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GRCC Psychology Department's Speaker Series tackles the elephant (and donkey) in the room


Trump supporter: “What the h*ll are you thinking?”
Clinton supporter: “How can you even consider supporting…”
Third party supporter: “What planet are you on?”

Whether it has been at work, in a coffee shop, over a beer, or on social media, we have all heard variations of these types of comments, ad nauseam, in 2016.  

As divisive and exhausting as this year’s election is, you have to admit: it’s not boring. 

If you are interested in taking a deeper dive into the “why” of political partisanship in this year’s presidential election cycle, you might want to check out the first topic of the  2016-17 season of Grand Rapids Community College's Psychology Speaker Series.

Dr. Frank Conner, chairman of GRCC's psychology department, will discuss "The Psychology of Political Affiliations: Are Donkeys and Elephants Really that Different?" from 1-2:30 p.m. this Thursday, Oct. 27. All presentations in this speaker series are free, open to the public and held in room 168 of the Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center at 151 Fountain St. NE.

Dr. Conner says the talk is apolitical. It is not meant to convince you to support one party over the other; instead, it is simply about being able to understand other people’s point of view, even if it is radically different than yours. “It’s about being more objective, accepting and understanding of people who are different from you,” Conner says. “The fact is different people view the world differently.“

The genesis of the talk is born from Conner’s research background and curiosity. “I am really curious about the continuing political divide. What is causing this separation?”  He says his research background is in socio-cultural psychology, which tries to understand individual differences and how we influence others, as well as how others influence us.

Conner says developing an understanding of individual differences is not only important in political discourse, but also plays itself out in the workforce when people have to work in cross-functional teams while solving problems. Each individual, whether they are an engineer, accountant, or marketer, will approach the problem differently, and it is only through understanding another’s point of view that the team will be able to arrive at the optimal solution.

The GRCC Psychology Department Speaker Series is in its ninth year. It was started to enhance the Psychology Department at GRCC and provide students a “four-year institution” experience and an opportunity to learn, be challenged and push their world view. Other talks scheduled include:
  • "The Emergent Use of Virtual Reality in the Treatment of Psychological Disorders" by psychotherapist and software developer Thomas J. Overly from 1-2:30 p.m. on Nov. 30.
  • "Understanding the Neurobiology of Drug Addiction in Humans through the Study of Animals" by Bryan Singer, a research fellow and lecturer at the University of Michigan, from 1-2:30 p.m. on Feb. 16.
  • "Introduction to Mindfulness: Exploring the Science and Practical Application" by April Hadley, social worker and instructor at the Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness, from 1-2:30 p.m. on March 22. 

As stated above, all presentations in this speaker series are free, open to the public and held in room 168 of the Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center at 151 Fountain St. NE.

For more information about the series, contact Conner at (616) 234-3612.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
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