Hunter Gehlbach

Associate Professor of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara
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About Hunter

Gehlbach is an educational psychologist who brings social psychological principles to bear on educational challenges. His research focuses on improving educational settings through enhancing the social interactions of teachers and students. His primary focus centers on social perspective taking – how people discern the thoughts and feelings of others within the classroom. In addition to this substantive interest, he is also interested in helping social scientists to design effective questionnaires. He teaches classes in both of these areas. Currently he serves an advisor to the Strategic Data Project. For the 2014-2015 academic year, Gehlbach is on leave from Harvard to work at Panorama Education.

In the News

Hunter Gehlbach's research on belief in science discussed by Tom Jacobs, "How to Convince a Conservative that Climate Change is Real," Pacific Standard, January 14, 2019.
"Freezing 'Summer Melt' in Its Tracks: Increasing College Enrollment with AI," Hunter Gehlbach (with Lindsay Page), Brookings, September 11, 2018.
Hunter Gehlbach quoted on role of educators in promoting students' social-emotional skills and beliefs by Jack McDermott, "What If Students Have More Confidence in Growth Mindsets than Their Teachers?" EdSurge, August 20, 2017.
Hunter Gehlbach quoted by Rebecca Klein, "A Simple Survey Could Help Close the Achievement Gap" Tri County Sentry, October 29, 2015.
Hunter Gehlbach's research on closing the achievement gap discussed by Rebecca Klein, "This Simple Survey Could Help Close the Achievement Gap," Huffington Post, October 16, 2015.
Guest to discuss student-teacher connections on NPR: In the Classroom, Common Ground Can Transform GPAs, Hunter Gehlbach, October 13, 2015.
Hunter Gehlbach's research on closing the achievement gap discussed by Max Nesterak, "Teachers Like You Like You: How Finding Common Ground Could Help Close the Achievement Gap," The Psych Report, June 13, 2015.
"When Teachers See Similarities with Students, Relationships and Grades Improve," Hunter Gehlbach, The Conversation, May 27, 2015.
"What Winter 2015 Can Teach Us about Education," Hunter Gehlbach, Boston National Public Radio, February 26, 2015.
Hunter Gehlbach quoted on similarity as an important lever in improving teacher-student relationships by Jessica Lahey, "Get to Know Your Teachers, Kids" The Atlantic, October 15, 2014.
Guest to discuss disconnected youth on NPR State of Opportunity, Hunter Gehlbach, October 2, 2014.
Regular contributions by Hunter Gehlbach to Huffington Post.


"Creating Birds of Similar Feathers: Leveraging Similarity to Improve Teacher-Student Relationships and Academic Achievement," (with Maureen Brinkworth, Laura Hsu, Aaron King, Joseph McIntyre, and Todd Rogers), Harvard School of Education, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and Merrimack College, forthcoming.
Uses a randomized controlled field experiment to demonstrate that an intervention showing teachers and students what they have in common helps foster better relationships (particularly from the teachers’ perspective) and improves students’ course grades. The effects of the intervention are concentrated within the historically underserved students at the school. For these students, the intervention reduced the achievement gap in course grades by over 60%.
"The Social Perspective Taking Process: Strategies and Sources of Evidence in Taking Another’s Perspective" (with Maureen Brinkworth). Teachers College Record 114, no. 1 (2012): 226-254.
Describes two sets of factors that play a critical role in people’s attempts to understand the thoughts and feelings of others. Discusses the strategies people use and sources of evidence they rely on once they engage in the perspective taking process.
"The Social Perspective Taking Process: What Motivates Individuals to Take Another’s Perspective?" (with Maureen Brinkworth and Ming-Te Wang). Teachers College Record 114, no. 1 (2012): 197-225.
Describes what factors motivate people to try (or not try) to understand the perspective of others during social encounters.
"Measure Twice, Cut down Error: A Process for Enhancing the Validity of Survey Scales" (with Maureen Brinkworth). Review of General Psychology 15, no. 4 (2011): 380-387.
Describes a rigorous scale development process that builds validity into measures from the outset by gathering complementary input from academic experts and potential respondents.
"The Social Side of School: Why Teachers Need Social Psychology" Educational Psychology Review 22, no. 3 (2010): 349-362.
Describes the potential for social psychological approaches to improve classrooms and schools.
"Motivated Thinkers and the Mistakes They Make: The Goals Underlying Social Cognitions and Their Consequences for Achievement" in Advances in Motivation and Achievement: Social Psychological Perspectives, edited by Martin Maehr, Stuart Karabenick, and Timothy Urdan ((Emerald Press, 2008), 119-144.
Proposes that people generally try to perceive their social surroundings accurately, but that two motives will often undermine that fundamental goal: an aversion to having to think too hard and the need to see oneself as a good person. Explores the implications of this theory for classroom contexts and relationships between teachers and students.