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Robert Zajonc: The Complete Psychologist

Kent c. berridge.

Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, USA

This article joins with others in the same issue to celebrate the career of Robert B. Zajonc who was a broad, as well as deeply talented, psychologist. Beyond his well-known focus in social psychology, the work of Zajonc also involved, at one time or another, forays into nearly every other subfield of psychology. This article focuses specifically on his studies that extended into biopsychology, which deserve special highlighting in order to be recognized alongside his many major achievements in emotion and related social topics. The biopsychological focus is offered here in the hope that all his diverse contributions be savored together when celebrating the complete psychology of Robert Zajonc.

The marvelous psychologist who was Robert B. Zajonc had a gift for crossing intellectual borders. Bob was a complete psychologist, with omnivorous interests, who could go to any area of the discipline in his chase after psychological truths.

Bob Zajonc will always be remembered chiefly as an outstanding social psychologist. That is surely right and just. Still, Bob was never content to be confined to any one intellectual compartment. Before inter-disciplinary study was a common term, Bob was a prototype for an inter-disciplinary psychologist, and in the course of his career he dealt at some time with nearly every subfield in psychology. This breadth of mind, together with his intellectual independence, zest and originality, made for a unique brand of Zajonc scholarship.

Rebalancing the Field the Zajonc Way

Bob once remarked that he had often decided to take up a particular research topic out of a sense of annoyance with what he had previously heard or read about the topic. He was motivated to correct what he saw as mistaken views. His willingness to tackle the consensus often led him to inject an intellectual breath of fresh air that challenged and enriched the field’s understanding of a topic.

There was in my opinion a Zajonc signature that marked quite often just how he would go about doing that. First, he would advance a thesis that leaned against the dominant view, pushing in a new and different direction. His thesis would provoke resistance, which I believe he often relished. Then, combining intellectual audacity and experimental ingenuity, he would amass empirical evidence step by step for his thesis. Surprising demonstrations were forthcoming, and his clever experiments would again and again provide evidence for his side of the argument. Gradually the weight of the data on his side would grow until it became so impressive that no one could ignore or dismiss his view any longer. The consensus was no more.

Bob was a compelling advocate in these cases. He could persuade readers to his viewpoint. And even those who weren’t persuaded were engaged and stimulated, and forced to accommodate his argument. In the end, Bob Zajonc would force colleagues either to accept his thesis, or at least, to acknowledge his view as a much more plausible hypothesis than many would otherwise ever have dreamed possible.

My personal interactions with Bob came from the decade when we overlapped as faculty in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan. As a member of the biopsychology area, I had always felt a certain envy of our fine social psychology area at Michigan chiefly because of their right to claim Bob Zajonc as one of their own. Of course, they had every right to claim him, as Bob was first and foremost a member of that area and affiliated institute. Still, Bob might equally well be classified as an emotion psychologist ( Zajonc, 1980 ), or a cognitive psychologist ( Zajonc & Mullally, 1997 ), or nearly any other type of psychologist, and any of those areas of psychology would have been glad to claim him. He might even—and this is the chief point I would like to advance in this article—be thought of as a biopsychologist. Though to many his stellar contributions to social psychology so much overshadow his biological facets as to make those facets almost invisible, I always thought of him as a biopsychologist too, and still do now.

I want to stress this perhaps overlooked side of Robert Zajonc because it seems crucial to recognize his unique ability to wear so many psychological hats so as to appreciate the true originality and power of Bob’s work. Here I will indulge the inclination to paint this biopsychological aspect of the Zajonc portrait, confident in knowing that Bob’s accomplishments in the domains of social psychology, emotion, cognition and other psychological areas will be well commemorated by other authors in this issue and elsewhere.

Robert Zajonc as Biopsychologist

One half of the thesis that Bob was a biopsychologist is the claim that he was a comparative psychologist. Bob often drew on comparative psychology, and conducted several comparative studies on animals with other colleagues again and again over several decades. Many of those studies are considered in detail by Rajecki in this issue ( Rajecki, 2010 ). The human–animal commonalities included social facilitation and mere exposure and preference effects ( Berridge & Zajonc, 1991 ; Carter, Salive, & Zajonc, 1966 ; Zajonc, 1969 ; Zajonc, Heingart, & Herman, 1969 ; Zajonc, Markus, & Wilson, 1974 ; Zajonc, Reimer, & Hausser, 1973 ; Zajonc, Wilson, & Rajecki, 1975 ).

Bob’s interest in comparative psychological phenomena extended from the 1960s through the 1990s. During the late 1960s he edited a volume on Animal Social Psychology: A Reader of Experimental Studies ( Zajonc, 1969 ). To explain why he created that book, he wrote in prefatory remarks:

A few years ago I was asked by one of my colleagues to write a short text in experimental social psychology. Since I would have found it rather unexciting to deal with material that was widely and very adequately represented in existing textbooks, I decided to give attention to literature which, in my opinion, was relevant for social psychologists, but which as generally missing in standard texts. One such area was animal experimentation on social behavior. (p. v.)

Zajonc went on to explain:

As human beings, we know too much about man—too much to be able to pull out from this tangle the fundamental and elementary threads that form the basis of a systematic theory. Because our personal information about man tends to fuse itself with scientific information, the essentials escape us. We have less personal knowledge about animals, but not less scientific knowledge. (p. 2)

Bob suggested a solution:

There is another strategy which the social psychologist (and psychologists in other areas) will find more promising: for each empirical generalization and for each theoretical formulation, unless we know explicitly otherwise, let us assume that it applies generally to all species… General laws of social behavior are more likely to emerge when research on the social behavior of man is carried out side-by-side with research on the social behavior of other species. (p. 4, italics in original)

Bob also practiced in experiments with colleagues what he preached in his theory. In original studies, they published several research papers using animals between 1965 and 1995. These studies included rats, pigeons, chicks, and even cockroaches, as well as humans ( Berridge & Zajonc, 1991 ; Carter et al., 1966 ; Zajonc, 1969 ; Zajonc et al., 1969 , 1973 , 1974 , 1975 ). The articles concerned topics ranging from social facilitation to the induction of preferences by familiarity and mere exposure, sensory interaction, and thermal controls of affect.

My own introduction to the work of Zajonc was as a graduate student through reading of one of these comparative studies, the one that studied social facilitation in cockroaches ( Zajonc et al., 1969 ). In a first-year proseminar series in social psychology taught by Albert Pepitone at the University of Pennsylvania, this paper was the topic of one week’s discussion. I loved the paper’s audacity and verve. A few years later, after arriving in Ann Arbor, I was delighted to meet Bob in person. That charming paper immediately sprang again to mind when we met.

Who else but Robert Zajonc would have thought to test cockroaches for social facilitation? In Bob’s remarkable study, he showed that cockroaches, tested in the presence of another cockroach, more rapidly ran down a goal runway than if tested by themselves in the absence of others. Without such a powerful demonstration, the claim that social facilitation was a fundamental trait shared with animals extending so far from humans would likely have been met with disbelief by many readers. Armed with such evidence, Zajonc could compel many to assent to his conclusion that the phenomenon “applies generally to all species.”

Robert Zajonc: Physiological Psychologist and Neuroscientist

The second half of my thesis that Bob was a biopsychologist, too, is the claim that he was also a physiological psychologist and a neuroscientist. This was evident especially in the 1980s–1990s when he became interested in exploring an affective neuroscience hypothesis that tied hedonic mood to the temperature of the brain, modulated via venous blood drainage, mediated by changes in hypothalamic function.

His provocative theory of affect based on vasculature control of brain temperature was presented to the world in 1985 in an article published in the widely-read journal, Science ( Zajonc, 1985 ). It was elaborated further a few years later in co-authored review articles in the Annual Review of Psychology ( Adelmann & Zajonc, 1989 ) and in Psychological Review ( Zajonc, Murphy, & Inglehart, 1989 ). These articles helped gain wide attention for the theory, which suggested, among other things, that happy facial expressions promoted a cooler brain, helping via feedback to promote positive affect. Of course, this idea that sensory feedback from emotional reactions influences emotional experiences drew from and facilitated a larger family of related feedback theories of emotion, including William James’s classic visceral feeling theory of emotion, as well as modern theories of affect-cognition interface, “somatic markers” and “embodied emotion” ( Damasio, 1996 ; James, 1884 ; Niedenthal, 2007 ; Niedenthal, Augustinova, & Rychlowska, 2010 ; Zajonc & Markus, 1984 ;).

The hypothesis of Zajonc and colleagues was unique in the role it assigned to blood modulation of brain temperature, and the resulting generation of valenced positive or negative mood. Here it drew on a century-old proposal first published by Israel Waynbaum, who suggested that facial reactions could change the temperature of blood leading to the brain by compressing and relaxing particular cerebral arteries that fed oxygen-rich blood ( Waynbaum, 1907 ). Drawing on modern evidence that facial expressions and muscles were more likely to influence cerebral venous outflow from the brain, rather than arterial inflow, Bob reversed the assignment of affect causation from arteries to veins. His hypothesis argued instead that facial expressions impacted venous blood draining from the brain into sack-like reservoirs called sinuses that surround the brain before flowing down into veins of the body. Blood from the brain drained especially to the facial veins via the cavernous sinus, a pool beneath the brain hypothalamus. The cavernous sinus influences the temperature of the hypothalamus via heat exchange. Bob posited that happy facial expressions drained the brain in a way to cool the hypothalamus and so helped amplify pleasurable feelings. Inversely, he held that negative facial expressions would warm the hypothalamus, producing aversive feelings.

In support of these hypotheses, Bob and colleagues produced a number of clever experimental demonstrations that higher positive affective ratings could be induced manipulating people’s facial expressions appropriately ( Adelmann & Zajonc, 1989 ; McIntosh, Zajonc, Vig, & Emerick, 1997 ; Zajonc, 1985 , 1994 ; Zajonc et al., 1989 ). For example, getting people to pronounce particular vowel sounds predicted to contort their facial musculature in such a way as to create cooler blood and brain patterns remarkably led to more positive subjective ratings assigned to shapes, sounds and other stimuli.

