10 Top-Rated Psychology Professors

Students aren't the only ones getting grades these days. Professors have been rated and ranked by students for years, thanks to websites such as RateMyProfessors.com. Famed test prep company The Princeton Review compiled professor ratings that students provided about their professors and, in 2012, produced a hard-copy book of the best 300 professors that the U.S. has to offer.

These 10 psychology professors are among the best in the nation, as far as students are concerned, with each one earning a ranking of more than 4 out of 5 on RateMyProfessors. If you're studying in the field or thinking about getting started, this list can help you get a good idea of how the best professors operate in class and in their research.

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  • David Daniel teaches General Psychology and Developmental Psychology at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, and according to the almost 800 student reviews on RateMyProfessors, he's doing a great job. Students say that Professor Daniel makes class enjoyable not just with his teaching style, but also with his choice of clothing - his t-shirts match the subject matter of each lecture. Daniel's research interests range from teaching and learning to pedagogy to cognitive development. Additionally, Daniel serves as coordinator of the Society for Research in Child Development's Teaching Institute and as the managing editor of the scholarly journal Mind, Brain and Education.
  • Doug Johnson teaches a number of courses at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, including Human Cognition, Research Methods, Introduction to Psychology, Attention and Memory, Scientific Perspectives and Statistics. He told the Colgate campus newspaper in 2012 that he chose to teach at the school because of the emphasis it allows professors to place on teaching, rather than on publishing books and winning grants. His current research work focuses on human cognition, with an emphasis on memory, attention and expertise development. Professor Johnson is a recipient of Colgate's Phi Eta Sigma "Professor of the Year" award, the highest student-given honor for teachers at the school.
  • Douglas Gentile is head of Iowa State University's media research lab in Ames, IA, where he examines the effect of media input on human thinking and behavior. His work has covered the relationship of video games to skill-building, media violence as it relates to children's social behavior, the effects of media consumption on childhood obesity and many other elements of the relationship between people and our beloved flickering screens. Reports on his page on RateMyProfessors say his Psychology 101 class is great, and that it might change your life, but also don't expect an easy A.
  • Gary Lewandowski, Jr. teaches a class at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ that covers a subject almost everyone wishes they knew more about: the psychology of intimate relationships. His research focuses on numerous aspects of romance, including initial attraction, maintenance of relationships, infidelity, the science of the break-up and, perhaps most importantly, the potential positive outcomes and experience of personal growth that can result when a relationship ends. Lewandowski has won several awards for his work, including the Monmouth University Distinguished Teacher Award and the Emerging Researcher Award from the New Jersey Psychological Association.
  • Gilda Reed teaches several hundred students each semester and a total of eight different courses at the University of New Orleans. The well-rounded experience she brings to the classroom includes serving as an honorary member of the local Jefferson Firefighters Association and winning the 2008 Democratic primary in a campaign for her district's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Dr. Reed also has the distinction of being a professor who brings her expertise to the world of online colleges, and her online professor reviews speak as highly of her, as you'd expect of one of the nation's best.
  • Howard Starr began teaching at Austin College in Sherman, TX in 1964 and continues to win students over after almost 50 years. He teaches a schedule of courses loaded with undergraduate intrigue, featuring Psychology of Death and Dying, Psychology of Human Sexuality, Psychopathology and Clinical Hypnosis, among others. Dr. Starr is a licensed professional counselor and a certified clinical hypnotist, and he once held the Dean of Social Sciences position at his institution.
  • Melinda Shoemaker, an assistant professor at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, FL, holds the top spot among psychology professors in 2012, and evidence suggests that she won't be far from there anytime soon. Her RateMyProfessors page shows a rating of 5.0 (out of 5) for overall quality, with well over 100 students weighing in. Her classes include General Psychology, Advanced General Psychology and the Sociology of Human Sexuality. According to her reviews, she teaches these classes with a sense of humor and makes class fun for her students.
  • Miriam Liss teaches both lower and upper-division courses at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. She uses her high-energy teaching style to engage students, and the sheer volume of exclamation points that decorate her page on RateMyProfessors shows just how engaged they can get. Her diverse research portfolio includes studies of autism, feminism and sensory processing, among other subjects. The more recent research Dr. Liss has done is on the topic of self-mutilating behavior in young adults and adolescents.
  • Robin Kowalski of Clemson University in Clemson, SC studies what are called aversive interpersonal behaviors, namely complaining and teasing. She spends particular attention on cyber-bullying in her most recent work, having contributed several publications on the subject. She's won numerous awards, including Clemson's Psi Chi Teaching Award and the College of Business and Behavioral Science Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. She also maintains a presence on the Social Psychology Network.
  • Sheldon Solomon is a long-standing professor of psychology at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, and to say he's well-regarded would be an understatement. His current research explores the effects of the awareness of death on our thoughts and actions and includes some work on the psychological function of self-esteem. For example, Professor Solomon, along with other psychologists, proposed Terror Management Theory, the idea that cultural belief systems exist to manage the mortal horror that comes from knowing that we're going to die.

If your school isn't on the list, don't worry; truly great teachers can be found almost everywhere. There are professors at traditional brick-and-mortar universities and accredited online colleges all over the world who can make a real difference in the lives of their students. For more information on The Princeton Review's methods for compiling its list and a quick look at the other 290 professors chosen for profiles in the book, check out the book's dedicated page on the company's website.


“David B. Daniel,” ratemyprofessors.com, 2013. http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=1160326

“Mind, Brain, and Education,” onlinelibrary.wiley.com, 2013, David Daniel. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291751-228X

“Office Hours: Doug Johnson,” thecolgatemaroonnews.com, 12 April 2012, Colin Sheridan. http://thecolgatemaroonnews.com/news/office-hours-doug-johnson-1.2846594#.UmrDRfnrzZh

“Douglas Gentile,” ratemyprofessors.com, 2013. http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=424596

“Melinda Shoemaker,” ratemyprofessors.com, 2013. http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=637492

“Miriam Liss,” ratemyprofessors.com, 2013, http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=94275

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