Embracing Diversity with Dr. Gordon C. Nagayama Hall


Dr. Gordon C. Nagayama Hall is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon who has been influential in promoting greater diversity and inclusiveness in Psychology. He has also produced a long-standing research program on sexual aggressiveness and predictors of recidivism for those involved crimes of sexual assault and aggression. You might wonder: how does he integrate cultural and ethnic diversity to clinical research sexual aggression? As it happens, it took many years before Dr. Hall endeavored to bring those paradigms together and there is much to discuss in how he did so.  In discussing Dr. Hall’s life and career, one might start with this question: how are you shaped by your cultural identity?

Dr. Hall introduces himself in this first excerpt from our conversation:

To understand some of Dr. Hall’s life and the context of his work, it may be helpful to begin the inquiry with the much storied line credited to Dr. Freud: “Tell me about your mother.” Okay,  that’s enough of Freud for this year.

In this excerpt from our conversation, Dr. Hall describes his parents and growing up in Seattle, WA.

Dr. Hall’s mother was a citizen of the United States who grew up in California. On Dec. 7, 1941 the Japanese military conducted a bombing raid on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii devastating the naval base. The day after, Dec. 8, 1941, the US declared war on Japan and began an aggressive military campaign. As a part of that response, in 1942 President Roosevelt authorized executive order 9066 to create internment camps and to incarcerate more than 110,000 people solely because of their Japanese ancestry. This order was enacted without any form of due process. More than 60% of those interred were US citizens and most were living on the west coast (California, Oregon, and Washington). Among those taken from their homes in California and interred in Poston, Arizona was Gordon Hall’s mother. The internment of during WWII was a horrific human rights violation, and it had a specific impact on Gordon. His mother told him of her experience with the message: this can never happen again. As Gordon described, even growing up in Seattle — a western and fairly progressive city that allowed his parents to marry despite prohibitions in many other states at that time — there was clear segregation. He grew up with an awareness of ethnic and cultural divides, and a sensitivity to how one’s background can influence one’s life. When eventually Dr. Hall became president of APA’s Division 45 Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity & Race the experiences of his family, related to him from his mother, were  formative.

There is another critical detail that Dr. Hall mentions about his parents. Namely he makes a reference to the high level  of his community involvement through church. His father had many Japanese friends living in Tacoma, WA and was close to a largely Japanese/Japanese-American community formed around his church. Dr. Hall’s mother was also closely involved with her church, first in California and later in Washington. His parents met within their church community and Gordon grew up in a tight community of Seattle through his church. He was active and made an elder of the church at the ripe old age of 18. An 18-year old elder — they used the term junior elder. And, yes, Gordon saw the oxymoron of being a junior elder. But here’s the point: Gordon was in a community that embraced him, that wanted to see his continued involvement with them as he prepared to enter college, and that saw in him someone who would give back to his community into adulthood. With that support, his community, and a strong sense of his identity, Gordon became an undergraduate at the University of Washington.

He had already found an interest in Psychology from a class he took during high school. He describes that experience here:

While the excerpt above is brief, it illustrates a couple  of ideas that reverberate in Dr. Hall’s career. The most critical is that representation matters. A lot. He took this fascinating course with an exciting young teacher and learned about some of the issues in personality theory, learning, etc. that were popular at that time in Psychology. In addition, Gordon felt personally connected to this course because of the communal connections he had to the teacher. Time and time again in the conversations I’ve  had on this Journey2Psychology we see how small, subtle connections (e.g., the alma mater of a mentor, a book at the library, the location of a school for the deaf) can end up profoundly influencing one’s life direction. In this case, having a teacher with a personal connection to his life nurtured Gordon’s attraction to study Psychology. So what does this have to do with representation? We are anticipating the career of Dr. Hall in which he examines issues of diversity and representation in Psychology. The majority of Psychologists — especially of the older cohorts — are Caucasian. There is much more limited representation of most non-whites among Psychologists. A result of this has been that most psychological assessments and interventions are designed with a bias (perhaps an implicit bias) to serving Caucasians and those who are not Caucasian are largely under-served. Even when psychological services are available and accessible in a particular region, non-white populations are disproportionately under represented in their use — that is a major theme in Dr. Hall’s career. And we can start to see that impact on young Gordon who felt a closer to connection to Psychology because of the connections of family and friends of his first Psychology teacher. Representation matters.

