John Norcross Ph.D., a South Jersey native, psychologist and professor at the University of Scranton, belongs to a small group: He studies New Year's Resolutions and other attempts people make to recognize and change "maladaptive behaviors and relationships."
"We get a lot of calls this time of year" from feature reporters desperate to write something thoughtful for New Year's Day, Norcross told me.
This year there's more calls than usual. Norcross' new book, "Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing your Goals and Resolutions," got written up among the six "best guides to later life" in the Wall Street Journal's Dec. 6 issue. (Others include Peter Spiers' "Master Class" and ex-NYTimes columnist Anna Quindlen's "Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.")
Sounds like typical self-help talk, clunky title and all -- but Norcross says his observations and recommendations are based on "30 years of scientific research." He's been on NPR and a long list of national news shows.
"There aren't too many published studies on New Year's Resolutions," he told me. Norcross and Alan Marlatt, the University of Washington prof whose research probed similar questions, used to bounce national media inquiries across the country to each other. But since Marlatt died in 2011, Norcross has moved up the experts' list.
Of course, "I have a product to sell this year, so that part is OK," Norcross added.
Norcross, a Rutgers-Camden graduate, is the second (revised) of the four sons of the late labor union organizer and Camden-Gloucester AFL-CIO chief George Norcross Sr. Oldest brother George Jr. is head of the Conner Strong & Buckalew insurance agency and the Cooper Health System board, a power in Democratic politics and an owner of the Inquirer. Brother Donald holds their father's old labor post and represents Camden County in the New Jersey State Senate; brother Philip heads the Parker McCay law firm of Mount Laurel and recently joined the board of the (Republican) Brown family's Sun National Bank. But John is "the brains of the family," George told me.