Personally, I benefited from the Zajonc hypothesis of thermal affect in a special way because it was the source of an experimental collaboration between us ( Berridge & Zajonc, 1991 ). Bob suggested over lunch around 1990, shortly after I had received tenure at Michigan, that we cooperate together in an experiment to find out if positive affective reactions could be generated by directly cooling the brain. My laboratory would strive to test his ideas by experimentally cooling the hypothalamus of rats, as he thought positive facial expressions might do in people, and we would look for behavioral indices of positive states such as appetitive motivation or pleasant affect. I jumped at the prospect of a collaboration with Bob because the enterprise seemed sure to be stimulating and fun. And of course it was.

In the end, almost to my surprise, we even found evidence to confirm Bob’s prediction that direct brain cooling could produce a positive psychological process ( Berridge & Zajonc, 1991 ). We implanted painless cooling probes directly into the brain of rats, positioned to cool just the hypothalamus. Cooling a rat’s hypothalamus is a bit tricky because the brain structure is so small. Our probe was a tiny v-shaped loop of hypodermic steel tubing that was thermally insulated except at the exposed bottom tip. Iced water flowed through the tube, cooling the hypothalamic brain tissue that surrounded the loop, and consequently dropping the temperature of the hypothalamus by several degrees. Conversely, heated water flowing through the loop could warm the hypothalamus.

When a rat’s hypothalamus was cooled or warmed, we ran two behavioral tests on incentive motivation and affect: a “wanting” test and a “liking” test, both using food rewards. In the “wanting” test the rat, which had fully recovered from its hypothalamic surgery weeks before, was allowed to eat as much as it wished, and the question was whether brain cooling would increase its inclination to eat. It did! Every once in a while the chilled water flowed through the probe, cooling the hypothalamus for a few minutes. During these periods of cooling, the rat’s behavior changed, and it typically began to eat. Once the cooling stopped, the eating often stopped too. On average, a cooling-responsive rat ate nearly twice as much food when its hypothalamus was cooled than otherwise. That pattern was reminiscent of the effects of electrical stimulation of the same region of lateral hypothalamus, which also produces stimulation-bound eating and other motivated behaviors, as well as serving as a worked-for reward ( Olds & Milner, 1954 ; Valenstein, Cox, & Kakolewski, 1970 ).

The positive motivation consequence of cooling we observed seemed very much in keeping with the Zajonc prediction. A next step was to explore the possibility of sensory pleasure more directly, and to find out if the positive state magnified the hedonic impact of sensory pleasures in the “liking” test. Did brain cooling make the rats “want” to eat food more by making them “like” its taste more?

We approached that question by drawing on a measure of “liking” reaction that my laboratory and others have used to study brain mechanisms of sensory pleasure. This is of affective facial expressions elicited by the hedonic impact of tastes, for example as seen in newborn human infants ( Steiner, 1973 ). Sweet tastes elicit positive facial “liking” expressions (e.g., lip licking) whereas bitter tastes elicit negative facial “disliking” expression (e.g., gapes). Some of these affective expressions developed from the same evolutionary source and are similar in humans, chimpanzees, monkeys and even rats ( Grill & Norgren, 1978 ; Steiner, Glaser, Hawilo, & Berridge, 2001 ). Although rats lack the musculature for brow, nose or cheek expressions, they do make a set of homologous lower-face expressions of the tongue and jaw. In response to a sweet taste, rats lick their lips in “liking” whereas in response to a bitter taste rats make negative “disliking” expressions such as gapes. Many brain manipulations that alter sensory pleasure, such as enhancing pleasure via neurochemical stimulation of limbic hedonic hotspots in nucleus accumbens or ventral pallidum with opioid or cannabinoid signals, cause a selective increase in the positive “liking” reactions to tastes s ( Kringelbach & Berridge, 2009 ; Smith, Mahler, Pecina, & Berridge, 2010 ). We applied this test to rats that received hypothalamic cooling. Would cooling the hypothalamus increase sweetness “liking”? Here the evidence glass turned out to be only half full, as our results showed that brain cooling did not amplify hedonic “liking” for food, despite having made the rats “want” to eat more ( Berridge & Zajonc, 1991 ).

But this was not necessarily a shock, as the same sort of “wanting-without-liking” is all that is produced by several brain manipulations that traditionally were considered to be pleasure prototypes, but turned out to be something not quite, such as stimulation by so-called “pleasure electrodes” or activation of mesolimbic dopamine systems ( Berridge & Valenstein, 1991 ; Kringelbach & Berridge, 2009 ; Olds & Milner, 1954 ; Smith et al., 2010 ). All of those brain events plus hypothalamic cooling may be viewed as causing one-half of reward, namely incentive salience or “wanting”, even if not the other half of hedonic pleasure. Incentive salience may make the world seem brighter and more attractive to the individual, and so at least facilitate positive states in that way. At moderate activation levels, incentive salience may add positive zest to life and perhaps even promote happiness ( Kringelbach & Berridge, 2009 ), though at stronger levels incentive salience may be a mechanism of addiction ( Robinson & Berridge, 2003 ). Altogether, activation of incentive salience seemed close enough to fit the central purpose of Bob Zajonc’s vascular theory of positive emotion, especially given Bob’s other affective thesis that people may have limited conscious or cognitive access to their own emotional processes ( Murphy, Monahan, & Zajonc, 1995 ; Winkielman, 2010 ; Winkielman, Zajonc, & Schwarz, 1997 ; Zajonc, 1980 , 1998 ), which conceivably might even sometimes lead them to confuse their own “wanting” for “liking”.

For me, the collaborative project with Bob was a truly marvelous experience. In large part that was because of the many conversations it afforded during the project and for several years afterwards, usually over lunch. These were always stimulating and pleasant, ranging over many issues in psychology and other topics.

Bob’s experimental interest in thermal modulation of affect continued throughout the 1990s and he continued to publish on the topic of his vascular temperature theory of emotion ( McIntosh et al., 1997 ; Zajonc, 1994 ). One of his last experiments on the topic was described in a collaborative study with McIntosh and colleagues, which reported that negative facial expressions in humans tended to restrict nasal airflow and raise forehead temperature ( McIntosh et al., 1997 ). They found that the physiological reactions resulted in increases in subjective ratings of negative affect, in conformance with the vascular temperature hypothesis.

In larger context, Bob’s work on the thermal hypothesis can be seen as part of his career-long effort to better understand affect. That important work helped distinguish affect as an independent psychological process, together with his work on mere exposure (induction of positive affect via familiarity), the primacy of affect (not needing mediation by elaborate cognition), and unconscious emotional reactions (not requiring conscious perception of an eliciting event). To an appreciable degree, Bob’s efforts helped open up affect for psychological study in an age when hedonic processes were still relatively ignored or reinterpreted in other ways. Those efforts contributed to the resurgence in studies of affect across many areas of psychology and allied disciplines, which I believe has been a very good thing ( Barrett, Mesquita, Ochsner, & Gross, 2007 ; Cacioppo, Berntson, Larsen, Poehlamann, & Ito, 2000 ; Davidson & Sutton, 1995 ; Ellsworth & Scherer, 2003 ; Frijda, 2007 ; LeDoux, 1996 ; Moreland & Topolinski, 2010 ; Niedenthal, Winkielman, Mondillon, & Vermeulen, 2009 ; Russell & Barrett, 1999 ).

The complete psychology of Robert Zajonc can only be fully appreciated by recognizing his interests across several subfields, from social psychology to biopsychology. Of course, in magnitude Bob’s projects in physiological psychology or comparative psychology were small in comparison to his many other contributions to social psychology and to human emotion and cognition. Still, these projects and themes were important to Bob and they stand as important parts of his contributions to psychology.

Throughout his career, Bob was always willing to tackle the most fundamental and important issues in psychology (e.g., the nature of affect and cognition). He was never daunted by obstacles, and had a marvelous gift for finding new and valuable perspectives on enduring questions. Bob’s way of thinking about psychological puzzles was not confined by the boundary lines that separate subfields of psychology. At least, he never saw those boundaries as fences that could keep him out of any topic. Instead he saw borders as mere open doors for him to pass though in search of material to support his mission of the moment.

Robert Zajonc opened up ideas that the rest of psychology had overlooked or never considered. He performed this service to psychology again and again, and as a result repeatedly moved the field forward. His gifts made him a leader in psychology and a delightful companion for talking about nearly any topic. And always with a charm that is greatly missed.

Author note: I am grateful to Donald W. Rajecki for helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.

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  • Smith KS, Mahler SV, Pecina S, Berridge KC. Hedonic hotspots: Generating sensory pleasure in the brain. In: Kringelbach ML, Berridge KC, editors. Pleasures of the brain. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2010. pp. 27–49. [ Google Scholar ]
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robert zajonc books

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Robert Zajonc

Robert Zajonc

  • Publications


Professor Robert Zajonc (pronounced ZYE-unts) died of pancreatic cancer on December 3, 2008, at his home in Palo Alto, California. Social Psychology Network is maintaining this profile for visitors who wish to learn more about Professor Zajonc's work. For more information, please see below:

  • Robert Zajonc, Who Looked at Mind’s Ties to Actions, Is Dead at 85 (New York Times)
  • Robert Zajonc, pioneer of social psychology, dies at 85 (Stanford University)
  • Memories of Robert B. Zajonc (Association for Psychological Science)
  • Robert B. Zajonc (1923-2008) (American Psychologist)
  • Robert Zajonc, professor of psychology, dies (SFGate)
  • Robert Zajonc (University Record Online)
  • In Memory of Robert Zajonc (Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences)

After obtaining his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1955, Robert Zajonc became a professor there until 1994, having held the positions of Director of the Institute for Social Research and Director of the Research Center for Group Dynamics. He then joined the faculty at Stanford University, where he is currently Professor Emeritus of Psychology. Throughout his long and distinguished career, Professor Zajonc has had research interests in basic processes implicated in social behavior, with a special emphasis on the interface between affect and cognition. In a series of well-known studies, he examined circumstances under which affective influences can take place in the absence of cognitive contributions. For this ground-breaking work Professor Zajonc has received a number of honors, including Doctorates Honoris Causa from the University of Louvain, the Society for Experimental Social Psychology Distinguished Scientist Award, and the APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award.