For Dr. Hall, Psychology also provided something else important: an opportunity to give back. While a young man, Gordon wanted to be able to help people, to serve his community, and to make a positive impact in people’s lives. Psychology was a field in which he saw the capacity to pursue that goal. Gordon completed his degree at the University of Washington in Psychology in 1977 and applied to graduate school.  He sought a program that might allow him to continue divinity training and that would provide clinical psychology training. To earn a doctorate in clinical psychology (or really, almost any doctorate) is a ton of sweat, years of dedicated effort, and an almost agonizing series of scrutinized assessments on everything from historical content to practices.

Gordon evaluated the prospect of the years ahead in Psychology and very smartly sought an American Psychological Association (APA) accredited program.  Going to an APA accredited program means that the program had to obtain, and regularly re-evaluate/recommit to meeting the very high performance standards set in the field. Being in an accredited program opens up the possibility for students to get into APA accredited supervision sites as a pre-doc and post-doc intern, and that, in turn, allows the newly minted PhD in Clinical Psychology or PsyD (Doctor of Psychology)  to complete the requisite supervised hours to become a licensed clinical Psychologist. To balance his interest in theology and his desire to become a clinical psychologist, there were few options. Gordon applied and was accepted to the APA accredited Fuller Theological Seminary which fulfilled exactly that balance. He completed a Master’s of Theology and a PhD in Clinical Psychology. The PhD allowed him to apply and work as a pre-doc and later then post-doc internship at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. That internship blossomed into a staff position with that department and a clinical staff Psychologist position at Western State Hospital,  Fort Steilacoom.  It was during those years, that Dr. Hall began to get involved in research on sexual aggression and recidivism.

In this excerpt, Dr. Hall discusses getting involved in clinical assessment and the research on sex offenders:

As Dr. Hall and colleagues continued to explore the assessment and understanding of sex offenders and sexual aggression what became clear is that they were not able to use the common assessments to predict behaviors. There were theories about what produced these criminal  and  dangerous behaviors and there were interventions to address those behaviors with the goal of effective rehabilitation. But what if the theories were wrong?

In 1988 Dr. Hall takes a new position at Kent St. University and by the early 1990’s he starts to produce a number of articles to improve the theoretical model, assessment and associated interventions for sexual aggression. To directly test some of these issues he conducts a study with Dr. Richard Hirschman examining sexually aggressive behavior.

Dr. Hall describes this study below:

(Please be warned that this was a lab study which involved sexually explicit video and coercion. Both of these variables are described in the audio).

The lab experiment used a confederate (a young woman who was collaborating on the project, understood the experiment, and would have previewed the videos in advance). The term confederate is used to signify that while you, me, and the experimenters knew that she was collaborating on the project, the people participating did not. If this was Hollywood you’d say she was an actor cast in this role to sell the fiction of a naive participant in this experiment. In any case, the participants thought she was just a random person and one who was averse to seeing a sexually explicit video. That’s what the participants believed. What Drs. Hall and Hirschman found was that about half of the ones whose assessment scores indicated a tendency towards high sexual aggressiveness opted for and presented to the confederate the sexually explicit video. And then they sat with her in the viewing room for this presentation (as per the experimental methods). Shudder. Of the participants who scored low on this measure, none of them, not one, selected the explicit video.  Hall and colleagues used a combination of lab studies like this one, archival records, and meta-analyses to demonstrate the variables that would be more predictive and those that might be less so in sexually aggressive behaviors.

In the early 2000’s Dr. Hall started to combine his two areas of scholarship and investigate how culture might create some context and influence on the factors involved in sexual aggression.   Let’s revisit where we started in this essay: how are you shaped  by your cultural identity?  When you apply this question to Dr.  Hall’s clinical research, one might look at everything from formation of identity and motivation, to assessment and clinical recommendations on recidivism, as potential areas of cultural influence and/or bias. You’ll see articles on these and a range of related topics in the past two decades of his career.

Dr. Hall describes getting started on integrating these ideas in this excerpt:

As Dr. Hall got more and more involved integrating the clinical practices and assessments to his cultural work the need for this work became clear. There were many areas in which he and his colleagues could bring this cultural lens to improvements in clinical approaches. He noted in the excerpt above that he was APA Div. 45 president. Dr. Hall became very active in service: presiding over this organization and making a series of recommendations to improve cultural representation and inclusiveness in Psychology. Later he directed the Center on Diversity and Community at Univ. of Oregon, he edited the journal Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychologyand he has remained an influential voice to improving our clinical practices to better served minority communities.

