Turns Out Lisa Kudrow, Sully Sullenberger, and a Bunch of Other Famous People Published Psychology Research

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Sometimes, scientific papers are deep, rich, challenging sources of new knowledge. You sit with them and underline stuff and take notes and come away a changed person.

Other times, scientific papers are just plain fun. That’s firmly the category in which a recent Perspectives on Psychological Science paper sits. In it, Scott Lilienfeld of Emory University and Steven Jay Lynn of Binghamton University simply list 78 famous and pretty famous people who have, surprisingly, been published in the psychological literature.

The most surprising one is probably Lisa Kudrow:

Messinger, H. B., Messinger, M. I., Kudrow, L., & Kudrow, L. V. (1994). Handedness and headache. Cephalalgia, 14, 64–67.

Friends actress Lisa Kudrow served as fourth author on this article with her neurologist father, Lee Kudrow, on the relation between handedness and both cluster and migraine headaches. They reported that the two groups of headache sufferers did not differ significantly from each other or from the expected 10% frequency of lefthandedness in males and females. Incidentally, Lisa Kudrow is a frequent migraine sufferer, as is her father.

Then there’s everyone’s favorite hero pilot, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger:

Wagoner, J. H., & Sullenberger, C. B. (1978). Pupillary size as an indicator of preference in humor. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 47, 779–782.

[…] In the study reported in this article (based on work completed while Sullenberger was an undergraduate), the authors found that in a sample of 11 participants, pupillary size was correlated positively with the rated humor of cartoons. It is interesting that a decade before the “miracle on the Hudson,” Sullenberger coauthored a technical paper with scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on identifying and responding to decision errors in aviation (Martin, Davison, Orasanu, & Sullenberger, 1999).

Also, Tim Duncan (as previously noted here)! Makes sense if you’re familiar with his cerebral reputation, perhaps best captured by his Onion persona:

Leary, M. R., Bednarski, R., Hammon, D., & Duncan, T. (1997). Blowhards, snobs, and narcissists: Interpersonal reactions to excessive egotism. In R. M. Kowalski (Ed.), Aversive interpersonal behaviors (pp. 111–131). New York, NY: Plenum.

When (recently retired) San Antonio Spurs basketball superstar Timothy (Tim) Duncan was an undergraduate at Wake Forest University, he coauthored this chapter along with social psychologist Mark Leary and two others on people’s reactions to narcissistic behaviors. The authors examined the reasons underlying egotistical individuals’ interpersonal displays, as well as the diverse range of people’s reactions to these displays. They concluded that egotism is produced and maintained by one or more of three factors: a sincere, but usually mistaken, belief that one is better than others; an attempt to create a positive impression on others; and a concerted effort to defend against deep-seated feelings of inferiority.

Long before she published a New England Journal of Medicine editorial about clinical-trial data-sharing, Elizabeth Warren co-authored what sounds like a useful and sad paper about bankruptcy:

Himmelstein, D. U., Warren, E., Thorne, D., & Woolhandler, S. J. (2005, February 8). Illness and injury as contributors to bankruptcy. Health Affairs. Retrieved from http://ssrn.com/ abstract=664565

In this article, Massachusetts Senator, prominent Democratic party leader, and former Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren and her colleagues examined medical problems as influences on bankruptcy, along with the impact of bankruptcy on physical health. The authors touched on mental illnesses and behavioral problems, including gambling, as contributors to bankruptcy. They found that about half of the 1,771 personal bankruptcy 

Other celebrities published stuff that didn’t sound quite as useful:

Young, S. M., & Pinsky, D. (2006). Narcissism and celebrity. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 463–471.

Drew Pinsky, better known as “Dr. Drew” to viewers of his regular HLN program Dr. Drew on Call, is an addiction medicine specialist who has treated a number of celebrities with chemical dependency. In this article, Pinsky and his coauthor demonstrated that (breaking news!) celebrities obtained higher scores on a self-reported narcissism measure than did noncelebrities. Reality show stars (more breaking news) were the most narcissistic of all.

From a pure, unadulterated nerd-celebrity perspective, it would probably be hard to beat this one:

Einstein, A., Freud, S., & Gilbert, S. (1933). Why war? Paris, France: International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation.

The great physicist Albert Einstein and the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, engaged in this littleknown published exchange of letters on the causes of war and potential ways of preventing it. In their interchange, both Einstein and Freud touched on psychological topics in a number of places. For example, Einstein discussed the hazards of the unchecked craving for psychological power among the governing classes of countries and the need to transfer this power to a much larger international authority charged with resolving conflicts. In turn, Freud addressed the dangers of the unconscious “destructive instinct” (Thanatos) and the need for civilization to erect cultural barriers (including enhancement of the intellect and sublimation of aggressive impulses) against this instinct.

I should probably stop before I excerpt all 78. But there are so many more — Tipper Gore on children and mental illness! Heinous right-wing radio personality Michael Savage on herbal antioxidants! Teller, of Penn & Teller fame, on magic and attentional research! This is a cool paper — try to nab a copy if you can.