service navigation

EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

D. Michael Kuhlman (1943-2021)

20.09.2021, by Tina Keil in announcement

Obituary by Paul van Lange, Jeff Joireman, Gregory Shelley, and Adam Stivers

D. Michael Kuhlman ("Mike")
D. Michael Kuhlman ("Mike")

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Mike Kuhlman passed away last week, due to the consequences of cancer at the age of 78. He is survived by his two sons, Andy and Jamie; daughter, Jessica; and four grandchildren. His beloved wife, Marilyn, passed away in 2007.

Education and career

Following his undergraduate education at the University of Missouri - Columbia, Mike earned his doctoral degree in psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Soon after, he started his career in 1970 at the University of Delaware where he retired in January 2019.

Some examples of his major contributions

Mike’s scientific ideas and research were sophisticated in every sense of the word. His work on social value orientation was inspired by his supervisors Chuck McClintock and David Messick, and Mike in turn inspired many people to develop theories and ideas about Js, Os, and Rs, people who enhance Joint outcomes, Own outcomes, or Relative Advantage over others. Mike was truly passionate of these differences in social value orientation. While he was one of the greatest experts of the world on social value orientation, he always wanted to hear what others had to say. Mike also conducted beautiful experiments, designed to provide very clean tests of clear and novel hypotheses, and knew a tremendous amount about a range of statistical techniques, which he generously shared with his graduate students. His scientific articles with Marshello and Wimberley are true classics in social psychology. He was also an example of a social and personality psychologist, and his work with various colleagues at the University of Delaware were often focused on individual differences – a topic that he also taught for many years – with an emphasis on broad dimensions of personality. He was also a scientist with a strong international orientation, working together with scientists in especially Japan, Poland, and The Netherlands. With all these collaborations, he developed warm friendships, which were recently supported by exchanges through email, zoom, and Whatsapp.

Inspired by ideas, warmth, and humor

Mike was also a gifted speaker. Once he took the floor, he was ready and showed a unique combination of passion for ideas, commitment to logic, and appreciation for humor. This combination of favorable qualities was very inspirational, but the ideas, along with the passion with which he shared them, were the ones that stood out the most. It was common for a sizable group of people to still discuss ideas over dinner and late drinks. These were also the moments where everybody truly enjoyed having Mike around. His warmth and generosity were contagious. Scientists, young and more senior alike, felt completely comfortable with Mike. It was striking that rather than lecturing, Mike would be equally, if not more likely to listen to young students. He was interested in ideas, and often deeply interested in the person behind these ideas. And he enjoyed good stories. Although he was a top story teller, he was patient and generous to always give the other person the floor first. As part of his warmth and generosity, Mike was exceptional in his sense of humor. It was strongly interconnected with his view of life, and perhaps his slight dislike of anything that had some smell of expressing self-importance. Part of his humor also centered on language, including foreign language. Many Dutch people know of Mike’s inclination to share Dutch expressions, or his unique way of saying goodbye: “I guess this is me leaving.”

We will remember Mike not only as a truly inspiring and creative scientist with a strong drive for ideas, but also as a person with an exceptional sense of humor and skill at story-telling. He was so warm and generous that he always allowed others to share their ideas, jokes, and stories first. His interpersonal life was filled with giving and sharing, in that order. 

Mike will be deeply missed.