John G. Holmes
Board of
Foundation for
John G. Holmes
After receiving a B.A. and M.A. from Carleton University in his hometown of Ottawa, John G. Holmes obtained his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1971. His graduate school days were times of great turmoil in the U.S. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. U.S. campuses erupted with anti Vietnam War protests. Four unarmed student protestors were shot dead by the Ohio State National Guard, which led to student strikes at campuses across the U.S. With all of this turbulence, it is perhaps no surprise that John's research at the time focused on negotiation and conflict resolution. At UNC, John explored these topics under two outstanding scholars, John Stacey Adams and John Thibaut. While in graduate school, he met Thibaut's friend and colleague, Hal Kelley, who would eventually become John Holmes's mentor and collaborator. John coauthored a book on Interdependence with Kelley and other leading relationship researchers. Inspired by Kelley, John shifted his research focus to close relationships and became one of the best-known contributors to this domain. He is both a gifted theoretician and a superb researcher. His analysis of trust fostered an understanding of attribution and inference processes in close relationships that truly put the social into social cognition. Together with his former graduate student and long-term colleague Sandra Murray, John conducted work on positive illusions, commitment, and risk regulation that revolutionized the field of close relationships.

John spent virtually his entire academic career in the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo where he helped to establish one of the premier graduate programs in social psychology. A recipient of the Mentoring Award from the International Association of Relationship Researchers, John has had a profound impact on the lives and research careers of his graduate students. Through John’s capacity to match tough-minded criticism with kindness and generosity of spirit, his students learned to treat our science as a gift that should never be squandered on easy questions. John serves as a powerful role model for both his colleagues and students. He is the kind person and academic that we aspire to be.

-- Prepared by Sandra Murray and Michael Ross


John’s ideas have helped to set the agenda for scholars of close relationships. His work on macromotives, trust, expectations, and interdependence is among the most influential scholarship of our time. Engaging John in ideas about interdependence has become the source of a marvelous interdependent relationship with him, directing questions his way and being graced with thoughtful and profound responses. Consistent with tenets from interdependence theory, his positive style elicits prosocial transformation of motivation in others seamlessly and naturally, as he sets an example of how scholars and colleagues can interact to bring about the best outcomes for everyone involved. As graduate students at UNC-Chapel Hill, we were awed by John’s reputation in Davie Hall. Having the opportunity to get to know him over the years has only deepened and solidified our admiration of him. John’s ideas and interpersonal manner will always inspire us.

Ximena Arriaga and Christopher Agnew

Our field is so much richer for having John Holmes in it. I have always found his work informative and inspiring. Great ideas and careful data collection have been a hallmark of his work, resulting in fascinating, compelling contributions over and over.

Roy Baumeister

If you wanted to launch a new research domain, what sort of person would you want at your side? You’d want a brilliant thinker with a compass pointed resolutely toward the big, interesting questions. You’d want an innovative methodologist who could ensure that the standards of evidence in this new research domain were beyond reproach. You’d want a sensitive and devoted mentor to train generations of undergraduate and graduate students to become leaders in the field. You’d want an exuberant advocate for the importance of the research domain not only to bolster its status within the scientific ecosystem, but also to inspire new scholars to share in the bliss of exploring this new research domain. You would, in short, want John Holmes. John, relationship science thanks you!

Eli Finkel

John was one of my beloved senior colleagues in the warm and wonderful group at Waterloo, during my too-brief time there as an assistant professor. Sometimes out of the blue, maybe once a month, I’ll turn to my husband and say, “I miss John Holmes.” I am grateful that I got to spend years hearing that laugh down the hallway, listening to his many stories, and learning about theory from him. He actually managed to make interdependence theory make (some) sense to me. Along with Sandra, John’s work has shown me that it is possible to be a “relationships researcher” and a social psychologist. I admire John’s scholarship, and envy his ever-sharp mind, but I love that twinkle in his eye. John is a charmer, a friend, a gentleman, and a gossip, and more than anyone I know, John knows how to live. I hope he and Sandra never stop working together!

Grainne Fitzsimons

John Holmes has made tremendous contributions to the field of relationship science, through his own empirical and theoretical advances, as well as through his extraordinary support of graduate students and junior colleagues. John is unfailingly kind and generous, and his genuine enthusiasm for research is both inspiring and contagious. It is very fitting that John has been honored by the SPSP Heritage Initiative, as he is a talented teacher, a creative scholar and an encouraging mentor.... and on top of all that, he is a lovely person whose warmth and sense of humor have greatly endeared him to his colleagues and students.

Tara MacDonald

John, you are an inspiration to me in so many ways. In addition to your history of strong science, I admire and attempt to model the manner in which you mentor junior investigators in the field.

James McNulty

By a random twist of scheduling, I ended up in John’s advanced research methods class as an undergraduate. Though I had no way of knowing it at the time, my life was transformed the moment I sat down in that class. First as my mentor and now as a treasured friend and longtime research collaborator, John has made my life and my work immeasurably richer over the past 25 years. I can always count on him to crystallize my errant thoughts, to lift my spirits, and to remind me what really matters in life and science.

Sandra Murray

Other tributes will testify to John’s brilliance and why he is so deserving of being honored as one of the giants in personality and social psychology. I wanted to raise a NZ Sauvignon Blanc (one of John’s favorites) to recognize the tremendous, gracious, and generous support John gives early career scholars. John welcomes all with open arms and infectious excitement. His genuine interest and keen reflections offer the exact combination of nurturance and challenge that motivates and propels people forward. I will be forever grateful for the immeasurable impact of John’s kindness and all that he inspires.

Nickola Overall

It's hard to think of a more ideal colleague than John. He's a first-rate thinker with a profound sense of theory and a keen experimental eye. Time and again I have been impressed with John's ability to think through some seemingly random phenomenon or puzzling finding with a cogent, theoretically grounded argument. When we were working together on the interdependence theory account of situations, the depth of John's theory skills was awe-inspiring. It's no wonder, then, that in his later years Hal Kelley came to rely on John as his partner-in-theorizing (a stand-in for that other John, Thibaut). But what really stands out about John is his ability to bring out the best in his students and colleagues -- conversations with John usually leave you feeling wiser. He's not flashy and about as far from self-important as you can get -- my father would have called John a real mensch -- genuinely supportive and encouraging, unassuming, a great listener, and wonderfully funny (especially after a single-malt or two).

Harry Reis

John’s concern for graduate students is strong and genuine. I know this because he will often, out of anyone else’s earshot, express worry about their setbacks and joy about their successes. To paraphrase something that Ian MacGregor once quipped, "John is that rare person who says nice things about people behind their backs."

Joanne Wood

One of the luckiest days of my life was the day I met John Holmes. It was my first day as a graduate student and his first day as a faculty member. Even then John had all the attributes that has made him a great mentor to so many over the next 40+ years. He was supportive, inspirational, and brilliant. I appreciated and benefited from John’s mentorship enormously as a graduate student but have come to have an even greater appreciation of his gifts since. With John it is difficult to tell whether he likes people or ideas more; what is clear is that his love of both makes him a wonderful collaborator and friend. Lots of people are excited by their work but I have never met anyone who gets so excited about other people’s work. When I see John in a group at a conference, his laugh always signals his whereabouts, I know that those with him are having a good time and basking in the presence of an immensely generous and wise man.

Dale Miller

Further Donations are always welcome, whether to honor John G. Holmes or another psychologist. Be sure to leave a note regarding which mentor you would like to donate for and any testimonial you might like to give.