My Work is My Hobby: An Interview with Elliot Aronson

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Elliot Aronson, Ph.D., is best known for his research on cognitive dissonance and the jigsaw classroom.  From his widely-used textbook, The Social Animal:  “Elliot Aronson’s standing as one of the world’s most distinguished and versatile social psychologists is reflected in the wide variety of national and international awards he has received for his teaching, for his scientific research, for his writing, and for his contribution to society.”

Questions asked during the interview:

Tell me about your retirement/previous work.  Why did you retire?  Was the decision to retire made/planned by you?  Do you consider your retirement successful?  Happiness?  What’s better/gains?  Worse/losses?  How has retirement affected your relationships?  What is your relationship to OLLI?  What are your recommendations for others?

Elliot Aronson:

The notion of retirement is both interesting and elusive.  When I was about 50 years old, I did not even consider the possibility of retirement.  My fantasy was that, at age 93, while delivering a passionate lecture on cognitive dissonance to a roomful of students sitting on the edge of their chairs, I would collapse and die.  I figured that, if I was going to have to die, I would prefer to die with my boots on.  A charming and romantic notion.

Ellie & Desi

Ellie & Desi

There is an old saying:  “If you want to hear the sound of God’s laughter, just tell him your plans.”  In 1994, when I was still a youngish old man of 62, the University of California system was in terrible financial trouble and needed to slash its operating budget.  Because the retirement coffers were flush, they offered some of us older, more highly paid professors an extra financial incentive if we agreed to take early retirement.  (The plan was called VERIP). I was at the top of my game as a teacher, researcher, and writer. Although the financial incentive was tempting, I wasn’t going to take it.  My boots were still on, as it were.  Why quit now? Continue reading this story