|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