Lachman Memorial Lecture

This lecture series was established in honor of the life and legacy of Sheldon J. Lachman, Ph.D. (1921-1997), the Department of Psychology's longest-serving faculty member and former chairperson. Each year, the Lachman Memorial Lecture features a prominent voice in the field of psychology to host a talk on current research and issues of the times. Through generous contributions, the department presents several scholarships and awards each year at the Sheldon J. Lachman Memorial Lecture.

Recent guest speakers

Year Speaker Topic
2023 Dr. Lauren Abramson Restorative Justice: The Biological Imperative of Our Time
2022 Dr. LaMaurice Gardner To Serve and Protect those who Serve and Protect
2021 Dr. Sheretta T. Butler-Barnes Come on Y’all, We Gotta Talk”: Patterns of Racial Socialization Messaging and Wellbeing among Black Youth
2019 Provost Keith Whitfield Decomposing the factors that contribute to cognitive aging in African Americans
2018 James W. Pennebaker Trauma, health, and the words we use: Research tips on finding interesting things
2017 Kim Dietrich The Accidental Epidemiologist
2016 Daniel Shaw The Development and Prevention of Early Conduct Problems
2015 Kipling Williams Ostracism: The Power of Silence
2014 Carl Hart Challenging Assumptions About Drugs
2013 Tammy Allen Connecting Work-Family Research to Employee and Family Health
2012 Patricia Reuter-Lorenz Age-Related Decline & Compensation: Insights from Functional Brain Imaging
2011 Stephen M. Rao Can we predict and eventually prevent Alzheimer's disease
2010 Norine G. Johnson Psychology Build a Healthy World Update
2009 James S Jackson The Intersection of Race and Ethnicity in Psychological Research
2008 William Stone Genes, Endophenotypes, and Schizophrenia: Are we getting closer to prevention
2007 Toni Antonucci Social Relations and Health: A Life Course Perspective
2006 Sheldon Cohen Stress, Social Networks, Social Status and the Common Cold
2005 Thomas G. O'Connor Updating our understanding of early experiences on psychological development
2004 Richard McNally Remembering Trauma
2003 William Milberg Cardiovascular Risk and Frontal Disfunction
2002 James O. Prochaska Staging: A revolution in Health Behavior Change
2001 Randi Martin Working memory and language processing: Evidence from neuropsychology and neuroimaging
2000 Kent Berridge Desire in the brain: From pleasure conscious & unconscious to addiction
1999 Elliot S. Valenstein Blaming the Brain

Biography of Sheldon J. Lachman

Sheldon J. LachmanSheldon J. Lachman was born on December 17, 1921, in Detroit, Michigan. He graduated from Western High School in Detroit in 1939 and subsequently attended the University of Detroit, Wayne University, Ohio State University and the University of Michigan before receiving his B.S. degree in psychology from the University of Michigan (U of M) in 1942. He received an M.S. in psychology from U of M in 1943 and a Ph.D. in psychology 1952.

Dr. Lachman served in the Army Air Force during World War II. He was an instructor in psychology at the Armed Forces Institute in Guam during the war and at Pratt (Kansas) Junior College in 1944. He took a position as an Instructor at Wayne State University in 1946, prior to completing his doctoral work at UM. He was promoted from instructor to assistant professor at Wayne in 1951, received tenure in 1953, and was promoted to associate professor in 1958 and full professor in 1971. He served a total of 47 years at Wayne State, the longest service of anyone in the psychology department at WSU.

He was elected to Sigma Xi and received a Sigma Xi research award in 1952. He was also elected to membership in Psi Chi and in Phi Delta Kappa (the Education Honor Society), and was listed in American Men of Science and Who's Who in the Midwest. He was elected to Fellowship status in the American Psychological Association as well as the American Psychological Society.

Dr. Lachman published several books including The Foundations of Science and Psychosomatic Disorders: A Behavioristic Interpretation. The latter book was translated into Portuguese and Italian and was widely used in medical schools in both this country and abroad. He also published a textbook on History and Methods of Physiological Psychology, as well as a research monograph on The Detroit Riot of 1967, summarizing research he had been commissioned to conduct analyzing antecedents and possible causes of this occurrence.

His early research included his "maximum variance" study, which showed that if rats were given a number of pathways to follow and a previously chosen path was blocked, they tended to choose the pathway furthest or "most variant" from the original choice. He compared that with an energy-conserving theory that would suggest taking the easiest or nearest pathway.

Subsequently, he published numerous articles and papers on a variety of topics including psychological testing, political attitudes and values, level of aspiration, brightness discrimination, learning, and perception.

Growing out of his experiences during and after the Detroit riots of 1967, Professor Lachman engaged informally in "court-watching" and expressed both concern about what he saw as unjust procedures on occasion as well as an appreciation of the distress and limited resources of many of the poor he saw there. He photographed abandoned homes and decaying buildings of the neighborhood, as well as various buildings around the university, including a building, which served as the first "home" for the WSU Psychology Department.

Dr. Lachman taught the introductory psychology course and also developed and taught the physiological psychology course for many years. He served as the chair of the department's undergraduate committee for about twenty years and was the advisor to about half of the department's undergraduate majors during that period. His willingness to spend time, offer assistance, and listen seriously and sympathetically to many undergraduates who had questions or concerns about their academic careers and other matters was very much appreciated by these students. He developed and served as faculty advisor to the Wayne State Psi Chi Chapter and the Psychology Club for many years.

As faculty advisor to Psi Chi, he took the initiative to organize and arrange the annual Psi Chi initiation dinner. As part of this annual event, Lachman arranged to have a psychologist give a talk on some topic of general interest since the dinner included Psi Chi members, initiates and their families. Because there were very limited funds available for the speaker, Lachman had to find someone from the Detroit metropolitan area or nearby, since no travel funds were available.

Just before he died, Lachman completed work on a history of the Department of Psychology at Wayne State University, which he describes as "not entirely an objective history; the author has permitted his impressions, opinions and judgments to intrude." The history includes many interesting and amusing anecdotes, related to Shel's inimitable style. It is a fitting legacy to his many years of service to the psychology department.

Following Lachman's death, a Lachman Memorial Fund was established, and the department chair, Donald Coscina, formed a committee to decide on appropriate uses for this fund. The committee agreed that the most appropriate use would be to cover expenses for an annual Lachman Memorial Lecture in which a prominent psychologist would be brought to campus to give a talk of general interest to a relatively diverse audience.

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