David C. Funder was born in Long Beach, California and grew up in Sacramento. He began his bachelor’s degree at Sacramento State University while working part time as a retail clerk at a local supermarket. David transferred to UC Berkeley during his junior year. At Berkeley, David began as a prelaw political psychology major, only switching to psychology when a counselor pointed out to him that he had only taken psychology courses so far! As a psychology major, Jack and Jeanne Block made a powerful impression on David. Although Jack was an unpopular choice (due to his exacting standards) David was one of few Berkeley undergraduates to complete an honor’s thesis with him. David graduated Phi Beta Kappa and began his Ph.D. work at Stanford University with Daryl Bem in 1974.
Legend has it that Bem recruited David to work with him because he “knew about Q-sorts” from Block. Block’s California Adult Q-sort (CAQ) was written in a highly technical (and psychodynamic) language and intended only for professional use. In one of David’s most cited papers, he and Bem modified the language of Block’s California Adult Q-sort for non-professional use allowing self-reports. As one example, the item “Is fastidious” was modified to “Is fastidious. A perfectionist; fussy about minor things.” Block was not thrilled about the modifications, saying “that isn’t what fastidious means!” but Bem claimed that Block was just being fussy about minor things. Block later forgave David as these modifications brought the CAQ into a mainstream research audience. Still, many years later (in 2008), Block provided his own modifications (the item in question became “Is fastidious, meticulous, careful and precise”).
Although David learned a great deal about personality from the Blocks, his first graduate course in personality psychology was taught by none other than Walter Mischel, who had recently published his famous book questioning the utility of trait-based personality assessments. In the years ahead, David would take a leading role in defense of personality, personality traits, and personality assessment.
David earned his Ph.D. from Stanford in 1979 and took his first job at Harvey Mudd College. During the summer of his first two years at Harvey Mudd, David returned to Berkeley to work with the Blocks. While at Harvey Mudd, David met the love of his life, Patricia Mayhew. As described in his personality textbook, their first date was less than spectacular. David’s attempt to psychoanalyze Patti resulted in being told to “keep his psychoanalysis to himself” and a glass of ice water being knocked directly onto his lap! (The symbolism is hard to ignore.) They got engaged at the APA conference in Washington, DC in 1982. The first person David told about the engagement was Jack Block, an indicator of how close the two had become over the years.
David spent three years at Harvey Mudd before moving to Harvard (yes, that Harvard) as an Assistant Professor in 1982. In 1986, David became an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. During the summer of 1988, David once again returned to Berkeley to work with Jack, this time bringing Patti and his two daughters (Morgan and Amy) along. As much as David enjoyed the corn fields of the Midwest, he is a Califorinian at heart and in 1989 he left UIUC to become an Associate Professor of Psychology at UC Riverside. He has been at Riverside ever since, being promoted to Professor in 1991, serving as department chair from 2002-2006, and becoming a Distinguished Professor in 2007. Along with a number of his colleagues, David played an integral role in making UC Riverside one of the top departments in the country for personality training.
Although David’s Ph.D. is formally in Social Psychology, he has long been a champion of personality psychology. His research spans a variety of topics in personality psychology including the stability of personality and personality as a predictor of behavior. One of David’s most important contributions to personality (so far) is his work on (the accuracy of) personality judgment. Inspired by Allport’s 1931 book, which included several chapters on personality judgment, David brought accuracy research back from the graveyard. Some key works on this topic include a 1987 Psych Bull dispelling the notion that humans consistently make judgment errors, a 1995 Psych Review outlining the Realistic Accuracy Model for personality judgment, a 1999 book on personality judgment expanding upon the Psych Review piece, and a 2012 Current Directions piece summarizing the latest research on the topic. David’s research in this area has inspired a new generation of accuracy researchers who have taken the helm.
Although some of his earliest work centered on the person-situation debate, it is only recently that David has returned to the topic of situations. Picking up from Lewin, David devised the Personality Triad of Persons, Situations, and Behaviors. While measures of personality and behavior had long been developed, few serious attempts to measure the third component of situations had been tried. His development of the Riverside Situational Q-sort, which for some time was the only serious instrument capable of quantifying the psychological properties of situations, has launched a wave of researchers into the area of psychological situations and within-person processes.