Primary Interests:

  • Attitudes and Beliefs
  • Causal Attribution
  • Emotion, Mood, Affect
  • Neuroscience, Psychophysiology
  • Social Cognition

Note from the Network : This SPN member has certified having all necessary rights, licenses, and authorization to post the files listed below. Visitors are welcome to copy or use any files for noncommercial or journalistic purposes provided they credit the member and cite this page as the source.

Note from the Network : The holder of this profile has certified having all necessary rights, licenses, and authorization to post the files listed below. Visitors are welcome to copy or use any files for noncommercial or journalistic purposes provided they credit the profile holder and cite this page as the source.

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robert zajonc books

  • Izard, C., Kagan, J., & Zajonc, R. (Eds.). (1984). Emotions, cognition, and behavior. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Zajonc, R. B. (2003). The selected works of R. B. Zajonc. New York: Wiley.
  • Zajonc, R. B. (1980). Social psychology: An experimental approach. California: Brooks/Cole.
  • Zajonc, R. B. (1969). Animal social psychology: Reader of experimental studies. New York: Wiley.

Journal Articles:

  • Herrera, N. C, Zajonc, R. B., Wieczorkowska, G., & Cichomski, B. (2003). Beliefs about birth rank and their reflection in reality. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 85(1), 142-150.
  • Kunst-Wilson, W. R., & Zajonc, R. B. (1980). Affective discrimination of stimuli that cannot be recognized. Science, 207(4430), 557-558.
  • McIntosh, D. N., Zajonc, R. B., Vig, P. S., & Emerick, S. W. (1997). Facial movement, breathing, temperature, and affect: Implications of the vascular theory of emotional efference. Cognition & Emotion, 11(2), 171-195.
  • Monahan, J. L., Murphy, S. T., & Zajonc, R. B. (2000). Subliminal mere exposure: Specific, general, and diffuse effects. Psychological Science, 11(6), 462-466.
  • Murphy, S. T, Monahan, J. L., & Zajonc, R. B. (1995). Additivity of nonconscious affect: Combined effects of priming and exposure. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 69(4), 589-602.
  • Murphy, S. T., & Zajonc, R. B. (1993). Affect, cognition, and awareness: Affective priming with optimal and suboptimal stimulus exposures. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 64(5), 723-739.
  • Raven, B. H., Zajonc, R. B., & Kupper, D. A. (2003). Harold B. Gerard (1923-2003). American Psychologist, 58(10), 811.
  • Winkielman, P., Zajonc, R. B, & Schwarz, N. (1997). Subliminal affective priming resists attributional interventions. Cognition & Emotion, 11(4), 433-465.
  • Zajonc, R. B. (2001). Birth order debate resolved? American Psychologist, 56(6-7), 522-523.
  • Zajonc, R. B. (2001). The family dynamics of intellectual development. American Psychologist, 56(6-7), 490-496.
  • Zajonc, R. B. (1993). The confluence model: Differential or difference equation. European Journal of Social Psychology, 23(2), 211-215.
  • Zajonc, R. B. (1989). Styles of explanation in social psychology. European Journal of Social Psychology, 19(5), 345-368.
  • Zajonc, R. B. (1985). Emotion and facial efference: A theory reclaimed. Science, 228(4695), 15-21.
  • Zajonc, R. B. (1980). Feeling and thinking: Preferences need no inferences. American Psychologist, 35(2), 151-175.
  • Zajonc, R. B. (1976). Family configuration and intelligence: Variations in scholastic aptitude scores parallel trends in family size and the spacing of children. Science, 192(4236), 227-236.
  • Zajonc, R. B. (1965). Social facilitation. Science, 149(Whole No. 3681), 269-274.
  • Zajonc, R. B., & Mullally, P. R. (1997). Birth order: Reconciling conflicting effects. American Psychologist, 52(7), 685-699.

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July 18, 2012 (3:42 pm EST)


What is the Robert Zajonc theory? (Social Facilitation)

Robert Zajonc

Robert Zajonc most important contribution to social psychology was the mere exposure effect. He was born in Poland on November 23, 1923. He was the only child of his family. His parents were killed in 1939. He completed his education at an underground University in Warsaw.

He moved to England in 1944. He immigrated to the United States after the end of World War II.

He also achieved a Ph.D. degree from the University of Michigan. He was a professor at the university. He held the position of Director of Research Center of Group Dynamics in 1980.

He was director of the Institute for Social Research in the 1990s. He also became Professor Emeritus of Psychology at University. He married Donna Benson, and his marriage was not successful. There were three sons with Donna. He also spent the rest of his life with his second wife Hazel Rose Makrus. She was a social psychologist at Stanford, which is known for his contribution to Cultural psychology. Zajonc had one daughter with Markus. He had one daughter.

Another contribution of his work was through demonstrating social facilitation. Social facilitation may be the improvement of performance around the presence of others. He provided support for social facilitation through a variety of experiments.

What is the Zajonc theory? The Zajonc theory is the stern Activation theory that Zajonc developed in 1965. This hypothesis was the first theory that addressed both the increase and decrease in the performance of people in the presence of others.

Zajonc Theory of Emotion

Many Psychologists use these the word emotion and mood to refer to two different things. An emotion is a state which describes our feelings. The word mood is used interchangeably for emotion. The emotion can indicate the subjective and affective state, which is relatively intense. Emotions are thought to consciously experienced and intentional; on the other hand, mood states may not be recognized and do not carry the intentionality that is associated with emotion.

Robert Zajonc asserted that many emotions can occur separately from or prior to our cognitive interpretation of them. He believed that people can experience an instantaneous and unexplainable dislike or like for something. Robert Zajonc formulated this theory in 1965. He explained contradictory findings on audience effects and coaction effects. According to theory, an individual can perform the task and effect of an audience. It can increase the individual arousal level, which can increase the emission of dominant responses. When there is a difficult or inadequately learned task, then there will be wrong responses that are likely to predominate and effect can be very important performance. You can see the evaluation of apprehension and social facilitation.

Social Facilitation

The Social facilitation theory helps to understand the reasons for motivation for some tasks. It would be best if you learned more about social facilitation and how it can work for you in different situations.

The idea of Social Facilitation Theory can understand the tendency of people to perform better.

When people are watched when they are doing the same task. This is called Social Facilitation. Social facilitation is the main idea of performing a better and simple task. When your boss asks you to perform any task like cleaning up a common work area. According to the social facilitation theory, there is a need for some extra steps to put everything in place to make any area tidy. If you’re working, then consider people are watching you.

However, if you are doing any task after a few hours, then everyone should go home for the day. So you might not be as attentive to all the details. It can make your task more difficult to see the other side of the social facilitation theory. If you were asked to do a difficult task, such as painting the same common area while people are periodically watching, social facilitation helps you to understand the motivation from a new perspective.

If anyone does not perform well on certain tasks, then we can assume that he is not able to perform a good job in that task and social facilitation can help you to appreciate the motivation for doing the task. It is also influenced by how we can perceive ourselves about certain tasks.

There will be more motivated when you perform any task. The positive feedback is very important. There will be low motivation for more difficult tasks. We may have fear about the mistakes.

Social facilitation can assign tasks that you know will be observed by others. For example, you have been asked by your teacher to give a 10-minute presentation to the class on your paper topic. You may be confident when speaking in front of the group. Therefore, your motivation for this task will be high because you can perform it really easily.

Let’s take another example, a person that is very shy, it would be a good practice for him to learn to speak in front of groups. However, he will have low motivation because he can perceive this task very difficult. He can anticipate the poor performance and negative response from his classmates.

There are other examples of social facilitation in everyday life. You can see the application of social facilitation in running a race, changing a car tire, or tossing a pancake. However, it can play a role in whether you are taking driving tests or stressful tasks.

Although there are three theories for social facilitation. Robert Zajonc proposed the Activation Theory for social facilitation in 1965. He argued that the presence of others causes a level of arousal that can enable people to perform better. His “Generalized Drive Hypothesis” has supported the Yerkes-Dodson law. He found that social facilitation was also experienced by cockroaches. He can run easy mazes faster when they were with co-actors, and even when other cockroaches were watching them.

Research has identified that social facilitation can affect food intake. When people are with family and friends, they increase the time that they spend eating a meal. The hard numbers have observed that men would eat 40% more food when they were with other people than alone.

Social facilitation is a theory that cat sets out to explain the relationship between the performances of tasks in the presence of other people while performing these tasks. Zajonc has found that people tend to perform simple, familiar tasks better.

Social facilitation can be an improvement in individual performance when working with other people rather than alone.

We can get ideas from drive theory of motivation that people are motivated to take some actions for reducing the internal tension caused by unmet needs. This is the best theory that is useful in explaining behaviors. It has a strong biological component, such as hunger or thirst.

However, social facilitation can help us to appreciate that our motivation for doing a task. It can be influenced by how good we perceive ourselves. You will see more motivation when there will be easy work, and there will be low motivation under challenging tasks.

robert zajonc books

Trained in energy psychology and various schools of thought in the area of personal growth, she became passionate about writing down her personal experiences and issues related to self esteem and personal development to help individuals in achieving greater levels of joy and love in their lives.

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A Black Communist’s Disappearance in Stalin’s Russia

By Joshua Yaffa

Lovett Fort Whiteman portrait in red and black

In the spring of 1936, Lovett Fort-Whiteman, an African American man from Dallas, Texas, vanished in Moscow. He had lived in the Soviet Union for nearly a decade, most recently with his wife, Marina, a Russian Jewish chemist, in a cramped apartment around the corner from the Central Telegraph building. By then, a half-dozen African Americans had settled in Moscow permanently. Even among them, Fort-Whiteman, who was forty-six, was a striking sight. He wore knee-high boots, a black leather cap, and a belted long shirt in the style of Bolshevik commissars. Homer Smith, a Black journalist from Minneapolis and Fort-Whiteman’s close friend in Moscow, later wrote, “He had adopted the practice of many Russian Communists of shaving his head, and with his finely chiseled nose set into a V-shaped face he resembled a Buddhist monk.”

