When it comes to psychology, it seems Yale students prefer to examine the bizarre rather than the mundane.
“Probably there’s no area of psychology that undergraduates are more interested in than abnormal psychology,” Psychology Department chair Peter Salovey said.
Teresa Treat will indulge this inclination of Yale students when she comes to New Haven next year as the latest in the department’s massive influx of new faculty. Psychology also hopes to add a senior cognitive psychologist before the end of the semester and has three other searches that likely will extend into next year, department Director of Undergraduate Studies Frank Keil said.
“We’re not growing any bigger, but we’re hiring enormous numbers of new faculty,” Salovey said. “It’s sort of a new dawn in the Department of Psychology.”
Treat, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, specializes in the cognitive processes in men prone to sexual violence and women prone to eating disorders, Salovey said. She will teach an undergraduate seminar on psychopathology.
Psychology professors praised Treat’s ability to straddle different specialties within the field.
“She would potentially offer some bridges between between the clinical area and the cognitive area,” Keil said. “The boundaries between these areas are much more fuzzy than they used to be.”
Professor Paul Bloom agreed and said Treat’s appointment is the latest of several moves to strengthen Yale’s offerings in cognitive psychology.
“There’s a huge amount of growth in cognitive,” Bloom said.
This growth comes because Yale’s ranks of cognitive psychologists were very sparse as of very recently, but Treat’s appointment and the arrival this year of celebrated professor Marcia Johnson strengthen the ranks within that specialty.
Treat could not be reached for comment last night.
In addition, the Psychology Department is steering a tenure offer in cognitive psychology through Yale’s appointment procedures. The next and final step is for the department to gain the approval of the Joint Boards of Permanent Officers for its senior candidate, a male who specializes in judgment and decision-making.
Salovey declined to comment further, saying that a senior search can be tricky business and must proceed carefully.
“It can cost the University a million dollars to successfully recruit a cutting-edge scientist,” Salovey said. “So we don’t want to make a mistake.”
Three other ongoing searches likely will extend into next year. Two of these searches — in behavioral neuroscience and social psychology — aim to recruit senior faculty members while the third, in clinical psychology, shoots for a junior appointment.
Keil said all the new professors who have been filling vacancies in the department — more than 10 in just three years — add to the variety within the department.
“Our course offerings are growing and so is our enrollment,” Keil said. “I think the department’s been doing a great job.”