Nov 17, 2019
Robert Levine pictured for a Fresno Bee story about his international best-selling book, “A Geography of Time.” MARK CROSSE FRESNO BEE ARCHIVE PHOTO

In Memoriam: Dr. Robert Levine

The psychology community and Fresno State are in mourning this week due to the loss of renowned social psychologist and long time professor emeritus Dr. Robert Levine.

According to the Fresno Bee, Levine died on Saturday at the age of 73 due to heart failure caused by a viral infection. Reports say that his illness was sudden and unexpected.

Levine was a recipient of numerous awards for his work in teaching, research and writing. During his time at Fresno State, Levine earned the university’s top teaching honor, the Provost’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2007, Outstanding Professor of the Year and the following year received his professor emeritus status.

As the author of numerous books, his latest “Stranger in the Mirror: The Scientific Search for the Self,” was the topic of discussion in a guest lecture for the Center for Creativity and the Arts Levine gave in March of 2018.

Below is a look back at Levine’s lecture, which was covered by The Collegian reporter Jorge Rodriguez:

Dr. Robert Levine gives insight on “The Voices in our Heads”

Renowned social psychologist and Fresno State professor emeritus Dr. Robert Levine conducted a special lecture, with the subject pertaining to “The Voices in our Heads,” at the Alice Peters auditorium on March 22. 

The event was organized by the Center for Creativity and the Arts (CCA) and the lecture was meant to tie-in the yearlong theme of “Voice and Silence”, which the center has been promoting to students. 

The evening began with Cindy Urrutia, the director of the CCA, introducing Levine who started by introducing the topic of “Voices in our Heads” to the audience. 

“We’re very fortunate that Dr. Levine agreed to give this interesting lecture,” Urrutia said. “These types of lectures are an opportunity for the community to have access to information, this is free and open to the public.”

Levine talked about how the affliction of hearing voices in a person’s head is similar to seeing a different person when looking in the mirror, which is something he talks about in his latest book, “Stranger in the Mirror: The Scientific Search for the Self.”

At one point Levine gave those in attendance the experience of hearing multiple voices in their head by playing a soundtrack of several voices, all speaking at once, showing them what a person suffering from this affliction might hear in their heads.

Later on Levine explained how people would respond to the voices that they would hear, saying that some would ignore the voices and others would follow the directions they were given by the voices. Levine went on to mention that every voice in our head are different and has different characteristics.

Levine continued explaining how culture plays a major role in what we hear in our heads, saying that in different parts of the world the voices in our head can give good advice and that depending on what culture the affliction may be positive. 

After a short period of questioning from the audience, Levine moved on to talk about the normality of the voices we hear. Levine asked the audience, “How often do you hear a voice in your head? And is it bad or is it just you having a conversation with yourself?”

Levine explained that most of the time when someone talks to themselves, they are actually speaking with a voice and that voice is in their head. Levine compared the feeling to how music becomes stuck in a person’s head, which can be a good or bad experience depending on whether they like the music or not.

Levine concluded the lecture talking about John Nash, who was a Nobel Prize winner and a Princeton Mathematician, who was afflicted by hearing voices in his head. Levine explained that when people would ask Nash why he listened to the voices in his head, Nash would say that those were the same voices that would help him solve math problems, so to him they were not bad. 

Once the lecture was finished, Levine thanked everyone in attendance and once again took questions from the audience.

“These kind of events are a great way of bringing people together who have a different way of looking at things,” Levine said. “The audience should take away the importance of thinking about coming to terms with the ways we are imperfect and perhaps finding other ways to work through it.”

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