Sally D. Farley
Division of Applied Behavioral Sciences
Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University
M.A., East Carolina University
B.A., Furman University
Sally Farley's C.V.
I have known since high school that I wanted to be a psychologist. It took me some time to figure out which kind of psychologist I wanted to be. While pursuing a master’s degree in experimental psychology, I narrowed the choices down to comparative psychology/animal behavior, clinical psychology and social psychology. I explored these possible career paths by seeking out opportunities to practice the various roles associated with these specialties.
My interest in comparative psychology/animal behavior prompted me to shadow a zookeeper for a summer at the Greenville Zoo and to volunteer for an Earthwatch expedition in South America. I spent a fantastic month in the forests of Venezuela researching the social behaviors of wedge-capped capuchin monkeys. But the low demand for comparative psychologists was daunting. The only comparative psychologist I knew spent most of his academic career teaching statistics (who would want to do that, I wondered?). Brief experiences working at a crisis center taught me that clinical psychology was not the correct path. That left social psychology, a field that endlessly fascinated me: research about obedience, the self-fulfilling prophecy, the many-layered meanings of nonverbal behavior.
During my Ph.D. program at Virginia Commonwealth University, I fell in love with teaching and research. It is a distinct pleasure to teach students about the very research that drew me to the field of social psychology. Some of my favorite courses are social psychology, group dynamics and interpersonal relationships. And statistics? Well, since obtaining my Ph.D., my primary course responsibility has been research-oriented courses. Despite my initial reluctance to teach these dreaded courses, they are precisely the ones that offer the greatest reward as a teacher. There is no better academic experience than converting math-phobic statistics students into those who learn to appreciate (even love?) the material.
My research interests primarily relate to nonverbal behavior. My dissertation examined the effects of systematic conversational interruption on dimensions of status and attraction. I am also interested in the vocal characteristics that communicate status and attraction. A second area of research pertains to gossip … is gossip always bad? What are the functions of gossip? How are people who gossip perceived?