IARR Member Snapshot:  Sue Sprecher, PhD., Distinguished Professor, Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Illinois State University.  IARR President.


 How did you find yourself in the relationship research world? 

Picture me as a naïve undergraduate student at University of Wisconsin-Madison back in the early 1970s taking a large lecture class with Elaine Hatfield (then Elaine Walster). She announced one day that she wanted to hire someone to type. I ran up after class and told her I was a good and fast typist (at least that’s what I imagine my nerdy self at the time would have said).  She hired me to type the second edition of the Berscheid-Hatfield Interpersonal Attraction book (yes, on a typewriter!), and the rest is history.

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

Without question, my current research (which I wrote about in the 2016 May issue of RRN) using a version of the Art Aron Closeness Induction technique and studying the get-acquainted process in the lab.  Why do I love this?  For most of my career, I never had a “lab” or the opportunity to do lab experiments, but beginning in 2010, our sociology program acquired research lab space, and I became the main inhabitant of the space and designed my first experiment. Eight years later, I’m still doing them – same paradigm with minor tweaks, each experiment looking at a slightly different issue about the get-acquainted process, and giving a new group of sociology and psychology undergraduate students the opportunity to be involved in a research team doing fun, exciting research. 

Which project would you say generated the most interest? 

 I had a chance to tag along on a project with some intellectual giants of our field – Eli Finkel, Paul Eastwick, Ben Karney, and Harry Reis on the paper, “Online Dating: A Critical Analysis from the Perspective of Psychological Science”, published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. This was a memorable experience to create such a great piece of work, and I predict that the paper will eventually be the most cited work that has my name on it. Thanks, Eli, for including me and allowing me to get a close-up of your brilliance!

 What is your favorite IARR conference memory?

Every IARR (and ISSPR and INPR) conference has been so special, actually.  I have been to so many, beginning with the first Madison conference in 1982. My favorite event at many of the conferences has been the sock hop, although these did not become a part of our conferences until the 1990s. I love to dance with my colleagues; it definitely gives me a high to see us all out on the floor moving to the music (Art Aron…I am thinking of some of your dance moves on the floor as I write this).  I have a very fond memory of many of the early conferences (Vancouver, Maine, Banff) when I was still young and could look up to the leaders of the field – Hal Kelley, Ellen Bersheid, Ted Huston, Anne Peplau (our early Presidents) – and be so excited if they gave me a service task to do. 

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

I don’t have one particular hero, but so many.  I was very lucky to have been influenced by Elaine Hatfield early in my career.  I know I would not be here (as a relationship scientist) had she not tolerated this weird young student asking for research tasks to do (after I typed that book referred to in #1, she gave me other little research tasks to do, and then I decided I wanted to do just what she was doing). I also put Ellen Berscheid, Elaine’s partner in much early work, on a pedestal. Today, I have a special appreciation for those in our field who have contributed their service to help make the organization what it is, and I think especially of Dan Perlman, but so many others as well. I also feel it was an honor to have known Caryl Rusbult, and I so much enjoy her academic children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Her work and spirit are continuing through them all. I also greatly admired Scott Christopher, who sadly passed away during the month I was working on this entry.  He and I did many projects together over the years related to sexuality and close relationships, including review chapters and editing a special issue on the topic.  He also contributed much to IARR, and I will miss him very much. And, I can’t name all of my heroes in the field (or this entry would be too long), but I’m a fan of so many.

What is your best source of ideas for research?  

I wish I had great ideas, and then I would tell you the source for them! Rather, I think I plod along in small steps, and become more excited about the process itself (of collaboration, of polishing a survey or a paper, of looking at SPSS output) than I am driven by the topic or the idea.  But, then, in the midst of my love affair with the process emerges an idea that seems worth exploring in future research.