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Dr. Cory Pedersen, Academia, Undergraduate Psychology Advice, and Biggest Influences


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): The Good Men Project

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2017/08/23

Dr. Cory Pedersen works at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in the Psychology Department at the time. Here we talked about psychology in her office, part 3.

Scott Douglas JacobsenWhen you entered academia, you likely had a certain philosophical framework for understanding the world.  How have your philosophical views changed over time to the present?

Dr. Cory Pedersen: Well, there is no single salient point, right.  I mean, as a professor, the only thing I want my students to take away from my class is – if you forget everything about theories, facts, and numbers – the most important thing that every student should take away is how to think critically – how to be a critical consumer of information.

That is the most relevant thing in psychology.  The knowledge we have about the brain, its desire to explain cause and to do that via making connections that are probably superfluous, they are not real – and I want students to be critical consumers of information because psychological information is everywhere.  It is in the news, on the radio, on the television.  If you cannot be a critical consumer of information, you are in trouble. Not everyone has a critical thinking style, which is why I consider it extremely important for people to be critical consumers.

Jacobsen: What advice would you give to undergraduate psychology students aiming for a work, career, and general interest in psychology?

Pedersen: Good grades are important, but they will only get you so far.   If you want a career in psychology, you need more than an undergraduate degree.  That is my advice.  Grades will help you get into graduate school, absolutely.  But, back to my regression models, there are many predictors of success in graduate school.  Grades are only one path – grades will put you into the competitive pool of graduate school.  Yet, you will have more chances of getting into graduate school with strong letters of reference.

Grades will provide your letter writer with something solid to comment on about you. However, that is where it stops.  My advice for people in psychology is A) apply to graduate school and B) get in good with faculty.  Join a committee. Join their lab.  Participate in research.  Do something in some way to make yourself known to them because that is the only way they will be able to write you a letter of reference that says something besides, “This is a good student in class and they have a good grade point average.”  That is all that most professors could say with only grades to recommend you.  Letters of reference go a long, long way.

Jacobsen: Who have been the biggest influences on you?  What books or articles characterize their viewpoint well?

Pedersen: God, I do not even know.  This is a tough one.  I do not even know, honestly.  I would put my supervisor Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl right up there.  She is exceptionally well-published and a fabulous speaker.  And she knows how to conduct research.  She really taught me how to be a researcher and a critical thinker.  I remember once that she told me about a study she was designing.  She had developed a program evaluation for a well-known socioemotional development program called “Roots of Empathy”.  The initial results were promising.  Data suggested that kids exposed to the program had less classroom problem behavior, participated less in bullying, and displayed greater social competence and prosocial behavior.    I remember Kim saying to me one day, “Look, the data indicates that bullying is decreasing and social competence is increasing.

This is fabulous, but so flawed.”  I wasn’t sure what she meant.  She said, “Well, the bullying behaviors are decreasing and the social competencies are increasing, but compared to what?  How do we know whether the behavior of all kids becomes better as the year progresses?”  Now, it seems obvious.  There was no control group!  No baseline!  Kim incorporated a control group into her subsequent evaluations of the program.  It seems so obvious, but you have to be a sharp researcher to be able to recognize that flaw.

That is critical thinking.  That is just one of the many intelligent things that Kim has said since I have known her.  She is just a solid researcher and really knows her stuff.  She is well published and just recently made full professor.  I feel like she has influenced many of my ways of doing and thinking about things.  Even outside of being her student, when I first designed the human sexuality course – and I had not been her student for years, though we speak regularly – I told her about it and she suggested that I include some statement in my course outline about the topics discussed in the course bringing up difficult issues for some people.  She is always thinking ahead.  She said, “You may want to tell people that if they have difficulty with the material than they should be referred to see someone.”

She is very thoughtful.  She is always trying to help me be more thoughtful that way too.  Some of the fundamentals of conducting research with kids she has introduced to me.  Some basic stuff – this is how to treat your participants.  This is how you ensure your participants are going to be willing to participate in your study.  That the participants understand anonymity and confidentiality, and that they understand their contribution and why it is important.  That is what I do with all of my studies now.  That is how I relay the importance of my studies to all of my participants.

I think she has been profoundly impactful on the way I conduct research, as well as how I run my class.  She always made her classes relevant; she always brought the material around, emphasized how should we be studying this particular topic.  Why we should be studying this particular topic.  She took it away from the theoretical and brought it down into the relevant, the practical applications.  And thanks to her, I have always tried to be that way too.  That is my style with my own students.  Even the way I write articles have been influenced by her writing style, the way that I mark papers, the way I make suggestions in comments These are just some examples of someone who has been immensely influential.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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