Posted September 1, 2020
Morteza Dehghani is an Associate Professor of psychology, computer science and the Brain and Creativity Institute (BCI) at University of Southern California. His research primarily focuses on the intersection of psychology and artificial intelligence. His other research interests include: Theory-based natural language processing with direct applications to moral decision-making, group dynamics and culture; investigating the role of sacred values in intergroup conflict and negotiation; and computational cognitive modeling.
Do you have any advice for individuals who wish to pursue a similar career path in social psychology?
Take as many stats and CS classes as you can.
If skill or talent were not an issue, what would be your dream ambition or pursuit in life?
If you weren’t in your current job, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be in a research lab in industry doing the same type of work.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
Getting my assumptions questioned by students. Reading up on new research.
What led to your interest in artificial intelligence?
In grad school, I was in a symbolic AI lab, trying to incorporate psychological findings in AI models. Soon I realized that I wasn’t a fan of that approach to research, and I even seriously considered quitting grad school. While doing my postdoc in psych, I recognized that I can do the opposite: use AI in psychology.
Outside of psychology, how do you like to spend your free time?
I like to spend my free time continuing my training as a Persian classical musician. I have been studying the Radif for the past 8 years, and I also play the setar (not to be mistaken with the Indian sitar).
What’s the best advice you have ever received?
On my last day as a postdoc, I went to my advisor’s office to say goodbye. During our meeting, I expressed that I will be required to teach and train students, while I do not have expertise in anything. He thought for a bit, and then asked me, “if you have plants in your garden, would you need to teach them how to grow?”
If you had an extra hour of free time in the day, how would you use it?
Grab my setar, find a quiet room, and practice!