Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

M. Brewster Smith

M. Brewster Smith

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Professor M. Brewster Smith died on August 4, 2012, in Santa Cruz, at the age of 93. Social Psychology Network is maintaining this profile for visitors who wish to learn more about Professor Smith's work.

Please see below for more information:

Mahlon Brewster Smith received his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1947. Five years later, he testified as an expert witness against school segregation in a case before a Richmond, Virginia, federal appeals court, one of four lower court cases that led to the U.S. Supreme Court's "Brown v. Board of Education" decision. Professor Smith testified that segregation harmed children's self-esteem and adversely affected their ability to learn. He later said that he considered this testimony to be among his greatest contributions to society.

With Jerome Bruner and Robert White, Smith turned his doctoral thesis into the pioneering book "Opinions and Personality" (Wiley, 1956). He authored or edited more than 300 other publications, including several books, and played an influential role in shaping a number of scholarly journals, including the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology and the Journal of Social Issues. He also served as Vice Chancellor for Social Sciences from 1970-1975 at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he retired as a professor of psychology in 1988.

Among his many awards, Professor Smith received the Gold Medal Award for Life Contribution by a Psychologist to the Public Interest from the American Psychological Foundation, Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest Award from the American Psychological Association, Kurt Lewin Memorial Award and Distinguished Service Award (both from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues), Western Psychological Association Lifetime Achievement Award, Henry A. Murray Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Harold Lasswell Award from the International Society for Political Psychology, and Lifetime Contribution to Peace Psychology Award from the Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict and Violence.

All told, Smith's career spanned more than six decades, most of it focused on the interplay of psychological and political processes. In recent years, Smith drew on psychological research to suggest ways to reduce the threat of nuclear war. Although known as a social psychologist, he considered himself a humanistic psychologist who strove to build a humane approach to academics and an academic approach to humanity.

Primary Interests:

  • Aggression, Conflict, Peace
  • Applied Social Psychology
  • Attitudes and Beliefs
  • Intergroup Relations
  • Personality, Individual Differences
  • Political Psychology
  • Prejudice and Stereotyping
  • Self and Identity

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Journal Articles:

Other Publications:

  • Smith, M. B. (2000). Moral foundations of research with human participants. In B. D. Sales and S. Folkman (Eds.), Ethics in Research with Human Participants (pp. 3-10). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Smith, M. B. (1952). Social psychology and group processes. Annual Review of Psychology, 3, 175-204.

Courses Taught:

  • History and Systems of Psychology
  • Modern Society and Social Thought
  • Personality
  • Self and Society
  • Self in Personality
  • Social Psychology

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