Time and the Pace of Life


My long-standing research passion has concerned the social psychology of time. I've been especially interested in how different cultures view and use their time, which cities and countries are fastest and slowest and, ultimately, how these differences bear on the quality of the lives of the people who reside in these places. I’ve studied cultural differences in waiting: who waits for who, in what circumstances and what this tells us about status and power relationships between people. I’ve also studied the way people measure time—Is it by the clock? Social events? Nature?—and what this tells us about the individual and their culture.


See, for example:


Levine, R. (1997). A Geography of Time.  New York: Basic Books. (also, with translations into seven languages). (Sample chapter at Amazon.com).


Levine, Robert (2013).  Time and culture.  In E. Diener & R. Biswas-Diener (Eds), Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF Publishers. DOI: April, 2013, www.nobaproject.com



Helping and Kindness Toward Strangers


In these studies, my students and I have traveled across the United States and much of the world to observe where passersby are most likely to help a stranger. In each city, we have conducted five different field experiments. Our studies have focused on simple acts of assistance: Is an "unnoticed" dropped pen retrieved by a passing pedestrian? Does a man with a hurt leg receive assistance picking up a dropped magazine? Will a blind person be helped across a busy intersection? Will a stranger try to make change for a quarter (or its foreign equivalent)? Do people take the time to mail a stamped and addressed "lost" letter?


See, for example:


Levine, R. (2003). The kindness of strangers.  American Scientist, 91, 226-233.


Levine, R., Reysen, S., & Ganz, E. (2008). The kindness of strangers revisited: A  comparison of 24 U.S. cities. Social Indicators, 85, 461-481.



Persuasion and Manipulation

I've conducted different types of field research, ranging from interviews to going undercover as a participant observer, to understand the methods of persuasion and manipulation that get people to buy and do things they never intended. My students and I have, for example, deliberately thrown ourselves in the paths of hucksters selling everything from cars and Tupperware to health and religion. We've observed the heavyweights--people who use their skills to control lives--exert their powers, individuals ranging from politicians and psychotherapists to religious and cult leaders and suicide bombers. I've studied magicians and mentalists and assorted flim-flam men. Most educational of all, I've taken jobs selling used and new cars and as a door-to-door cutlery salesman.


See, for example:


Levine, R. (2003). The Power of Persuasion: How We’re Bought and Sold.  Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons (also, with translations in seven other languages).  (Sample chapter at Amazon.com).

Levine, Robert (2013).  The social psychology of persuasion.  In E. Diener & R. Biswas-Diener (Eds), Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF Publishers. DOI: April, 2013. www.nobaproject.com.





Much of my research addresses issues surrounding the social and psychological quality of life.  In certainly the most ambitious of these projects, I have been participating in a joint effort by the United Nations and the country of Bhutan to enhance nothing-less than world happiness. Briefly: In the Spring of 2012, the United Nations implemented a resolution, adopted unanimously by the General Assembly, placing ‘happiness’ on the global agenda. The nation of Bhutan was asked to convene a group of international “experts” to develop policies to raise worldwide happiness—more specifically, to develop a ‘new paradigm for world development.’ One of the nine core domains of Bhutan’s GNH index is ‘time use,’ which is my research area.  As a result, I have been helping to lead that section of the report.  Have we enhanced world happiness? Let’s just call it a work in progress.


See, for example:


Levine, Robert (2013). Time use, happiness and implications for social policy: A report to the United Nations. Insights, 6, 2-13.


A News story about the Bhutan project



The Self


My most recent book project is about the self.  For this, I researched an array of characters and conditions that challenge our assumptions about who we are and, most importantly, what we are capable of becoming.  I drew on stories from psychology, medicine, biology, literature and my own life to describe the quirky and often surprising psychology that drives the process. I also conducted a number of formal studies concerning these issues.  In one study, for example, my students and I have been looking at cross-cultural differences in the way people visualize the boundaries of their selves.  In another, we asked people how they would feel about meeting their own double.   I have also been involved in Philip Zimbardo’s Heroic Imagination Project—an educational program that helps us enhance the entity we call our self.


See: Levine, Robert. POSSIBLE SELVES:

A Social Psychologist Explores the Peculiar Landscape We Call Our Self and Strategies for Exploiting its Potential (in press).




Also, see my vita for a full list of my publications on these topics.

Robert V. Levine, Professor of Psychology. E-mail: robertle@csufresno.edu

Robert V. Levine

Professor of Psychology

Social Psychology writer, speaker, consultant


E-mail: robertle@csufresno.edu