Robert MacCoun


 I was trained as a social psychologist, specializing in laboratory experiments on individual and group decision making. But my experiences at RAND and in Berkeley's public policy and law schools have made me into a less readily categorized interdisciplinary generalist, and these days I am as likely to collaborate with economists as with psychologists.

My research spans a number of policy domains -- illicit drug use and drug laws, risky behavior, jury deliberation, tort litigation, lay conceptions of fairness, the gays in the military debate, and politics and bias in the empirical research process. In any given year, this may make me look pretty incoherent, but I think if one traces back my publications on any of these topics, each one seems to have some programmatic continuity, and indeed they overlap in various ways -- at least in my own mind! For example, my interest in bias in the research process stems from my own "war stories" working on hot button issues like gays in the military, the tort reform debate, and drug legalization, but analytically it draws heavily on my dissertation topic -- how people form standards of proof for judging ambiguous evidence.

Methodologically, I still conduct the occasional randomized simulation-type experiment in the social psychology tradition, but I also use content analysis of media articles, public opinion surveys, statistical analysis of archival data, and other approaches, and I encourage students to explore multiple methods and to think in terms of triangulation across different approaches. The photo shows me playing jazz guitar. I play the occasional gig, mostly for free or for tips, but everyone who has heard me tells me how lucky I am to have such a great day job, teaching at Cal.

Professor MacCoun's faculty profile, bio, and other information can be found here. Selected publications can be found here.