Department of Psychology
Office: 5445B FH
Los Angeles, California 90095-1563
Phone: (310) 825-2160
Research and Teaching Interests
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
. Dr. Sears received his B.A. in History from
, his Ph.D. in Psychology from
in 1962, and since then has taught at UCLA. He has held visiting faculty
, 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
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.
CURRENT RESEARCH INTERESTS (September 14, 2007)
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
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
, 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).