IARR Member Snapshot:  Geoff MacDonald, PhD., Associate  Professor, Department of Psychology at University of Toronto. 

How did you find yourself in the relationship research world?

It was sort of by accident. When I started grad school I was really interested in social influence, especially nonconformity. But Mark Zanna, who was the attitudes researcher at Waterloo, was on sabbatical. So I got assigned to John Holmes. Of course, I’ve had many opportunities to select myself out of relationship research since then but since this was what Bob Ross would call a “happy accident” I never really wanted to switch. 

What would you say has been your favorite project or series of projects to date?

Philipp-Muller & MacDonald (2017). I had done a paper on social connection with avoidantly attached people back in 2010, but as the replication crisis hit I realized that research was woefully underpowered. I was working with an amazing undergraduate, Aviva Philipp-Muller who is now in grad school at Ohio State, and we decided to try to replicate that avoidance work and publish the results no matter how they came out. We failed to replicate the original results. Besides just being proud of the great job Aviva did on that project, I hope it reflects the ethic that striving to get better is more important than being right in the first place. 

Which project would you say generated the most interest?

By far the paper I wrote on social pain with Mark Leary in 2005. Such a case of being in the right place at the right time. People liked it so much I sort of tried to be a social neuroscientist for a while until I found attachment theory which became my one true love. I still get a lot of requests to review social pain work, and when I do I think about those musicians whose fans only want to hear the songs off their first album. 

What is your favorite IARR conference memory?

I have so many good memories from IARR conferences…from Art Aron being one of 3 people to show up for my Sunday morning talk at my first conference in Banff, to driving the 9P with Dan Dolderman in Saratoga Springs, to the closing reception under the stars in Crete. But it’s hard to top watching the dance floor fill up at IARR in Toronto to the dance mix that I had put together. 

Who has been your research hero in the field and why?

I’ve been thinking lately that there’s arguably two types of people in psychology at least – those who got into it because they love science and those who got into it because they’re fascinated by people. I fall in the latter camp and resonate with others who do too. I admire researchers who are broad minded, idea-oriented, creative, generous, and genuinely good people – and whose work foregrounds the experiences of people at least as much as the perspective of the scientist. I had to give up on the idea of heroes when Donald Fagen got arrested for domestic violence (and then again when Joseph Campbell turned out to be anti-semitic), but one person who comes to mind who I admired very much was Caryl Rusbult.

What is your best source of ideas for research?

Time off. I strongly believe that creative people need time away from the work routine, and new experiences stimulate new perspectives.


To see previous IARR Member Spotlight entries, click here