Richard Russell is an associate professor of psychology and the director of the Perception Lab at Gettysburg College.
Richard grew up in Oakland, California, then attended Pomona College for two years before he dropped out because of lack of direction. He went to work as a merchant seaman aboard the S.S. Cleveland. Richard steered the ship on all three major oceans of the world, learned how to tie a monkey’s fist, and discovered a passion for science while reading classic textbooks by Linus Pauling and Isaac Asimov. He returned to Pomona and completed a degree in neuroscience.
Richard then took a research assistant job at the University of Cambridge using functional neuroimaging to investigate the neural bases of language. During this time, Richard decided to make a career as a scientist, while also developing a strong interest in visual art. Hoping to combine these interests in visual and scientific exploration, Richard decided to study visual perception. This led him to the Ph.D. program in Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, where he worked with Pawan Sinha. At this time, Richard first began studying face perception and also considering how makeup works—topics that he continues to pursue today.
Later, while working as a postdoc with Ken Nakayama in the Vision Lab at Harvard, Richard discovered that some people are much better than average at recognizing faces, and he named them “super-recognizers”. Richard has since been in the Psychology Department at Gettysburg College where he enjoys introducing young people to science.
Richard investigates the visual perception of faces. Much of his work has focused on explaining our social perceptions in terms of physical regularities of faces—for example, exploring how male and female faces differ, how faces change with age, and how the face is changed by makeup. His hope is that, by learning how facial appearance varies, we can come to understand why people look the way they do, and how we form impressions of people on the basis of their appearance.
When he’s not working, Richard is usually spending time with his wife and kids.