Nearly two decades had passed since the Bolshevik Revolution established the world’s first Communist state, a society that promised equality and dignity for workers and peasants. In the Soviet Union, racial prejudice was considered the result of capitalistic exploitation, and, for the Kremlin, countering racism became a question of geopolitical P.R. Throughout the nineteen-twenties and thirties, dozens of Black activists and intellectuals passed through Moscow. Wherever they went, Russians would give up their place in line, or their seat on a train—a practice that an N.A.A.C.P. leader called an “almost embarrassing courtesy.” In 1931, after the so-called Scottsboro Boys—nine Black teen-agers falsely accused of raping two white women in Alabama—were put on trial, the American Communist Party provided pro-bono legal defense, and rallies in their support were held in dozens of cities across the Soviet Union. Two years later, Paul Robeson, the singer, actor, and activist, visited Moscow and remarked, “Here, for the first time in my life, I walk in full human dignity.”

Homer Smith eventually published a memoir, “Black Man in Red Russia,” in which he described Fort-Whiteman as one of the “early Negro pilgrims who journeyed to Moscow to worship at the ‘Kaaba’ of Communism.” Fort-Whiteman, Smith went on, was a “dyed-in-the-wool Communist dogmatist” who once said that returning to Moscow after a trip to the U.S. felt like coming home.

By the mid-thirties, however, the exuberance of Moscow’s expat community had begun to wane. In 1934, Sergei Kirov, a leading Bolshevik functionary, was shot dead in Leningrad. Joseph Stalin, who had spent the previous decade consolidating power, used the event to justify a campaign of purges targeting the Communist élite. Foreigners, once fêted, became objects of suspicion. “The broom had been sweeping steadily,” Smith, who attended the hearings for a number of high-profile defendants, wrote. “Thousands of lesser victims, I knew, simply disappeared or were liquidated without benefit of trial.”

Fort-Whiteman had become a polarizing figure. He could be pedantic and grandiose, with a penchant for name-dropping. “He did his best to proselytize and indoctrinate,” Smith wrote. Increasingly, Fort-Whiteman came to argue that the Communist Party, in order to win more support among African Americans, must acknowledge that racism, as much as social class, fuelled their plight. For Marxist ideologues, this was heresy.

One day, Smith stopped by Fort-Whiteman’s apartment. He knocked a few times, and finally Marina opened the door. “Is Gospodin Fort-Whiteman at home?” Smith asked, using the Russian honorific. Marina was clearly on edge. “No, he isn’t,” she said. “And I beg you never to come here looking for him again!” From his reporting on the purges, Smith could reasonably assume the worst. He later wrote, “I had been living in Russia long enough to understand the implications.”

Like many African Americans in the early twentieth century, Fort-Whiteman’s life was directly shaped by the atrocities of the antebellum South. His father, Moses Whiteman, was born into slavery on a plantation in South Carolina. Shortly after Reconstruction, he moved to Dallas and married a local girl named Elizabeth Fort. They had a son, Lovett, in 1889, and then a daughter, Hazel. When Fort-Whiteman was around sixteen, he enrolled at the Tuskegee Institute, the historically Black university in Alabama, then led by Booker T. Washington. Moses died a few years later, and Elizabeth and Hazel moved to Harlem. Fort-Whiteman eventually came, too, finding work as a bellhop and moonlighting as an actor in a Black theatre troupe.

In his mid-twenties, he went to Mexico, entering without a passport, and headed for the Yucatán. The Mexican Revolution was under way, with upstart anarchist and socialist movements confronting the wealthy landowning class. By the time Fort-Whiteman returned to Harlem, four years later, in 1917, he was a committed Marxist.

In Russia, it was the year of the October Revolution, in which Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks, after the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, seized power and declared a dictatorship of the proletariat. In the U.S., the appeal of Communism for many immigrants and ethnic minorities was obvious: few other political philosophies at the time held out the possibility of full equality. “It can be difficult for many who think of the Soviet Union through the lens of Stalinism or the ‘evil empire’ to recognize all it seemed to offer African Americans,” Glenda Gilmore, the author of the 2008 book “Defying Dixie,” a history of the radical roots of the civil-rights movement, told me. “They weren’t delusional but, rather, thinking quite practically.”

Fort-Whiteman enrolled in a six-month course at the Rand School, a socialist training academy operating out of a converted mansion on East Fifteenth Street. He told a reporter from The Messenger , a Black-owned magazine that covered the politics and literature of the Harlem Renaissance, “Socialism offers the only lasting remedy for the economic ills from which humanity is suffering and which weigh so heavily on the colored race.”

In the years that followed, Fort-Whiteman returned to acting and began publishing theatre criticism and short fiction in The Messenger . His stories were richly imagined and often laced with a brash disregard for the era’s racial mores. In “Wild Flowers,” Clarissa, a Northern white woman with “a slight but well-knit figure,” has an affair with Jean, a Black man from the South “of pleasing countenance, and in the early flush of manhood.”Eventually, Clarissa gets pregnant, and she tries to hide the affair by accusing her husband of harboring Black ancestry.

As soldiers returned from the First World War, increased competition for jobs and housing contributed to rising racial tensions in the United States. During the summer of 1919, some twenty-six race riots broke out across the country. In Chicago, a Black teen-age boy who drifted on a raft into a whites-only area of Lake Michigan was attacked with rocks and left to drown by a crowd of white bathers. In the violent aftermath, hundreds of Black businesses and homes on the South Side were destroyed, and nearly forty people were killed.

Fort-Whiteman set off on a speaking tour, in the hope that this nationwide spasm of racist violence, known as the Red Summer, would open up African Americans to his radical message. A labor organizer from Illinois compared him to “a man carrying a flaunting torch through dry grass.” Fort-Whiteman was detained in Youngstown, Ohio, after trying to convince Black laborers to join striking steelworkers. He drew a meagre audience in St. Louis, where the police arrested him, boasting to the local papers that they had busted the “St. Louis Soviet.”

Fort-Whiteman eventually caught the attention of the Bureau of Investigation, soon to become the F.B.I. In February of 1924, an agent named Earl Titus, one of the first African Americans to work at the Bureau, saw Fort-Whiteman speak in Chicago. As Titus wrote in his report, Fort-Whiteman told the crowd that “there is nothing here for the negro, and that until they have a revolution in this country as they have had in other countries, the negro will be the same.” Fort-Whiteman added that he “would like very much to go to Russia.”

Two crows in a field judge two scarecrows dressed as tourists.

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Four months later, at the age of thirty-four, he got his chance: he was selected as a delegate to the Fifth World Congress, the preëminent gathering of the Communist International, to be held that summer in Moscow.

On arrival, Fort-Whiteman and other delegates to the Comintern, as the Communist International was known, were taken to Lenin’s mausoleum, on Red Square. The father of the Revolution had died six months earlier, and his body lay in perpetual state, attracting pilgrims from all over the world. Stalin had been named the head of the Party, but he had not yet solidified power. Bolshevik politics were in a liminal phase, marked by a boisterous debate over the future of Communism. Everything seemed up for grabs, including the Comintern’s policy toward recruiting and organizing African Americans.

During a session devoted to the “national and colonial question,” Fort-Whiteman was given the floor. Stalin was in the audience, along with foreign delegates such as Palmiro Togliatti, a leader of the Italian Communist Party, and Ho Chi Minh, then a young Vietnamese socialist, who had travelled to Moscow on a fake Chinese passport. Fort-Whiteman began by explaining the Great Migration: Blacks were moving north, he said, not only in search of economic opportunity but also as an “expression of the growing revolt of the Negroes against the persecutions and discriminations practiced against them in the South.”

Fort-Whiteman suggested that issues of race and class, in varying and overlapping ways, were responsible for the oppression of African Americans. “The Negroes are not discriminated against as a class but as a race,” he said, seeming to acknowledge that this was a controversial statement. For Communists, he continued, “the Negro problem is a peculiar psychological problem.”

Much of the congress was leisurely. Delegates went boating on the Moscow River and attended a classical-music concert held along the shore. At the end of the three-week event, Fort-Whiteman decided to remain in Moscow. He was invited to enroll as the first African American student at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East (K.U.T.V.). White Americans attended the International Lenin School, Moscow’s premier academy for foreigners. But, because Soviet policy deemed African Americans a “colonized” people, they were to study at K.U.T.V., alongside students from China, India, Indonesia, and elsewhere. (Ho Chi Minh was a student there; so, too, was Deng Xiaoping, the future Chinese leader.) Students spent ninety minutes a day on Russian lessons, and the rest of their time reading Communist texts.

That summer, Fort-Whiteman embarked on a tour of the Soviet Union. Gilmore, in her book, recounts that a Cossack division in Ukraine made him an honorary member; in Soviet Turkestan, residents voted to rename their town Whitemansky. The archives of W. E. B. Du Bois contain a letter from Fort-Whiteman, written “from a village deep in the heart of Russia,” in which he describes how the many nationalities of the Soviet Union “live as one large family, look upon one another simply as human beings.” He tells Du Bois of evenings spent with his K.U.T.V. classmates, staging open-air theatrical performances in the forest: “Here life is poetry itself!”

Back in Moscow, Fort-Whiteman settled into his room at the Hotel Lux, where he wrote a number of letters to top Communist officials. I read them in the Comintern archive, held in the building that once housed the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute—a five-story edifice in what is now a posh stretch of central Moscow, across from a Prada boutique. Fort-Whiteman asked Grigory Zinoviev, a powerful Bolshevik and the head of the Comintern, about the possibility of enlisting “the discontented elements of the Negro race in America into the revolutionary movement.” He noted that, though African Americans were the most oppressed group in the United States, American Communist organizations had done little to reach out to them. Even if most Black workers had not read Marx, they had been pushed toward radicalism by the crucible of American racism. The Party, he wrote, must “carry Communist teaching to the great mass of American black workers.”

Fort-Whiteman soon returned to Chicago, where he established the American Negro Labor Congress (A.N.L.C.), a forum for Communists to make their pitch to Black workers. Not long after he arrived, he ran into Oliver Golden, a friend from his student days at the Tuskegee Institute. Golden, who was in his late thirties, worked as a railway porter. Fort-Whiteman was walking down the street in a Russian blouse and boots. Golden later recalled, “I asked him what the hell he was wearing. Had he come off stage and forgotten to change clothes?” Fort-Whiteman said that he had just returned from Russia, and asked if Golden wanted to study in Moscow. Golden remembered, “At first I thought he was kidding, but, man, I would have done anything to get off those dining cars!” A couple of weeks later, Golden was on a boat headed across the Atlantic.

