Soren Svanum Ph.D.

Associate Professor Emeritus, Psychology


1971 A.B. Psychology, San Francisco State University

1973 M.A. Psychology, University of Montana

1975 Clinical Psychology Internship, University of Minnesota Hospitals

1976 Ph.D. Clinical Psychology, University of Montana

Current Research

My general interests are psychological assessment including measurement and screening, alcoholism, and psychopathology. Past research projects have included measurement of psychopathology with structured interviews and the MMPI, assessment and measurement of alcoholism, and general issues involving MMPI use and validity. Current research projects involve an evaluation of the factors that lead to college success.

Of particular concern has been the prospective relation of psychopathology to school success, especially within a more elaborate model that includes learning skills and motivational strategies, time management skills, effort over the semester, and extra-school activities at work, within the family, and socially.

In contrast to how adjustment difficulties or psychopathology might influence school success, I have also been interested in the ways in which upbeat, overly optimistic expectations facilitate school success. When students take a college course they are as a group notably flawed in their grade expectations and expect far more grade-measured success than they will subsequently earn. Nonetheless, these student aspirations to excel demonstrably impact success and from this perspective students appear effective casual agents who in appreciably degree determine their level of college success. Optimistic expectations have broad implications; optimism can serve as a central construct employed in understanding course-related study behaviors where optimism is at times adaptive (e.g., optimism and positive expectations encourage participation) and at other times maladaptive (e.g., unrealistic optimism about knowledge reduces study time).

In future studies I will examine the behavioral mechanisms by which optimism translates into school success and examine how academic effort and persistence might be facilitated or hindered by hopeful and optimistic expectations. I also have an interest in Internet-based assessment and learning, have developed an undergraduate online course, and my research assessment protocols are typically Internet-based.

Select Publications

Svanum, S., & Zody, Z. (2001). Psychopathology and grades. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 48, 72-76.

Svanum, S., & Bigatti, S. (2006). Grade expectations: Informed or uninformed optimism, or both? Teaching of Psychology, 33, 14-18.

Svanum, S., & Bigatti, S. (2006). The influences of course effort and outside activities on grades in a college course Journal of College Student Development, 47, 564-576.