When University of Texas at Austin psychology professor William Corbin arrives on Yale’s campus next fall, a new dimension will be added to Yale psychology experiments — alcohol.
A specialist in alcohol abuse and prevention, Corbin accepted an offer to come to Yale as a junior professor three weeks ago. Teaching at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, Corbin will likely offer courses on addictive behaviors and clinical psychology. He will also run experiments in which student participants consume alcohol so he can observe the immediate effects.
Chosen from an original pool of approximately 70 candidates, Corbin said he had few reservations about accepting the appointment and moving his family to New Haven.
“It would’ve been pretty difficult not to take the offer,” Corbin said. “Yale doesn’t have to do a whole lot to sell the department because the overall department and the clinical program are both consistently ranked in the top five in the country.”
Psychology chairman Peter Salovey said the department was attracted to Corbin’s creative research methods and his empirical methods of evaluating treatments in clinical psychology.
“I think he fit with the values of our program,” Salovey said. “He evaluates treatment in a research context and he’s studying something that matters, something that’s pervasive and profound.”
At the undergraduate level, Corbin is likely to teach an introductory lecture course on clinical psychology, which will focus on the treatment of mental disorders. Salovey said this will complement the “Abnormal Psychology” course, which focuses on the causes of mental disorders. Salovey added that Corbin may also begin offering a course on substance abuse in two years.
“I think [Corbin’s appointment] is excellent from an undergraduate teaching point of view,” Salovey said.
Although there are professors in the Yale School of Medicine who specialize in substance abuse and prevention, Corbin will be the first in the Psychology Department.
“Alcohol and addictions are very important areas of study and from indications, they are becoming even more important,” Psychology Director of Graduate Studies Kelly Brownell said. “He’s working in an area of tremendous social importance.”
Corbin has published a number of works examining the role of alcohol in self-esteem issues, the sexual victimization of women and sexually transmitted diseases.
Brownell, who led the search committee, said the department did not specifically pursue a scholar specializing in alcohol and addictions.
“We picked the person who was most qualified,” Brownell said. “And it just so happened that he was doing work on alcohol.”
Brownell added that one of Corbin’s best qualities was the breadth of his academic research. Corbin studies the behavioral effect of alcohol, as well as the social origins and prevention of alcoholism.
At the University of Texas, Corbin has run experiments in which participants over the age of 21 consume alcohol in his laboratory. Corbin said he will continue these experiments at Yale and hopes to work with undergraduates.
“Currently, I use primarily college students as participants,” Corbin said. “They’re an integral part of my research, so I’m expecting undergraduates to be a major part of the participant population at Yale as well.”
Psychology major Allison Master ’03 said she is not sure if she would participate in such an experiment or take a class on substance abuse, but thinks such courses could be popular among undergraduates.
“I’d say that issues of drinking are very interesting to undergraduates,” Master said. “So I don’t see why they shouldn’t offer classes on it.”