Heather Haas, Ph.D.
Main Hall 401A
People amaze me, annoy me, entertain me, frustrate me, inspire me, intrigue me, make me smile and break my heart. When it comes right down to it, why would I study anything else?
It’s a fascination with a long-standing history for me. By sixth grade I was collecting quotations, copying all the clever sayings I heard or read onto sheets of paper I kept in a yellow folder. I still have that folder and I find that it still reflects the interests that drive my work today: an appreciation for language, an interest in what it means to be wise, and a conviction that our belief systems and learning histories shape our choices and behaviors, and help to account for many of the seemingly fundamental differences between people.
In graduate school I merged those interests and began to study how personality is related to the proverbs and sayings that people believe and live by. Do you believe that it is better to have loved and lost than never loved at all? Do you believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well? I believe that our lives, at least in part, reflect our answers to these questions, whether or not we have ever consciously considered them.
With interests like this, I could have become a folklorist or a philosopher or taken up residence in an English department. But I also believe that such topics can be studied empirically, as fodder for scientific investigation and not just for philosophical reflection. We can go beyond asking what people believe– and why and whether they are good beliefs– to studying how those beliefs predict and perhaps even help to determine the choices and behaviors that shape our lives.