GENIUS Betsy Levy Paluck ’96
t Princeton University, Room 10, Guyot Hall, Professor Betsy Levy Paluck ’96 lectures to about 75 students about the development of gender identity. Paluck, the mother of a two-year old son, Lev, grounds theory in the field study of parenting. A student poses a question. Paluck responds, “Yes, that is a very interesting question. I’ll tell you what I know, but first, what do you think? Do you have an hypothesis?” The student responds, and Paluck follows, “How might we go about testing that hypothesis? What would we have to do?” Paluck, the recipient of a 2017 McArthur Foundation Genius Grant for her groundbreaking work in the field of social psychology, is very much focused these days upon training a new generation of social psychologists, helping them ask hard questions about human behavior, test their hypotheses, no matter the scope and methodological challenges, and discover answers to apply to develop public policy. She oversees at least 25 researchers in her laboratory – undergraduates, graduates, and postdoctoral candidates. Their projects demonstrate a high degree of cross-pollination among social psychology and all kinds of other disciplines. Paluck calls her researchers and their work “boundary violators.” Repeatedly using the word “creative” to describe both her work and research in general, Paluck says, “One of the fun and exciting things about research is that it pulls groups of people together and pools their strengths. There is a role for everyone, and working together, we strengthen the process and diversify the methodology.” For example, one project currently pairs an MIT software engineer with an undergraduate to build an online platform to allow people to test their ideas and identify behaviors to stop the spread of fake news and harassment.
The magazine for Norwich Free Academy Alumni & Friends - Summer 2018