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> Susan Sugarman
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Professor of Psychology
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 1980
Why is it so Hard to Choose?
T: 609.258.4445
E: sugsue@princeton.edu

PSH 527 Peretsman-Scully Hall
Psychology Department
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08540

My primary research, on the psychology of ordinary mental life, involves the analysis of aspects of everyday human experience that elude explanation. Elusive problems force one to think beyond customary categories of understanding. I am especially interested in experiences that may be illuminated by comparisons of childhood and adulthood. Hence the work often includes the study of human development. Through a combination of theoretical analysis and empirical inquiry, projects work toward an account of what the experience in question is and why it comes about. The ultimate goal is to produce claims about strata of mental life that may have escaped notice previously.

Experiences I have analyzed thus far include the paradoxical surprise that an object is real, first noted by Freud, that people sometimes feel when they see an object they have felt sure existed but have never seen. Upon seeing the Acropolis for the first time, Freud found himself thinking, "So all this really does exist, just as we learned at school!", even though he never doubted the site's existence. Similarly, people often feel compelled to verify first hand scenes of recent events whose occurrence the people have never questioned. Both the meaning of thoughts such as Freud's and the basis of the lure of the real are provoking and less obvious than they might appear.

I have begun to investigate choice in children and adults, with the eventual aim of addressing the question of what it is to be free and at one with oneself. Many adults cherish free choice and yet have difficulty choosing. They seem to be at odds with themselves and hence are not free, despite their sometimes bountiful options. Work in progress is exploring the basis of adults' perplexity and attempting to trace its potential antecedents in childhood.

Currently I teach courses on developmental psychology and on Freud.