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Member Spotlight: Kirk W. Brown

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Posted on 4/4/2017

Kirk Warren Brown is an APS Fellow and Associate Professor of Social Psychology and Health Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he also directs the Laboratory for Social and Affective Neuroscience and spearheads the Contemplative Science and Education core in the College Behavioral and Emotional Health Institute. He completed his PhD at McGill University and an SSHRC-sponsored (Canada) post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Rochester. He has been a member of SPSP since 2011 and contributes to SPSP governance.

What led you to choose a career in personality and social psychology?
My route to this career was indirect, as I began my PhD studies in Clinical Psychology before becoming enamored with the research enterprise, with the self-directed work life that attends an academic research career, and with topics that sit at the interface of social and clinical psychology, particularly emotion regulation and self-regulation.

Briefly summarize your current research, and any future research interests you plan to pursue. Using neuroscientific (EEG/ERP, fMRI) and other methods, I am studying ways in which mindfulness may promote adaptive emotion regulation and behavior regulation through shared neural and psychological processes. Hot on the heels of an edited volume newly published with co-editor Mark Leary (Oxford Handbook of Hypo-egoic Phenomena), I also plan to explore how training in mindfulness may alter self-related processes in intra- and inter-personally beneficial ways. 

Why did you join SPSP?
I joined SPSP to support this grand enterprise that some have claimed sits at the center of the field of psychology as a whole. And, in full disclosure, I wanted the member discount for SPSP conference registrations. 

What is your most memorable SPSP Annual Convention experience?
My most memorable experiences, plural, have been meeting researchers in our field whose dedicated work has done so much to advance our understanding of social-personality phenomena and to extend those discoveries into real-world application. Despite our powerful capacity for digitally mediated communication, there’s still nothing like sharing ideas with fellow scientists – who sometimes become future collaborators - live and in person.

How has being a member of SPSP helped to advance your career? 
Social and personality psychology has become a very sophisticated subfield, and the opportunity to learn from other SPSP members, through on-line fora, through the SPSP conferences, and in other ways has been invaluable to my work.

Do you have any advice for individuals who wish to pursue a career in personality and social psychology?
Think inter-(sub)disciplinary. It’s been recognized for some time that the topics that social-personality psychology addresses are relevant to many topics in other branches of psychology and beyond. And our branch of the field has much to gain from the methods used by other sub-disciplines and disciplines. I believe that the advent of social-health psychology, social and personality neuroscience, and other hybrid areas of study are forerunners of the future of social-personality psychology, perhaps helping to fulfill its promise as an integrated subfield of our discipline. Fortunately the love of collaboration that many researchers share means that one need not dive into such integrative work as an expert in the methods used by those other areas of study.

Outside of psychology, how do you spend your free time?
Research is a head-y enterprise, and I like to get into my body in off-work hours; I ride a bike every day, work out in a gym several times/week, and am learning Argentine tango (it’s harder than it looks). I also love to sail (one reason I moved to Virginia). Finally I meditate every day, and am grateful to be able to pursue professional interests that align well with, and are nourished by this personal work.

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