Professor Emeritus Elliot Aronson, Psychology

"The Psychology of Self-Persuasion:  Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts",
October 27, 2011, Music Recital Hall, 7:30pm


Elliot Aronson has been designing and conduction experiments on social influence and persuasion for more than half a century.  If there is one thing he has learned it is this:  Although social influence via direct persuasion (as in debate or advertising) can sometimes be quite effective, the most powerful form of persuasion is SELF-persuasion.  Self-persuasion occurs whenever people behave in a way that conflict with their beliefs or values—creating a need to justify that behavior by modifying their beliefs or values.  In this lecture, Professor Aronson will show how this phenomenon applies in a variety of areas including politics, medicine, the law, sexual behavior, and everyday decision-making.

Elliot Aronson received his B.A. from Brandeis University in 1954 and his Ph.D in Psychology from Stanford in 1959. Chosen by his peers as one of the most eminent psychologists of the twentieth century, Aronson is internationally recognized for his scientific research and his application of that research to social problems, from persuading people to conserve energy to reducing racial conflict in schools. He is the only person in the 120 year history of the American Psychological Association to have received all three of its highest awards—for distinguished writing, distinguished teaching, and distinguished research. In 1982 he was awarded the Gordon Allport Prize for his contribution to interracial harmony.  In 1981, he was named Professor of the Year, by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.. More recently (2007), he received  the William James Award from the Association for Psychological Science for his "lifetime of significant intellectual contributions to the basic science of psychology." He has served as president of the Western Psychological Association, and of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology.

Aronson has written or edited more than 20 books including "The Social Animal;" "The Jigsaw Classroom", "Nobody Left to Hate", "Mistakes Were Made, (But Not By Me" and, this past year, an autobiography, "Not By Chance Alone: My Life as a Social Psychologist."
 Aronson joined the faculty at UCSC in 1974 after having taught at Harvard, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Texas.  Following his retirement in 1994, he accepted a part-time position, at Stanford, as Distinguished Visiting Professor.  He lives near downtown Santa Cruz With Vera, his wife of 57 years, and Desilu, his Guide dog (of less than one year!).