Professor Joseph Campos recently retired to become Professor of the Graduate School. Joe came to Berkeley in 1989 to assume the position of Director of the Institute of Human Development, a capacity he would serve until 1997, at which time he became full-time professor of Psychology. Joe was one of the first behavioral scientists to engage in the experimental study of the human infant. He opened up a number of areas of investigation including the study of attachment to the father. In addition, he initiated studies on the development of discrete emotional expressions in the infant, being the first to begin the cross-national study of the production of discrete facial expressions to different emotional elicitors, which complemented Ekman’s classic work on recognition of facial displays by adults. He studied the psychophysiological and behavioral manifestations of fear in infants and produced a series of studies demonstrating that fear of heights was not innate as was widely believed beforehand. Perhaps his greatest contributions lie in his highly influential studies on how motoric factors produce developmental transitions in infants as well as his pioneering work on social referencing (e.g., how emotional expressions are also signals that can powerfully regulate behavior). Equally important has been his writings on the functionalist approach to emotion and emotion regulation.


As a leading proponent of the study of emotional development, he founded the International Society for the Study of Emotions along with Paul Ekman, Klaus Scherer and Richard Davidson. In 1981 he was one of the first behavioral scientist to visit China and begin collaborative studies following the restoration of relations between the United States and China. Joe’s contributions to behavioral science included his rise from ad hoc reviewer at the National Institutes of Health to membership in three research review committees, then to being selected as one of five members of the Board of Scientific Councillors at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) culminating being the only behavioral scientist on the National Advisory Council of NICHD. Along with these contributions, Joe received distinguished teaching awards from the University of Denver and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


In what follows is an abridged response by Joe to a series of questions posed by me in an interview with Joe.


Can you tell us something about your early life history?

I was born in the Dominican Republic, moved to the United State at the age of five and a half and was brought up in New York City. I attended Manhattan College on a four year scholarship and obtained my doctorate at Cornell University being the first member in my family to attend college and obtain an advanced degree.


 How did you start studying infants?

During my postdoctoral years at Albert Einstein College of Medicine a major revolution was taking place in psychology. It was a time when the study of the origins of psychological characteristics stopped being focused on the law of phylogenetic continuity and shifted to an emphasis on species specificity. No longer was the rat, the dog, the monkey or the ape the basis for studying the origin of  human traits. Only the study of the human infant could illuminate these origins.   


At the end of my postdoc, I was offered a position at Einstein and at the University of Denver. I always liked teaching and the medical school appointment wouldn't have a lot of teaching so Denver’s offer in infant psychophysiology was more appealing. I told Denver, “if you want someone in psychophysiology, I’m your man, but if you want someone in infancy, I don’t know an infant from an aardvark.” They said, “We don’t either.” So they hired me. 


How did your education at Cornell influence your study at Denver on human infants?

My Cornell Ph.D. did not prepare me to study infants, but it did expose me to general issues in psychology that were translational and cut across subfields. I knew how to identify problems in infant research, even though I didn’t have exposure to infants.

What is social referencing and why did you start studying this phenomena?

Social referencing involves two steps: First, a person's encounter with an event that is more or less ambiguous, and Second, the tendency of that person to look around for emotional information that disambiguates the affective relevance of that event.


We started to study social referencing because, at the time, behavioral scientists believed that emotions had no causal effect on behavior. Our research was an attempt to test that presupposition. Our studies have revealed that emotional signals can be extremely powerful regulators of behavior in the proper circumstances.

What have you valued during at your time at Berkeley?

I value the extraordinary power of the faculty here and also that of the students. Discussions with Professors Richard Lazarus and Jack Block have been invaluable to me. Berkeley also made possible important collaborations with Professors David Anderson of San Francisco State University, Ichiro Uchiyama of Doshisha University, Meng Zhao Lan of Peking University, and Kazuo Miyake of Hokkaido University. Berkeley has also been extremely supportive of me during two periods of blindness one in 1993 and one from 2014 to the present. I shall never forget Berkeley’s making it possible for me to maintain high level contributions to teaching and research.

Do you have any advice for aspiring researchers?

Avoid being a paradigmatic dinosaur and  focusing exclusively on one issue until that issue has become trite. Have breadth in your research and look for alternative ways of investigating significant issues. Don’t allow yourself to be caught up in the hot issue of the day. Do research that you think is intrinsically important, independent of what others think.


Do you have any advice for students who are Hispanic or an underrepresented minority like you?

Well, you need luck, number 1. Number 2, always strive to do the very best you can in whatever you’re doing. Don’t worry if, on occasion, you don’t meet those high standards, but show people you’re trying your best. People will recognize that and reward that effort.

What do you plan to do in your retirement?

Study aardvarks.