home of our anticipated first-year faculty advisor, Tim Brock. We were sitting around the dinner table conversing when Tim’s wife, Sheri, brought out a large tray with the evening’s main course — a roast of some sort. As she entered the room, she tripped on the edge of the carpet and the roast flew into the air. John leapt upward, catching the roast with one hand and then offering his other hand to our hostess to prevent her from falling down. While sitting frozen in my chair, all I could think was, “Who is this guy?” Over the next 45 years of our collaboration and friendship, I saw many such incredible (and I mean literally unbelievable, but true) feats that ranged from the academic to the athletic to the personal. He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him, but I am eternally grateful for the many years we were able to share.
Ohio State University
Be it in matters of science or in matters of friendship, John has always been an incredibly loyal, dedicated, and committed person to a fault — a rare breed indeed. His untimely departure has left a gap behind that is impossible to fill and a sense of emptiness in all those who knew him for a long time. The silence he has left behind is profound. We shall remember him by the science he has created together with friends and colleagues with whom he collaborated, the research projects he initiated and pushed, the generous contributions he made to the careers of others, and his exceptional gift of sharing. He may no longer be with us, but his presence cannot be forgotten.
Everyone who is familiar with John’s work knows him as one of the great psychologists of our generation. What people may not be as familiar with is that John was a remarkable mentor who also conveyed broader life lessons. As a graduate student working with John in the 1990s at Ohio State, I certainly learned all the skills and values necessary to be a scholar. However, I also learned life lessons from him that I continue to carry with me and communicate to others. Through his words and actions, John reinforced the importance of hard work, intellectual curiosity, high standards, self-improvement, integrity, compassion, and the need to support others. If I had the space I could go into multiple instances of how he taught and modeled these lessons. To me, John has a much broader legacy that goes well beyond his scholarship and academic training. John positively impacted lives more generally, and I have strived to be a mentor and person consistent with the spirit of his exceptional example.
University of Utah
In 1981, during the summer before I started as an undergraduate at the University of Iowa, I learned that my freshman advisor (assigned at random) was John Cacioppo. I didn’t know who he was, and there wasn’t a way for me to learn more about him back then. I wrote a letter to Professor Cacioppo expressing my excitement about our first advising session. Amazingly, John wrote a kind letter back saying he looked forward to meeting me. In the next year, John would give me advice about my class schedule each semester, and eventually he invited me to take his course on attitudes. Petty and Cacioppo’s classic textbook on attitudes was hot off the press. It was during that course that he invited anyone who had received an “A” on the last exam to come join his lab. I was the only person who went down to the lectern to talk to him, and soon I was sitting next to one of his graduate students collecting psychophysiological data. That led to 4 more fantastic years of conducting research, attending lab meetings, sharing lunches (I remember a long discussion about whether love was indeed “a second-hand emotion,” as Tina Turner sang), and being surrounded by the team of talented people John had recruited to join his lab. His kindness to a freshman who knew nothing about the field, and his constant encouragement over those next few years, have had a profound impact on my own career in psychology.
University of Queensland
Early trait theorists would have loved John Cacioppo. He was a force of nature who brought the same intensity to everything he did. When we talked about research he was a buzz of ideas well past the point when my brain was empty and I was just nodding at everything he said. When we played squash he dived for so many shots that he was bruised and bloodied after every match. But my favorite example was from the only time we skied together, when I heard him yell at himself, “John, you chickensh*t, aim your skis straight down the hill!” (Never mind that he was a beginner and the moguls were 3 feet tall). John matched his intensity with an amazing mind, but he was also great fun. I miss him a lot.
Bill von Hippel
University of Queensland
I wish I loved anything as much as John Cacioppo loved psychology. I was John’s graduate student at the University of Chicago from 2004 to 2009 and never beat him into the office in the morning, nor did I ever see him leave the office before I did (not that it was a competition). This was not some pathological workaholism on John’s part or work for work’s sake. John simply got endless joy out of what he did. The best piece of advice John ever gave me was the advice truest to who he was: He said that to succeed in what we do, as psychological scientists, we really have to love the work intrinsically. This is because what we do, John explained, involves constant rejection — funding agencies rejecting grants, journals rejecting articles, conferences rejecting symposia, data rejecting carefully crafted hypotheses. You really have to love the work to endure all that rejection and failure. For John, failure never even felt like failure; it was all fun. A study that yielded confusing or disappointing results was an opportunity to develop a new hypothesis, a new study, a new method, or, as was often the case for John, an entirely new field.
I first met John in 1973 when we were both first-year graduate students at Ohio State University. I was struck initially by his great intellect and creativity. Soon, however, I realized that his long-term vision and drive is what would ultimately lead him to make profound and lasting contributions to psychological science. While still in graduate school (collaborating with fellow graduate student Rich Petty to help create their great model of persuasion), John was presciently envisioning and laying out the potential of social psychophysiology. Who carves out such a radical long-term research program while still in graduate school? John was a pioneer and his memory and contributions will live on.
Iowa State University
In John’s model of evaluative space, approach and avoidance can co-activate simultaneously. I validated this experientially when postdocing with John at OSU. John could intimidate with his knowledge of psychology, physiology, math, engineering, and philosophy. He loved big words (e.g., we did not study “people in friendly places” but “organisms in salubrious environments”; we strived not for “integration” but “consilience”). Used to a more intimate advising style at the University of Michigan, I was overwhelmed by his huge lab, Monday morning meetings, and weekly progress reports, his talk about “research centers” and “strategic initiatives.” Yet behind all this grandeur, I saw a person with a heartfelt passion, genuine vision, and multidisciplinary skills able to elevate psychology to a qualitatively new level. Obviously, John did groundbreaking work on fundamental questions using razzle-dazzle methods. But what stays with me is how mixed he felt about his brainchild — social neuroscience. John was simultaneously excited by its successes and pained by its excesses. He knew how complicated biology is, how naïve it is to look for simple correlates of anything in the body and the brain (see his paper “Just because you’re imaging the brain doesn’t mean you can stop using your head”). He expressed concerns about replicability of splashy social neuroscience findings. In his domain of emotion physiology, he initiated rigorous meta-analyses that debunked widespread beliefs (e.g., physiological emotion specificity). Oh, and there is one more thing: John saved my academic life, throwing me an intellectual vision and financial lifeline when I needed it most.
University of California, San Diego