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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Childhood influences career interests

DeVries's childhood shaped his interest in social psychology. He grew up in a large immigrant family. The size of his family taught him the value of understanding the human mind as a survival skill; his immigrant background positioned him as an outsider.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Okay. What drew you to social psychology? Were there mentors or important teachers that headed you in that direction?
DAVID DE VRIES:
I think as is true with most career decisions, it was formed by a variety of influences. I was the seventh son in a family of seven sons. So you quickly learn, just for your survival's sake, to read the group around you. When you are constantly on the short end of the stick, you better be very tuned to your older brothers and their moods and how generous they were feeling towards you at the time. Those were pure survival skills. I also grew up in an immigrant family. Both my parents immigrated from the Netherlands. And I was in the U.S. culture and yet on the outside looking in on it. That gave me a lot of interest in behavior of groups. So then I did some experimentation in undergraduate school classes that involved social psychological concepts. The research I did during the election for the U.S. presidency – which was the race between Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson, showed that people in Michigan who voted for Goldwater scored significantly higher on personality tests that had to do with authoritarianism, the f scale. That is, people who supported Goldwater had this much more authoritarian personality than those voting for Johnson. All of those things intrigue me.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Which then ultimately led to your Ph.D.?
DAVID DE VRIES:
My going into the social psychology profession.