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Faculty Forum Explores Prejudice in the Teaching Kitchen

3/26/2009 —

Have you ever wondered if you could hack it in Gordon Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen? Did you ever consider the rigorous training involved in cooking up a Top Chef? One Penn State Lehigh Valley professor has immersed himself in both restaurant and teaching kitchens, discovering that it takes a lot more than knife skills and ingredient know-how to find success in the world of professional cooking.

David Livert, assistant professor of psychology, will be the featured speaker for the next Faculty Forum session at 1 p.m. on April 22, in the Atrium at the Lehigh Valley campus. Livert will present "Lumps in the Gravy: Prejudice in the Teaching Kitchen." The event is free and open to the public.

In this presentation, Livert will provide first-hand observations about what it is really like to be a chef student and highlight significant findings from two studies of chef students that he conducted at one of America's top culinary colleges. In the studies, he focused on the perceptions of traditional-aged student chefs (late teens and early 20's) toward non-traditional aged students (late 20's and older).

"From day one, the younger students tend to look at the older students, many of whom are attempting a career change, with some contempt," says Livert. "But there is a well-known psychological theory which states that if you put people that would normally be prejudiced toward one another in a positive situation, their interactions may substantially reduce their prejudices. As a social psychologist, I was interested in seeing how this theory would hold up in a very specific situation, the teaching kitchen. The findings clearly show which group ends up as 'lumps in the gravy.'"

David Livert is assistant professor of psychology at Penn State Lehigh Valley. His research interests include intergroup relations, group processes, and intercultural contact. Livert’s expertise in statistics and methodology has been employed in numerous program evaluations and research projects for organizations including the National Science Foundation, Robert W. Johnson Foundation, and the American College of Surgeons. He also conducts research with other Penn State Lehigh Valley faculty on behalf of local organizations through the Penn State Lehigh Valley Center for Community and Organizational Research. In 2009, Livert was awarded a University Research Collaboration Fellowship to work with the Penn State Social Science Research Institute and continue exploring psychological theories in the context of professional kitchens. His research articles have appeared in American Journal of Preventive Medicine, American Journal of Public Health, Journal of Drug Issues, Language, Multivariate Behavioral Research, and Professional Psychology. Livert received his doctorate in social psychology from the City University of New York, where he was a Lawrence Kogan Fellow in quantitative methods. He also earned M.S. and B.A. degrees in psychology from Vanderbilt University.

For more information, please contact the University Relations Office at 610-285-5067 or visit www.lv.psu.edu.

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