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David O. Sears
Distinguished Professor
Ph. D.,
Yale University
Primary Area:
Social Psychology
5445B FH
(310) 825-2160
Research and Teaching Interests:

My general research interests are in social psychology; political psychology; intergroup conflict; attitudes and the life cycle. My current research falls into five specific areas:

  1. Racism in politics. A number of projects continue my interest in the origins and effects of a "new," post-civil-rights era, racism in politics, which we describe as "symbolic racism." It is the most common and most politically powerful form of racism in American politics today. We also have pursued the idea of "black exceptionalism," that white Americans treat Latinos and Asian Americans more like the European immigrants of a century ago than like African Americans, who continue to face a relatively impermeable color line (with Danny Osborne, P.J. Henry, Chris Tarman, and Colette van Laar).
  2. Southern realignment to the Republican party. A related line of research investigates the long-term continuities of racial politics in the South. In particular it examines the role of white racism, based in a long history of racial antagonism in the South, and today embedded in Christian fundamentalism, as a force that has successfully moved many white Southerners to the Republican party (with Nicholas Valentino).
  3. Political multiculturalism. The expanded ethnic and racial diversity in the United States and other western nations has brought with it proposals for greater formal recognition of ethnic and racial identity in politics, law, and other social institutions, growing out of the "multicultural" movement. This raises a number of important psychological questions, concerning the determinants of strong ethnic identity, the role of exposure to American racial politics (as opposed to assimilationist tendencies) in determining the long-term integration of immigrant minorities, the complex links between American and ethnic identity among ethnic minorities, and the determinants of white Americans' attitudes toward immigration, liberal language policies, affirmative action, and other ethnic entitlements (with Jack Citrin, P.J. Henry, and Vika Savalei).
  4. The effects of terrorist attacks on domestic intergroup relations. It was widely speculated that the terrorist attacks of September 11 produced a reduction in intergroup tensions within the United States, as Americans of all creeds and colors came together in a united front. That is a testable social psychological proposition (with Ludwin Molina and Sabrina Pagano).
  5. Life cycle effects on attitudes. I continue to maintain a long-term interest in the effects of early political socialization, especially on politically important attitudes such as partisanship, ideology, racism, and ethnic identity. This raises fundamental questions about the relative power of realistic adulthood forces (such as self-interest) as opposed to the residues of pre-adulthood, or early-adult, attitudes in determining attitudes toward political issues in later adulthood (with P. J. Henry, Kate Fu, Carolyn Funk, Gail Sahar, and Nicholas Valentino).

DAVID O. SEARS is Professor of Psychology and Political Science, former Dean of Social Sciences, and current Director of the Institute for Social Science Research at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Sears received his B.A. in History from Stanford University, his Ph.D. in Psychology from Yale University in 1962, and since then has taught at UCLA. He has held visiting faculty positions at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley, has been a Fellow at the Brookings Institution and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and has been a Guggenheim Fellow. In 1991, he was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; in 1992, President of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics; and in 1994, President of the International Society of Political Psychology. His books include Public Opinion (with Robert E. Lane), The Politics of Violence: The New Urban Blacks and the Watts Riot (with John B. McConahay), Tax Revolt: Something for Nothing in California (with Jack Citrin), Political Cognition (edited with Richard R. Lau), Racialized Politics: The Debate about Racism in America (edited with Jim Sidanius and Lawrence Bobo), Social Psychology (12 editions, currently co-authored with Shelley E. Taylor and L. Anne Peplau), and the Handbook of Political Psychology (edited with Leonie Huddy and Robert Jervis). He has published articles and book chapters on a wide variety of topics, including attitude change, mass communications, ghetto riots, political socialization, voting behavior, and race and politics.