That year, Fort-Whiteman dispatched ten Black students to study at K.U.T.V. “Feel assured that the university will be satisfied with the group of young men and women I am sending,” he wrote to K.U.T.V.’s director. The New York Herald Tribune reported that Fort-Whiteman hoped for his recruits to “do some real upheaving when they come home,” and that he planned to open a K.U.T.V. branch in Harlem with courses such as “Economics of Imperialism” and “History of Communism.” The journalist, clearly alarmed, wrote, “The flame of Bolshevism, kindled by Lenin and threatening at one time to set all Europe ablaze, is being quietly concentrated upon the United States through the instrument of the American Negro.”

Harry Haywood, a child of enslaved parents, who had served in a Black regiment in the First World War, helped Fort-Whiteman organize the American Negro Labor Congress. (His older brother Otto was among the men whom Fort-Whiteman convinced to study at K.U.T.V.) Haywood, in his memoir, “Black Bolshevik,” published in 1978, wrote, of Fort-Whiteman, “There was no doubt that he was a showman. He always seemed to be acting out a part he had chosen for himself.”

On the evening of October 25, 1925, five hundred people assembled in a rented hall on Indiana Avenue, in Chicago, for the A.N.L.C.’s founding convention. The program, which Fort-Whiteman had arranged, quickly went awry. A member of a “Russian ballet” company—actually made up of white American dancers—shocked by all the Black faces in the audience, shouted a racial slur. Someone yelled back, “Throw the cracker bitches out!” The company refused to go on. A Soviet theatre troupe performed a one-act Pushkin play, in Russian. “Of itself, it was undoubtedly interesting,” Haywood noted. “But its relevance to a black workers congress was, to say the least, quite unclear.”

After the convention, Fort-Whiteman mounted a barnstorming tour of industrial cities, inviting press attention wherever he went. In Baltimore, the local African American newspaper wrote, approvingly, “If this is red propaganda, then for God’s sake let all our leaders supply themselves with a pot and a brush and give 12,000,000 colored people in this country a generous coating.” The white press reacted with predictable hysteria. In 1925, an article in Time referred to Fort-Whiteman as the “Reddest of the Blacks.”

Fort-Whiteman never ventured farther south, where the vast majority of African Americans lived. The A.N.L.C.’s recruitment efforts floundered. A Communist Party directive in the Comintern archive notes the failure of Fort-Whiteman’s mission, informing Party members that “all shortcomings in tactics and organization must be frankly brought to light.” One high-ranking Black official in the Workers Party of America declared that the organization ended up “almost completely isolated from the basic masses of the Negro people.”

Fort-Whiteman was removed as head of the A.N.L.C. in 1927. It appeared that his great ambition had failed: he hadn’t convinced many African Americans that socialist revolution was a means for combatting racism, nor had he convinced his Communist brethren in Moscow that African Americans were oppressed based on their race. But Fort-Whiteman wouldn’t let the matter drop.

In an article in the Comintern’s official organ, he wrote that “race hatred on the part of the white masses extends to all classes of the negro race.” This debate about the roles of race and class in the perpetuation of inequality continues among leftist activists and thinkers today. “It was clear then, as it is now, that, in America, race classes you,” Gilmore told me. “Fort-Whiteman and others were talking about which should be fixed first.” If race is a social construct, then an egalitarian revolution could be seen as a means for achieving racial equality, too. But, Gilmore added, Fort-Whiteman had a different notion: “Even as a devoted Communist, he understood that, in America, it always came down to the fact that he was a Black man.”

In the Comintern archive, I read an “editorial note” that Fort-Whiteman’s comrades later attached to his essay, calling his position “very superficial.” Fort-Whiteman, they warned, was “shifting from the Communist to the petty bourgeois nationalist point of view.”

At the Sixth Congress of the Comintern, in the summer of 1928, there was a major debate about how best to agitate for Communist revolution among African Americans. Some people within the Party pushed for recruiting sharecroppers and rural laborers in the South. Fort-Whiteman, who had returned to Moscow as a delegate, argued that it was better to wait out the Great Migration, organizing Black workers once they became urban proletariat in the factories of the North. His position aligned with that of Nikolai Bukharin, the editor of Pravda , who saw capitalism as ascendant; worldwide revolution, Bukharin argued, would have to be deferred. Stalin, of course, disagreed.

But, even as Fort-Whiteman found himself in opposition to the Communist mainstream on the “Negro question,” as Comintern ideologues called it, he was thriving in the Soviet Union. He studied ethnology at Moscow State University and spent a summer in Murmansk, in the Arctic Circle, researching the effects of hydrogen concentration in water on fish metabolism. The Moscow Daily News , an English-language paper, hired him as a contributor. His clips reflect an omnivorous mind, on subjects ranging from early radiation therapies (“The result of this experiment was a 70 per cent cure of cancerous mice”) to the fauna of western Siberia (“The expedition reports the presence of an abundance of elk”). In an interview that Smith conducted for the Chicago Defender , a Black-owned paper, Fort-Whiteman described the Soviet Union as a place where “the Negro is untrammeled by artificial racial restrictions to make a genuine contribution to human culture.”

Along the way, he married Marina, a chemist in her late twenties, although, as Smith recalls, Fort-Whiteman’s Russian was still rudimentary, and Marina’s English wasn’t much better. Soviet authorities opened an Anglo-American school in Moscow, to educate the children of foreign workers; Fort-Whiteman took a job there, as a science teacher. Yevgeny Dolmatovsky, a celebrated poet, wrote a verse about a visit to Fort-Whiteman’s classroom: “The black teacher Whiteman / Leads the lesson. / From in my heart I draw my words / From the deepest reaches within / I see again, and again, and again / You, my Black comrade!”

Fort-Whiteman was eager to mentor the other African Americans living in Moscow. He regularly hosted lunches at his apartment, where he expounded on Marxist theory and boasted about his connections to top Bolsheviks, such as Bukharin and Karl Radek, an Austrian-born Jewish Communist and a former secretary of the Comintern. He also implored his visitors to remain acutely aware of their race. This emphasis on color consciousness, which ran counter not only to reigning Communist theory but also to the everyday experience of being Black in Moscow, was often met with resistance. One of Fort-Whiteman’s guests suggested that, if he enjoyed “going around with a black chip on his shoulder,” he should return to the American South. Smith later wrote, “His Negro guests relished the food and drinks, but the indoctrination dish did not prove as digestible.”

In 1931, a production company financed by the Comintern backed a big-budget movie, “Black and White,” about the American race problem. The film was set in Birmingham, Alabama, and featured Black stokers in steel mills and domestic workers in affluent white households. Fort-Whiteman was enlisted as a screenwriting consultant. A number of aspiring Black actors in the U.S. expressed interest in taking part. Langston Hughes joined on as a writer.

In the early-morning hours of June 14, 1932, twenty-two Black students, teachers, actors, and writers set off from New York, travelling to Germany on the ocean liner Europa, and then by train to Moscow. Fort-Whiteman met them on the platform with a welcome party that included most of the city’s small African American community. As Hughes later recalled, invoking a popular spiritual, “Certainly colored comrade Whiteman didn’t look anything like a motherless chile, a long ways from home .”

The Americans spent the next few weeks dancing at the Metropol Hotel, cavorting with nude bathers along the riverfront, and embarking on love affairs. A member of the company was soon engaged to a Russian woman; Mildred Jones, an art student at the Hampton Institute, in Virginia, was pursued by an official from the Soviet Foreign Ministry. According to Smith, one couple were so engrossed in their rendezvous on a rowboat in the Moscow River that they failed to notice the boat was sinking.

Fort-Whiteman had helped write the first draft of the “Black and White” script. I found a copy at the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art, where a typewritten note from the esteemed Soviet filmmaker Boris Barnet was attached to the first page. “This picture tries to provide a historical perspective to the narrative of the enslavement of American Negroes, which is part of the general enslavement and exploitation of the capitalist system,” Barnet wrote. “Even if individual events in this picture may seem grotesque or almost incredible, the fault lies not with the author but with the viewer himself, who deliberately closes his eyes to the cruelty of the capitalist system.”

Hughes, put in charge of revising the script, found the draft “improbable to the point of ludicrousness.” He recalled, “I was astonished at what I read. Then I laughed until I cried.” A number of the film’s scenes, including one in which the son of a rich white industrialist asks a Black servant to dance at a party, were “so interwoven with major and minor impossibilities and improbabilities that it would have seemed like a burlesque on the screen.” At one point, a well-heeled capitalist hatches a plot to keep labor unrest at bay, saying, “You see, racial hatred allows us to avoid more serious conflicts.” The workers, however, aren’t having it: “The proletariat does not see racial differences,” one of the union leaders proclaims.

“Black and White” was a dream world of Fort-Whiteman’s making. As Smith put it, “He was a negro intellectual and so steeped in party dogma that he had completely lost touch with America.” Hughes told his Soviet hosts that the script was beyond saving.

In the end, the project fell apart for reasons that had nothing to do with Hughes or Fort-Whiteman. In the autumn of 1933, after years of negotiations, the United States agreed to grant formal diplomatic recognition to the Soviet regime. The agreement, Stalin hoped, would help secure the loans and the foreign machinery needed to realize his Five-Year Plan, an ambitious race to build up industry and modern infrastructure. But in return the Kremlin was required to limit its dissemination of anti-American propaganda. “Black and White” was cancelled before a single scene had been shot.

A person on a boat with a basket of laundry is about to enter the Tunnel of Laundry.

By the mid-thirties, Stalin had squelched internal debates about the pace and the objectives of the Communist project. His secret police, the N.K.V.D., was sending previously loyal Party members to an expanding network of work camps, the Gulag, in the harshest corners of the country. Smith began to sour on the Soviet Union, wondering, “Was the racial equality worth the bare subsistence living in an atmosphere filled with fear and suspicion?”

