I identify myself as a cognitive social psychologist with clinical training and interests (link to autobiographical essay prepared for the Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences)
My research interests all revolve around the study of cognition in personal and social contexts – how people acquire knowledge about themselves and other people and use this knowledge to guide their social interactions; how the distribution of knowledge across individuals forms a basis for social interaction; the influence of social structures and processes on individual cognition; and the ways that knowledge is acquired, represented, and used by larger social structures and institutions outside the individual.
I am particularly interested in unconscious mental life, as manifested in implicit memory and related phenomena, although my view of the unconscious departs radically from the traditional Freudian, psychodynamic view. Since the beginning of my career I have been engaged in the study of hypnosis, which I view as an altered state of consciousness that occurs within a particular interpersonal setting.
As a personality psychologist, I have been interested in the person-situation interaction, especially as it is mediated by the individual's cognitive processes. In the study of social cognition, I am particularly interested in the self as a social-cognitive knowledge structure representing one’s knowledge of oneself, acquired through experience and encoded in memory; and in the application of neuropsychological paradigms to the study of personality and social interaction (though I remain skeptical of much of what passes for "social neuroscience"). Together with Nancy Cantor, I have promoted a "social intelligence" approach to personality, which argues that the important individual differences in personality lie in the funds of procedural and declarative knowledge that people bring to bear on their interactions with others.
I have initiated a project, the Study of the Human Ecology of Memory, whose aim is to use the theme of memory to link psychology to the other social sciences, and to the arts and humanities. This enterprise is intended as a counterweight to the biological focus characteristic of cognitive neuroscience.
Finally, in collaboration with Dr. Lucy Canter Kihlstrom at the Institute for the Study of Healthcare Organizations & Transactions (now closed), I became interested in issues related to health cognition and behavior, including compliance with medical regimens, the use of hypnosis as an adjunctive treatment for pain and other medical problems, the placebo effect, and psychosomatic interactions. I believe that health psychology errs in focusing so narrowly on stress and disease, and that it should try to understand how people think about health and illness, and how their beliefs affect their interactions with healthcare providers and other components of the healthcare system.
Here are my picks for the Berkeley Book List in Psychology (2003).
Kihlstrom, J.F. (2008). The automaticity juggernaut. In J. Baer, J.C. Kaufman, & R.F. Baumeister (Eds.), Are we free? Psychology and free will (pp. 155-180). New York: Oxford University Press.
Kihlstrom, J.F. (2009). "So that we might have roses in December": The functions of autobiographical memory. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23, 1179-1192.
Kihlstrom, J.F. (2010). Social neuroscience: The footprints of Phineas Gage. Social Cognition, 28, 757-782.
Kihlstrom, J.F. (2013). Unconscious processes. In D. Reisberg (Ed.), Oxford handbook of cognitive psychology (pp. 176-186). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kihlstrom, J.F. (2013). The person-situation interaction. In D. Carlston (Ed.), Oxford handbook of social cognition (pp. 786-805). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kihlstrom, J.F. (2018). Hypnosis as an altered state of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 25(11-12), 53-72.
Kihlstrom, J.F., & Cantor, N. (2020). Social intelligence. In R.J. Sternberg (Ed.), Cambridge handbook of intelligence, 2nd ed. (pp. 756-779). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
John F. KIHLSTROM