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Why I'm more special than (or at least as special as) Drew Brees

With the annual meeting of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) last week and the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, I was wondering how rare or common are social psychologists compared to (American) football players?

  • There are approximately 1,700 active professional football players (32 teams x 53 players on each roster), more if you count those guys on injured reserve or practice squads. So maybe there are 2,000 guys getting paid to play football in this country in any given year.
  • SocialPsychology.org claims that it has an "interactive directory of over 1,800 professionals who specialize in social or personality psychology." Of course, not every social psychologist has a profile there (but most do); then again, some of the folks with profiles aren't currently active (e.g., retired or don't currently hold faculty positions).
  • There were 3,400 people at SPSP, but that includes some personality psychologists and a lot of grad students (I'm not counting post-docs and grad students in my estimate of social psychologists; I'm also not including college football players in these numbers). Of course not all social psychologists go to SPSP; my guess is that there were 1,000 social psychologists with faculty positions, at most, at SPSP.
  • I suppose I could get a pretty good sense of the number of social (and personality) psychologists by getting the membership records for SPSP (i.e., the non-student members); most social (and personality) psychologists are members there. But that seems like a lot of work to ask of someone just to satisfy my follies.
  • The career of the average football player is much shorter than that of academic social psychologists (a few years vs. a few decades). So even if at any point in time there are the same number of people employed as social psychologists as football players, across the last 50 years there would have been many more professional football players than social psychology professors.

So my best guess is that in any given year the number of professional football players and social psychologists is probably pretty similar. But over time there have been more football players than social psychologists.

Of course, Drew Brees isn't the average football player. I am definitely not the Drew Brees of social psychologists, although we were at Purdue at the same time. I'm more like a backup offensive lineman or a punter... :-) 

(Please note, in case it's not obvious, the title of this post was written with tongue firmly in cheek.)

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