Even Fort-Whiteman was having doubts. He confided to Smith that he feared Stalin was leading the country away from the original tenets of the Revolution. In October, 1933, he sent a letter to the Workers Party head office, in New York. “I wish to return to America,” he wrote, proposing that he work as a lecturer at the Party school on East Fourteenth Street. Soviet authorities monitored the correspondence of foreigners in Moscow, and the letter was intercepted before it left the country. I found it in Fort-Whiteman’s file at the Comintern archive. A handwritten note from a top official at the Comintern’s Anglo-American secretariat, scribbled across the page, instructed subordinates to bring Fort-Whiteman in for a talk. His request to leave was denied.

Letters documenting Fort-Whiteman’s activities began piling up in his personnel file. His informal apartment gatherings were a cause of concern: “Fort-Whiteman held the most backward view that a group of this kind should not exist as a political entity nor within existing structures.” Indoctrination was the exclusive role of the Party, and Fort-Whiteman was going off script.

During the purges, ideological disagreements and skirmishes over bureaucratic positioning often blended with petty personal grievances. In April, 1935, at the Foreign Workers’ Club, Fort-Whiteman led a discussion about “The Ways of White Folks,” a new collection of fiction by Hughes, which depicts the immutability of racism with tragicomic irony. Fort-Whiteman, perhaps still stung by his experience on “Black and White,” was not a fan of the work, dismissing it as “art, not propaganda.”

William Patterson, a prominent Black Communist and a leading civil-rights lawyer, who had travelled to Moscow from Harlem some months before, was in the audience that night. He seemed to harbor ill feelings toward Fort-Whiteman, and moved to strike against him under the pretext of defending Hughes. In a letter to the Comintern, Patterson wrote that Fort-Whiteman had used his review of the book as cover for making “a very open attack upon the Comintern position on the Negro Question,” adding that Fort-Whiteman should be “sent to work somewhere where contact with the Negro comrades is impossible.”

That summer, at the Seventh Congress of the Comintern, a few American delegates met to discuss what to do about Fort-Whiteman’s efforts to “mislead some of the Negro comrades.” It was agreed that Patterson and James Ford, a Black Communist who had run for Vice-President of the United States on the Party’s slate, would take charge of the question. During the next several months, Patterson filed a flurry of letters with the Comintern. In an elegant cursive, he alleged that Fort-Whiteman had a “rotten” attitude toward the Party and was preoccupied with “the corruption of the Negro elements.”

Once a person was identified as unreliable, the pile-on was inevitable; the only danger was to be seen as inadequately vigilant in calling out class enemies. A kindly archivist passed me a summary of the “secret” portion of Fort-Whiteman’s personnel file, still technically off limits nearly a hundred years after its compilation. According to the accounts of unnamed informants, Fort-Whiteman had been overheard saying that the work of the Comintern had amounted to “empty talk,” that Stalin was a “minor” figure in the Bolshevik Revolution, and that Communists held their “white interests dearer and closer” than those of Blacks. Fort-Whiteman, one source claimed, considered himself a natural “leader of the people” who would return to the U.S. and create a movement among African Americans outside Soviet influence.

Reading the list of Fort-Whiteman’s supposed transgressions, I pictured him strolling through Moscow in those days, projecting an air of headstrong industriousness. He was still working on manuscripts and speeches, teaching, travelling, and attending the theatre—generally enjoying the kind of spirited intellectual and social life that would have been impossible in the land of his birth. In the spring of 1936, when he was ordered to report to N.K.V.D. headquarters, on Lubyanka Square, how could he have foreseen the cruelty that his adopted country was about to inflict on him? By the time Homer Smith knocked on Fort-Whiteman’s door, a few days later, he was in exile.

After the Soviet collapse, many archives in Russia were suddenly accessible. Alan Cullison, who worked as an A.P. reporter in Moscow during the nineties, spent much of his free time researching the fates of Americans in the Soviet Union. In the Communist Party archive, he found a partial record showing that Fort-Whiteman had been banished to Semipalatinsk, a distant outpost in the eastern reaches of Soviet Kazakhstan. It was a hard, unforgiving place, but Fort-Whiteman made a life for himself. He found work as a language teacher and a boxing instructor, attracting a circle of curious locals to his sports club.

Back in Moscow, the purges had taken on a fearful momentum. Radek, the former Comintern secretary, who had mentored Fort-Whiteman, was declared a traitor and sent to a labor camp. Bukharin was executed after providing a false confession at a show trial. On November 16, 1937, a squad of N.K.V.D. agents showed up at Fort-Whiteman’s apartment in Semipalatinsk. Fort-Whiteman’s investigative file at the agency’s Kazakh bureau was unearthed by Sean Guillory, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh who is working on an audio documentary about African Americans in the early Soviet Union. The file includes the testimony of a young man, whom Fort-Whiteman tried to recruit as a boxing pupil, reporting that Fort-Whiteman had recommended foreign literature and said, “Come join my club, we’ll earn a lot of money, travel across the Soviet Union and go abroad.”

For the next eight months, Fort-Whiteman was held in a prison cell in Semipalatinsk, while a “special council” of the N.K.V.D. was assembled to decide his fate. The Kazakh prosecutor’s office sent me a copy of his case. It showed that, in August, 1938, he was found guilty of crimes including anti-Soviet agitation, slandering the Party, and “cultivating exiles around himself while instilling a counter-revolutionary spirit.” He was sentenced to five years in a correctional labor camp.

His destination was Kolyma, a region in the Russian Far East which Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn described as a “pole of cold and cruelty.” Fort-Whiteman was assigned to a network of forced-labor sites known as Sevvostlag, where convicts mined for gold and laid new stretches of road on the frozen tundra. The prisoners were outfitted with crude boots and thinly padded jackets—little defense against temperatures that regularly dipped to fifty degrees below zero.

Within a few months, Fort-Whiteman fell behind on his work quota, and his daily food rations were withheld. Camp guards beat him brutally and often. A man of so much vitality, even glamour, was reduced to a dokhodyaga , camp slang that roughly translates as “a person nearing the end of his walk.”

None of his Moscow friends had any idea what had happened to him. Among them was Robert Robinson, an African American toolmaker from Detroit who had been recruited to work in Russia by Soviet emissaries who were visiting the Ford Motor plant. Robinson ultimately stayed in the Soviet Union for more than four decades. In a memoir, he described an encounter with a friend in Moscow who had been a prisoner in Kolyma with Fort-Whiteman. “He died of starvation, or malnutrition, a broken man whose teeth had been knocked out,” the friend said.

The final document in Fort-Whiteman’s long record is his death certificate, a faded sheet of paper held in a distant archive in Kazakhstan. Just after midnight on January 13, 1939, Fort-Whiteman’s frozen corpse was delivered to the hospital in Ust-Taezhny, a settlement carved out of fields of snow. The official cause of death was “weakening of cardiac activity.” Fort-Whiteman is the only African American recorded to have died in the Gulag, but in his final moments that distinction made little difference. He was buried in a mass grave with thousands of fellow-inmates who met the same fate. ♦

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Supernova (Renegades #3)


Memories of Robert B. Zajonc

  • Remembrance
  • Social Psychology

robert zajonc books

Robert Zajonc was a consummate scientist, scholar and social science researcher. His was a remarkable life, a life led during a renaissance period of social psychology and he had much to do with its development and flourishing over the latter half of the 20th century. Exposed to all forms of personal suffering during his youth and young adulthood, Bob found his way to America and Ann Arbor after spending much of his formative period in his beloved Poland and France during WWII. These experiences would form the crucible for his professional and personal experiences for the remainder of his life. The facts of his scientific and professional contribution are easily documented — seven distinct scientific lines of inquiry; hundreds of scientific papers, each a seminal contribution; dozens of doctoral students, honorary degrees, scientific awards and medals — the list endless and richly deserved. Robert was also a builder. He served as head of the newly developed social psychology program in psychology at Michigan in the 1970s, Director of the Research Center for Group Dynamics in the 1980s, and Director of the Institute for Social Research in the 1990s. All received Robert’s unique imprint for rigor, quality, and innovation. Bob also played a seminal role in the development of social psychology in Europe, leading to the establishment of the Institute for Social Science Research in Warsaw. Bob was also a father, husband, friend, colleague, and mentor. As chronicled in these remembrances from his first doctoral student, Eugene Burnstein, to Piotr Winkielman, his last student at the University of Michigan, Bob passed along his remarkable scientific judgment and insights that will stand the test of history. But there are others in this list between these two bookend students, distinguished scientists all, Richard Nisbett, Susan Fiske, Mahzarin Banaji, Paula Niedenthal, John Bargh and Richard Moreland who were graduate students, colleagues, co-authors, and deep and abiding friends over the decades.

Bob’s scientific career was remarkable in how he did science (“Zajonc rhymes with science,” as he humorously told me when we met in 1971). With a keen eye for fundamental causes, Bob sought out the nature of basic mechanisms in human thought and communication. He bore scientific anomalies poorly and was easily irritated by the lack of logical (or psycho-logical) fit among empirical findings. It was this capacity for irritation, known well by his students and colleagues, which drove him to conduct programmatic, novel lines of theoretically driven research, to root out the source of the anomalies, and uncover potential basic mechanisms that might drive some set of molar, observable social behaviors. Although a social psychologist at the core (since he helped define just what that is), Bob’s work traversed developmental sciences, cognitive sciences, sociology, and biology. The work of Bob Zajonc was one of reasons I entered social psychology, and the main reason why I decided to take my first (and only, as the tale is told) academic position at Michigan. It was the precision, harmony, and elegance of Bobs’ theorizing and empirical research which made him stand out from all others. What I later learned was that it was also his humanity, kindness, ethics, and “joie de vivre” that made him a very special person indeed. I felt fortunate to work as a colleague, to later chair the same social psychology program, direct the same Research Center for Group Dynamics, and more recently to serve as the director of the same Institute for Social Research. Bob laid down a deep and broad intellectual, personal, and scientific footprint. For those who followed in those footprints, we never had a thought about filling them, but instead they provided a guide to what one might aspire to achieve as a social psychologist. That I have not filled his footsteps is not a source of angst, because without those huge Bob Zajonc footprints I would perhaps not have achieved what I have accomplished. I will miss Bob Zajonc as a scholar, mentor, debater, friend, colleague, and Zen master. He was a wonderful intellectual beacon and humane touchstone over these nearly four decades. What a ride!

