Roy F. Baumeister
Baumeister at the 2011 ZURICH.MINDS
|Alma mater||Princeton University |
|Known for||Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Self studies.|
|Awards||1993-94 James McKeen Cattell Fund Sabbatical Fellowship Award, 2003 ISI highly cited researcher, 2004 Mensa Award for Excellence in Research, 2007 SPSP Distinguished Service Award, 2011 Jack Block Award, 2012 Distinguished Lifetime Career Contribution Award, 2013 William James Fellow Award|
|Fields||Social psychology, Evolutionary psychology|
|Institutions||University of Queensland |
Florida State University
Case Western Reserve University (1979-2003)
Roy F. Baumeister (//; born May 16, 1953) is a social psychologist who is known for his work on the self, social rejection, belongingness, sexuality and sex differences, self-control, self-esteem, self-defeating behaviors, motivation, aggression, consciousness, and free will.
Baumeister earned his A.B. from Princeton University and his M.A. from Duke University. He returned to Princeton University with his mentor Edward E. Jones and earned his Ph.D. from the university's Department of Psychology in 1978.
Baumeister then taught at Case Western Reserve University from 1979 to 2003, serving as a professor of psychology and later liberal arts. He later worked at Florida State University as the Francis Eppes Eminent Scholar and head of the social psychology graduate program. At FSU, Baumeister worked in the psychology department, teaching classes and graduate seminars on social and evolutionary psychology. In 2016 he moved to the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland in Australia where he is currently teaching.
Baumeister has researched social psychology for over four decades and made a name for himself with his laboratory research. His research focuses on six themes: self control, decision-making, the need to belong and interpersonal rejection, human sexuality, irrational and self-destructive behavior, and free will.
Baumeister has conducted research on the self, focusing on various concepts related to how people perceive, act, and relate to their selves. Baumeister wrote a chapter titled, "The Self" in The Handbook of Social Psychology, and reviewed the research on self-esteem, concluding that the perceived importance of self-esteem is overrated.
In a series of journal articles and books, Baumeister inquired about the reasons for self-defeating behavior. His conclusions: there is no self-defeating urge (as some have thought). Rather, self-defeating behavior is either a result of trade-offs (enjoying drugs now at the expense of the future), backfiring strategies (eating a snack to reduce stress only to feel more stressed), or a psychological strategy to escape the self – where various self-defeating strategies are rather directed to relieve the burden of selfhood.
Baumeister wrote a paper on the need-to-belong theory with Mark Leary in 1995. This theory seeks to show that humans have a natural need to belong with others. Baumeister and Leary suggest that human beings naturally push to form relationships. This push helps to distinguish a need (rather than a desire). In addition to the drive for attachment, people also struggle to avoid the disintegration of these relationships. As part of this theory, a lack of belonging would have a long-term, negative impact on mood and health, and those who do not meet their belonging needs may suffer from behavioral and psychological issues. Need-to-belong theory has two necessary parts:
This work was groundbreaking in that it separated itself from previous theories relating to attachment such as those of John Bowlby. While Bowlby's theory implied the attachment needs to be applied to a group leader or authority figure, Baumeister and Leary's need-to-belong theory posited that the relationship could be with anyone. To further distinguish the two theories, Baumeister and Leary theorized that if a relationship dissolved, the bond can often be replaced with a bond to another person.
Later, Baumeister published evidence that the way people look for belongingness differs between men and women. Women prefer a few close and intimate relationships, whereas men prefer many but shallower connections. Men realize more of their need to belong via a group of people, or a cause, rather than in close interpersonal relations.
Baumeister also researched self-regulation. He coined the term "ego depletion" to describe the evidence that humans' ability to self-regulate is limited, and after using it there is less ability (or energy) to self-regulate. Ego depletion has a general effect, such that exerting self-control in one area will use up energy for further regulation in other areas of life. Further research by Baumeister and colleagues has led to the development of the Strength Model of self-control, which likens this ego depletion to the tiredness that comes from physically exerting a muscle. A corollary to this analogy, supported by his research, is that self-control can be strengthened over time, much like a muscle. The energy used up is more than metaphorical, however; his research has found a strong link between ego depletion and depletion of blood-glucose levels. Baumeister also edited two academic books on self-regulation, Losing Control and Handbook of Self-Regulation, and has devoted numerous experiments and journal papers to the topic. He also describes this research in a book, Willpower, authored with former New York Times journalist John Tierney.
In 2016 a large study carried out at two-dozen labs in countries across the world that sought to reproduce the effects described in these studies was unsuccessful. Baumeister, however, disputed the protocol used in this replication. Baumeister also plans to run his own pre-registered replication using a protocol that is more in line with most ego-depletion experiments.
A series of studies of human sexuality has addressed questions such as how nature and culture influence people's sex drive, rape and sexual coercion, the cultural suppression of female sexuality, and how couples negotiate their sexual patterns. In his research, Baumeister reached four major conclusions:
Baumeister approaches the topic of free will from the view-point of evolutionary psychology. He has listed the major aspects that make up free will as self-control, rational, intelligent choice, planful behavior, and autonomous initiative. Baumeister proposes that "the defining thrust of human psychological evolution was selection in favor of cultural capability"  and that these four psychological capabilities evolved to help humans function in the context of culture. In his view, free will is an advanced form of action control that allows humans to act in pro-social ways towards their enlightened self-interest when acting in these ways would otherwise be in conflict with the fulfillment of evolutionarily older drives or instincts. Research by Baumeister and colleagues (principally Kathleen Vohs) has shown that disbelief in free will can lead people to act in ways that are harmful to themselves and society, such as cheating on a test, increased aggression, decreased helpfulness, lower achievement levels in the workplace, and possible barriers to beating addiction.
Baumeister coined the term "erotic plasticity", which is the extent to which one's sex drive can be shaped by cultural, social and situational factors. He argues that women have high plasticity, meaning that their sex drive can more easily change in response to external pressures. On the other hand, men have low plasticity, and therefore have sex drives that are relatively inflexible.
Baumeister has written or edited some 30 books, over 500 publications, and has been cited nearly 180,000 times in research literature. Additionally, he authors the column Cultural Animal for Psychology Today. The following is a partial listing of his works.
Baumeister is married to Dr. Dianne Tice, a fellow Social Psychologist. They have collaborated on dozens of papers. He enjoys skiing.
[...] there may be isolated individuals who combine low self-esteem with irrational, self-destructive, or other pathological signs. Sampling techniques that aggressively seek out extremes of self-regard may indeed find enough pathological individuals to yield unusual results and confirm some of the more unsavory impressions and hypotheses about low self-esteem. For the most part, however, low self-esteem is not marked by those patterns. People with low self-esteem can be well understood as ordinary people who are trying in a fairly sensible, rational fashion to adapt effectively to their circumstances and to make their way through life with a minimum of suffering, distress, and humiliation. In that, of course, they are no different from people with high self-esteem.