Galen Buckwalter, PhD
CEO & Founder
Dr. Galen Buckwalter has been a research psychologist for over 25 years, starting in academia where he worked primarily on the effects of hormones on cognition during pregnancy and aging at USC.
Later, he started a behavioral outcomes research program at Kaiser Permanente and ultimately through a number of serendipitous events, became the creator of the assessment and matching system as the Chief Science Officer for eHarmony.
Since then, Galen has worked in both academia and industry, including research at the Institute for Creative Sciences at USC using VR to develop a resilience training program for Marines, and most recently as Chief Science Officer at Payoff, a financial services company focused on using psychology to remove debt from their lives.
Galen’s talent is bringing people together and attracting wild parrots in his yard.
Early Academic Research
Galen began his career as a research psychologist working in academia. As a professor at University of Southern California, he developed a specialty in Alzheimer’s disease and applied high level numbers to traits, emotional and cognitive states of humans that aren’t readily measurable, what’s now known as psychometrics.
During this time he uncovered gender differences in cognition among Alzheimer’s disease patients. Women with Alzheimer’s do more poorly than men in verbal skills, a finding made doubly relevant by the fact that women typically do better in this area. This led to speculation that this verbal deficit may indicate a loss of estrogen, given that the verbal superiority of women is widely assumed to be driven by estrogen. Galen and colleagues published several studies that attempted to address this issue.
These studies continue to be widely cited and led the NIH to fund a large-scale, controlled, randomized trial of estrogen replacement and found no protective effect. Science worked even if it did not support Galen’s hypotheses. The potential effects of estrogen led Galen to explore the cognitive effects of various other steroidal hormones, focused on naturally occurring life events that are known to alter hormone levels. The single event that changes hormones more than any other events amongst mammals is human pregnancy.
Galen and colleagues were the first to publish on what is now widely researched amongst science and discussed by women, commonly referred to as the Maternal Brain or Baby Brain.
Galen’s Early Research & Papers
Galen’s Introduction to Psychometrics
Galen noticed that psychologists were interested in areas like mental health, personality, and cognition that up to this point were difficult to interpret accurately in quantitative ways. In other words, they couldn’t be tied to a number. However, at this time the new rigorous discipline of psychometrics was evolving. Psychometrics began to allow scientists to put numbers to humans’ mental health, personality, and cognition in trustworthy and believable ways.
Galen noticed that psychologists were interested in areas like mental health, personality, and cognition that up to this point were difficult to interpret accurately in quantitative ways. In other words, they couldn’t be tied to a number.”
Health & Wellness with Kaiser Permanente
In the early 2000s, Galen took his work to Kaiser Permanente where he did large-scale research and started developing ways to scale the collection and evaluation of psychometric information. He established telephone-administered tests of cognitive function, which was very novel at the time, and continues to be something researchers still don’t pay much attention to.
During this time, he also worked with a couple’s clinical psychologist, Dr. Neil Clark Warren, on a new challenge. The two found that a significant percentage of couples that couldn’t be helped by traditional psychotherapy because they were fundamentally mismatched. They had gotten married based on initial attraction, being encouraged by family, their biological clock was ticking, or some other factor.
The two hypothesized that they could develop a research instrument to predict marital satisfaction from psychometric traits like personality, values, interests, and demographic variables. They determined that if they could administer the assessment to couples and from that develop a model based on couples who found satisfaction in their marriages, they could then apply this model to people considering a long-term arrangement. The foundations of eHarmony were built on this research and application.
Relationship Matching with eHarmony
Prior to the launch of eHarmony, Galen worked in collaboration with Dr. Neil Clark Warren to develop and validate the patented process for assessing and matching couples for long-term relationship satisfaction. Within three years of starting the company, their plan took flight and eHarmony was born.
As the lead inventor on the patent for this matching process, Galen developed a world class R&D Department as the company’s original Chief Scientific Officer.
In a recent PNAS study, researchers demonstrated that the married couples who met through eHarmony had half the divorce rate as married couples on Match.com. This proved the importance of team’s approach to using psychometrics to help make important life decisions.
While Galen was at eHarmony, he began thinking about all the ways that psychometric feedback could help make essential life decisions.
Financial Wellness with Payoff
In 2014, Galen began developing classical and gamefied psychometric assessments and profiling methods to minimize risk associated with financial loans with Payoff, a FinTech startup.
He developed a team of scientists to apply machine learning to psychometric-based risk profiling. With the goal of making financial freedom more accessible, the team applied valid psychometric measures to expand the range of persons who can qualify for loans with acceptable risk profiles.
During this time, Galen’s studies led to astonishing findings: 23% of adults and 36% of Millennials experience Acute Financial Stress at levels that qualify them for a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This is where Galen’s team sought to develop solutions to the uncovered problems. As a psychologist, Galen found it important to develop solutions that work with people’s strengths and weaknesses to enable them to live better.
Psychometrics & Machine Learning as a Service with psyML
Galen’s team at psyML is now utilizing emergent AI systems to build on generations of psychological learning in new ways. The pace of discovery, using big data, is increasing exponentially and psyML is leading a Digital Humanity revolution to help develop artificial intelligence and its use cases with adaptive, human-like values.
The team of data scientists at psyML use advanced analytics with increasingly complex data to understand, enhance and optimize the functioning of deep learning systems. Galen and team work with psyML’s partners and clients better understand and develop rich and engaging relationships with their audience with the help of the deep learning systems.
psyML is developing and applying unique psychological models in practical business applications. This includes psychological surveys, compatibility matching, and resiliency instruments along with personalized feedback and interventions.
The team is also training scalable deep learning Natural Language Processing (NLP) models that can be used as a “plug and play” for organizations to enhance their customer understanding and personalization.
Want to learn how your organization can begin better understanding and engaging with your audience? Schedule a time to discuss.