By Raashika Goyal
Professor Carin Perilloux sat calmly at her desk as I entered her Bailey Hall office, looking perfectly settled in at her new position, Visiting Assistant Professor of Social Psychology. Earning her B.A. in Psychology and Computer Science at Knox College and her Ph.D in Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin only a year ago, Perilloux is new to teaching at the undergraduate level, but already exhibits an extremely high level of excitement about spreading knowledge.
In regards to the origin of her interest in psychology, Perilloux cited her high school courses, and said she “didn’t understand why [it] wasn’t the only thing everyone would ever want to learn about. Why wouldn’t everyone want to learn about how other people think?” It is this sort of passion that Perilloux brings to the table and wants to share with her students.
At Union, Perilloux said she understands that many students take a psychology course not because they want to go into a psychology graduate program, but simply because they are interested in the field, and how it applies to other disciplines. Whether these be business or consumerism, her aim is to encourage her students to start thinking like psychologists by getting them to see what is or is not valid in the media, or influencing them to be active absorbers of the information out there.
Perilloux also said that her main personal goal at Union is to develop her teaching skills, recognizing that many faculty members have been here for a long time and can provide ample learning opportunities for her.
In addition, Perilloux explained that while she did teach at UT-Austin, Union College is an entirely different school in that it is a liberal arts school with a focus on teaching. She said this was, in fact, the main reason she came to Union: it provides her the ability to continue her research while improving her teaching abilities, a combination that was not available at larger research-intensive universities.
Perilloux also loved how similar Union College was to Knox College, a place where she said she “was excited to wake up everyday, knowing what activities were occurring around campus.”
She also cited the differences in the student body, saying that at Union, students were genuinely interested in learning, frequently raising their hands in classes and promptly emailing her with questions.
Perriloux’s research focuses on the conflict about sexes, which is the study of how men and women interact in different settings. Her most recent research dealt with sexual misconceptions: men overestimating how much women are interested in them. Though she originally became interested in this research due to a peer, it also interested her on a personal level. As a single female in the UT system, she said that she observed this male behavior all around her. In particular, she would like to investigate whether or not this trait is a psychological mechanism. In other words, whether this is something men do purposefully in order to increase their confidence, or whether it’s something they can’t control.
Perilloux is very optimistic about her research, saying that “the broad applications of this are that it can resolve the sort of behavior that can lead to many negative things in relationships – men being too pushy, violent, etc.”
As a scholar of psychology, Perilloux also had some insights about the most important takeaway from the study of psychology: “Psychology is a science— we don’t just rely on the senses for information; we use scientific experiments… even though the subject we are dealing with is extremely complex, the weight of the evidence helps increase scientific rigor and legitimize the results.”
She said this concept is highly underplayed because “psychology research gets sensationalized in the media…journal articles are scientific, but most people don’t have access to them, besides in colleges.”
Still, she is extremely positive about the recent widespread use of psychology in many fields, believing that “it’s absolutely necessary— it’s all about understanding how other people think… people think that they’re pretty good at judging other people, but most overestimate exactly how good they are… using psychology in these other fields helps us understand how people really do think and behave.”
Her favorite psychology books are those that aren’t entirely popular but not strictly dry data either, “those that give information about studies, but also have an opinionated side… the ones that fall in the middle.”
Looking around the room, Perilloux said two of her favorites in her field are Blank Slate by Steven Pinker and The Evolution of Desire by David Buss, the latter of which was authored by her Ph.D mentor. She spoke highly of Buss, saying that he’s scientifically responsible and also a clear thinker, two traits she admires.
In her free time, Perilloux said that she’s a “huge gamer; board, card, video games, everything.” She said that she has over fifty board games, and that if “someone comes over, they know that we’ll definitely be gaming.”
When asked to share something interesting about herself, Perilloux immediately responds that she is absolutely obsessed with Dr. Pepper, as she pointed at the Dr. Pepper clock hanging on her wall.
“I’ve been to the first bottling plant in Texas, where they actually make it… I just really like it,” she remarked. Welcome, Professor Perilloux!