A fascination with people-watching led to a career teaching psychology at Penn State Beaver
When you enter a room, how do you decide where to sit?
Kevin Bennett, full teaching professor of psychology at Penn State Beaver, is interested in how people make those choices in small, interior spaces, as well as large landscapes.
“Preferences can be connected to personality,” Bennett said. “It’s the study of human activity that focuses on individual characteristics and the physical world.”
About five or six years ago, Bennett became interested in this phenomenon as a direct result of teaching in classrooms for a number of years – specifically the Laboratory Classroom Building’s auditorium classroom.
Bennett said that he is interested in how people make choices about location because people haven’t really done this study before.
Instead of exploring just the physical world, Bennett is also fascinated by augmented reality and the virtual world because what’s changing in physical spaces, is changing to virtual.
“The next big transformation is moving from handheld devices to the goggles. Within the next 10 years, it’s going to be used even in education,” Bennett said.
Bennett wants to be one of the first to bring it to the classroom. He’s interested in how personality goes into the virtual world. From the classroom to the virtual world, Bennett is interested in how people make spatial choices.
So how did a psychology professor interested in the study of spatial experiences and personality start getting interviewed about the clown epidemic of 2016?
Bennett never thought he’d be the one contacted multiple times in reference to the clown sightings in Europe and the United States in 2016 – but he was. Although he’s certainly not a clown expert, Bennett was even interviewed by the New York Post.
“It’s really funny actually. I thought it would’ve just been one [interview,]” he said.
People kept contacting Bennett that fall and he enjoyed it – but he admits that he’s “not the ultimate authority on this.”
Bennett is also a co-author on a large project including 18,000 students worldwide. Bennett started working on this project while in graduate school in 2000 and it looks at the big five personality traits and how those traits are distributed geographically.
While he’s accomplished a lot, Bennett is proudest of the volume of students who have graduated from the psychology program over the years.
Through the alumni project, which tracks graduates, Bennett is satisfied to see that many of his former students are doing what they want to be do doing. Whether they are working or pursuing their doctorate, Bennett said, “they are doing what they enjoy and they're finding purpose. They find what they're doing fulfilling.”
Ph.D. in Psychology City University of London
Master of Science in Psychology University of New Mexico
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology University of Michigan, Ann Arbor