Dolores Albarracín appointed Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor

Dolores Albarracín
Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor Dolores Albarracín is the Alexandra Heyman Nash University Professor, director of the Social Action Lab at the Annenberg School for Communication, and the director of the Science of Science Communication Division at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. (Image: Courtesy of the School of Arts & Sciences)

Dolores Albarracín has been named the University of Pennsylvania’s twenty-eighth Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor, beginning July 1.

The announcement was made today by Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett.

Albarracín, a world-renowned social psychologist, will be the Alexandra Heyman Nash University Professor, with joint appointments in the Annenberg School for Communication and the Department of Family and Community Health in the School of Nursing

“We are delighted to welcome Dolores Albarracín back to Penn as our newest Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor,” Gutmann said. “Dolores’ pathbreaking teaching and research cross traditional academic boundaries to advance the urgent goal of improving health and wellness for some of our society’s most vulnerable and at-risk people, including people with HIV/AIDS who use drugs. 

“Her work has transformed both basic understanding of the psychology of social cognition and motivation along with nursing, medical and public health interventions focused on changing attitudes and behaviors to improve the welfare of individuals and society. She embodies our vision for Penn and our PIK initiative, which seeks to make positive change in our world by harnessing inclusion and innovation to drive maximum impact.”

Albarracín, just elected president of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, studies persuasion, belief formation, motivation and behavioral change, especially related to health behaviors. She is currently a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was the Martin Fishbein Professor of Communication in Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication in 2012-14. This year she published “Action and Inaction in a Social World: Predicting and Changing Attitudes and Behavior”, and she has published four other books—including three volumes of the landmark and widely used “The Handbook of Attitudes”and almost 200 journal articles and book chapters. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. She recently received the Avant-Garde Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which supports “individual scientists of exceptional creativity who propose high-impact, bold basic research,” as well as awards for Outstanding Mid-Career Contributions in Social Psychology and Outstanding Scientific Contributions to Research on Attitudes and Social Influence from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. 

Born in Argentina, Albarracín served from 2014 to 2020 as editor-in-chief of the Psychological Bulletin and currently leads the Social Action Lab at the University of Illinois, which advances her pioneering research into such questions as: Why and how do we form attitudes? How can we persuade others to engage in socially beneficial behaviors, especially related to health outcomes? How can interventions and campaigns be designed to motivate better health outcomes for different groups? She earned a Ph.D. and an M.A. in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, along with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires, a B.A. in psychology from the Universidad Católica de La Plata and a B.A. in letters from the Universidad Nacional de La Plata. 

“Dolores Albarracín’s work,” Pritchett said, “illuminates profound questions about who we are, what we do and how we can change. Her insights into human motivation and persuasion will be more significant than ever as the world emerges from a pandemic and seeks to improve the future of global health. We are proud to welcome her back to Penn and confident that she will have a dynamic impact across our campus in the years ahead.”

The Penn Integrates Knowledge program was launched by Gutmann in 2005 as a Universitywide initiative to recruit exceptional faculty members whose research and teaching exemplify the integration of knowledge across disciplines and who are appointed in at least two schools at Penn.

The Alexandra Heyman Nash University Professorship is a gift of Stephen J. Heyman, a 1959 graduate of the Wharton School, and his wife, Barbara Heyman. The professorship is named for the couple’s daughter, Alexandra Heyman Nash, a 1989 graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences. Stephen Heyman is a University Emeritus Trustee and member of the School of Nursing Board of Advisors. He is managing partner at Nadel and Gussman LLC in Tulsa, Oklahoma.