Because David has made so many important contributions to personality, it is difficult to identify the most important contribution of David’s career. Nonetheless, his widely popular undergraduate textbook The Personality Puzzle, first published in 1997, just may be his most important contribution to personality science. David’s personal writing style draws students into the subject like no other personality textbook before and has inspired thousands to take an interest in personality psychology.
David’s career includes a host of professional accomplishments and awards, many more than can be listed here. Some highlights include: (a) over 100 publications, (b) more than 17,000 citations, (c) consistent research funding from NIMH and NSF for more than two decades, (d) service on the editorial board of the top journals in social/personality psychology, (e) editor-in-chief of the Journal of Personality from 1994-2002, (f) President of the Association for Research in Personality from 2010-2012, (g) President of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in 2013, and (h) the Jack Block Award winner for career contributions to personality psychology in 2008.
Beyond the many accolades and awards, David’s proudest accomplishment is the success of students. David has mentored 20 students to their Ph.D.’s and these students have gone on to have very successful careers in both academic and non-academic settings. As a mentor, David is known for always being available for his students and putting their careers first. His dedication to his students was recognized in 2013, when he received the UC Riverside Doctoral Dissertation Advisor / Mentoring Award. His generosity towards others is only outpaced by his integrity. David has practiced and insisted on open science practices (even before it was cool). It is no surprise to find that David is also one of the leaders behind efforts to improve psychological research practices.
Although the many recognitions David has received—including this one—are often awarded as the sun sets on one’s academic career, it is a testament to David’s outstanding contributions that he has already accomplished so much and still maintains a research program that is as active and productive as ever. Given what we know about personality, it is a good bet that David’s contributions to psychological science are far from over. Still, it is always good to have a backup plan and his lifetime membership in the grocery Retail Clerks Union might come in handy if this whole academic thing doesn’t work out.
- David has been an inspiration to me for over 17 years. I read his textbook as an undergraduate and was compelled to pursue a career in personality research. Since then, my respect for David has only grown. David's research is an unusual balance of rigorous, interesting, and simple - he tackles fundamental questions with amazingly straightforward research designs. He also has immense integrity - before scientific integrity was a thing. Finally, David has been one of the most selfless and generous leaders in the field. He is a role model in every way.
- Neither of us could have been aware, but from the moment I stumbled into psychology, David Funder was influencing me every step of the way. His was the textbook that got me interested in personality psychology. His was the book on personality judgment that got me interested in research. His was the lab that got me interested in pursuing a PhD. And certainly not last, his was the guidance and support and training that got me a career on psychology.
- David has shaped the field of personality psychology significantly over the past three decades, perhaps more than any other person during that time. Through his research, his service, and his mentorship, he’s had an enormous impact on personality science and on many personality scientists. Speaking as one of those people, I feel extremely fortunate to be able to call David a mentor, colleague, and friend. When I was a grad student in his lab, David was a support and inspiration – and that continues to this day. There’s no one more deserving of recognition on the FPSP Heritage Wall of Fame. David, thank you for everything!
- I met David at my UC Riverside job interview when I was 26 years old. In the (too many!) years since, he has been many things—colleague, mentor, counselor, friend, thought leader, inspirer, dine/wine wit, philharmonic companion, graceful writer, true intellectual, source of reality checks, and calming presence. I have watched him nurture grad students from insecure/inexpert apprentices to poised innovators/scholars. I have watched him lift our department—both formally as chair and informally as resident wise person—to new heights. Our department without David would be like a fish without a bicycle or Napa Valley without wine.
- During the winter break of 2004-05, I read David’s book on Personality Judgment and became inspired – I wanted to work with this person. At SPSP, I begged my undergraduate advisor (Jon Grahe) to convince David to take me as a summer research intern (on a Psi Chi research grant). Stories diverge as to how that conversation went, but I did spend the summer of 2005 working in David’s lab. Fortunately for me, I also spent 5 more years working with David as his PhD student. Although I learned many things from David that have shaped my career, the three most important lessons I learned by observing him. First, David was always there for his students. The speed with which he would return manuscripts (with edits and comments that have stayed with me to this day) was nothing short of remarkable. Even on a 6 month sabbatical to Berlin, we managed to publish. In David’s lab, students were top priority. Second, David insisted that work in our lab be conducted with complete integrity. Data were reported as they were and never as we had hoped they would be. It is no surprise that David has become a leader in improving psychological research practices over the past several years. Finally, David taught me to do hard things; to gather data that others thought were too difficult to collect. Perhaps the best thing that I can say is that I have taken these lessons, among others, and tried to model my own lab after David’s.
