Faculty » Robert Rosenthal

Research Areas

Professor Rosenthal's research has centered for over 40 years on the role of the self-fulfilling prophecy in everyday life and in laboratory situations. Special interests include the effects of teacher's expectations on students' academic and physical performance, the effects of experimenters' expectations on the results of their research, and the effects of clinicians' expectations on their patients' mental and physical health. For some 40 years he has been studying the role of nonverbal communication in (a) the mediation of interpersonal expectancy effects and in (b) the relationship between members of small work groups and small social groups. He also has strong interests in sources of artifact in behavioral research and in various quantitative procedures. In the realm of data analysis, his special interests are in experimental design and analysis, contrast analysis, and meta-analysis. His most recent books and articles are about these areas of data analysis and about the nature of nonverbal communication in teacher - student, doctor - patient, manager - employee, judge - jury, and psychotherapist - client interaction. He is Co-Chair of the Task Force on Statistical Inference of the American Psychological Association.

Selected Awards

Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Science of Psychology of the American Psychological Foundation, 2003

Distinguished Scientific Award for Applications of Psychology, APA, 2002

Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award, APA Division 5 - Evaluation, Measurement, and Statistics, 2002

Distinguished Psychology Alumni Lecturer, UCLA, 2001

James McKeen Cattell Award, American Psychological Society, 2001

Distinguished Scientist Award, Society of Experimental Social Psychology 1996

AAAS Prize for Behavioral Science Research, 1993, with N. Ambady

Donald Campbell Award, Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 1988

Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, 1988-89

Distinguished Career Contribution Award, Massachusetts Psychological Association, 1973-74

Senior Fulbright Scholar, Australian American Educational Foundation, 1972, U of Sydney, Macquarie U., Flinders U.

Cattell Fund Award, APA Div. 13, First Prize, 1967, with L. Jacobson

AAAS Socio-Psychological Prize, 1960, with K. Fode


For nearly half a century I have been fascinated by the psychology of interpersonal expectations; the idea that one person's expectation for the behavior of another can come to serve as self-fulfilling prophecy. Our experiments have been conducted in laboratories and in the field, and we have learned that when teachers have been led to expect better intellectual performance from their students they tend to get it. When coaches are led to expect better athletic performance from their athletes they tend to get it. When behavioral researchers are led to expect certain responses from their research participants they tend to get those responses. For almost as long as I've been interested in interpersonal expectations I've also been interested in various processes of nonverbal communication. In part, this interest developed when it became clear that the mediating mechanisms of interpersonal expectancy effects were to a large extent nonverbal. That is, when people expect more of those with whom they come in contact, they treat them differently nonverbally. Some of our most recent research on nonverbal behavior has examined "thin slices" of nonverbal behavior -- silent videos or tone-of-voice clips of about 30 seconds or less. Some of our more recent work with these thin slices shows that we can predict, using 30 seconds of instructors' nonverbal behavior, what end-of- term ratings college students will give their instructors. From thin slices of doctors' interactions with one set of patients, we can also predict which doctors are more likely to be sued by a different set of patients. Finally, jury verdicts can be predicted from the nonverbal behavior of the judges as they instruct the jury. I also have strong interests in sources of artifact in behavioral research and in various quantitative procedures. In the realm of data analysis, my special interests are in experimental design and analysis, contrast analysis, and meta-analysis.

Selected Publications

requivalent : A simple effect size indicator (In press) Psychological Methods (with D. B. Rubin).

Repeated measures contrasts for "multiple patterns" hypotheses (2003). Psychological Methods , 8 , 275-293 (with R. M. Furr).

Quantifying construct validity: Two simple measures (2003). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 84 , 608-618 (with D. Westen).

Covert communication in classrooms, clinics, courtrooms, and cubicles (2002). American Psychologist , 57 , 839-849.

Contrasts and effect sizes in behavioral research: A correlational approach (2000). New York: Cambridge University Press (with R.L. Rosnow & D.B Rubin).

People studying people: Artifacts and ethics in behavioral research (1997). New York: Freeman (with R.L. Rosnow).

Pygmalion in the classroom (1992). Expanded edition. New York: Irvington (with Lenore Jacobson).

Meta-analytic procedures for social research (1991). Revised edition. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Judgment studies: Design, analysis, and meta-analysis . New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.