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Stephen Greenspan, PhD
Exploring and facilitating human competence

Stephen Greenspan has a doctorate in Developmental Psychology from the University of Rochester and a postdoctoral certificate in Developmental Disabilities from UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute. He has held a number of academic and research positions, specifically at: George Peabody College for Teachers of Vanderbilt University, the Boys Town Center for the Study of Youth Development and the University of Nebraska, the University of Connecticut (where he remains Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology) and the University of Colorado (where he is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry).

For over 35 years, Stephen Greenspan has maintained a scholarly focus on the critical problem of social and personal competence, with particular emphasis on "social intelligence" (understanding of people and interpersonal events). Initially, this work looked at the development of social competence in normally developing children. Later, the work focused mainly on atypical populations: emotionally impaired youths and, especially, individuals with developmental disabilities (mental retardation and autism). Recently, this work has come full circle, with an exploration of the problem of social competence and, especially, incompetence, in the broad population.

Over the last 10 years, Stephen Greenspan has been particularly interested in the problem of "gullibility" (a tendency to be duped or manipulated by one or more other people). This is a form of social incompetence with particular implications for the ability of people with cognitive impairments (such as the frail elderly) to live safely and independently in the community. Yet, there has been remarkably little interest in this problem by psychologists and other scholars, whether within the disability field or more generally. Recently, Professor Greenspan has developed a theory of "foolish action" (of which gullibility is one of three sub-types) and has been exploring the implications of this construct for understanding and helping individuals, particularly those with vulnerabilities, to live happy and secure lives.

Two offshoots of Stephen Greenspan's program of scholarship on competence are: (1) an interest in parenting and discipline, and (2) an interest in forensic consultation. Parenting and discipline are long-time interests, reflecting the twin facts that parenting is itself a form of social competence, and that discipline (defined broadly to mean "influencing child behavior") is the vehicle through which adults help children to become socially competent. Parenting also comes into play when individuals with Intellectual Disabilities are themselves parents, and Dr. Greenspan has been an early and leading investigator of the competence and support needs of parents with special needs.

Forensic consultation is a more recent interest of Dr. Greenspan's, and grew out of the need for experts in Intellectual Disabilities, particularly those knowledgeable about "Adaptive Behavior" (social and practical competencies not tapped by IQ), who are willing and able to testify in so-called "Atkins" hearings to determine possible exemption from capital punishment by defendants with cognitive impairments.