Richard John Promoted to Professor of Quantitative Psychology

Congratulations are in order for CREATE’s Associate Director for Research Richard John who was recently promoted to Professor of Quantitative Psychology.

The well-deserved recognition follows more than four decades of research at USC, beginning as a graduate research assistant in 1976 at the Social Science Research Institute with Ward Edwards. In 1984 he was recruited by Peter Gardiner to join a multi-disciplinary tenure-track faculty in the Department of Systems Science, within the Institute of Safety and Systems Management. In 1997 he moved as Associate Professor to the Department of Psychology, within the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. Over the past 35 years he has received nearly continuous external support from federal contracts and grants. Granting agencies include the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Energy (DoE), and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). This funding has led to over 100 co-authored scholarly publications.

Professor John’s research has focused on topics in five distinct areas: (1) Family system dynamics, (2) Risk perception and decision making for extreme events, (3) Modeling adaptive adversaries, (4) Decision making in legal contexts, and (5) Decision and risk analysis methodology development. Nearly all of his research was conducted collaboratively with other faculty, students, and former students.  The interdisciplinary nature of his research has resulted in publications in a wide variety of top journals in a broad range of disciplines, including psychology, decision and risk analysis, computer science, management, policy, and law.

During the 1980s and 1990s, John’s research focused on family system dynamics, funded by an NIMH with Gayla Margolin. In the late 1990s, he began a series of projects funded by NSF to develop improved methods for risk analysis and risk communication with William Petak and Detlof von Winterfeldt. In 2004, his research focus again shifted when the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), funded by the DHS, was founded at USC following a competition among 72 universities. As director, Detlof von Winterfeldt invited him to collaborate on projects related to risk perception of extreme events and adaptive adversary modeling. As a psychologist, his contribution has focused on behavioral aspects of terrorism and other extreme events. Beginning in 2008, John’s research interests were drawn to the study of using decision analysis to better understand decision making in legal contexts. This research has been collaborative with one of his (now former) doctoral students, Nicholas Scurich. Since 2011, he has collaborated on a number of non-CREATE related grants, to the USC School of Engineering, including Computer Science, the Information Systems Institute (Marina del Rey), and the Institute for Creative Technologies (Playa Vista).

If you ask him what the key ingredient to being a successful academic the answer is simple: curiosity. “People ask me now why are you still writing papers, proposals and it is because I am really curious about these things.  When I look at an applicant for graduate school it is probably one of the most important things, are they genuinely curious about this topic area.”