Lecture explores psychology of food choices


Paul Rozin, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, presents his findings on the moral, psychological and social factors involved in food choices in a lecture at Bates at 4:15 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, in the Keck Classroom (G52) in Pettengill Hall, 4 Andrews Road.

Titled “The Psychology of Food and Eating,” the talk is part of the Department of Psychology’s “Diversity and Domains of Life” lecture series, supported by the Mellon Innovation Fund at Bates. The talk is open to the public at no cost.

Rozin is the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of Psychology at Penn. He has researched food attitudes and the function of pleasure from food in several cultures, including France, India, Japan and the U.S., where food and consequently obesity have become headline issues.

“I love food and that is why I work on it,” he said in a 1999 article in the Penn campus newspaper. Rozin, the Daily Pennsylvanian writer reported, “is seeking to discover ‘why Americans worry so much about food — instead of just the old-fashioned enjoyment of food.’ ”

One of Rozin’s goals is to shed light on these cultural differences and on the politics that influence scientific consensus about what is healthful.

“I want people to respect science as the best show in town for establishing truth, for establishing knowledge — but as one that is imperfect and takes a while to get everything right,” Rozin said in an article on the Mount Holyoke College Web site. “I don’t want people to think either that it’s worthless or that it’s perfect. And that’s very hard to do.”

Rozin is the former editor of the journal Appetite and is associate director of the Solomon Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Penn. In 2007, he received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association, which rewards psychologists for their contributions, both theoretical and empirical, to the basic research of psychology. That same year he received the French Food Spirit Award in the science category.

Rozin earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. He began as a member of the department of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1963, and in 1997 was named the Kahn Professor.

Supported by a $450,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Mellon Innovation Fund at Bates is dedicated to curricular innovation, adoption of new pedagogical tools and the further development of scholarship as part of a long-term career plan.

Rozin’s talk coincides with Nourishing Body and Mind: Bates Contemplates Food, a dominant theme of the 2008-09 academic year. Including a Web site, events and other programming, Bates Contemplates Food is an initiative to raise consciousness about the consequences of our food choices and, in particular, about Bates’ own efforts to feed the campus in a healthy, sustainable way.