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UCR Professor Wins National Honor

UCR Professor Wins National Honor

(January 18, 2002)

Robert Rosenthal, a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, has spent his career finding out what comes of expectations.

“The Rosenthal Effect” has entered the language as shorthand for a fascinating phenomenon. Teachers who hold high expectations for students actually influence the performance of those students. Judges influence verdicts by how they read jury instructions. Doctors, through body language, influence the patient’s health, and also determine how likely they are to be sued by unhappy patients.

Rosenthal, who spent 37 years as a professor at Harvard University before arriving at UCR in 1999, built a name and reputation as one of the giants of modern psychology. He now adds another honor: the 2002 Distinguished Scientific Award for Application of Psychology from the American Psychological Association. He will formally accept the award in August at the national meeting of the American Psychological Association, to be held in Chicago.

“Bob has made so many stellar contributions, and this truly outstanding and significant award stands as a public declaration of his scientific achievement in psychology,” said John Ashe, chair of the UCR Department of Psychology. “His influence is exceptionally broad because he combines keen theoretical insights with unique methodological approaches to solve important problems in the field.”

Rosenthal now works alongside faculty colleagues who were his graduate students at Harvard. He is the author of such landmark texts as “Pygmalion in the Classroom,” and “Experimenter Effects in Behavioral Research.”

He said this latest award is especially exciting because it comes from his colleagues. “These are people I admire and respect,” he said. “It’s very exciting that your colleagues think well of you.”

Rosenthal was the first to document that a teacher’s expectations in the classroom greatly affect the performance of students, and that volunteer subjects in social science experiments respond to the unspoken “expectations” of the researcher.

“When you expect more of a person you are likely to talk in a different tone of voice. This and your body movement, facial expressions and posture are powerful communicators of expectations,” Rosenthal said. “We told the teachers certain kids were going to bloom in the coming academic year, and they did. The only thing different was in the mind of the teacher.”

A native of Giessen, Germany, Rosenthal earned his university degrees at UCLA. He has received numerous awards and honors over the years, including the Socio-psychological Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in both 1960 and 1993. Since arriving at UCR, he has earned five other awards: “Foa Lecturer” at Temple University; James McKeen Cattell Award from the American Psychological Society; UCLA’s Distinguished Psychology Alumni Lecturer; UCR Psychology Professor of the Year; and Distinguished Scientific Contributions in Division 5, Evaluation, Measurement and Statistics from the American Psychological Association.

The 2002 Distinguished Scientific Award is the highest honor possible from the APA, a scientific and professional organization that represents 155,000 members. It is the world’s largest association of psychologists.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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