By Brett Land
The Honors Program hosted a lecture in Manning Chapel last Tuesday that featured a guest speaker from the psychology department at Baylor University.
Associate Professor of psychology and neuroscience Dr. Wade Rowatt is an
accomplished scholar of social psychology. His research and experiments have been published in numerous academic journals. He prefers this field because it is constantly changing.
“Social psychology is a very exciting subdiscipline right now,” Rowatt said. “The most exciting developments to me are in the area of social neuroscience.”
The mission of most in the field of psychology is to learn more about what
exactly goes on in people’s minds.
Rowatt said, “The broad goals of psychological science are to describe, predict, explain and at times optimize human thinking and behaving in various contexts.”
His lecture entitled “The Psychology of Religion and Prejudice: Why Measures, Milliseconds, and Motives Matter” was delivered to an audience of students and others. It focused on the relationship between social prejudices and religion.
“We know for a fact that some dimensions of religiousness are correlated with some self-reported prejudices. However, correlations do not infer causation,” he said.
Rowatt conducted experiments to examine the relationship between beliefs and prejudice.
“In general, religiousness is associated with the desire to appear unprejudiced but (tends) to be somewhat prejudiced toward those who violate a religious world view.”
Rowatt found this especially interesting because he is a Christian.
He said that his beliefs do not affect the way he conducts his experiments or presents the information that comes from them.
“As a Christian down on the playing field of social psychology, I just attempt to be honest about what we do and what we find, even if I don’t like the outcome.”
Associate Professor of history and political science Dr. David Holcomb thought that the unusual relationship between religion and prejudice would be a popular lecture idea on campus.
“The religion issue is one of interest here … so I thought that would be a particularly provocative topic.”
The Honors Program led, and directed by Holcomb, hosts a lecture twice a year.
“We try to have one Honors Program lecture each semester,” he said.
Being in charge of the organization, Holcomb makes the decision of whom to invite to speak.
“What we’re trying to do with it is to bring in a different scholar from a different field,” Holcomb said. “To share not only with the honors students but also the university as a whole.”
Holcomb invites various colleagues to share their research and areas of interest and study. Most of the speaker’s discuss things that are not often considered in the classrooms on campus.
“One of the things I like to do is bring in people who bring different disciplines into conversation,” he said.
Sophomore psychology major Connor Buchanan is an honors student and enjoyed the lecture. Because he is pursuing a degree in psychology, he was excited to hear what Dr. Rowatt had to say.
“I’m a psych major, so I was pumped when I heard that’s what the honors lecture was over,” Buchanan said.
He was intrigued by the way religious word suggestions used in an experiment technique , called priming, influenced the prejudice in people.
“It’s weird to think how being primed with something that’s supposed to make us more accepting and tolerant can really make us more hostile.”
Buchanan had the opportunity to speak with Rowatt after the lecture and was encouraged by the things the special guest speaker had to say.
He said, “It was really cool to get to see the type of research that I could be doing later in life.”
The lecture proved to be full of interesting information and held the attention of those in attendance, especially the psychology buffs.
Buchanan said, “I was ‘geeking out’ the whole time.”