James S. Jackson University of Michigan

From Mentor to Dear Friend

We all know about Bob as a scientist — that in his astonishingly diverse research career he not only solved some long standing social psychological puzzles such as why the presence of others enhanced individual performance on easy tasks and degraded performance on difficult ones or how birth-order and family size influences intellectual development. But he also made discoveries that opened whole new areas having to do, for example, with the effects of mere exposure and the link between facial efference, blood temperature, and affect.

He was my graduate mentor and dissertation chair — I was his first doctoral student — and later my colleague and good friend. Bob, the mentor (and even as a colleague) had the aura of a Zen master who just happened to be born an only child in Lodz, Poland to parents who were killed in Warsaw during World War II when Bob was 16. In short, he was kind, wise, all-knowing (not only about things psychological but also about food, wine, literature, architecture, carpentry, and Europe and its languages; my children while in some awe couldn’t resist calling him “… the world’s leading expert …”), patient, poised, self-possessed and generous. His generosity went much beyond things intellectual and scholarly. How many distinguished professors would spend hours in a dark dank basement building equipment for a manually challenged doctoral student who did little or nothing but watch and make free with comments about the useful skills his chairman inherited from his Polish peasant ancestors (his family was actually upper-middle class)? Working with him was great fun as well as an intellectual feast, typically occasions full of wit, one-up repartee, elegant (if fantastic) models, “no-one-has-thought-of-this” hypotheses, brilliantly economical (if impractical) experimental designs and “major breakthrough” data.

Those fortunate enough to work with Bob found it among the most exhilarating, gratifying and merry experiences in their career as psychologists. And although I remain disappointed that he chose to desert the austere pines of Michigan for the lush palms of Stanford, I have and will continue to miss him dearly.

Eugene Burnstein University of Michigan

Affection Knows No Inferences

Bob was a towering figure in social psychology and I was fortunate enough to have him as my advisor during graduate school at Michigan. The project I helped him with as a research assistant was the birth order and intellectual development model, and I wrote some of the computer simulation programs to generate and fit model predictions to large national data sets from around the world. Still, it was apparent that Bob’s mind was already moving out of that research issue into one much more interesting and exciting to me as well — the “preferences need no inferences,” or affect-without-cognition idea. I remember the time Bob called me into his office in my first year, held up postcard-size reproductions of two different abstract art paintings, and asked me which one I preferred. Like most others I very quickly pointed to the one I liked best. Then came the telling question from Bob: “Why that one?” As I hemmed and hawed about color and composition, Bob smiled and said “See, you knew your choice before you knew any reasons for it” and the hook was set. I’ve been trying to understand those immediate unconscious processes ever since.

When we held a Festschrift for Bob in Ann Arbor in 1998, it was an opportunity to re-read his many major papers over the years, and a major theme underlying his research interests became clear to me (finally, because I’m a slow learner). Bob was all about finding the simple basic effect that produces seeming complexity — very much in the spirit of chaos theory. The mere presence of others is arousing by itself and can produce improvements or decrements in one’s performance, and conscious worries about how those others might evaluate us are not necessary for the effect; mere exposure to a novel attitude object increases our liking for it, even if we are not aware and can’t recognize that object! Again, this approach greatly influenced me whether I was aware of it before 1998 or not. Even his approach to birth-order and intelligence influenced me, as Bob’s model emphasized the importance of the early family environment, and that is where the nascent research area of “developmental social cognition” is now heading in a big way.

Mark Baldwin’s insight in the 1980s that Bob was watching his past and current graduate students from the back of their minds was right on target. For me (and I doubt I’m alone), it was a tough and uncompromising standard, a constant feeling that your work was not good enough yet, and that it needed deeper thought, better data, and greater scholarship. Upon first learning of Bob’s passing, the world suddenly felt very strange; I’d never been in a world without Bob in it. But as the weeks have gone by, I have on more than one occasion noticed his presence, still there in the back of my mind.

John Bargh Yale University

To Animal or Not To Animal

Bob Zajonc was my graduate advisor at the University of Michigan from 1973 to 1978. When I first met him, he was doing research with chicks. To my dismay, he told me he hoped to continue that work with my help. One of Bob’s many interests was the social behavior of animals — Bob felt that if a human behavioral phenomenon could be shown to occur in lower animals as well, then that might rule out some explanations (e.g., explanations involving complex cognitive processes) for the human behavior. What to do? Could I tell my new advisor that I did not want to do animal research? I came back the next day and did a courageous thing (by my standards). I told Bob that I wanted to study humans, not animals. Rather than insisting, Bob graciously described several ways in which I might contribute to his other research, especially research on mere exposure effects. As a graduate advisor myself, I have often faced the same issue, but from the other side. I remember what Bob did and I try to be as gracious as he was.

Not long afterward, I was in Bob’s office again, this time to design an experiment on mere exposure effects. I expected Bob to simply tell me what to do. Instead, Bob asked me what the purpose of our research was. What theoretical issue were we trying to resolve? We discussed this until that issue was identified. Bob then left to me the intimidating task of actually designing the experiment. I brought him designs to look over, and he commented on them, but it was clear that he viewed the project as mine. Once again, I learned from this experience a lesson that I try to apply now — students learn more by doing their own work, and perhaps making mistakes as a result, than if they are simply told what to do at every step along the way.

Another experience that had a strong impact on me occurred when Bob and I completed a project that produced what we viewed as important results. As we began to write a paper about the project, I was excited when Bob said that we should submit the paper to one of the major journals. I agreed, of course, and said that those were clearly good choices because they were among the most prestigious journals in the field (I was eager for fame and fortune). Bob then gave me a funny look. No, he said, those journals are the best choices because they have the most readers, and when you discover something that you think is important about human behavior, you want to communicate your discovery as broadly as possible, so that everyone can benefit from it. This experience taught me that science should always come first, not one’s career.

Finally, I saw Bob work on several different areas of research while I was at Michigan, and I learned many things as a result. Over and over, for example, I watched Bob take what seemed like a fairly simple idea, and then “push” it just as hard as he could — exploring every possible implication and application of that idea, and resisting the temptation to complicate it by adding layers of mediators and moderators. I also saw how Bob reacted to criticisms of his ideas. Bob was not afraid to become involved in debates of this sort. In fact, he welcomed it, and though Bob always treated his critics with respect, he also fought hard for what he believed.

I haven’t said much about the softer side of Bob. He was very kind to me. My wife and I ate many meals at Bob’s house, and more than once he invited us to spend the weekend “up north” at his summer home. And there was the joy of belonging to the raucous “tribe” of graduate students that Bob trained. All of that was long ago, of course, but some of it lives on in me and the others. I like to think we have retained some of Bob’s best qualities in ourselves. I hope so, anyway. I could not then, and probably never will be the kind of scientist that Bob was, but I can certainly try. As we all should.

Richard Moreland University of Pittsburgh

A Mind Without Coordinates

Bob was brilliant, of course, but in a way I’ve never seen in anyone else and never managed to understand despite knowing him for 37 years. He constantly surprised me with his reactions to things and with the ideas he would come up with over lunch or in PhD orals. Speaking of which, he did manage sometimes to terrorize students with his odd connections: he might ask apropos of a dissonance dissertation, “How does this relate to Schimmelpinnick’s theory of resistance to extinction?” I once complained to Hazel Markus that he had a mind without coordinates!

That impenetrable mind was responsible for some of the cleverest, and most important, research in all psychology. His work was characterized by its creativity and by the fact that there was no apparent common thread among the research questions for which he is most famous. His resolution of the puzzle about why the presence of others sometimes improves and sometimes impedes task performance was not tied in any obvious way to his text on animal psychology, which was not linked clearly to his work on the effects of mere familiarity, which in turn was seemingly unrelated to his demonstration that birth order is related to intelligence, which certainly didn’t predict his subsequent work showing that emotion sometimes precedes cognition, which was independent of his work on the effects of facial expression on thermal regulation of the brain. Any one of those contributions would have been considered sufficient to make him a highly respected researcher.

Bob once told me that he “never knew where it was going.” A problem would suggest itself and he would just begin exploring it, learning from his data to a degree that is unusual and following the trail wherever it led. This surprised me because I always knew where it was going with my research. (Never mind that I was usually wrong.)

Bob was funny, unflappable, gregarious, generous, and a born leader. Any event where he was present was an occasion. Any ISR or psychology department occasion from which he was absent was a diminished event. He took care of his students and colleagues in way that evolutionists argue is one of the surest ways to guarantee survival of one’s genes. He provided resources for others who willingly gave more resources back to him. His ideas are going to be memes that will survive long after his passing.

Richard E. Nisbett University of Michigan

Contrarian, Magician, Encyclopedian

Bob Zajonc always went where no one had gone before. His contrarian strategy targeted under-valued topics, focusing on cognition when others were doing affect, or doing affect when others were all about cognition. Bob disliked agreeable consensus; he always considered the opposite. Working alone, he had areas to himself long enough that he could think in peace. By one metric (Fiske, 2001), he had a major new idea about every five years (1960, cognitive tuning; 1965, social facilitation; 1968, mere exposure; 1976, family configuration and intelligence; 1980, primacy of affect; 1985, embodied emotion; 1993, unconscious emotions; and most recently, collective violence). The time line of Zajontific progress had the field catching up with him at lags beginning with 10 years and decelerating to 20 or 30 years. People were slow to build the bandwagons implied by his brilliant new ideas. But then, the best ideas always make people uncomfortable, because they upset the typical ways of seeing. People require mere exposure to like the gradually familiar.

Bob appreciated people making sense of their world, but he also knew that people like to be entertained by novelty, incongruity, and magic. If his intellectual life was full of surprises — and that was his trademark — so too his social life was unpredictable and fun. When I went on sabbatical to Michigan, Hazel Markus and Bob were the consummate hosts, always ready for a good meal with sophisticated food, wine, and conversation. The intellectual magic came partly from Bob’s encyclopedic knowledge of classics in the field. On various occasions, he would trot out a historic reference to the early European meaning of attitudes as intentions, or the classical world’s division of elements, or the French vascular theory of emotions. Just when the crowd thought it knew everything, this genius of a magician would show them that the opposite was also true, according to scholars decades or even centuries earlier. One always learned something new from his magical, contrarian perspectives in work and in life.

