Psychology Wiki

Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Social psychology: Altruism · Attribution · Attitudes · Conformity · Discrimination · Groups · Interpersonal relations · Obedience · Prejudice · Norms · Perception · Index · Outline

Ellen S. Berscheid (born 1936[1]) is an American social psychologist. She is Regents Professor at University of Minnesota, where she received her PhD in 1965. Berscheid specializes in the research of interpersonal relationships. More specifically, her current research looks at external factors (environment) of a relationship and how they influence internal aspects (satisfaction) of that relationship.


Berscheid started her collegiate career as an Education major at Beloit College in Wisconsin, before transferring to University of Minnesota. It was at the University of Minnesota that Berscheid fell in love with psychology. She was so interested and dedicated that she was given a research assistant grant by her professor, Paul Secord. This kind of grant being given to an undergraduate was rare, especially for a student not majoring in psychology. Berscheid picked up psychology as her second major and graduated with honors. After graduation Berscheid applied for and received PHS Predoctoral Research Fellowship, at the University of Minnesota to work with Harold Kelley. However, Berscheid dealing with her new marriage and a death in her family decided to decline the offer and became a research administrator for Pillsbury Company.

Berscheid thrived at Pillsbury and received a promotion the following year, something unprecedented for a woman in this field. However, Berscheid felt that she had outgrown her position at Pillsbury and left to pursue painting. During this time, Berscheid did apply for a research assistantship at the University of Minnesota, under Elliot Aronson. During her interview Aronson and Berscheid clashed ideas on many different issues. Berscheid believed that she would never hear from Aronson after her interview. A few weeks later, she received a letter from him offering her the research assistantship. She obtained her Ph.D. while working under the direction of Elliot Aronson.

Unable to receive a job in the psychology department due to the male dominated social norm of the times. Berscheid took a job teaching Research Methods in the Business department where she met Elaine (Walster) Hatfield. Hatfield convinced Berscheid to join her in researching equity and attraction. Two women conducting psychological research was rare and might have been stopped if too many people took notice, therefore Hatfield and Berscheid conducted their research quietly through a federal grant.

A few years later, Hatfield left the Business department for a job in the psychology department and Berscheid took over Hatfield’s job as Student Activities Bureau. Berscheid was expecting to be pushed into early retirement when she was offered a professorship in the psychology department, which was an all male faculty, at the time. Berscheid has made many contributions in the field of relationship research and social psychology as a whole.


Berscheid is the recipient of Donald T. Campbell Award for Distinguished Research in Social Psychology from the Society of Personality and Social Psychology, and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Society of Experimental Social Psychology.[2] She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998.[1]


In 1974, Berscheid was the center of a controversy regarding wasteful federal funding of research. Senator Proxmire of Wisconsin used her as an example when he awarded the National Science Foundation his annual "Golden Fleece" award. Berscheid had been granted $84,000 by the foundation to research why people fall in love. The scandal "called into question use of public funds in scientific research." [3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B. American Academy of Arts and Sciences. URL accessed on June 24, 2011.
  2. American Psychological Association (1998). Awards for distinguished scientific contributions: Ellen S. Berscheid. American Psychologist, 53(4), 366-368. [1]

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).