- David Funder fundamentally changed my life. I met him when I was an undergraduate student in his personality class. I knew the moment he introduced the person-situation debate and his personality judgment research, that I had finally found the pulse of my future. By the end of the semester, I had never wanted anything more than I wanted to do research in his lab. Anyone who has spent even just minutes with David would probably understand why he is so inspiring to me, and countless others. He brings an unparalleled intellectual spirit to any topic he turns his attention to, he is fair yet true to what matters to him, and is inarguably one of the best writers in the field.
On a more personal note, I am deeply grateful for the opportunities he gave me. When I applied to do research in his lab, I was not the ideal Ph.D. candidate (to say the least). My GRE scores were embarrassing and I was a mediocre writer. Let’s put it this way, after having conversations with David, I often had to pull out a Merriam-Webster Dictionary and do some reading. And I’m pretty sure he knew that. Where most people would have completely skipped over my application, David could sense how much it meant to me and gave me a chance. That chance changed the course of my life. The five years in his lab and in that program have given me more than I can articulate. Nothing could be more fitting than for him to receive this honor and have the chance to see the impact he has had on the field and on people’s lives. Here’s to you David!
- David has been a productive and innovative scholar, a generous and inspiring teacher, and a good citizen serving the needs of our institutions. I have seen this close up since we first crossed paths in 1977 (at a seminar meeting in Jack Block’s home), and I see more of the same, day after day, as his Departmental colleague. I’ve learned more from him than I can possibly recount, and seen that his wisdom arises from knowing that one should never quickly abandon what common sense reveals. It has been my great good fortune to have him as a friend for forty years.
- David Funder is an exceptional scholar who has done a lot for personality psychology and psychology in general. His innovative and thought-provoking approaches have really helped propel the study of personality and individual differences forward, especially in times where personality psychology was at peril or "not cool" to study. What's more, I have David to thank for years of collegiality and friendship. He took me in as an international undergraduate student in his lab and let me participate in literature discussions and meetings. That was a very stimulating time that helped shape my thinking and career. I am deeply grateful for David giving me the opportunity to work with him and thus grow as a researcher. Thank you, David, for being such a good role model, mentor, and well-rounded scholar!
- David has an especially important talent of being a fantastic writer -- particularly with how engaging, clear, and understandable his writings are. David’s research and writing style were key in helping me realize a love for psychology and a desire to pursue graduate study. Working in David’s lab for five years was a true highlight of my professional career. His wit, expertise, and charm are enough to make anyone excited about psychology. He has left an indelible impression in how I approach psychology and the need to communicate our work in a way that scholars, family, and random strangers would find interesting and worthwhile to pursue. David excels in his understanding of the "big picture" for the mission of psychology and for the direction of our field. He has forever shaped my academic life and my philosophy for science being open, accessible, and transparent for all. I am forever grateful for his inspired writings, his wisdom, mentorship, and friendship over the years.
- Just a few short months before my qualifying exams, an unfortunate event made me decide that I needed to find a different graduate advisor. I had been David’s teaching assistant the previous quarter and been impressed with his kindness and professionalism--so I took a deep breath, knocked on his door, and asked to join his lab. To this day, I remain extremely grateful that he graciously said “yes”. For more than 25 years, I have personally benefited from David’s mentorship, advice, support, humor, and friendship. He is truly one of the wisest, kindest, and most generous people I know. And, despite his impressive record of success, he remains remarkably humble.
Our field has also benefited from both David’s passionate advocacy and his own impressive scholarship. He has long been one of the field’s staunchest champions and best role models. He has defended personality psychology when others would have defined it out of existence, nurtured the growth and expansion of the field, and been a vocal critic of questionable research practices when necessary. Today, personality psychology is thriving largely due to his efforts.
David’s theoretical and empirical contributions are significant and have moved the field ahead in important ways. His work also provides some important lessons that aspiring personality researchers would be wise to heed. First, we should never be afraid to question “what everybody knows”, particularly if it seems to defy common sense. Second, laypersons know quite a bit about human behavior in general and personality traits in particular. Third, simple approaches often provide considerable insight. And, finally, good work can be done with great integrity.
One last note: As you read the biographical sketch and these tributes, you will likely notice that there is great consensus about David’s traits. Please do not doubt the accuracy of these personality judgments. Not only do these judgments agree with one another, they also predict David’s behavior both over time and across situations.