Susan Fiske Princeton University

The Mere Zajonc Effect

Bob Zajonc’s mere presence in psychology made it shine with a brighter light. He did this through the brilliance of his observational powers and his empirical discoveries, through the demystification of complex mental processes so that a simpler one was revealed, and through the understanding of the power of social forces in the lives of ordinary humans. To me, for whom his work has been a constant beacon, Bob Zajonc’s mere presence was uplifting and emboldening.

The great joy of the business in which we are engaged is that teachers can be acquired and heroes created through the spoken and written word. I was never a student or colleague of Bob’s but he was a teacher of a very special sort — from his choice of problems and his insights, he inspired me to imagine the contributions that psychology can uniquely offer to science and to human welfare.

By merely studying certain topics, in particular unconscious mental processes and emotion (both no-no’s at the time), Bob gave these topics legitimacy. Those of us who thought ourselves relatively alone in doing so in the 1980s had the assurance that Bob Zajonc had already been there and therefore that it was safe to go. By his penchant for the simple, he provided a rare model. It was always a “mere”: The mere presence of others as socially facilitating, the mere exposure of a thing as the source of preference, the mere position of a person in the birth order as the determinant of intelligence. Each of these meres (mere presence, mere exposure, mere position) was a gem of an example of a simple yet aesthetic and profound feature of the human mind.

In conversations with Bob Zajonc the genius, I recognized the leagues that separated him from the rest of us. He became for me the things to aspire to — in the type of work, in the manner of the work, and in the spirit of the work. I looked for connections wherever I could — that we were both immigrants; that we had both received our training in Midwestern universities to which we owed a great deal; that in his interest in genocide and mine in prejudice, we were both social psychologists engaged in the study of how good people can cause devastating harm.

There was, in the spirit of psychology Bob represented, a boldness of vision, and a clear sense that our work is the closest thing we irreligious folk will come to experiencing what it means to do God’s work. Bob’s mere presence, his mere thoughts, and his mere words have made my daily work a genuine preference that needs no inference.

Mahzarin R. Banaji Harvard University

Emotions and Intellectual Discovery

As a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I took introductory psychology with a former student of Bob’s, D.W. Rajecki. Shortly after learning how to pronounce Rajecki’s, name, we learned how to pronounce Zajonc. “Like science,” Rajecki said. Although it was an introductory class, Bob’s work was featured prominently, and it stuck with me. In my junior year, in my “Psychology of Human Emotions” class, I read “Feeling and Thinking.” I was hooked. “Where do you want to go to graduate school,” a departmental advisor asked. “Michigan,” I said. I had been accepted at a couple of fine graduate schools, but not Michigan.

I finally was accepted at Michigan. Bob was not my major advisor, but because we had common interests we worked together on several projects. One day, long after I had obtained my PhD, I was sitting with a former Michigan classmate at a conference. He said loudly, “Paula, I remember a time when you were in Bob’s office. There was much screaming. Then you came out crying and ran off. I have been meaning to ask you why?” He asked this in front of about 20 people. I was crying, I answered, because Bob had once again found something wrong with my ideas. The problem was, he was right every time. The very thing that drew me to him as a student, as most of his students I suspect, was the very thing that was the most challenging: the logic and clarity of Bob’s thinking could be applied to everything. And when it was applied to a graduate student’s silly ideas, it could provoke tears.

Once Bob admitted to me that he was still a bit mad at me for not working on his research about temperature, blood flow, and emotion. After he told me that, I thought back to the times that I sat down in the laboratory while he toyed with the special equipment that he had purchased for this research. He was using me as a subject to learn to use it. In order to provoke an emotion, he told me jokes. They were really very bad. (Hazel Markus’ jokes at the time were wildly funny.) I wondered why Bob couldn’t say something funny so that the temperature of the blood flowing to my brain would actually change. But I was missing the point. His work was about how feedback from the face influences subjective experience of emotion. And that is where the field is right now. Bob was always 20 years ahead of us, it seems.

Paula Niedenthal Université Blaise Pascal

The Polish Connection

Bob Zajonc shone upon my scientific life for nearly 25 years. In 1985, as an undergraduate in Warsaw, I read “Preferences Need No Inferences.” I was floored from the very first paragraph where Bob contrasts psychology’s marginalization of emotion with a poet’s insight, quoting e. e. cummings: “since feeling is first, who pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you.” Bob seemed not only deeply correct and wickedly smart, but also effortlessly stylish and refreshingly irreverent. So, naturally, I wanted to meet him — my curiosity amplified by the larger-than-life stories of his life during WWII in Europe and his migration to America.

We first met in early 1989 — Annus Mirabilis, with Poland’s “almost-free” election coming in June, and then the Berlin Wall falling that November. Hailing from Iowa, on internship from Bielefeld University, I arrived in Ann Arbor on a rainy day. There was Bob in his “Sunday best,” jacket and all, in the spacious ISR director’s office, with two secretaries guarding access. I was initially intimidated by the formality, but soon we were excitingly discussing the political developments in Europe. Critically for my fate, Bob encouraged me to apply to Michigan and suggested imaginative paths to PhD funding. This small story illustrates Bob’s much bigger commitment towards building bridges between U.S. and European science, especially Poland. Bob wanted to foster tangible social change, and knew the value of creating formal and informal structures. He helped establish ISR’s sister Institute of Social Studies in Warsaw, supported the student exchange between Michigan and Warsaw, and, as importantly, he and Hazel hosted a steady stream of European visitors.

As Bob’s last Michigan student, from 1991 to 1995, I experienced many dimensions of his unusual mind. Our first project looked at subliminal affective priming of preference judgments. Bob’s prediction — that affective reactions are impervious to attributions or even consciousness — was not only brilliantly correct, but also exemplified his intellectual sovereignty, as it ran counter the more “sensible” predictions from established models. But I also experienced his inscrutability, with design choices justified by “elegance” and “simplicity” (only years later did I understad the inferential power of parsimony). When our next project, linking emotion to brain temperature, required that I master complex psychophysiology, Bob’s major advice was “just do it.” He was not a hand-holding type.

In some ways, Bob’s philosophy embodied Apple’s “Think Different” slogan. Pursue your own path, be bold, fresh, think big and free. Bob never cared for “small minds working on small problems.” His early work on cognitive balance upset the cart of behaviorism. When cognition dominated, he argued for affective primacy and the representational role of the body. When Bob felt that emotion research became too enamored of itself, he challenged the received wisdoms (e.g., “facial expression is one of the worst misnomers in psychology”). I remember being often puzzled by his wild pronouncements (e.g., “most research in social cognition is nothing more than replication of cognitive experiments with social content”). He meant many as provocations — a way to push us students and colleagues to think harder and nimbler. But some were quite prescient. I remember Bob arguing that much of general cognition derives from social cognition, as the human brain primarily evolved to solve social problems. This radical statement now seems quite reasonable.

Bob was a contrarian, perhaps because he disliked ideologies, of any kind. But he also simply liked to have fun, turning the profound into the ridiculous, and the mundane into the elevated. Just as he claimed that poets knew more about emotions than did psychologists, Bob pointed out that “Dear Abby” letters first noticed how spouses become similar with age, or that an obscure French scientist named Waynbaum understood facial expressions better than Darwin. At some point, Bob told me that street life, old books, television or newspapers are the best sources of ideas. He advised me to read fewer journal articles and to get a girlfriend.

What is most remarkable about Bob is his continuing impact. He is cited over 200 times per year, including papers he wrote 40 years ago! In the emotion field alone – a fraction of his legacy — Bob’s insights into affect-cognition interaction, functions of emotion, and the role of embodiment are as inspiring as ever. So, I am heartened by the thought that his extraordinary mind, captured in writing and etched in our personalities and memories, will continue to push, provoke, and inspire us for many years. Yet, as Bob knew well, thoughts cannot conquer feelings. I will miss him tremendously.

Piotr Winkielman University of California, San Diego

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robert zajonc books

In Their Own Words: Lives Lost in 2021

Excerpts from the research of a few of the remarkable psychological scientists we said goodbye to this year.

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Remembering James S. Jackson (1944–2020)

The pioneering social psychologist, known for his research on race and ethnicity, racism, and health and aging among African Americans, is remembered for his extraordinary vision, innovative scholarship, infectious optimism, and generosity as a mentor.

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After obtaining his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1955, Robert Zajonc became a professor there until 1994, having held the positions of Director of the Institute for Social Research and Director of the Research Center for Group Dynamics. He then joined the faculty at Stanford University, where he is currently Professor Emeritus of Psychology.

Throughout his long and distinguished career, Professor Zajonc has had research interests in basic processes implicated in social behavior, with a special emphasis on the interface between affect and cognition. In a series of well-known studies, he examined circumstances under which affective influences can take place in the absence of cognitive contributions.

For this ground-breaking work Professor Zajonc has received a number of honors, including Doctorates Honoris Causa from the University of Louvain, the Society for Experimental Social Psychology Distinguished Scientist Award, and the APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award.

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Jailed wall street journal reporter evan gershkovich appears at a moscow court to appeal his arrest.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court, in Moscow, Russia, April 18, 2023. Gershkovich, who was detained on espionage charges, arrived at a Moscow court Thursday, Aug. 24, for a hearing on a motion by the prosecution to extend his arrest. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

MOSCOW (AP) — Evan Gershkovich , a Wall Street Journal reporter who was detained on espionage charges, appeared in a Moscow court Tuesday to appeal his arrest.

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Gershkovich is the first American reporter to face espionage charges in Russia since September 1986, when Nicholas Daniloff, a Moscow correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, was arrested by the KGB.

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    Robert Bolesław Zajonc (/ˈzaɪ.ənts/ ZY-ənts; Polish: [ˈzajɔnt͡s]; November 23, 1923 - December 3, 2008) was a Polish-born American social psychologist who is known for his decades of work on a wide range of social and cognitive processes. One of his most important contributions to social psychology is the mere-exposure effect. Zajonc also conducted research in the areas of social ...

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