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Department of Psychology Personality Psychology


Our research focuses on the manifestation and relevance of personality differences in everyday life. Specifically, we are interested in personality dynamics, as they apply to psychopathology, psychotherapy, sustainable behavior, and human-animal interactions.

Critical to our approach is studying personality at different timescales, from long-term patterns of lifespan development to momentary shifts that occur while people interact. Unlike traditional approaches that have assumed that personality is a highly stable pattern of behavior that is consistent across different contexts, our goal is to identify the most relevant timescale at which personality manifests in relation to some important outcome or process. To this end, we use a broad portfolio of methods including longitudinal studies, cross-cultural studies, in vivo observational assessments, and experience sampling.

Current Areas of interest

Personality and sustainable attitudes and behaviors

Climate change poses a significant threat to human welfare. Most interventions designed to curb the climate crisis target the general population, and thus treat all individuals as though they are the same. However, some people are more likely to engage in sustainable behaviors than others. Our team is interested in identifying the kinds of people who are more likely to promote environmental sustainability. Recent and ongoing studies have focused on how personality traits offer and organizing framework for conceptualizing the motivations and behaviors that are involved in sustainability, and how personality changes are related to increases in sustainable attitudes and behaviors over time.

Interpersonal Dynamics in Personality, Psychopathology, and Psychotherapy

Our team has a longstanding interest in how dynamics associated with interpersonal dimensions of personality are relevant to understanding how psychopathology unfolds as a process, and how psychotherapy interactions can effectively intervene to interrupt maladaptive functioning. We use contemporary integrative interpersonal theory to guide this work, and primarily use an observational technique that can capture variations in interpersonal behavior twice per second, as an interaction unfolds, to measure interpersonal dynamics. We have used this technique to study strangers, romantic couples, parents with children, and psychotherapy patients with therapists, and have identified patterns interpersonal dynamics that promote positive relationships and well-being. In future work we hope to expand this method to include assessments of motives and affects, and to develop an evidence-based model of listening.

The Psychology of Human-Animal Intergroup Relations

Our team has recently become interested in how humans interact with non-human animals, with a particular emphasis on vegetarian diet and vegan identity. We have developed measures of the motives to be vegetarian and motives to eat animals, and have used these measures to examine personality differences between vegetarians and non-vegetarians. We have also recently launched a scientific society focused on these issues, the Psychology of Human Animal Intergroup Relations (PHAIR).