David Buss

Psychology professor James Pennebaker was listed among the top-200 most influential psychologists of the post-World War II era. Pennebaker ranked 153 on the list, while psychology professor David Buss ranked 143.

Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

Two psychology professors at the University were listed among the top-200 most influential psychologists of the post-World War II era, according to a University of Virginia study.

David Buss was ranked number 143 on the list, and James Pennebaker was ranked number 153. 

The study, published in late September, ranked psychologists according to their work’s eminence, or the long-lasting impacts of their work in the psychology community. This was determined by the impact of research citations, the number of textbook citations and scientific awards received. According to a statement issued by the University of Virginia, the study serves as a reference point for people interested in influential psychologists and understanding what types of ideas are valued. 

Randy Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and a former psychology professor, said the rankings reflected the University’s commitment to research. 

“[These rankings] confirm what we have been saying all along: that The University of Texas at Austin is home to some of the world’s top researchers in the field of psychology, and that our department is among the best in the nation,” Diehl said in an email. “These rankings are also important because they help us attract the very best faculty and graduate students to the department, and that benefits all students who take psychology courses.”

Diehl said he was pleased, but not surprised, to discover Buss and Pennebaker had made the list.

“Both … are longtime colleagues of mine in the Department of Psychology, and for many years I have admired the creativity and innovation they have brought to the field,” Diehl said.

For more than 40 years, Buss has researched evolutionary psychology, specifically focusing on mating strategies among humans. Buss said he did not know the long-term value of the study, but appreciated
the recognition.

“Science is an ongoing process,” Buss said. “Scientific theories are overturned and replaced by new theories, and you hope that, as a scientist, you make some contribution that will stand the test of time.”

Pennebaker has researched how people perceive symptoms of illness and the use of writing as post-traumatic stress treatment and language use. He said the list represented the impact of ideas — not researchers.

“I don’t want to sound jaded, but you can’t take these things seriously,” Pennebaker said. “They’re flattering and they’re nice, but they’re one of many different types of beauty pageants. … It’s flattering for both [Buss] and for me because it means the ideas that we are driving are having an impact on the culture.” 

Psychology professor David Buss recently conducted a study which found that due to evolutionary reasoning, females were more likely to experience regret after sex than men, while men were more likely to feel regret after a missed sexual opportunity.

Photo Credit: Marshall Nolen | Daily Texan Staff

Men and women experience sexual regret for different reasons, according to a study conducted in part by UT psychology professor David Buss.

In the study, researchers coded participants’ responses from three different experiments for sexual regret and determined whether the regret stemmed from action or inaction. 

Buss said on average, men experience regret following instances when they did not act on a sexual impulse, whereas women experience regret after acting on a sexual impulse.

International relations senior Adrianne Mikesova said she does not find the study’s results surprising.

“I can’t speak for everybody, but I would more likely regret something than not doing it,” Mikesova said.

Buss said sexual psychology is the end product of a long evolutionary process that may not consciously factor into decision making but is nevertheless important to understanding human relationships.

“There’s an enormous difference in parental investment,” Buss said. “Women, by having sex, risk nine months; men, by having sex, invest an hour or an evening. The costs of making bad sexual decisions historically have been much greater for women than for men.”

Buss said even though most people are not aware of the influence of evolution, human history does play a role.

“A lot of the underlying machinery is not available to consciousness, but the underlying feeling of regret is,” Buss said.

Buss said evolutionarily ingrained attitudes toward sex remain unchanged despite the widespread availability of modern contraceptives.

“We live in a modern world with a Stone Age brain,” Buss said. “Our sexual psychology evolved in a time and place that is radically different.”

Psychology and finance senior Victor Silva, one of Buss’ students, said evolution has wired the human brain to react in certain ways. He believes it can take a long time to alter the hardware.

“These evolutionary mechanisms took millions and millions of years to develop,” Silva said. “It’s going to take millions and millions of years to change them.”

Silva said regret serves as motivation to achieve better outcomes going forward.

“Emotions in general have a purpose — if you have sexual regret, that’s going to change future behavior.”

Silva said, in his opinion, women wield the power in relationships, but men use strategies to circumvent this imbalance.

“Men have the ability to feign commitment and deceive women,” Silva said.

Buss said the hook-up culture on college campuses can adversely affect women more than men.

“Men and women hook up for casual encounters, but all the studies show that women feel worse about it than men do,” Buss said.

At Friday’s installment of the “Hot Science, Cool Talks” series, “Explor[ing] Human Mating Strategies,” psychology professor David Buss discussed the motivations behind the mating desires of the differing sexes.

 

The discussion, which was hosted by the Environmental Science Institute, explored the promiscuous intentions of humans, in addition to topics such as sexual selection, mating strategies, universal desires, and gender differences.

Buss said desire is the foundation of mating for both males and females. He explained that, contrary to societally-held perceptions, women are capable of promiscuous behavior, and men are capable of emotional tendencies, and vice versa.  

 

Buss emphasized that college students are especially susceptible to these beliefs, but said ultimately, students’ sexual behaviors in college are not radically different from the population as a whole.

 

“UT students are people too; [these] students [may be] above average in things like intelligence, motivation, [and] ambition to acquire higher degrees, but their mating mechanisms are the same as everybody else,” Buss said. 

 

Psychology freshman Shelby Guel, who attended the talk, said she understood the logic behind Buss’ conclusions.

 

“[What Buss] discussed was true; men and women both have the same promiscuity level,” Guel said. “For every man that has sex with a different woman for the first time, the woman is having sex with a different man for the first time.”

 

Events such as this talk are available to the public and broadcasted live by the Environmental Science Institute. The institute holds Hot Science talks six times a year. According to Eric James, the Environmental Science Institute program coordinator, the events present cutting-edge information one step ahead of textbooks. 

 

James said the talks are often so popular that their auditoriums are filled past capacity.

 

“Fire marshals [have said] to get those people out of the aisles,” James said.  

 

The Environmental Science Institute institute has been holding events since 1999 and is currently on its 86th presentation. The next event, on Oct. 18, will be called “The Roving Search for Life on Mars.”