Ole Miss grad studies human behavior, talks Mississippi’s southern charm

Published 12:29 pm Thursday, October 7, 2021

University of Mississippi graduate Christopher Patton loves exploring the way people think and behave and he gets to use his expertise to help Facebook create a better workspace.

Not many children grow up dreaming to be an organizational psychologist, but from an early age, Patton knew he wanted to go into the psychology field. His mother, Rebecca Patton taught psychology at Northwest Community College and Holmes Community College and he learned how fascinating people could be and took an interest in trying to understand others as a kid.

“I would sit in the back of the room during her lectures and I just fell in love with the idea of psychology and the way people behave,” said Patton. “We’re pretty complex people and trying to understand that is fascinating.”

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He participated in a stock market exchange competition at his alma mater South Panola High School. Patton didn’t win but the experience increased his fascination with business and data-driven information.

Patton started the University of Mississippi as a business major but an undergraduate psychology course reminded him of his mother’s lecture and he pivoted during his freshman year onto the psychology track. 

He credits Dr. Kelly Wilson and Dr. Kate Kellum for holding his feet to the fire and developing him into the psychologist he is today. From academic papers to his work as a lab technician, Wilson and Kellum provided guidance and mentorship that changed his future.

Patton went on to earn a masters and Ph.D in industrial and organizational psychology at Louisiana Tech University. He knows it’s a mouth full but the field combines Patton’s love for psychology and his love for numbers.

As an organizational psychologist and senior manager at Facebook, Patton helps his company create a better work environment with the goal to help organizations a better place for their employees using “people analytics.”

“We use data analytics to help us understand insights across the organization,” said Patton. “We also use theories of human behavior like what are the natural theories that would make someone be more motivated or have more job satisfaction. It’s basically the science behind HR.”

Patton’s specialty has taken him from coast to coast working for industry giants like PepsiCo. and Google in New York and California.

Now Patton has settled in Austin, Texas with the position of people analytics manager for Facebook. While the lone star state has a lot to offer, Patton said there is no place like the Magnolia state. Born in Greenville and raised in Batesville, Patton has a special bond with Mississippi.

“One of the things I feel that has prepared me for all the different roles is the communal aspect of Mississippi and how friendly people are,” said Patton. “You meet people from all walks of life in Mississippi, which I thoroughly appreciate. I think being able to interact with and find something in common with literally anybody in whatever spectrum is such a valuable thing that a lot of people from Mississippi have. Not everywhere I go outside of [Mississippi] has that.”

Patton said Mississippi had a big hand in shaping his character and the state allows a person to be present in the moment, unlike big cities that require you to be on-the-go at all times.

“When I come to Mississippi it feels like you can breathe a little bit more and life isn’t so hectic,” said Patton. “I think that’s a beautiful thing.”