My work as a psychologist has centered around two themes. Early on, I became interested in imagery and its close relatives, imagination, creativity, and consciousness. Because the roots of imagery lie in the play of the preschool child, I explored both the development of imaginative play and its consequences. Because children develop in a social context, I became interested in family relationships, television, and their influences. My dissertation, “The Influence of Parents’ Values on Preschool Children’s Behaviors”, merged my undergraduate commitment to religion as “matters of ultimate concern” into lifestyle priorities and their impact on others in a close relationship. Studying intimacy between parents, of fathers and mothers with their children, of therapist and client, of mentor or supervisor and student and ultimately person and a higher power, kept my early career rich and evolving. I wrote chapters for books as diverse as Children’s Humour (1980, P. E. McGhee and A. J. Chapman, eds., John Wiley), Assessment Methods for Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions (1980, P. C. Kendall and S. Hollon, eds., Academic Press), and Imagery: Current Theory, Research and Applications (1983, A. Sheikh, ed, John Wiley). My favorite peer-reviewed journal articles were

  • R. B. Tower, D. G. Singer, J. L. Singer, and A. Biggs. (1989). Differential effects of television programming on preschoolers’ cognition, imagination and social play. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 49, 265-281. http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/ort/49/2/265/
  • R. B. Tower. (1980). Parents’ self-concepts and preschool children’s behaviors, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 538-546. http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/39/4/710/
  • R. B. Tower and S. Scarr. (1985-86). The measurement of three lifestyle values: Resourcefulness, responsibility and relationships to others. Imagination, cognition and personality, 5, 167-189. http://ica.sagepub.com/content/5/2/167.short

When I began post-doctoral training, my focus shifted to marital closeness, the different ways in which it manifests, and the consequences for health and, ultimately, longevity. My colleague, Stanislav Kasl, and I published five ground-breaking articles documenting the importance of qualities within a marriage for the effects spouses have on one another.

As a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, I collected a broader range of data with the help of the internet. I was able to investigate whether my earlier findings extended to people born in other generations and across a broader geographical spectrum, as well as to explore possible theories that might explain the findings:

I also had the privilege of sharing my data with students so that they could explore their own personal interests. We uncovered important information about the human-pet connection:

And Solomon Kalkstein collected additional data to explore variations in spiritual experiences:

  • Kalkstein and R. B. Tower. (2009) The Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale and Well-Being: Demographic Comparisons and Scale Validation with Older Jewish Adults and a Diverse Internet Sample, Journal of Religion and Health, 48, 402. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10943-008-9203-0