Dr. Elaine Hatfield (B.A. Michigan, Ph.D. Stanford) is a professor of Psychology at the University of Hawai‘i. She is well known as the scholar who pioneered the scientific study of passionate love and sexual desire. In 2012, the Association for Psychological Science (APS) will give Hatfield the William James award for a Lifetime of Scientific Achievement. In recent years she has received Distinguished Scientist Awards (for a lifetime of scientific achievement) from the Society of Experimental Social Psychology, the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex, and the University of Hawai‘i, and the Alfred Kinsey Award from the Western Region of SSSS; The Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s Methodological Innovator Award, and the International Academy for Intercultural Research (IAIR)’s Distinguished Scientist Award.
For the past two decades, she has been ranked in citation reviews as the most frequently quoted social psychologist in the world. She has often appeared on national television, interviewed by Barbara Walters, Phil Donahue, Hugh Downs, Tom Snyder, and others, and has written many books on her research, among them two books which both won the American Psychological Foundation's National Media Award: A New Look at Love and Mirror, Mirror: The Importance of Looks in Everyday Life.
Recently, Drs. Hatfield and Richard L. Rapson (who are husband and wife) have collaborated on four books: Love, Sex, and Intimacy: Their Psychology, Biology, and History (HarperCollins) Emotional Contagion (Cambridge University Press), Love and Sex: Cross-Cultural Perspectives (Allyn & Bacon), and in the spring, their final book: What’s Next in Love and Sex: Psychological and Cultural Perspectives.
The Rapsons have published a collection of short stories (Dangerous Characters), four serious novels: Rosie, Recovered Memories, Darwin’s Law, and Hijacked! and five detective stories: two Kate MacKinnon murder mysteries (Deadly Wager and Vengeance is Mine) and two Firefly mysteries (The Adventures of Firefly: The World’s Tiniest Detective and Take Up Serpents), and The G-string Murders.
Dr. Elaine Hatfield is a pioneer in the study of attraction and close relationships, an important subfield in social psychology. I was so fortunate that she was on the faculty in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when I was an undergraduate sociology student. I took her for a large lecture class, and then responded to her announcement that she needed a typist (which involving typing the second edition of “Interpersonal Attraction” (Berscheid & Hatfield; 1978). My first exposure to Dr. Hatfield was sitting in her office typing that second edition (yes, on an old-fashioned typewriter). Although I had never imagined prior to that experience that I could go on and get a higher degree, I fell in love with what she was doing. I wanted to be an Elaine Hatfield – someone who taught and did research in the social psychology of relationships. Thanks to Elaine’s encouragement and the research and writing opportunities she gave me as a student and early in my career, I have gone on to spend a life-time researching and teaching on many of the same topics that Elaine (and her collaborator, Ellen Berscheid) were the first to study. Elaine has continued to always be supportive and someone who cares about her many students and collaborators. Thank you, Elaine.
- Susan Sprecher
In 1969, I was finishing my junior year in college, and although I liked my Psychology courses, I had no clue as to where that interest might take me. And then I happened across a slender purple paperback, called Interpersonal Attraction, and I knew right away that this was exactly what I wanted to study. Elaine Hatfield, along with her colleague Ellen Berscheid, had taken the pioneering steps to fill an important, and some might even say embarrassing, gap in the social-psychological literature: the ways in which we are most intensely social, namely in our relationships with others. In their book, Hatfield and Berscheid demonstrated that relationships could be studied with the same kind of theoretical ingenuity and methodological rigor as more traditional social-psychological topics, and they opened the door to thousands of studies that have followed. Elaine, I am grateful to you and Ellen topics for having the insight and courage to let the field know that topics like love, attraction, attractiveness, and relating were fundamental to social psychology and for showing us how to think about and study them. Five decades later, I still refer back to that wonderful little book. It’s full of the intuition, creativity, and commitment to theory and scientific method that characterizes so much of your work. This recognition deservedly acknowledges your many contributions to our science, but for me, it is also personal, allowing me to thank you for lighting a path for my life’s work.
- Harry T. Reis, Ph.D
Most tributes for Elaine Hatfield will rightly come from other psychologists. But, I think, speaking as a historian, note must be taken of the major historical contributions to culture generally that derive from her work. As with Kinsey, Elaine pioneered a field of study important to everyone, but one that had been shrouded in silence since time immemorial. As the progenitor (with Ellen Berscheid) of the rigorous and scientific study of love--romantic, passionate, and companionate--she faced tremendous international opposition from the powerful and the traditionalists. Leave love to the poets and pop songwriters and Hollywood, they shouted. But she forged ahead, making it clear that being intelligent about love is possible and valuable, and that being so can help people. Her work has also spawned a huge multi-disciplinary enterprise: love is now examined rigorously in nearly every academic discipline. People want to be smarter about love, and no one is more important in fostering that idea than Elaine Hatfield.
- Richard L. Rapson
It’s hard to fathom what relationship science would be like if it weren’t for Elaine Hatfield. She was a leader among the small handful of scholars who launched the discipline in the 1960s and 1970s, and her contributions have remained breathtaking ever since.
She (literally and figuratively) wrote the book on interpersonal attraction. She developed equity theory. She turned love into a topic of scientific inquiry. She conducted the definitive study on the importance of physical attractiveness. She identified the “what is beautiful is good” stereotype. She investigated the role that self-esteem plays in romantic attraction. She debunked the myth that men like women who “play hard to get.” She identified the construct of emotional contagion. She developed the paradigmatic approach to understanding sex differences in receptivity to sexual offers. She developed a unique cultural psychology of romantic love. Along the way, she pioneered the research methods that remain essential today.
Social psychology didn’t have many female professors when Elaine entered the field, and she faced steep obstacles throughout those early years. But she—both on her own and in collaboration with the great Ellen Berscheid—launched relationship science nonetheless. Because Elaine and Ellen have long been undaunted academic badasses, they’ve been called the Thelma and Louise of social psychology.
I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that they have made it possible for the rest of us to study relationships the way we do—and for that I am immensely grateful.
- Eli J. Finkel