Cho to deliver fall Mellby Lecture
St. Olaf College Professor of Psychology Grace Cho will deliver the 41st Mellby Lecture on Thursday, November 16 in Viking Theater.
Her lecture, titled “Personal Narratives: How the Stories We Hear and Tell Shape Who We Are,” will begin at 11:30 a.m. It is free and open to the public, and will also be streamed and archived online.
Cho’s lecture will describe research in psychology that uses personal narratives to understand how selves are constructed. She will discuss research that highlights the role of parent-child storytelling in shaping young children as well as research she has conducted with young adults that examines how they use personal narratives to make sense of their lives, to find meaning in their past experiences, and integrate them into their life story.
“Selves create stories, which in turn create selves. What a fascinating process!” Cho says. “Over time, through repeated interactions with others, stories about our past experiences are processed, edited, reinterpreted, retold, reprocessed in light of dynamic social influences, and gradually develops into a more integrated narrative identity: ‘This is who I am.'”
Cho believes that humans have a deep appreciation for stories. Most of us can easily think of a story that may have influenced us in some way — or at least can imagine its potential for doing so. “As I reflect over the 20 years of my work as a developmental psychologist, across the diverse populations and age groups I’ve studied over the years, I’ve noticed this as a common thread and recurring theme,” Cho says. “The power of personal narratives to shape who we are has become remarkably evident to me. It provides a wonderful window into the self and can be used not only for self-reflection, but to become better selves.”
“The power of personal narratives to shape who we are has become remarkably evident to me. It provides a wonderful window into the self and can be used not only for self-reflection, but to become better selves.”Professor of Psychology Grace Cho
Throughout her career in psychology research and scholarship, she has worked with many student researchers at St. Olaf, including participants in the college’s Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program and TRIO McNair scholars. Cho has also partnered on projects with colleagues and students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Middlebury College prior to St. Olaf.
“I love collaborative research,” Cho says. “Research in psychology is rarely done alone, and really shouldn’t be. We benefit from the rich exchange of diverse ideas, research strategies, and interpretation of data that can only happen when working in research teams.”
In addition to publishing articles in developmental psychology journals, Cho has published a book, Self-Esteem in Time and Place: How American Families Imagine, Enact, and Personalize a Cultural Ideal, which was co-authored with her graduate school mentor, Peggy Miller, and based on several years of invaluable collaborations. Cho has also been actively involved with the Society for Research in Child Development’s Developmental Science Teaching Institute, which she cited as a valuable experience.
“I feel very fortunate to have a teaching career that is rewarding and to have the flexibility to study topics that I find interesting and meaningful,” Cho says.