To illustrate one part of those efforts, Dr. Hall discusses his reflections on using mindfulness interventions in clinical practice:

It’s fascinating, right? Mindfulness has become a well-established psychotherapeutic practice and been influential in the United States. As a part of that process, the practice evolved from its zen roots in Japan to a more culturally individualistic approach — more appropriate to western culture. In that evolution some of the communal aspects of mindfulness meditation were downplayed, thereby changing the effective audience for this practice.  The implication is one that Dr. Hall and colleagues have been urging the field of Psychology to embrace: culture matters, representation matters, and inclusiveness matters. If we want to serve the diverse populations of the world effectively we need to be sensitive to these cultural differences. We need to embrace those differences and integrate them into how we assess and treat those in need of Psychological support. And to do that really effectively we need to make sure that Psychology, as a field, has a representative  body of practitioners and researchers. One might thank Dr. Hall and colleagues for their efforts to move towards  these goals!

There is much more from Dr. Hall and I’m looking forward to sharing this with you in the book!

Here are some of the wonderful publications from Dr. Hall:

Hall, G. C. N. (1990). Prediction of sexual aggressionClinical Psychology Review10(2), 229-245.

Hall, G. C. N. (1995). Sexual offender recidivism revisited: A meta-analysis of recent treatment studiesJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology63(5), 802-809.

Hall, G. C. N. (2001). Psychotherapy research with ethnic minorities: Empirical, ethical, and conceptual issuesJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology69(3), 502-510.

Hall, G. C. N. (2017). Multicultural psychology. New York, NY: Routledge.

Hall, G. C. N., Bansal, A., & Lopez, I. R. (1999). Ethnicity and psychopathology: A meta-analytic review of 31 years of comparative MMPI/MMPI-2 researchPsychological Assessment11(2), 186-197.

Hall, G. C. N., & Barongan, C. (1997). Prevention of sexual aggression: Sociocultural risk and protective factorsAmerican Psychologist52(1), 5-14.

Hall, G. C. N., & Hirschman, R. (1991). Toward a theory of sexual aggression: A quadripartite modelJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology59(5), 662-669.

Hall, G. C. N., & Hirschman, R. (1992). Sexual aggression against children: A conceptual perspective of etiologyCriminal Justice and Behavior19(1), 8-23.

Hall, G. C. N., & Hirschman, R. (1994). The relationship between men’s sexual aggression inside and outside the laboratoryJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology62(2), 375-380.

Hall, G. C. N., Hong, J. J., Zane, N. W., & Meyer, O. L. (2011). Culturally competent treatments for Asian Americans: The relevance of mindfulness and acceptance‐based psychotherapiesClinical Psychology: Science and Practice18(3), 215-231.

Hall, G. C.N., & Maramba, G. G. (2001). In search of cultural diversity: Recent literature in cross-cultural and ethnic minority psychologyCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology7(1), 12-26.

Hall, G. C. N., Sue, S., Narang, D. S., & Lilly, R. S. (2000). Culture-specific models of men’s sexual aggression: Intra-and interpersonal determinantsCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology6(3), 252-267.

Hall, G. C. N., Teten, A. L., DeGarmo, D. S., Sue, S., & Stephens, K. A. (2005). Ethnicity, culture, and sexual aggression: Risk and protective factorsJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology73(5), 830-840.

Hall, G. C. N., Yip, T., & Zárate, M. A. (2016). On becoming multicultural in a monocultural research world: A conceptual approach to studying ethnocultural diversityAmerican Psychologist71(1), 40-51.

Barongan, C., Bernal, G., Comas-Diaz, L., Hall, C. C. I., Hall, G. C. N., LaDue, R. A., . . . Root, M. P. P. (1997). Misunderstanding of multiculturalism: Shouting fire in crowded theatersAmerican Psychologist, 52(6), 654-655.

Eap, S., DeGarmo, D. S., Kawakami, A., Hara, S. N., Hall, G. C. N., & Teten, A. L. (2008). Culture and personality among European American and Asian American menJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology39(5), 630-643.

Goldston, D. B., Molock, S. D., Whitbeck, L. B., Murakami, J. L., Zayas, L. H., & Hall, G. C. N. (2008). Cultural considerations in adolescent suicide prevention and psychosocial treatmentAmerican Psychologist63(1), 14-31.

Maramba, G. G., & Hall, G. C. N. (2002). Meta-analyses of ethnic match as a predictor of dropout, utilization, and level of functioningCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology8(3), 290-297.


Pictured are Dr. Hall in his office at the University of Oregon. Background image is Straub Hall, home to the Department of Psychology at U of O.

One thought on “Embracing Diversity with Dr. Gordon C. Nagayama Hall

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s