Pellegrini, Robert J

Pellegrini, Robert J

Emeritus Faculty, Psychology
Professor Emeritus Psychology




  • Doctor of Philosophy, Univ Of Denver, 1968
  • Master of Arts, Psychology, Univ Of Denver, Colorado, United States, 1966
  • Bachelor of Arts, Psychology, Clark Univ, Massachusetts, United States, 1963
  • Ph.D., Psychology, Univ Of Denver, Colorado, United States, 1968


In addition to his role as a faculty member from 1967 to 2009, San José State University Professor Emeritus of Psychology Bob Pellegrini also served terms as SJSU’s Associate Dean for Research, Director of Sponsored Programs, and Psychology Department Chair.  He received his B.A. degree from Clark University Phi Beta Kappa and with High Honors in Psychology.  Supported by National Institute for Mental Health fellowships, he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Denver, with clinical and research pre-doctoral internships at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Children’s Asthmatic Research Institute and National Jewish Hospitals in Denver, followed by National Science Foundation-sponsored post-doctoral study at Stanford University.

Bob’s auditorium sections of introductory psychology enrolled thousands of students over his forty-two years at SJSU, where he also mentored dozens more in individual studies, undergraduate honors and graduate thesis projects, and in a variety of minority population educational programs including the McNair Scholars, Minority Access to Research Careers and Minority Biomedical Research Support programs, SJSU’s Unfinished Journey program of college credit courses for the San Jose East Side Union High School District, and dozens of inmates in a B. A. degree program he co-founded at the California Department of Corrections’ Soledad prison. 

Among the instructional materials he created to help students maximize their learning gains per unit of time invested, were eight study guides published by The Dorsey Press, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Addison-Wesley-Longman, and Pearson Education.  Bob’s commitment to giving SJSU students “the best introductory psychology course available anywhere at any price” was acknowledged in national, regional, and local teaching awards as Psi Chi (national honor society for Psychology majors), Western Psychological Association (WPA), and SJSU outstanding professor of the year, and invited contributions to a number of prestigious educational events such as the Lewis M. Terman Master Lecture Series.

A Past-President of the Western Psychological Association, the oldest and largest regional professional association of psychologists in the United States, early in his career Professor Pellegrini conducted pioneering research into nonverbal measures of affect as indices of racial prejudice, and research challenging as meaningless on quantitative methodological grounds the then (early 1960’s) widely-quoted arguments of psychometric “experts” concerning statistically significant race differences in IQ scores.  His later research ranged from studies of how color and light affect human functioning in both laboratory and applied settings, to studies of impression-formation, political identification and attributed causes of homelessness, the medical significance of adult attachment styles, the effects of anticipated opportunity on performance, and the storied roots of identity formation as the key to understanding everything about how and why people think, believe, feel, see, say, and do as they do.

The unifying theme throughout Bob’s professional life as a social scientist/educator is a commitment to illuminate and promote actualization of human potential through the study of social cognition and behavior.  Having received a number of honors for his work (e.g., the Warburton Award for Scholarly Achievement, Fellowship in the European Academy of Color Sciences and the Western Psychological Association), Bob has authored and co-authored over 100 presentations delivered at annual meetings of regional and national professional associations, been an invited guest and keynote speaker at dozens of public and private organizational meetings, published more than 100 articles in professional journals, seven chapters in edited books, twelve manuals and study guides, and five books. 

Based on his outreach work with maximum security prison inmates, Pellegrini’s book Psychology for Correctional Education: Facilitating Human Development in Prison and Court School Settings (Payne Thomas Publishers), was written to promote functional rehabilitation rather than one-size-fits-all retribution in modern corrections. 

His book Between Fathers and Sons: Critical Incident Narratives in the Development of Men’s Lives (Haworth Press) has been acclaimed nationally in reviews by eminent scholars. 

In a project scheduled for 2016 release in revised editions, he represented the view that stories shape our identity and thus our destiny – for better or worse, for good or evil, in his 2010 book Identities for Life and Death: Can We Save Us From Our Toxically Storied Selves?   The broader objective of the latter work, along with the inspirational daily message calendar he wrote to accompany it, was to promote a universal awareness of belonging to what he calls a “Global Life System” – a mind set he believes is crucial for substantively effective efforts to enhance the quality and ultimately the sustainability of life on earth, in a world beset by challenges to which we may otherwise respond by turning increasingly against each other. 

His most recent work is a program he refers to as “Life Construction101” – designed to provide students, at-risk or otherwise, with the cognitive, procedural, and motivational tools with which to build a productive, abundant, meaningful life on the foundation of a good education.  The instructional manual for this program is Dr. Pellegrini’s 2014 book, Education for the Joy of It: How to Thrive Not Just Survive in High School, College And Beyond – What Students Need to Know About Academic Success and Outstanding Achievement at Anything in Life.

Footnote:  At age 69 and 70, Dr. Pellegrini again qualified to compete in the USA Bodybuilding Championships by placing 2nd and 1st, respectively, in the Ultra and Grand Master’s division finals of the nationally-sanctioned (National Physique Committee) 2010 San Francisco and 2011 San Jose contests.  At age 73, following another total hip replacement surgery, he continues training as if for another contest, at Jerry McCall’s Gold’s Gym in San Jose.