5 Psychology Experts Connecting With The General Public
Psychology is a fascinating subject that can provide incredible insights into human behavior. While it can be difficult to understand, a number of professionals work to make the discipline more digestible by authoring books and articles, delivering talks, and running their own practices. In no particular order, here are some psychologists educating the public on everything from cognitive processes to the science of living a happy life.
For #1 we have Gordon Pennycook, an assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Regina. Situated at the intersection of cognitive and social psychology, his research focuses on reasoning and decision-making, broadly defined, including the causes and consequences of analytic thinking. Pennycook has published works on such wide-ranging topics as religious belief, sleep paralysis, morality, creativity, and language use among climate change deniers.
More recently, this scholar has become interested in the use of social media data for social science, and has done work on the spread of misinformation and misperceptions relating to COVID-19. He sits on the editorial board for the journal "Thinking & Reasoning," and is a consulting editor for "Judgment and Decision Making." In 2020, Pennycook was elected to be a member of the Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists.
At #2 is Dr. Deborah Serani. Believing that psychotherapy saved her life during a suicidal episode in her youth, this clinician, professor, and award-winning author directs her focus toward helping others who struggle with challenging issues. In practice for over 30 years, she specializes in anxiety, depression, trauma, and postpartum disorders. Dr. Serani has given interviews for such outlets as CNN and USA Today, and has worked as a technical advisor for NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
Books written by Dr. Serani examine the many facets of depression as experienced throughout life, helping children, parents, and seniors better understand the illness. Additionally, the author delivers keynote and other professional speeches at conferences around the world, and appears as a media expert on various TV programs, radio stations, and in print. A senior professor at Adelphi University, she teaches graduate courses in psychopathology, psychodynamic treatment, multiculturalism, and play therapy.
For #3 we get Sonja Lyubomirsky. Distinguished Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, Lyubomirsky studies human happiness. Exploring cognitive and motivational processes, she has investigated why some people are more contented than others, and how such a state of mind can be achieved and sustained. She has also examined the meaning, expression, and pursuit of happiness across cultures, subcultures, and age groups.
On top of her numerous academic papers, Lyubomirsky is the author of "The How of Happiness," a detailed, easy-to-follow guide for increasing bliss in one's day-to-day life. Her follow-up book, "The Myths of Happiness," looks at both major life achievements and potential failures to reveal how our misconceptions about the impacts of such events threaten our long-term well-being. Lyubomirsky has made myriad media appearances, and has been featured in publications ranging from TIME to Bustle.
Landing at #4 is Dan Gardner, a New York Times best-selling author, speaker, consultant, and freelance writer and editor. His books on psychology and decision-making, published in over 20 countries and multiple languages, have been praised by such figures as Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman. Prior to becoming an author, Gardner was a newspaper columnist, feature writer, and TV talking head whose work contributed to significant changes in Canadian public policy.
In his first book, "Risk," Gardner interrogates a post-9/11 culture of irrational fear, and helps readers understand how to deconstruct, and respond more logically to, the information we're bombarded with. He followed this with "Future Babble" and "Superforecasting," both of which draw on cognitive psychology, political science, and behavioral economics to explore the complicated nature of expert predictions. Additionally, Gardner has written many op-eds for The Globe and Mail.
Finally, for #5 we find Todd Kashdan. Since receiving a PhD in clinical psychology in 2004, this academic and public speaker has published over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles on topics such as resilience, anxiety, mindfulness, and gratitude. Dedicated to using science to improve both lives and organizations, he offers keynotes and workshops to clients as diverse as the United States Department of Defense, The Gap, and General Mills, and does scientific advising for National Geographic and Merck.
As an early figure in positive psychology, Kashdan authored the book "Curious?," which synthesizes research for the general public on how to achieve a well-lived life. Later, he released "The Upside of Your Dark Side," a bestseller co-authored by Robert Biswas-Diener that argues emotional and social agility are more important than positivity. Kashdan runs a well-being lab at George Mason University, and has been honored by the American Psychological Association for his early career contributions.